2011 NHL Season Final Thoughts: Respectfully Rubbing It In Canada’s Face
As always, this season brought us many memories. For the second straight year, and third in the last four, we had an Original 6 Stanley Cup Champion. For my novice hockey readers, Original 6 refers to the six teams that comprised the NHL from its early years in the 1920’s until the league’s first expansion in 1967: New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens, (or Les Habitants de Montreal, Habs for short if you’ve ever wondered the little “H” inside the big “C” stands for in their logo.
Congratulations to the Boston Bruins, keeping the Stanley Cup safely in America’s hands, under the protection of Navy Seal Team 6 for an incredible 18th straight year. From mites and squirts, to the plethora of big time college hockey, and of course right up to the Bruins, Boston is a true hockey town.
The morning after my Rangers @ Bruins road game in October, the Boston Globe had four glorious full pages of coverage including a lengthy article strictly about the four fights in the game. And by the way, the article was an in-depth, blow-by-blow analysis of the bouts, and how they shaped the course of the game. Because like I said, Boston is an intelligent hockey town, and like anyone who knows the game, their sports media knows that fighting is an absolutely necessary part of the game, and should stay exactly as it is.
With the exception of the few Chris Simons of the hockey world, players respect each other, and respect the rules of engagement. Players only pick fights with others in the same weight class, never throw a punch until all gloves are off and the other guy is ready, back off when one’s foe has been defeated, and occasionally, warn their opponent of a trip hazard before the fight begins.
Case in point, take Ryan Reeves (St. Louis) vs. Paul Bissonnette (Phoenix) March 22nd. The two drop the gloves and square off. Before any punches are thrown, Bissonnette sees that Reeves is standing right next to one of his discarded gloves, and points to it, giving Reeves time to move to a safer spot, and then they go at it. It’s almost as if he said, “Excuse me sir, kindly move over a bit so you don’t trip and hurt yourself. And now I will beat your ass.” CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GENTLEMEN’S FIGHT CLUB (courtesy hockeyfights.com.)
So anyway, congratulations Boston. If any American city deserves Lord Stanley, it is you.
Fun fact: Remember the juggernaut, unbeatable dynasty we know as the New England Patriots? Would you believe the Pats are now the Boston (area) professional sports team that has gone the longest without winning a championship? It’s true. Bruins 2011, Celtics 2008, Red Sox 2007, Patriots 2004. This article is mostly pro-Boston, as am I right now, but this has now become a perfect opportunity to throw this in…18-1!!!!
Check out how Beantown celebrates the Cup at the Green Monstah. To see a great celebration of Lord Stanley’s newest conquering heroes riding into Fenway Park during a Sox game, on Boston-famous duckboats, Holy Grail in hand, CLICK HERE. Either Big Papi is the Dominican Republican’s biggest (and probably only) hockey fan, or he’s just extremely caught up in the moment. The Red Sox and Bruins are having a better time than the fans.
This season also brought official notice that the American dollar is completely useless outside of our borders. Remember the 1990’s exodus of Canadian franchises to the United States? The Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes, the Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, and the Carolina Hurricanes snatched up the…um….Hartford Whalers. I guess they felt the Whalers were too dangerously close to Canada. This was due to the NHL experiencing a financial boom due to great attendance and ratings, combined with a Canadian dollar worth about half of our own benjamins. America was where the money was. So the stars came here to play, and a few teams came with them.
Well we have officially come full circle, as the Atlanta Thrashers, the weakest link in the Southeast hockey experiment, has been cut, and shipped up to Winnipeg. I for one, once a big supporter of as many American franchises as possible, am now all in favor of this move, as common sense prevails (occasionally), and I now have the league’s best interests at heart. And the best thing for the league is as many franchises as possible, as long as they have rock-solid fan bases and the financial means to survive. If that means Canada, then so be it, as they respect the game like no other. Speaking of which, Vancouver fans did a wonderful job after their game 7 defeat. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, I saw the riot videos. We’ll get back to that, as soon as I’m done tearing Atlanta a new one (sorry Alan).
Atlanta may be the worst sports city in the country. Yes far worse than even Philadelphia. At least they’re loyal. They have two sports interests: Georgia Bulldogs (and Yellow Jackets to an extent) football and NASCAR, which I have to admit, they’re crazy about. Everything else, like the Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers, don’t exist. Even the Braves, who won an incredible 11 straight division titles from 1995-2005, may have sold out 3 games during that span.
And so, during the 12-year existence of the Thrashers, Atlanta fans have done for hockey what Twilight has done for vampires: everything they possibly could to destroy it. Really? Vampires that have sworn off eating humans, attend high school and fall in love? All three of those are so wrong to the vampire image, I don’t even where to begin. Could you possibly de-coolify blood-suckers anymore? So whatcha hoping to accomplish after high school Eddie…college? Night manager at Walmart? Oh right, you can somehow survive in sunlight now. Am I the only one praying Wesley Snipes tries to pay off his massive income tax debts by doing a Blade vs. Twilight flick? So anyway, good riddance Thrashers, welcome back Winnipeg Jets!
We know the good people of Manitoba will take good care of you because the sport is sacred in the true north strong and free.
Which brings me back to Vancouver fans. We learned that 1994 was no fluke. No, I’m not talking about the Canucks’ ability to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m talking about the city protesting their team’s game 7 loss the same way they did in ’94….violently.
So how exactly did they impress me? No need to bring up the boob flash again…oops, too late. So here is Mr. Ice Guy’s top 4 reasons Vancouver fans impressed me. Why not a top-5 like everyone else? Like I said before, I have the conch, so it’s 4. Deal with it.
4) The Canadian National Anthem. A Canadian opera singer named Mark Donnelly sang Oh Canada for the Vancouver home games. After the first verse, he stopped singing and let the crowd take over and it reminded me of Eddie Vedder doing that during Betterman at Pearl Jam concerts. Completely gave me chills. Have a look-see. It truly is amazing. CLICK HERE.
3) Booing Gary Bettman. Every year, Commissioner Bettman comes out to present the Stanley Cup to the champions. And every year, he is booed considerably by the fans, as he too is doing everything he possibly can to destroy our great league. This year was the loudest yet. The fans were so loud in fact, he literally had to scream out his announcements, he was visibly rattled and upset by the end, and had to cut short his introduction of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to take the Cup.
2) Staying and cheering for the final 2 minutes. With a 4-0 final in game 7, Canucks fans knew this game was over before the third period even began. Nobody (at least not enough to notice empty seats) left the arena. Fans sucked up the heartbreak of coming so close and cheered for the final 2 minutes, getting a team-wide, raised-stick salute in return. They also gave a hearty ovation to Vancouver-born, Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic, when it was his turn to raise the Cup.
1) The Riot: Yes I’ve seen the videos. A bunch of people in Canucks jerseys behaving very badly. And of course, the now world-famous photo of the couple making out on the ground in front of the riot police has become the Canadian version of the U.S. Navy Sailor kissing the Nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945. But there are true fans, and there are local townies. And like I mentioned above, the true fans were respectful of their team, the sport, and the Stanley Cup. From what I’ve heard from people who have been to Vancouver, while it is a beautiful city with many good people, also a good portion of the locals are a mix of Detroit and Seaside Heights. So all Vancouver fans are now demonized in the news, especially since this is not the first time. Why is it hockey only that makes for a national story when it’s something negative?
I personally went through a similar situation in College Park, Maryland for the 2002 NCAA Final Four. As a loyal Terrapin alum, I was in town for the national semis. After the victory over Kansas to advance to the finals, there was a joyous and PEACEFUL celebration throughout route 1, the main strip along campus. The road was closed and it was wall-to-wall people having a blast. And then it turned violent with fires, store-front windows smashed, fights, riot police and arrests. The same joyous-to-melee scene was repeated two days later when the Terps knocked off Indiana to win it all. And so, the newspapers and news sites had plenty of harsh words for the “Maryland students gone wild.” But what you didn’t read in the ultra-PC news, is that the melee began about the same time hundreds of Washington D.C. teens and young adults made the short 15-minute drive to College Park to get involved in the celebration. So Vancouver was a similar situation. “Real” hockey and Canucks’ fans are innocent here. Like I said, well done.
I was going to include my thoughts on the big news of the Rangers finally making the upcoming Winter Classic. With how much I’ve whined about their exclusion, one would think I’d have been all over this by now. But of course I still have lots to bitch about. Everything to this point has been positive, so that will be a story for another time.