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Election day

It’s Critical Midterm Election Day, everyone, and that means . . . it’s time for a post about hockey!

When I opened this Sunday’s “Education Life” section of The New York Times and realized to my dismay that Charles McGrath had faulted me for not dealing with the case of Kevin Barrett in What’s Liberal? even though the Kevin Barrett story broke eight months after my book went to press, I thought, “why, that is most ironical!  Because here I am in northern New York at the 15th Annual Teaching Effectiveness Conference of the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley, and what was I doing, in the 1:15 - 2:15 session , “Two Case Studies: How Faculty Are Affected by Academic Freedom,” but discussing the case of Kevin Barrett!

But never mind my discussion of Kevin Barrett and academic freedom.  The important thing is that after my various conference tasks were finally done, great soul Chris Robinson (as yet unindicted by the WAAGNFNP Show Trial Proceedings, by the way) took me out to see St. Lawrence play Harvard in a game of icical hockey.  SLU won 4-2, but it was a closely fought, sometimes thrilling game right down to the final minutes.  And it reminded me of two things.

One: Jamie and I drove down to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and saw the Penguins lose a dog of a game, 5-1, to the defending- Cup- champions- who- will- surely- not- repeat Hurricanes.  I realized that (a) I had been living in Pennsylvania for five years without seeing a Penguins game, and (b) I had missed seeing Gretzky and Lemieux for their entire careers, despite making elaborate plans to catch them (Gretzky during his short stint with the Blues, Lemieux in a late-career game against the Islanders), and wanted to be sure to see 19-year-old phenom Sidney Crosby while he was still 19.  He played an undistinguished game, and remarkably—since his passing is often preternaturally creative and precise—coughed up the puck two or three times on simple outlet passes.  But what the hell.  At least I saw him play.  Now I have to go back later this year and see him play alongside 20-year-old phenom Evgeni Malkin, who played his first game as a Penguin just after Jamie and I left town.

(The Gretzky story is quite terrible, by the way.  In 1996 I got tickets for game four of the Blues-Red Wings series in which Detroit eventually won game seven in double OT.  But on the day of the game, May 10, central Illinois was drenched in torrential rains.  “There’s no way you’re driving to St. Louis with Nick,” Janet insisted.  “Don’t worry, we can make it,” I replied.  “You can’t make it,” Janet said.  “The highways are washed out.” And they were!  By now the rains were biblical, and Noah’s Ark-RV Rental of Champaign was doing a brisk business.  But since we were on the great open prairie, I thought the rains might yet desist and the waters recede, so I told Janet I would wait until noon to decide.  By noon, five inches of rain had fallen, and entire communities were flooded.  So I called Ticketmaster and released the tickets . . . and lo!  As I hung up the phone, the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and the hand of a malevolent God dried the plains instantaneously.  When I picked Nick up from school at 3, he was still fully expecting to go to St. Louis, and when I told him we didn’t have tickets anymore, he almost burst into tears.  I told Nick I had waited as long as I could before releasing them; he told me, most emphatically, to get them back.  This, of course, I could not do.  And so we never saw Gretzky in person, and we missed a scintillating 1-0 game that lifted the Blues into a 2-2 series tie.  Fie, fie on the Deity and Her nasty midwestern weather patterns.)

Despite their play that night, the Penguins look pretty decent this year—and they actually have a shot at winning the division, because the division is going to suck.  You heard it here first: 90 points will win the Atlantic, and 88 points will probably take third place.  The Rangers will play erratically all year long: they will be brilliant on Wednesday and incompetent the following Saturday.  The Flyers are done.  They should start thinking about “rebuilding,” which means, in this context, getting rid of a bunch of hoary veterans and looking around for 19- and 20-year-old phenoms.

But that’s not thing one.  Thing one is that I never fail to be astonished at how prohibitively expensive it is to see a game.  Jamie and I sat in medium-range seats: about 40 or 50 rows up, off the blue line.  Very good seats, but nothing spectacular.  And they were $80 a pop, almost $200 when you factor in the handling fee, the processing fee, the transaction fee, and the convenience fee.  Who can afford this kind of thing on a regular basis?  I treat myself only on special occasions, once or twice a year, and no matter where I go—Pittsburgh, Carolina, New Jersey, St. Louis—I am never, never sitting next to corporate types with expense accounts.  I am sitting next to white middle-class men (and some women, some kids) whose demeanor does not suggest to me that they have a spare two or three thousand dollars (per seat) for hockey games every year (plus another couple thousand in concessions).  And yet almost everyone is wearing a customized jersey.  Customized jerseys run about $250.  Jamie and I are not wearing $250 of clothing between us.  Now, I could be wrong about my aislemates and their demeanor; after all, even a corporate VP might look like an ordinary middle-class shlub if he’s wearing a Penguins cap and a customized Kevin Stevens jersey.  But I don’t think I’m wrong.  I think I’ve stumbled onto an important economic phenomenon—a Hockey Bubble of some kind.

Now for thing two.  When I started playing again in 1999, I was initially relieved that the game had changed so little in the twenty years since I last laced ‘em up.  Sure, the players were a little faster, the pace of the game was quicker, and people used the boards more creatively than they did in 1979, but on the whole, I thought, it’s not a radically different game.  Imagine, I thought, if I’d stopped playing in 1955 and resumed in 1975: there would be slapshots, curved sticks, helmets, and goaltenders with masks.  It would be like the difference between basketball before and after the invention of the jump shot.  And I was saying this to a woman on the bench next to me one winter day in early 2000. . . . 

when I realized, holy mother of Mahovlich, I’m talking to a woman on a hockey bench!  how the hell did that happen?

The St. Lawrence - Harvard game I saw on Saturday afternoon was a women’s game.  The players were fast, the pace was quick, and everyone used the boards creatively.  And they were women.  It was très cool.

All right, team.  Now let’s get out there and vote some bad people out of office!

Posted by on 11/07 at 02:39 PM
  1. Thanks for the Election Day diversion. I really don’t want to think of the various races until the returns start coming in. It was great fun hanging out with you. I would recommend to all your readers that if they ever get the chance to meet you, they should request that you act out the entirety of “Slapshot.” It is a nuanced and in many ways beautiful performance.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  04:06 PM
  2. Since I practically begged you for hockey blogging if it would spare us golf blogging, I should make a comment on your hockey post.

    I got to see Gretzky play in Oakland in 1988 in a pre season exhibition game at the Coliseum Arena. I had to get up super early in the morning (still very dark) and stand in line at least a couple of hours before the box office opened the day the tix went on sale. There was a huge demand to see The Great One.

    It was late Sept. or early Oct., and the A’s were on their way to the playoffs for the first time in years. Everyone was excited about that so there was a buzz in the air for the A’s as much as there was for Gretzky. A’s catcher Terry Steinbach had the honor of dropping the ceremonial first puck of the game, and instead of dropping a puck, he droped a baseball. It was actually very funny. (He did drop a puck for real after that, though).

    I don’t know if seeing Gretzky in an exhibition game counts with hardcore hockey fans as really seeing Gretzky play, but it was good enough for me. The game was fun, and Gretzky scored at least one goal, maybe more. Good time was had by all.

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/07  at  04:24 PM
  3. Michael,
    Rather than driving several hours from State College to Pittsburgh to bitch about ticket prices you really need to go to Johnstown and see those Hansen kids play. We will be going to the Pens this weekend, and like every year I will be bitching about how we should save a boatload of money by going to Johnstown. Of course this year the Pens can argue that they are playing NHL level hockey, unlike in years past. Still, Johnstown War Memorial is a better Hockey Bubble than the Igloo.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  04:27 PM
  4. I hope those Republicans have been really, really intimidated by my playoff beard.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  04:33 PM
  5. I would recommend to all your readers that if they ever get the chance to meet you, they should request that you act out the entirety of “Slapshot.” It is a nuanced and in many ways beautiful performance.

    The songs worked, didn’t they, Chris?  I particularly like my adaptation of Sondheim’s “Side by Side.”

    Rather than driving several hours from State College to Pittsburgh to bitch about ticket prices you really need to go to Johnstown and see those Hansen kids play.

    Alan, you think maybe I would overlook Mecca on my way to the Irony City?  I play in the Nittany Hockey League alongside people who appeared in the film (albeit as extras).  Thing is, Johnstown is still 90 minutes away, and when I take Jamie (we’ve been three or four times so far) we get back well after 11.  But yes, the ticket prices can’t be beat, and the ECHL is just a step or two slower than the big league.

    Captcha:  defense.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/07  at  04:48 PM
  6. No one should doubt your own preternatural ability to cover the Pointer Sisters. For a moment, while you were singing, I closed my eyes. I was transported onto the bus.  I mean, I was sitting right next to a leather-clad Paul Newman. When I spied myself in the mirror, I had a mullet. It was magic.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  05:03 PM
  7. Gojira’s reporting that there’s lots of hijinks at the polls today:


    And he’s recieved a communication from the future about the post-trial fate of Chris Clarke:


    Alas, Gojira was unable to say just which of those two gentlemen is Chris-of-the-Future.

    Both images courtesy of Tezuka-sama.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/07  at  05:10 PM
  8. It’s true, I’m the only Canadian in history who doesn’t like hockey and never played it (mostly because I grew up in da’get’oh, so, it was basketball for me). However, I’m contractually obligated to know who the Rocket and the Pocket are.

    On the other hand, I have a cousin who plays hockey, ball hockey, soccer, and has been a black belt in Ku-rah-teh since she was ten. A black belt hockey player is a thing to behold. Frankly, I’m a little scared of her.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  11/07  at  05:16 PM
  9. The cost factor for NHL is shocking to me. Here in Portland (Ore.) we’ve got Canadian major junior (WHL), and the best seats are just over $20 (including fees).

    When talk of the Penguins maybe moving to Portland (I know, we’re a long shot behind KC, Houston, staying in Pittsburgh, etc.), I get nervous. Though I was born in Pittsburgh and remain a Penguins fan, I would hate to see the NHL chase out the WHL, primarily because I would not be able to afford to see nearly as many games. And the level of play in the WHL is pretty darn good.

    Go Winter Hawks!

    BTW, Crosby? Eh, not so impressed. Malkin and Ovechkin? Oh yeah.

    Posted by Himself  on  11/07  at  05:35 PM
  10. That’s such a sad Gretzky story…

    I have one that is not nearly so painful, but somewhat shameful. As a young child, before my days of continental philosophy had begun, I lived in Calgary and was a diehard Flames fan. It would have been an outrage to admit that you admired the Great One when he played for that scourge team, the Edmonton Oilers.

    Nevertheless, I went to a carnival once and played a pop-the-balloon game, and ended up winning a Wayne Gretzky poster. I told my friends (fellow Flames fans) that I had picked it because all of the other posters were “gay.” Actually, the one of Gretzky featured a very young Wayne (maybe 19 years old), bare-chested and smiling a subtle smile. If that wasn’t a strange poster, then I don’t know what was.

    But anyhow, it was my private icon of one of the greatest players ever, certainly *the* greatest player of my generation. And when I briefly took up smoking at the age of 13, I used to hide my packs of DuMaurier Regular behind his shiny chest.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  07:14 PM
  11. Through one mechanism or another I have gotten to several Pens games a year for the past 15 or so - with seats from the glass to the rafters and everywhere in-between. And time and time again I have sat there having the exact same thought as you. In particular, a few times I have gotten to use very good season tickets and noticed that most of the whole section around me (looking just as you describe) know each other quite well - clearly not party crashers like me. I do know that a number of folks split these across families and friends - but nonetheless there are clearly some folks spending far more of their disposable income than I on hockey and sports spectating in general.

    Maybe I/we am/are just cheap. I really had to study on it a while this summer, when I got an offer of All-Star B-ball game tickets at face value of $150 (I think) I really only said yes since I could take a colleague visiting from Europe. The next day at work, I learned how “lucky” I was, and that many would have paid on the order of $400 to see a game that didn’t even count. Many of my rowmates (aluminum bleachers in leftfield) at the game had paid those type of prices and were basically indistinguishable from the hockey-goers.

    And I either did or did not see Gretzky ca. 1980 on a business trip to Pittsburgh (lived elsewhere then.) I recall a group going and me being the subject of scorn for not even knowing who Gretzky was - and I seriously cannot recall if I went or not (there seems to be giant bright glowing void where the memory would be.) - I can well imagine that I went and I was so clueless that it made no impression or it was overlaid by later more “knowledgable” memories. If I did go, I bequeath my memories to you. (I only became a hockey follower in an accidental fairweather fan manner in 1991 due to the coincidental timing of the Pens Stanley Cup run and the birth of my third child.)

    Note to self.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  08:06 PM
  12. I think that ticket prices are much much cheaper when you have season tickets or some kind of ticket sharing package (1/4 or 1/2 season).  I think with season tickets you can get Buffalo Sabres seats (the worst in the house at least) for about 20 bucks each.  Now the entire season is sold out and season tickets are the only way to see them play at home. 


    PS - At Cornell University you have to stand/sleep in line in a gym to get a lottery number in order to potentially get season tickets. 

    Three cheers to hockey blogging.

    Posted by  on  11/07  at  08:29 PM
  13. Video the Vote videos are arriving. You can find them on the “Video the Vote” home page in YouTube clips. Please help spread them around.

    You can also view videos by state here.

    And oh my! A power outage. Surprise, surprise.

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/07  at  10:44 PM
  14. Gojira sees chaos in the internets:


    Gojira has decided to meditate:


    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/08  at  12:27 AM
  15. Anyone who just must have one more GNF joke: Jefferson Airplane delivers a giant mushroom cloud.

    Posted by  on  11/08  at  12:46 AM
  16. Scene from on my way to work tonight:

    Gas prices already up 5 cents per gallon from yesterday.

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/08  at  04:36 AM
  17. David Brooks sez:

    Shallow people look at election returns to see who won. Profound people look for world historical trends.

    I’ve got my shallow side, and what I see so far is a Democratic tide but not a tsunami. . . . . This is Joe Lieberman’s country.

    Gojira says:


    Not a tsunami, but not bad. And just who was expecting a tsunami?

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/08  at  05:23 AM
  18. Women’s hockey--check.  Giant leap, etc., done with panache.


    (If Annika had won and done the 6-peat thing in Japan, would she have merited a post?)

    #12:  I’m with you, and the Sabres, even from afar!  Maybe Spitzer’s victory foreshadows even lower prices at Sabres/Bills games down the road…

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  11/08  at  05:41 AM
  19. Tsunami or not, I sure as hell am enjoying letting this wash over me:

    Mr Conyers, You May Call Your First Witness

    Mr Waxman, You May Call Your First Witness

    (From a commment on D-Kos)

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/08  at  05:43 AM
  20. I briefly went to the same high school as Wayne Gretzky (he was four years ahead of me) and my Dad had seasons tickets while he was playing Major Jr. A hockey for the Soo Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie. I saw him play with Paul Coffey and Craig Hartsburg on a team that later included Ron Francis, Jon Vanbiesbruk etc etc. He also grew up in my parent’s hometown and my gandmother knew his dad and I think my cousin went to school with his brother - who is known as “the good one”

    not to brag or anything....

    Posted by rev.paperboy  on  11/08  at  06:36 AM
  21. #5 mbpaul 11/7/2006 09:25PM PST

    I quite. I not going to vote again. It’s time I gave up on this political bullshit. I just hope the nuke attack comes soon. Let it be on the East Coast where it belongs.

    Looks like the WAAGFN party may have found some recruits last night at LGF. Via the General.

    Posted by  on  11/08  at  08:44 AM
  22. "Eh, Mr. Pombo, I, uh, I asked for fries with that…”

    So, so sweet.

    Posted by  on  11/08  at  09:00 AM
  23. Thanks for linking the General, Ed. Damn, everyone should read that. Talk about people who absolutely HATE everything this country is supposed to stand for…

    I don’t want ANY of those asshole in my Party. The WAAGNFNP is too good for them. I hope they all survive the GNF and are eaten by the post-GNF splinter group of Flesh Eating Zombies, led by Pat, if I remember correctly.

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/08  at  09:06 AM
  24. Whoops, nevermind. A login stomped on that link in my last comment. Here’s another.

    Posted by  on  11/08  at  09:27 AM
  25. I don’t want ANY of those asshole in my Party. The WAAGNFNP is too good for them.

    Well, O.G., I guess that’s why you get the big bucks—someone has to make the tough calls.

    Posted by  on  11/08  at  10:27 AM
  26. Venerable Ed -

    Damn Straight!

    And I’ve been working day and night on behalf of the good people of the WAAGNFNP. Exciting news coming soon (Our Leader willing).

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/08  at  12:49 PM
  27. <i.In 1996 I got tickets for game four of the Blues-Red Wings series in which Detroit eventually won game seven in double OT. </i>

    O.M.G.!!! You could actually have been there, at the Stevie Y jumping-up-and-down-on-the-ice-like-an-eight-year-old game?  Ohhhh, man.

    Well, I guess you’d have been rooting for St. Louis, so maybe it’s for the best.

    Posted by Nell  on  11/09  at  08:14 PM
  28. Oops.  Not only screwed-up formatting due to failure to preview, but failure to read very carefully, either.

    Well, blame it on post-election euphoria.

    Posted by Nell  on  11/09  at  08:56 PM





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