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All-hockey Friday

OK, I’m back.  But I’m back only to talk about the hockey playoffs.

And yet this will not be a trivial, prognosticatin’ kind of post in which I predict that the Carolina Hurricanes will meet the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern finals and the Detroit Red Wings will meet the Calgary Flames in the West.  Oh, no.  This will be an in-depth, longitudinal look at the very structure of hockey playoffs since 1967.

For I continue to insist that hockey is humankind’s most perfect sport, with just the right mix of large and small muscle groups, finely-tuned skill and WTF luck, individual and team effort, dazzling finesse and good old-fashioned bone-crunchin’.  But when it comes to talking about the actually existing NHL, I have to admit that organizationally, it’s basically the League of Extraordinarily Stupid Gentlemen.  Last year’s sitdown/ lockout/ clusterschmuck was but the most recent and vivid example at hand, and it reminded me that the last time the NHL had a thrilling, seven-game, fast-skating, trap-free final series like the Flames-Lightning affair of 2004 (that would be in 1993-94, when the New York Rangers made it possible for me and all my kind to die in peace), they decided to celebrate with a lockout then, too. 

But quite apart from the sport’s management troubles, the problem plaguing hockey for many, many years was that its playoff system was the laughingstock of Ye Entire World of Sport.  In part, that was because the league had 21 teams from 1979 to 1991, and 16 of those made the playoffs every year.  Those were the days in which the late Dick Young quipped that if World War II were a hockey season, Poland would have made the playoffs.  And what days they were: in 1979-80, after the World Hockey Association folded and bequeathed four of its franchises to the NHL (Hartford, Quebec, Winnipeg, Edmonton), the NHL went from a stupid system in which 17 teams played 80 games in order to eliminate five franchises from the playoffs to an even more stupid system in which 21 teams played 80 games in order to eliminate five franchises from the playoffs.

Which brings me to the other reason hockey playoffs sucked for many years: the league simply could not figure out a way of seeding playoff teams in such a way as to try to get the best finals possible.  That’s not entirely the league’s fault, of course: as Emile “The Cat” Francis used to say, hockey is a slippery game.  It’s played on ice.  Teams that hover around .500 all year can suddenly get hot in May, and before you know it, they’ve knocked off a couple of rivals who’d outplayed them for eight months, and lo, they are in a conference final.  And as all of us forwards know, goaltenders can lease their souls to Satan—but only for two-week periods, during which time they are unbeatable for just long enough to propel their teams past far more talented contenders (see, e.g., Vanbiesbrouck, John, 1996; Kolzig, Olaf, 1998; Hasek, Dominic, 1999; Giguere, Jean-Sebastien, 2003; Roy, Patrick, passim). 

But still.  The league expanded from six teams to twelve in 1967-68, and—get this—decided to put all the expansion teams in the “Western” division.  Then the top four teams in the East and the West played each other, and the East champion met the West champion in the finals.  Guess what?  From 1968 to 1970, the first three finals series were 4-0 blowouts!  Who could have predicted that?  Finally, in 1970-71, the league had the bright idea of having the Eastern teams meet the West in the second round, and the result was one of the best finals in living memory, the seven-game Chicago-Montreal series in which the Canadiens and Black Hawks won every game on their home ice until Montreal came back from a 2-0 deficit in Chicago in game seven (see my hockey page for a photo of me with the guy who scored the tying and winning goals).  For a while, the playoffs were pretty good.  Boston won a couple of Cups, Philly won a couple, and Montreal won half a dozen.  And then came the WHA merger.

In 1979-80 and 1980-81, the NHL disregarded “divisions” and “conferences” altogether, and simply seeded teams 1 through 16 at the end of the year.  In 1979-80, the 16th team was the Edmonton Oilers, with a record of 28-39-13 for 69 points (to those of you who are unfamiliar with hockey, teams get two points for a win and one for a tie . . . hey, wait a minute!  If you’re unfamiliar with hockey, what are you doing reading down this far?).  At the same time, the divisions themselves didn’t make much sense: the Atlanta Flames had moved to Calgary but remained in the “Patrick” division, which gave you a group consisting of the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, New York Rangers . . . and Calgary.

Now, let’s not forget about Poland.  For me, the legitimacy of a sports league has a great deal to do with the fate of its sub-.500 teams.  It is a measure of the soundness of baseball and football, in this respect, that they’ve never let a team with a losing record sneak into the postseason.  Oh, they’ve flirted with it: a few 8-8 imposters have tiptoed into the NFL wild card, but—until the sorry-ass 2004 St. Louis Rams in the sorry-ass NFC—none had ever gotten past the first round (and the Rams were promptly greeted by the Falcons in the second round, and sent home on the short end of a 47-17 rout).  And who can forget last year’s captivating pennant race in the NL West, as the sickly Padres wrestled mightily with .500 throughout August and September, finally breaking the tape at 82-80 (and wresting from the 1973 Mets, 82-79, the coveted laurel of “worst playoff team evah”)?

Yes, well.  Let’s talk about sickly, shall we?

In 1981-82, the NHL moved to a system in which the top four teams in each division made the playoffs, and the first two rounds of the playoffs consisted of intradivisional series.  That system stayed in place for a decade.  Three divisions had five teams, one had six.  In the Smythe (don’t ask), the Los Angeles Kings made the NHL playoffs with a record of 24-41-15 (63 points).  That’s just wrong.  And what followed was even wronger: they beat the first-place Oilers (48-17-15, 111 points) in a five-game series, winning game one by a surreal score of 10-8.  (Ah, those were the days!  Marcel Dionne had 50 goals for the Kings that year.  Gretzky had 92 for the Oilers.  Last team to score wins!)

You see the problem here.  The Oilers play 80 games in which they dominate their division; Gretzky sets single-season scoring records that will probably never be broken (he added 120 assists for 212 points); and by the end of April, he and his teammates are playing golf.  Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks, a scintillating 30-33-17 (77 points) in the regular season, run the suddenly Oilers-less table, going 11-2 in three series and then winding up in one of the most lopsided finals ever, losing to the vastly more talented Islanders in four.

Throughout the decade, the travesties just kept on comin’. In 1984-85, the Rangers (26-44-10) and the Minnesota North Stars (25-43-12) made the playoffs.  (At least the Rangers had the good grace to leave early that year; in 1983 they finished fourth in the division but swept the first-place Flyers in round one.) In 1985-86, the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs finished 25-48-7.  Did they beat the first-place Black Hawks anyway?  Of course they did!  In 1990-91, the lowly Minnesota North Stars finished 27-39-14.  Did they beat the first-place Black Hawks (49-23-8) anyway?  Of course they did!  In fact, they went to the finals that year.  Go figure.  But by June they had learned how to play hockey, partly by watching better teams and then beating them (cough—Oilers—cough), and their six-game final against the flashy Penguins wasn’t all that bad.

The lowlights of the 1980s, imho: 1986-87, when the entire Norris division finished below sea level (St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Minnesota, the first four of whom made the playoffs, natch), and 1987-88, in which the 21-49-10 Maple Leafs made the playoffs.  That’s right, a .300 team!  The mind reels.

As a result of all this flimflammery, Stanley Cup finals tended to be profoundly anticlimactic.  Between the epochal Chicago-Montreal series in 1971 and the earth-shattering Vancouver-Rangers series in 1994, only one series went the full seven games, the Oilers-Flyers final in 1987.  And even that final was prolonged only because Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall had leased his soul to Satan.  Otherwise, Philadelphia didn’t belong on the same sheet of ice with the Oilers of Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, and Coffey.

In 1991-92, however, the league began to expand again.  The San Jose Sharks joined the NHL, and were followed the next year by the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then the year after that by the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.  Perhaps not coincidentally, 1992-93 marked the first year in which all the NHL’s playoff teams had records over .500.  The weakest among them, St. Louis, finished fourth in the Norris with a 37-36-11 record.  And did they beat the first-place Black Hawks (47-25-12) anyway?  Of course they did!  In four straight!

In 1993-94, the annus mirabilis, only one sub-.500 team made it: the third-year expansion Sharks, at 33-35-16.  That year, the NHL switched to the playoff system it’s used ever since, namely: the top eight teams in each conference go to the postseason, and the division winners are seeded one-two-three.  And did the Sharks beat the one-seed Red Wings anyway?  I bet you know the answer to that.

In 1995-96 it appeared that the league had achieved a breakthrough: the 37-33-12 New Jersey Devils did not make the cut.  But this was an illusory breakthrough, an uneven development, for in the West, there were only three teams over .500 for the year.  That’s because the Red Wings went an incredible 62-13-7 (131 points), leaving only table scraps for everyone else, until the Avalanche beat them in a vicious conference final on their way to the Cup (in their first year in Denver; too bad the good people of Quebec City, who’d suffered through many years of pathetic Nordiquedom, didn’t get to celebrate their Sakic-led champions).  In 1997-98 the eighth seed in the East, Ottawa, finished 34-33-15.  Did they beat the one-seed Devils?  Yep.  In 1998-99 the eighth seed in the East was Pittsburgh, finishing 38-30-14.  Did they beat the one-seed Devils?  Mmm-hmm.  Weirdly, the mid-1990s were lackluster years for the Stanley Cup finals.  Even though the league had finally devised a playoff system that made sense, and had expanded to the point (26 teams) at which very few sub-.500 (and no .300) teams made the postseason, the teams themselves refused to cooperate, especially in the East.  After the Devils’ 1995 sweep of the Red Wings, the Eastern conference sent the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals off to be swept in four by stronger Western teams (Colorado and Detroit).  Finally, the four-year string of sweeps was broken in 1999 by the Buffalo-Dallas series (even though Buffalo was the East’s seventh seed), still remembered in Buffalo as the “no goal” series, as a result of Brett Hull’s controversial triple-overtime winner in game six.  (There was no question that under the ludicrous and soon-to-be-repealed “crease” rules of the day, Hull’s goal was invalid.  But it was 1:30 in the morning, the score was 1-1, and Hasek and Belfour were the two best goaltenders on the planet.  Surely the officials saw Hull’s “goal” as their only chance to leave the building before dawn.)

And then, in 2000, the real breakthrough.  Three teams—Montreal in the east, Vancouver and Anaheim in the west—finished over .500 and missed the playoffs.  True, they were over .500 by only one game, but the NHL had finally arrived.  In 2001, with the league at its current level of thirty teams (Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus being the newbies), Boston missed the playoffs with 88 points, and Phoenix missed the playoffs with 90.  The only time such a thing had happened in NHL history was the freakish year of 1969-70 (my first year in hockey), when the Rangers and Canadiens finished with identical records (38-22-16) but the Rangers squeaked in on the goals-scored tiebreaker, having scored 246 for the year to Montreal’s 244, thanks to their epic 9-5 defeat of Detroit on the final day of the season (much resented in Montreal, where it was widely believed that the Red Wings had taken a bit of a rest).  So Montreal missed the playoffs in 1970 with 92 points, and for the first time in hockey history, there was no Canadian team in the postseason; the Canadiens then had the treat of sitting home and watching the Western division Penguins (26-38-12), Minnesota North Stars (19-35-22), and Oakland Seals (22-40-14) flail haplessly at each other.

Then in 2001-02 the 92-point Oilers and 90-point Stars stayed home after the season was done, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the talent-rich West.  Weirdly, in 2002-03 all the playoff teams were over .500 and all the also-rans were under; and in 2003-04, only Edmonton (89), Buffalo (85), and Minnesota (83) were left out in the cold.

All of which brings us at last, by commodius vicus of recirculation, to the amazing present day, in which, as I write, there are seven teams at .500 or better who will not clear the playoff bar.  And I have very bad news for you Canuck fans, in Vancouver and around the globe: as I’ve surmised over the past few weeks, you’ll be sitting out this one.  You thought you were clinging to the seventh or eighth spot, but that was only because you’d played three more games than the Sharks.  Your only hope, I think, is to sweep San Jose in the home-and-home series next week, April 12-13.  Nashville, meanwhile, is picking a very bad time of year to hit a slump.  Anaheim and Edmonton could be very dangerous.  But I don’t see anyone at Detroit’s talent level.  Unless they’re beaten by the eight seed.  Could it happen?  Never!  That would be silly.

In the East, where my heart resides, the Rangers did themselves an enormous favor by beating the Flyers in last Tuesday’s shootout.  See, the thing is this.  Whoever finishes second in the Atlantic conference will wind up with the five seed, and will have to open on the road against Buffalo.  The Rangers don’t want to do that.  Neither do the Flyers, who are 0-3 against the Sabres this year.  So this divisional race matters.  However: the team that escapes the Sabres will have to face either New Jersey or Montreal.  The Devils are battered but leathery, and the Canadiens just happen to be hitting their stride, having won eight straight.  So the Rangers may not get out of the first round, no matter who they face.  All across the board, I see a first round full of ferocious six- and seven-game series.

I have great hope for Jaromir Jagr, though.  Someone (perhaps Jagr himself) has finally screwed his head firmly onto his body, and he’s not only playing brilliantly—he’s taking command of games.  The March 27 game against Buffalo, for example: the Rangers had just lost three in a row, two of them in shootouts, and they were down 4-2 after two periods against a team they badly needed to beat (at home, no less).  Between periods, Jagr said, “see here, fellows!  This will never do.  It is high time we took this game in hand!” (I have the transcript if you want to see it.) Turning to Petr Sykora and Michael Nylander, he urged his teammates to place pucks into the Sabres’ net by sheer force of will.  And behold!  Sykora scored on assists from Nylander and Jagr.  Then Jagr scored on assists from Nylander and Sykora.  Then Sykora scored in the shootout.  That’s what we like to see: clutch hockey in late March.  Guys takin’ it to the Next Level.  Stepping up.  Gut check time.  Getting going when the going gets tough.  Scoring more scores than the other team within a fixed time period and thereby winning the game.

It has not, of course, escaped my notice that Jagr has broken the Rangers’ single-season scoring record of 109 points, set by my hero Jean Ratelle 34 years ago.  (Yes, Rod Gilbert was also my hero.  I had two.  And they grew up playing together, too.  How did I feel when Ratelle was traded to Boston?  Pretty much the way Rod felt.) In 1971-72, Ratelle had 46 goals and 63 assists . . . but he had ‘em in 63 games.  The official Rangers website notes that Ratelle broke his ankle on March 1 of that year, ending his season.  But it doesn’t say that Ratelle broke his ankle when teammate Dale Rolfe hit him with a slapshot during a power play in a meaningless game against the anemic California Golden Seals, in the twelfth game of a sixteen-game unbeaten streak.  I was there.  I saw Jean fall.  Great were the lamentations throughout Madison Square Garden that night, and many were the groans and bitter grousings.

That’s not to take anything away from Jagr, who’s having a truly wonderful year.  It’s just to remind all of you Bruins fans out there that if my Ratelle had played all 76 games at that 131.5-point pace, he would have outscored your Bobby Orr (117 points) and contended with your Phil Esposito (133 points) for the scoring title right down to the final weekend.  Hey, wait a minute!  If you’re a Bruins fan, what are you doing reading down this far?

Interestingly, when Rangers do well in the individual-scoring department, the Rangers do well.  Rangers have scored 50 goals in a season precisely three times since the Earth’s crust cooled and became habitable by hockey-playing life forms.  In 1972, Vic Hadfield was set up by Ratelle 50 times, and managed to make the puck bounce off his stick from Ratelle’s pass in such a way as to get credit for a goal.  The Ratelle-less Rangers went to the finals, losing to Boston in six.  In 1994, Adam Graves scored 52, and . . . well, we will not say what transpired thereafter, except that it was more important than the moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall.  This year Jagr has 52 with six games to play.  If he can avoid ankle-breaking slapshots from his defensemen, he has a good chance to rewrite the Rangers record books altogether.  He might even (pause, dramatic intake of breath) lead the league in scoring. . . .

And does anyone know the last time a Ranger led the league in scoring?  No, Andy Bathgate’s 84 points in 1961-62 don’t count.  He was tied with Bobby Hull for the year.  I’m asking when a Ranger won the scoring title outright.  Here’s a hint: his last name has appeared in this very post, affixed to someone else’s first name.  Extra special bonus points for anyone who can tell me when a Ranger won the scoring title and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.  I believe it was just after hockey had moved its games indoors and had decided to abandon the gutta-percha puck.

One last thing.  The Carolina Hurricanes will meet the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern finals and the Detroit Red Wings will meet the Calgary Flames in the West.

Posted by on 04/07 at 09:25 AM
  1. Great Post Michael, but since when does a second place finisher for an award named after Sand Koufax start pitching softballs about Pip Gershowitz?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:23 AM
  2. That would be Sandy Koufax.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:24 AM
  3. OK.  So to start with, I’m a Washington Capitals fan, which I guess makes me a rare bird.  I’m just hoping that the Stanley Cup playoffs are actually on TV (and wondering where on the dial they might end up being).

    One interesting thing about the NHL’s playoffs is the re-seeding.  If the #7 beats the #2, then the #1 gets the #7 in the second round rather than the #4/#5 winner. 

    The year the Caps made the finals (which cost me about five years of “sports karma") they were the #4 seed in the East--but the #1, #2, and #3 were all victims of first-round upsets.  So the Caps were the highest-seeded team in each playoff matchup despite having been only #4 going in.

    1994 was the first year I watched the playoffs intently, and I was cheering for the Rangers.  (I still like the Rangers, but I prefer the Hapless Cappytoes.)

    DD

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:24 AM
  4. Michael, if your prognosticating is correct, then I can only hope for an Ottawa / Calgary final, improbable as that might be with the Red Wings in contention.

    Posted by theorizethis  on  04/07  at  11:25 AM
  5. Great Post Michael, but since when does a second place finisher for an award named after Sand Koufax start pitching softballs about Pip Gershowitz?

    Since when?  Since the Koufax second place finisher decided that people who remember the Rangers of the late 1920s would catch the inconceivably oblique reference to the great goaltender, Lorne Chabot, briefly renamed “Chabotsky” by Garden press agent Johnny Bruno.  Ah, those were the days too.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:28 AM
  6. Heyup, there must be something a little off with this game of yours if all these 8-seeds can beat the number-one seeds.  Simply saying it’s “a slippery game” is a little, um, fast and loose…

    On the other hand, why whinge?  Why not celebrate the giant-killing adventures that run against the predictability of all those other sports in which, um, consistency and skill actually count?

    (And yeah, it seems the Canuck fans are a little despondent at the moment.)

    Posted by Jon  on  04/07  at  11:35 AM
  7. One interesting thing about the NHL’s playoffs is the re-seeding.  If the #7 beats the #2, then the #1 gets the #7 in the second round rather than the #4/#5 winner.

    It’s one of the best things about the playoff scheme, I think.  But it was born of many years of Canucks-Islanders inspired frustration.

    The year the Caps made the finals (which cost me about five years of “sports karma") they were the #4 seed in the East—but the #1, #2, and #3 were all victims of first-round upsets.  So the Caps were the highest-seeded team in each playoff matchup despite having been only #4 going in.

    I remember that year vividly, in part because the Capitals roster included a certain career fourth-liner with a heavy pair of hands.  His name was Craig Berube.  He broke into the league as a rookie in 1986-87, but only played seven games, and wouldn’t have gotten his name on the Cup if the Flyers had won that game seven against the Oilers.  In 1998, however, he represented my only chance to see a Berube engraved on the Stanley Cup.  110+ years this trophy has been around, and there are no Berubes on it.  It’s an outrage.  And I’m well past my prime, so don’t be looking to me to fix this one.

    But here’s to Craig for playing over 1000 games in the NHL.  Not a lot of career fourth-liners have that distinction.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:37 AM
  8. Heyup, there must be something a little off with this game of yours if all these 8-seeds can beat the number-one seeds.  Simply saying it’s “a slippery game” is a little, um, fast and loose…

    Or slippery?  And listen, I didn’t even mention the eight-seed Canadiens beating the one-seed Bruins in 2002.  Then again, only 14 points separated those teams (101 and 87), so the point to be drawn from this example is that the league now has some serious parity on its hands.  Likewise, the Blues who beat Chicago in ‘93 were a pretty good team, as were the eight-seed Sharks who beat the Blues in 2000.

    The Kings beating the Oilers in 1982, though—that was an effin’ joke.  The same goes for Minnesota beating Chicago in 1991.  In cases like that, I don’t blame people for concluding that the NHL should have consisted of a 20-game regular season and 80 games of playoffs. 

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  11:42 AM
  9. It is only Prof. B’s spectacular powers of rhetorifyin’ that kept me reading such a long post on hockey. If only he would use his powers for good, i.e., pro basketball, where playoff travesties are less frequent.

    Posted by Dr. Drang  on  04/07  at  12:13 PM
  10. Damn! You did blow that Chabotsky reference right by me. The bat never left my shoulder. Where the hell did I put my steroids?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  12:29 PM
  11. You mean the cream or the clear?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  12:32 PM
  12. Yes, the 1981-82 Oilers were a great team led by the Great One, and the Kings were… not. But the Oilers were also a very young team. Young and extremely cocky. I had just moved to the South of California the year before, and the only playoff game I got to was that series’ 3rd game—yes, the Miracle on Manchester, where the Kings came back from 5 down to win in overtime.

    Not only were the Oilers cocky, but the Edmontonians in attendance were extra arrogant, in a humbly Canadian way, of course, and became more so as the goal differential increased and the third period wore on. The Oiler players, during the third period and, get this, while the puck was in play, were sitting on the bench singing songs. I was too far up in the stands to hear the words--maybe Western Canada has special hockey we’re whoopin’ up on you songs-- but this went beyond cocky. As a suddenly invigorated Kings team turned it on and started scoring, the Oilers players became suddenly quiet. Stunned, actually, is the best word, and deflated in overtime. I especially enjoyed the ashen faces of the Oilers fans around me.

    So, au contraire, Michael, there was nothing wronger about it; the Hockey Gods are as able to smite the hubristic as are the Greek Pantheon.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  01:00 PM
  13. The big difference in recent years, with so many teams about .500?  It’s not just the fact that there are a handful of teams that have played very, very badly, although that certainly helps.  It’s the rule changes surrounding overtime games.

    Consider: under the old rules with wins, losses, and ties, the average result was .500: every game won was a game someone else lost.  In a league with 30 teams, if everyone’s playing at about the same level then you’d expect about half the teams to get more wins than losses; hence, having one or two top-sixteen teams losing more often than winning is pretty much the norm.  If you have a couple of teams which are particularly strong (with everyone else pretty much on par with each other), then you’d get more teams with losing records into the play-offs.

    With the new rules, each win doesn’t correspond to someone else’s loss, because overtime losses get scored differently (as ties, in effect).  Lump the overtime losses in with regular losses, and you get eight teams in the east and nine in the west with winning records; you also get Edmonton, with 13 overtime losses, as a team with a “losing record” that’s liable to make the playoffs.

    Posted by Dr. Matt  on  04/07  at  01:49 PM
  14. I was so hoping there would be something in this long thread about the NCAA hockey season, the Burish family, the Badgers etc.  But alas a missed season of the NHL has reduced collegiate hockey to footnotes.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  02:12 PM
  15. Great post, Michael.  I used to be a huge hockey fan, completely and utterly devoted to the.....

    HARTFORD WHALERS :-(

    I will never foget the OT game winning goal in April 1986 when we defeated the Canadiens in the playoffs.  One of the greatest games EVER!!

    Now I stick to football, but I still miss the Whalers after all these years.  Heck, I remember when they bought Ron Francis and when Gordie Howe was *still* playing.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  02:13 PM
  16. Great post Michael! I’m a die-hard Blueshirts fan living in Philadelphia, so needless to say this has been a great year for me.

    In response to your queries, the last Ranger to take home the Art Ross was Bryan Hextall in 1941-42, and the last Ranger to win the Art Ross and the Stanley Cup in the same year was Bill Cook in 1932-33. Hopefully we’ll be able to add another Ranger to the list in a couple months.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  02:43 PM
  17. Hey!  Chris Maisano takes home both the Bryan Hextall Award and the Bill Cook Trophy.  Good call, Chris.  (I figured I had to throw Cook into the mix because Hextall, for all his talent, won the Art Ross during wartime, with all the asterisks that entails.) And ‘33 really was a great year, wasn’t it?  Nazis, Depression, the Art Ross and the Stanley Cup.  Also King Kong, if memory serves.

    And Dr. Matt, I hear you, but I don’t buy it.  After all, the Oilers’ thirteen OT losses would have been ties under Ye Olde Rules, and we would be left with the same landscape we’ve got now:  twenty-three teams with at least as many wins as losses.  Thank you, Penguins, Capitals, Black Hawks, and Blues, for playing so badly all year as to allow a bunch of over-.500 squads to miss the playoffs.  Though I still mourn for the Blues and their weird postseason streak, R.I.P.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/07  at  02:51 PM
  18. Oh life is so sweet, my Sabres return to the playoffs this year AND they are a feared first round opponent.  This makes looming seminar and thesis deadlines not so bad.

    Oh and, of course, NO GOAL:

    “Unless the puck is in the goal crease area, a player of the attacking side may not stand in the goal crease. If a player has entered the crease prior to the puck, and subsequently the puck should enter the net while such conditions prevail, the apparent goal shall not be allowed.”

    This, of course, was followed by the Phantom Goal of 2001 that allowed the Penguins to advance over the Sabres, the Sabes last playoff appearance.  And lets not even get into Wide Right or the Music City Miracle, I mean FORWARD PASS.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  03:29 PM
  19. LOL, Michael about the Blues streak. Great post and I am a frist time commenter but a long time reader. Congrats to your Rangers.

    HEY, how about some love for my Dallas Stars ? {Of course not}

    Hockey suffers from being the worst game to watch on TV. I have been to 3 Stars games and I took family and friends [to old Reunion arena] and they follow hockey now. I have been a hockey fan since 1996 {FLA COL} which I followed in TV.

    I really got into hockey when I chose a team [Dallas] and followed them in 1997, 1998 and 1999 when they skated the cup.

    Other than having a huge HI-DEF teevee or having a local arena to take people to “convert” people to watching hockey, any suggestions ... from anyone ?
    Hockey is a great game. I think it is too fast for some people but scoring and open ice can attract anyone ... and as they learn more, they appreciate who is in goal, or who is pushing the action, or great blueline play.

    *** Disclosure ... you all may confuse me for Jarome Iginla, skin wise, not hockey skills wise. I am the rare black hockey fan wink

    Posted by Jim Florio  on  04/07  at  03:48 PM
  20. Jon,

    I am glad the Sabres are in the East. The Stars had enough of them in the ‘99 Finals. AND in the regular season game THIS year when Dallas got schooled 4-3 by Buffalo back in December.

    I have a Sabres 1999 Eastern Conf. Championship t-shirt.

    Posted by Jim Florio  on  04/07  at  03:54 PM
  21. Michael,
    Quoting Joyce in a blog entry… about hockey..?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  03:59 PM
  22. 17: The thing you’re forgetting is that, under the old rules, a lot of those wins wouldn’t have been counted as wins; they’d have been ties too.  So really, I suppose I’m arguing not that the loss numbers are too low so much as that the win numbers are too high.

    Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find someplace that lists how many overtime wins each team has, so I can’t back up my point with numbers.

    Posted by Dr. Matt  on  04/07  at  04:02 PM
  23. One last thing,

    I love all the comments. It is my love for history which gives me that predisposition to :

    1) ...feeling since I became a fan in 1996, I was wrong to admire the neutral zone trap {When Dallas did it and won, cool, but it was bad for the overall game}

    2) ...admit I LOVED the NFL in the 1980s ! I would have the the NHL even better in the 1980s if someone would have dragged me {in Pine Bluff, Arkansas ... I would not have gone willing} to a hockey game.

    3) ...admit I am still learning and I am an old fool of 38 years. An old dog can learn new tricks!

    Posted by Jim Florio  on  04/07  at  04:05 PM
  24. Quoting Joyce about hockey? Joyce refers to
    Jaromir Jagr in the same work:

    “There’s many’s the icepolled globetopper is haunted by the hottest spot under his equator like Ramrod, the meatyhunter, always jaeger for a thrust.”

    Sounds like searchengine spam for a porn blog, actually. Captcha word: “size.”

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  04:27 PM
  25. It’s been impossible to decipher the newspapers’ NHL standings tables ever since the NHL got rid of the old 1 point for a tie system.  The only way you can figure out who’s winning and who’s losing is to log on to NHL.com, which is where the only comprehensible standings are published.  Maybe this is deliberate…

    Posted by Timothy Horrigan  on  04/07  at  04:50 PM
  26. Jim, I respectfully disagree that hockey is the worst game to watch on TV. I love baseball, and nothing is quite like going out to the park to soak in a game, but it is more often than not dreadfully boring to watch on the tube. I also find NBA basketball to be an incredibly poor viewing experience, although the quality of games improves in the playoffs. And while I enjoy watching football, its staccato, stop-start quality just doesn’t translate into good TV in most instances. I may just be biased because it’s my favorite sport, but I find that of the 4 major US sports, hockey is far and away the most enjoyable TV viewing experience.

    Also, has anyone noticed how great NHL shootouts are to listen to on the radio? One of the main arguments for the shootout before the season was that it would make for great TV, and it does, but the radio broadcasts that I’ve heard are incredibly gripping.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  04:57 PM
  27. Of course the Red Wings will go to the finals, and probably win it, too.  The *real* question is, will the Penguins ever again not suck?

    And will the Pirates beat them to it?

    Posted by Jonathon Isaac Swiderski  on  04/07  at  05:10 PM
  28. Jim:

    We may have beaten you 4-3 but you guys got Stu Barnes for a song from us. 

    He was, alas, my favorite.  I no longer get to hear STUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU BAAAAAAAAAARNNNNEESSSS echo through my house when he lit the lamp.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  05:16 PM
  29. My mistake, the Phatom Goal was in 2000, and it was in a game against the Flyers.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hockey/nhl/2000/playoffs/news/2000/04/14/sabres_flyers_game2_ap/

    Captcha word: Faith, as in faith that refs will stop screwing Buffalo sports teams.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  05:23 PM
  30. Chris,
    While those other sports have the stop/start problem, that is fine for TV.  You flip around, get something to eat etc.  I actually hate going to baseball games, they’re better on TV.  Hockey’s problem is that you just can’t tell what the hell is going on while watching on TV.  It is really bad when you have inexperienced camera crews who don’t do hockey.  I grew up watching Flyers games all year on the local channel, then they’d switch to a network crew for the finals.  Got lots of great footage of shots just vanishing off the left side of the screen, followed by pictures of dejected goalies.

    “And does anyone know the last time a Ranger led the league in scoring?  No, Andy Bathgate’s 84 points in 1961-62 don’t count.  He was tied with Bobby Hull for the year.  I’m asking when a Ranger won the scoring title outright.  Here’s a hint: his last name has appeared in this very post, affixed to someone else’s first name.”

    Umm, Brian de Bois Gilbert?  Or do we have to go back further?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  05:24 PM
  31. Michael,

    I’ve enjoyed your occasional Rangers references and Rod Gilbert pictures over the past two years.  They get me thinking about being a Ranger fan as a young kid.  I grew up on Long Island and was passionate about them; this was just before the Islanders came into the league and, well, became a powerhouse.

    I’ve always remembered the Ranger stars, like Ratelle, Gilbert, Park, Tkaczuk, and my favorite Ranger of all time, and sadly under-appreciated defenseman, #15 “Chief” Jim Nielson.  But when you mentioned Dale Rolfe, it got me trying to remember the other players of that era.  Wasn’t there a guy named Ted Irvine?  Who was the goalie behind Ed Giacomin?  Oh yeah, how about the “Polish Prince”, Pete Stemkowski?

    Those were great times to be a sports fan.  I haven’t followed hockey since leaving LI after college, and there were a few years in high school when I followed the geographically closer Islanders, but, still, nothing has beaten the excitement I felt as a kid routing for the Rangers.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  06:57 PM
  32. Brad, I was in Australia when my Toilers blew that series to LA, but I recall someone telling me that they were singing Nanana Hey Hey Hey Goodbye Blah Blah Blah… Cocky, to be sure.

    I’m hoping like hell they stay ahead of the Canuckleheads this year. Not just so they make it into the playoffs (and after last night’s No Goal debacle, the league had better hope they make it), but so I can harass all the Vancouver fans in these parts (northern BC).

    D

    Posted by Derryl Murphy  on  04/07  at  07:45 PM
  33. sweet jesus, i loved jean ratelle.  and eddie giacomin.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  08:21 PM
  34. I’ve always remembered the Ranger stars, like Ratelle, Gilbert, Park, Tkaczuk, and my favorite Ranger of all time, and sadly under-appreciated defenseman, #15 “Chief” Jim Nielson.  But when you mentioned Dale Rolfe, it got me trying to remember the other players of that era.  Wasn’t there a guy named Ted Irvine?  Who was the goalie behind Ed Giacomin?  Oh yeah, how about the “Polish Prince”, Pete Stemkowski?

    Oh boy, memory lane.  I can recite the 1970-71 and 1971-72 rosters in my sleep.  1969-70 is a little tougher, because of all the injuries, and the stray Juha Widing here and Jack Egers there.  But here goes.  The first line consisted of Ratelle, Gilbert, and Hadfield, of course.  Tkaczuk, Billy Fairbairn, and Dave Balon were line two, and then Balon was replaced by a very similar player, Steve Vickers—similar in the sense that if you added up the distance traveled by the puck for each one of their goals over a season, you’d be out around the blue line.  I’m the same kind of player myself—a lot of garbage around the net.  Somebody has to do it.  The third line was Stemkowski with Bruce MacGregor on the right and Ted Irvine on the left.  Gene Carr sometimes put in an appearance.  Bobby Rousseau played the entire 1971-72 season and tried to fill Ratelle’s skates in the playoffs.  Glen Sather chipped in too.  The defense pairs were the brilliant Brad Park with Dale Rolfe, and your man Neilson with Rod Seiling.  Ab DeMarco and Gary Doak (!) were the d-subs in 71-72, Tim Horton and Arnie Brown in 70-71.

    The vastly underrated Gilles Villemure, he of the slightly-smiley mask, was Eddie’s backup in goal.  And it was Villemure who told me, in the third period of the end-of-session game at the Rangers’ summer camp in 1971 (the game to which all the parents were invited), that if I scored on his goaltender again (I had five at that point) he would bench me.  He was right.  The score was 8-2, and I was being an asshole.  Park and Gilbert were the other coaches.  Gilbert thought I had some talent, and should have been playing in the next older division.  Which I probably should have been.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/07  at  08:26 PM
  35. Michael,

    Big fan of the blog, although being a grad student in English, I haven’t the slightest idea how you have time to write such a lengthy (and wonderful) post about hockey.

    Stranger than the black hockey fan, I’m an Indian (dots not feathers) hockey fan who also played for a great deal of my young life. Weird right?. Two things though:

    1) I live in Detroit so I have the joy of watching Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada. *That’s* hockey coverage! One cannot talk about hockey brilliancy/ idiocy without mentioning Don’s plaid leisure suits and equally insightful commentary.

    2) Good luck to your Rangers and rest, but be assured that Detroit will drop it like the it in question is of an extremely high and thus unhandleable temperature....word

    I’m negotiating with Satan offering her both Leagace’s and Osgood’s souls to meet Ottowa in the finals and end Hasek’s career there.

    Posted by Shashi  on  04/07  at  08:30 PM
  36. while we’re sending nostalgic depth charges, anyone care to refresh my memory of the old Islander teams, of the mid-late 70s “Chico” Resch era?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  08:31 PM
  37. Michael,

    Thanks for the line-ups.  I’m wondering where a kid from Queens got the hockey bug.  It got pretty big out on the Island while I was in high school, 1976-1979, which probably coincides with the rise of the Islanders.  The sporting goods store I worked in sort of specialized in hockey equipment and ice skates.  I can’t count the number of blades I sharpened during those years. I’m guessing that you were a CCM Super Tacks guy.  Ever buy any equipment or have your skates sharpened at Sportarama in Baldwin?

    Eric- How about Jean Potvin, Denis Potvin, Clark Gilles, Bobby Nystrom, Brian Trottier, for starters.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  08:44 PM
  38. thanks justin, but those are near the surface.  i want to go deeper into the line-ups--like who was Potvin’s counterpart at the blue line?

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  09:05 PM
  39. Late 60’s and early 70’s Rangers. Hmmm.  No Helmets.  We could see Gilbert and Ratelle and Park and Eddie Giacomin and their hair, even from the cheap seats at the then new Garden.  I still remember how they stayed in it after Ratelle got hurt in 72.  You did not at all mention if the dreadful trade, a some what different team got hot in 79 or the year that JD sold his soul to the devil.
    I do have one question do golalis sell their soul to the same devil that Robert Johnson sold his to and do they do at crossroads in northern climes and do they get majic gloves like Johnson’s magic guitar?
    Great Post.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  10:04 PM
  40. Potvin’s counterpart was, of course, Potvin.  Jean Potvin, wearing number 4 to Denis’s 5.

    And Jim Florio, hi!  I agree that hockey doesn’t translate to TV very well.  In fact, I think the analogy to baseball is almost exact:  just as you don’t see the line changes and the position play of hockey on TV, you don’t see what defensive baseball really looks like every time the ball is hit.  (To take one of the most spectacular examples of recent years:  you see Jeter running across the infield to backhand the ball and deny the A’s a critical run.  But you don’t see that he started from the parking lot.) Still, long stretches of baseball are boring even when you’re at the game.  The only time hockey gets that boring is when, say, the Devils played the Mighty Ducks in the first two games of the 2003 finals.  I think Anaheim managed about ten shots in each game.  The new open-ice, power-plays-a-plenty NHL doesn’t descend to that level any more.

    About radio:  some of my most vivid sports memories involve hockey on radio—an assignment that only the sharpest, most nimble-tongued sportscasters can handle.  (People wonder why I talk so fast:  from the age of eight I have been grooming myself for the Rangers radio spot.) For reasons I can barely fathom, radio actually enhances hockey and baseball.  Though I admit I wouldn’t mind seeing the NHL on ESPN again, with Thorne and Clement up in the booth.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/07  at  10:08 PM
  41. You just made me think of Bill Chadwick, the big whistle, and Rangers color commentator for the first time in decades.  I will add in a third sport that can be hurt by TV whose big moment is coming up this summer in Germany, you know, the one the rest of the world calls football.

    Posted by  on  04/07  at  10:16 PM
  42. Oh yeah Hockey. On some slippery shit called Ice raht? Bruce McNall, LA boy and ex-con: there’s your role-model. Go to games and get assaulted by some thug who crawls over the f-n barrier wall and beats you with his stick. Great phunn.

    Think motocross, bay-be. Roger DeCoster. Bobby Hannah. HUskys, KTMS. Big 2-stroke Kawis. That’s a dread sport and with some real gear. Or yes, some kryptonics and new trucks and long board. Dogtown, pool rides--wally off the coping, dawg! Even skaters above some canuckian cavemen with sticks and a shrunken head out on the tundra.

    Posted by Father Bodacious  on  04/07  at  11:03 PM
  43. Basketball on radio is terrif too.  But baseball is the best.  The only time ambient noise is broadcast for long stretches at a time, and such evocative ambient noise!  I can feel myself 11 years old again, falling asleep on a hot summer night.

    Posted by john  on  04/08  at  12:04 AM
  44. Shashi -

    Did you mean Satan the evil underlord, or Satan, Miroslav, the occasionally hot but rather overrated former Buffalo Sabre?

    Posted by  on  04/08  at  01:18 AM
  45. As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I am getting tired of nincompoops on “national” sports shows continually demonizing Barry Bonds. It got to the point where a couple of them on FOX radio were ripping Giants fans for cheering Bonds. One of the brainless jaws couldn’t get through the show without ripping Jesse Jackson too, which suggests to me a theme underlying much of the anger.

    Okay. The guy undoubtedly took steroids. So did half the league back then. Bobby Estalella, anyone? So did thousands of football players in college and pro sports for twenty-five years. Bonds may be an asshole. Do I care? Not as long as he can handle the bat.

    Do they have a steroid problem in hockey?

    Posted by Bob in Pacifica  on  04/08  at  11:40 AM
  46. No, there’s no steroid problem in hockey so far as I know.  We need to stay limber and flexible.

    But Jesse Jackson is on steroids?  That’s news to me.  I suppose that means Harry Belafonte is on steroids too. 

    Posted by  on  04/08  at  11:56 AM
  47. Jon--

    Definitely Satan-underworld lord extraordinaire-allthough I hear she manifests in overrated (non-Red WIng) players all the time, namely Hasek.

    I used to love Pat LaFrontaine and Alex Mogilny when they were in Buffalo; traded for them when I played the NHL games on Sega in 8th grade--for the elder fans out there, Sega constitutes a major “nostalgic depth charge” for us yungins. 

    I have different anxieties entering the post season:
    1) Wings will get knocked out in the first round, crushing all our hearts...just before we change the channel to watch the Pistons make their run.

    2) Wings will meet Colorado along the way: guaranteed great series but I will also have a coronary before I finish my papers

    Posted by Shashi  on  04/08  at  12:23 PM
  48. For reasons I can barely fathom, radio actually enhances hockey and baseball.

    Can’t speak to hockey but competent radio broadcast of high level baseball catches the real-time spirit of the game better than TV. I’d rather listen to a game while driving rural interstate than watch the same game in my living room.

    TV coverage is about what has just happened on the field while the charm of baseball is anticipating what’s about to happen. As a young player you’re drilled to think ahead, to know where you’ll throw before the ball’s hit to you. Same for fans, something as much empathy as observation.

    TV concentrates on what happens in and around the strike zone, with pitching and hitting the ball, crams the interludes with other baseball news or network promotions, distractions. The game on the field is won or lost in the interludes.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  04/08  at  12:33 PM
  49. I’ve been trying to imagine what this web log and particularly this thread would look like if Michael had grown up “in my shoes,” on the beaches of SoCal in the 40’s, 50’s, and early 60’s.  It took LA years to steal professional teams from Minneapolis, Philadelphia, New York to replace the minor league baseball franchises owned almost exclusively by Wrigley.  Thus my sports experience world, and that of most of my peers, was on the receiving end of radio and black & white(mostly green at first) TV.  It was better to swim and play water polo, since those were the hometown heroes from the Olympics, plus we had great (olympic quality and length) public swimming pools all over the place.  Well, we also had those classic days of “pro wrastling” nearly every night on radio and TV, as well as boxing live from the Olympic auditorium.

    So trying to envision Bérubé writing about the greatest waterpolo players and games of the 20th century, or the history of the spread of competitive swimming eastward across the US (whilst hockey came west and south) is very entertaining.  Alas it is all part of my dreamscape with no fundamental relationship to this reality.  I can only be relieved that he did not grow up in Georgia and become a serious golfer.

    captcha word: “elements” as in the essential elements of sport i guess.

    Posted by  on  04/08  at  01:37 PM
  50. One last thing.  The Carolina Hurricanes will meet the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern finals and the Detroit Red Wings will meet the Calgary Flames in the West.

    I’ve watched Detroit this year, and they are very reminiscent of the Detroit of the late 90’s: lots of talent, lots of regular season points, going in the tank in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Stars are operating at full-tilt - Turco is playing well, and he’s backed up by Johan Hedburg who will be a big-time goalie one of these days. They will be going to the conference finals IF they get past Edmonton. And it is a universal law that Detroit and Dallas cannot play in the conference finals, because that would cause the Earth to turn into a black hole or something. Besides, the Finnish National Team (aka the Stars) has to revenge its loss to the Swedish National Team (aka Detroit) in the Olympics. So, Stars v. (yes) Avalanche in the finals there.

    What is this strange ‘Eastern Conference’ you speak of?

    Hockey on TV: Hockey on TV is fine, I do not understand how it is hard to watch. But then I get to watch it announced by Razor and Ralph, and having listened to the ESPN announcers entirely too many times I realize we are blessed with a really quite amazing announcing team. The only cool ESPN guy was Barry Melrose. The Canadian announcers and the OLN announcers, well, ok, any announcer is better than the ESPN guys. Unless you like napping.

    Playoffs: I was thinking, during the lockout, that they could get really radical. No pre-season. First 20 games (or so) are 1-point games. Last 5 minutes of the 3rd period are 4 on 4, followed by a shootout if needed. Winner gets a point, loser gets nothing. Then, you have the All-Star game, since the All-Star teams tend to consist of last year’s favorites, and if anybody gets injured, they have the full season to recover.

    Then, a roughly 40-game ‘regular’ season against other a team’s own conference with 2 point wins. (To my mind, a 4 on 4 for the last 5 minutes with 1 point for a tie is better than a shootout. But whatever.) That should allow the break to fall around the Olympics and/or a Rookie All Star game.

    Ah, then you have the equalizer round, every team in the West plays every team in the East once, for 4-point wins, 2-point ties, 3-point overtime wins.

    End of regular season, best eight teams go, and the first round is a round-robin, where every team plays every other team in the conference playoffs. (Either once (7 games total), or home and away (14 games), depending on how many games you play the rest of the season.) The four best teams go to a regular semi-final playoff bracket. Alternatively, you set it up as an 8-team East+West bracket.

    That’ll get you the best teams, by Howe.

    ash
    [’Oh, well.’]

    Posted by  on  04/08  at  01:51 PM
  51. Chris Maisano : Hey, I have a Sony 20’ Trinitron. Great picture but I have to work HARD to follow the puck and I understand line changes, dumping the puck and know where to anticipate where the puck ends up.

    We agree to disagree. I still consider myself a novice. I think hockey fans are bright and there is nothing wrong with disagreement.

    Posted by Jim Florio  on  04/08  at  02:11 PM
  52. Jon:

    When Dallas aquired Stu Barnes, I didn’t know how good he was.

    You can have him on your team ... NOT!

    His scoring suprised me more than anything.

    Posted by Jim Florio  on  04/08  at  02:15 PM
  53. Michael,

    If you’re ever in St. Louis, I’d love to take in a Blues game with you.  Me and C-Money haven’t been to a game since the Sutter era.  Pre-game meal will be soul food.  Thanks for blog rolling a bitch. 

    AngryBlackBitch

    Posted by AngryBlackBitch  on  04/08  at  05:02 PM
  54. Since I have a tricky time distinguishing between red- and blue-line position penalties, I’m fine with being the one who indeed does ask ("In the Smythe [don’t ask]"): what is up with these names? Patrick”? “Norris”? Was hockey created in merrie olde England? Que pasa? Will you please write an All-hockey Monday post?

    Posted by  on  04/08  at  08:13 PM
  55. Back in the land time forgot, hockey was not like The Other Sports.  Until the mid-90s or so, divisions were ostensibly organized by geography, but not really.  Divisions were named for people in NHL history---the Norris Division, for former Red Wings owner James Norris, Sr; the Adams Division, for former Red Wings coach and GM Jack Adams; the Patrick Division, named for NY Rangers coach and GM Lester Patrick; and the Smythe Division, named for Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe.  (Note that the NHL also has a major award named for each guy. . .)

    The divisions were in turn organized into two Conferences, the Clarence Campbell and the Prince of Wales, for whom the conference-championship trophies are named. . . .

    Posted by Jonathon Isaac Swiderski  on  04/08  at  09:28 PM
  56. Michael –

    Hockey would be the perfect sport except that it still relies on a damned clock. Baseball, tennis, and golf are romantic (or agonizingly boring, whichever) precisely because there is no clock: action, and action only, determines when the game ends. Sure, hockey can have sudden-death overtime, but only after three periods of temporal fascism. There must be a better way.

    Secondly, I was at the Blues / Avalanche game yesterday. The Blues really are quite terrible and deserve to sit out these playoffs, streak or no streak.

    Wings in 5.

    Posted by  on  04/09  at  02:34 PM
  57. jeebus, michael: did i just have to scroll for like, five minutes of sports stuff to get to the post section? can we say “bloviate?”

    look: i just got my dad (judge, retired, liberal, old) to read the General. i said he (and via koufax) you were male and funny. and lo! here you are talking about sports. kewl. can you be more ‘sporty’ and less ‘wordy?’

    detriot, dad’s home, is all about miscegination, unions, and hockey and would/does love your point. keep this up, but keep also in mind: everyone i know at a real detriot hockey bar would beat your ass pulpy if you started talking like this. at the same time, more than one regular at Honest John’s (the new one) blog the sports pages. funny enough: they have trolls, who also can’t seem to let homoerotic issues go.

    Posted by chicago dyke  on  04/09  at  09:30 PM
  58. I’ve watched Detroit this year, and they are very reminiscent of the Detroit of the late 90’s: lots of talent, lots of regular season points, going in the tank in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Stars are operating at full-tilt - Turco is playing well, and he’s backed up by Johan Hedburg who will be a big-time goalie one of these days.

    Ash, this is entirely possible.  But you mean the Red Wings of 1994 or 2003, surely.  In the late 90’s they got themselves a pair of Cups.

    can you be more ‘sporty’ and less ‘wordy?’

    Yes, but not when I’ve set myself the task of writing an in-depth, longitudinal look at the very structure of hockey playoffs since 1967.  You need lotsa words for a thing like that.  If I were just talkin’ sports in one of those Detroit hockey bars, now, I would confine myself to pointing out that the Sabres did not look good against the Flyers the other night.  Philadelphia hadn’t won in the Sabres’ building in five years, they come out for the third period leading 3-2, and the Sabres get outshot 14-7 in the third?  Seems to me you have to want the puck when you’re down by one.  Especially when you’re playing what amounts to a playoff preview and the other team doesn’t like playing on your ice.  Maybe Buffalo will make an early exit after all. . . .

    Posted by  on  04/09  at  11:02 PM
  59. I have to admit that I miss the old Lords-of-the-Realm divisional names, and I kinda liked the 1-versus-16 schedule.  Weren’t the Whalers the #16 seed in Howe’s last year?

    Posted by Scot Lemieux  on  04/10  at  01:47 AM
  60. Justin: Oh yeah, how about the “Polish Prince”, Pete Stemkowski?

    The Stemmer!  He did color for the Sharks during their early, terrible years. He would just rip the players when they were having one of those nights where they were flat as well as inept.

    Posted by Nell  on  04/10  at  06:14 AM
  61. Michael, in reference to # 45 # 46, I believe the sports show host invoked Jesse Jackson’s name and the charge of discrimination in order to rebut the letters Barry Bonds is getting that start out “Dear Nigger” which suggest he die a painful death before he passes Ruth (or Aaron). That racism has nothing to do with the national outrage against Bonds.

    Bobby Estellea, anyone?

    Posted by Bob in Pacifica  on  04/10  at  12:44 PM
  62. What a fine post! And on a subject dear to my heart, too, particularly the several allusions to the Glorious ‘94. This post brought to mind my favorite hockey memory, in fact.

    Though I never played hockey, being both (a) a girl at a time when girls did not play hockey on skates and (b) not such a hot skater in any case, I still thirsted for the sights, sounds, and news of the game, and still do. I grew up a Rangers fan, and positively adored ol’ no. 7, Rod Gilbert, and his glorious linemates J. Ratelle and V. Hadfield (and later, W. Tkaczuk).

    By the time I approached driving age, my family had moved from the east coast to Missouri, but I remained faithful to Rod and his crew. It came to pass that the day of my sixteenth birthday had them scheduled to play the Blues in St. Louis: a fairly long drive, but manageable. I lobbied endlessly for tickets; it was the only thing I wanted in the world. After much wheedling, the wish was granted, and the whole family ensconsed itself in the nosebleed seats in the rafters of the St. Louis Forum.

    I contentedly watched as my boys pummeled the home team, to the point where frustration caused an increasing number of fights to break out. Finally, midway through the third period, came a bench-clearing brawl whose ultimate manifestation was a great squirming heap of bodies at center ice, containing every player but the two goalies. But not for long.

    I suddenly spied Ed Giacomin leaving his crease, skating for all he was worth towards the melee, finishing with a great dive, goalie regalia and all, onto the top of the heap. A huge roar went up from the Blues crowd, and their own goalie joined Eddie up there.

    It took at least fifteen minutes to sort out the litter of gloves and sticks, and the ejections were such that I am certain that no further substitutions were possible for the rest of the game.

    Best. Birthday. Ever.

    Posted by  on  04/10  at  02:32 PM
  63. Oh, and it was Bill Cook who won the league scoring title the same year his Rangers won the STanley Cup, in 1932-33. 28 goals, 50 points.

    Posted by  on  04/10  at  04:36 PM
  64. Christobal Huet appears to have leased out his soul for an indeterminate period.  If the Habs get into the playoffs, which looks very likely at this point, they may cause some trouble.  Since my brother is a Rangers fan, I’d very much like to see Montreal beat the Rangers in particular.

    Gosh, I miss the sound of the chanted “1940” echoing throughout NHL arenas.  Captcha word: “east”.

    Posted by  on  04/10  at  10:17 PM
  65. Enough talk about Hockey’s ghosts. It’s time to create new legends. And what better team to do that than the Nashville Predators. A winning record at Detroit, more centers than you can shake a stick at (something people actually do in Hockey,) and a goaltender guarantied to need assist from Satan (Chris Mason, I am sacrificing a chicken for ya as I type.) We even have a guy named Tootoo. Talk about a team without history, if it weren’t for the lockout, the Preds propably wouldn’t even exist! The Future is now.

    Posted by  on  04/11  at  05:05 PM
  66. Grambo, I wish the Predators well, but Mason’s gonna need that assistance from the underworld.  Though Vokoun is done for the year, I hope his recovery is speedy—and complete.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/11  at  06:22 PM
  67. Most crushing non-personal non-political betrayal of my life? Glad you asked.It was easily the series of trades starting with Ratelle/Park and ending with Rick Middleton.(Ken Hodge???)
    Most annoying suspicion:Were the OilerRangers really Rangers or is there simply a limit to the amount of psychic pain a fan is willing to endure?

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  03:44 PM
  68. You don’t follow the puck when you watch hockey on T.V. —you know where the puck is by the movement of the players.

    The weirdest thing was the U.S. networks’ attempt to fix this a few years back by introducing a technojazzy puck that allowed the camera techs to add blue or red streaks follow the puck when it exceeded some speed thresholds.  Man did THAT look Mickey Mouse.

    Baseball is a radio sport—best listened to with greasy bicycle tools in hand.

    Go Sens Go.

    p.s.  Too bad about the Leafs—bwaahahahahah!

    Posted by  on  04/18  at  02:05 AM
  69. I believe it was Brad Park who told this story in his book ("Play the Man")

    Park made a comment to Pete Stemkowski that it was impossible to read the whole name on the back of his jersey unless Stemmer held up his arms at shoulder level. 

    Stemkowksi told Park that he was going to shorten his name.

    Park asked him what his new name was going to be. 

    Stemkowski replied “Joe.”

    The Polish Prince had struck again!!!

    Posted by  on  04/18  at  09:05 PM

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