Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s game day at last, with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils slated for a big Game Six matchup in just under ten hours. This series has been very exciting, regardless of who you root for, but a lot has also been happening off the ice as well; some crazy, some stupid, some funny. (Okay, it’s the NHL so of course it’s mostly stupid.) It’s time we take a look at that, and go Around the NHL…
- When NHL games were being played on Versus, and before that, the ridiculous Outdoor Life Network, there was never a limit to the amount of what we hockey pundits could make fun of, because those networks were just…well…stupid. Remember when hockey games were being sandwiched between deer hunting, bass fishing, and extreme cage fighting? Remember when the network changed, and they launched a campaign for fans to show them your “V” (which stood for Versus…I hope; whatever that meant). Bottom line is, the networks were so bad that no one ever really made fun of the actual broadcast, because it looked like Emmy-worthy material when combined with everything else. Now that the NHL is on the highly esteemed NBC Sports Network (if I rolled my eyes any harder at that, they would get stuck facing the inside of my head), broadcasts are losing some of their luster. Aside from Mike Emrick, whose announcing has been flawless, does anyone see a point to having Pierre McGuire and Eddie Olcyk even being a part of the team? They add absolutely nothing; no enlightening comments, no inside knowledge, no nothing. All Pierre does is loft obvious questions with obvious answers toward Eddie, who, nine times out of ten, completely ignores it before saying something else. “I’d say that was a good save, wouldn’t you, Eddie?” No, you idiot, it was horrible. Tie game in the third period, why would that be a good save?
- Remember the days long-gone when your team was playing on the road and your home arena would open the gates free of charge and put the game up on the big screen and sell food, to give the atmosphere of a “real” game when you could not be there in person? Maybe even give out free t-shirts or rally towels? Well, these are not long-gone right now, but with NBC having their way, they shortly will be. Yesterday afternoon it was announced that the network has banned viewing parties at arenas for NHL games because it affects their ratings. Apparently, those 10,000 or so people that are turning out and stimulating their favorite team’s economy are not watching the game on 10,000 separate TVs, therefore ratings are going down. Since when has a TV network had the ability to clamp down on what a professional sports franchise can and cannot do with their own building? First, they stop individual teams from broadcasting playoff games on their own network (which I begrudgingly understand), and now this. Know what? Since the playoffs began, I still have not seen an NHL game in the top-ten once. Not once! Maybe it’s because families are watching the games together in one room. Maybe mom, dad, and the kiddies should all split up and watch on five screens instead. Maybe it’s because sports bars are showing the games, and those damn people that come to watch forgot to turn on their TV before they left the house. Asinine. Maybe on a national level, no one really cares about the NHL. Denial is also a river in Egypt.
- I’ve never understood all the Ranger-fan hatred towards Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Do I like the guy? No, but there must be at least five more players to have played for that team that I would have rather seen sucker-punched by Mike Rupp before Brodeur.
- Then there are the “Marty” chants, which you have to admit are pretty special, so much so that Brodeur himself was even taking it in with reporters after the last game. It was almost as if he was admiring them, saying how he was amazed at how loud Ranger fans could chant it. This series could be the last time he ever hears those chants, whether it be in the last game or if the Rangers can somehow manage to get back to MSG for a Game Seven. I guess in his retirement, if he gets lonely and ever wants to hear them again, he can just ask the Devils to retire his number when the Rangers are in town. That’ll do it!
- So what’s with three-goal leads being the absolute death of teams in these playoffs? It’s happened over and over and over again, and damn near did the Devils in during the last game. As a great player once said, “Hockey is half mental. The other half is being mental.” Or was that Yogi Berra? Anyway, it’s true! It’s all a mind game. When a team gets a three goal lead, they let up because they are probably so shocked they even have one in the first place. The team trailing now has nothing to lose and starts to fire on all cylinders. Once they tie the game, it’s their turn to let up. After all, didn’t George Mallory take a deep breath once he reached the summit of Mt. Everest? No, actually he didn’t. He died instead.
- A THOUGHT: Do you think somewhere in Montreal, there is a Canadiens fan sitting in a fetal position on the floor stabbing a voodoo doll of Bob Gainey every time Ryan McDonagh blocks a shot or leads an end-to-end rush?