NHL Grab Bag: The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Da Feet
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?
Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?
Yes, this section is normally down near the end of this post. But it’s batting leadoff today because this week, Don Cherry CREATED AN INCIDENT, and we might as well talk about it now.
Saturday night’s Coach’s Corner had been going along fine until Don Cherry decided he wanted to address the Duncan Keith situation. That’s when Cherry suddenly took a hard swerve into the 1970s when he mentioned that he didn’t think female reporters belonged in the locker room (it starts at about the 2:15 mark).
As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well. Twitter erupted into a storm of fanatical rage (instead of just a storm of fervent rage like it usually is), framing this as yet another Don Cherry dinosaur moment and calling for his head on a platter. But there’s actually a lot going on here, so let’s do a quick breakdown:
• As soon as Cherry starts in, Ron MacLean has this reaction, which I think we can all agree was the highlight of the entire segment. So many emotions on display. If you slow it down, you can pinpoint the exact moment that the will to live exits his body.
• Another classic reaction comes when Cherry bellows “I don’t feel women are equal” and MacLean makes this face, while apparently considering the possibility that he’s going to have to choke Cherry out on national television just to get him to stop talking, before Cherry clarifies that he means that women are actually on a pedestal.
• “I don’t believe, and I really believe this, I don’t believe …” — Don Cherry, I believe. Or not.
•They somehow wind up on the subject of MacLean’s wife, Cari, in the shower, just in case things weren’t awkward enough.
• I would have paid a lot of money for a live feed of Duncan Keith’s face the first time he watched this segment.
The incident provoked plenty of media coverage, most of it fiercely negative. But the tide seemed to turn somewhat when we learned that Cherry had actually been the first NHL coach to ever allow female reporters in the locker room. So it turns out that when it comes to this issue, Cherry might not be the one-dimensional caricature everyone wanted to make him out to be (though this doesn’t help).
In fact, his comments probably just came out wrong. The whole thing was just a big misunderstanding!
Or not. Cherry revisited the topic Tuesday — it is the playoffs, so we get weekday Cherry installments now — and he’s not backing down. In fact, he made it clear that his opinion on women in the locker room has changed since his coaching days, and he meant every word he’s said about female sports reporters not belonging there. His basic argument is that men are jerks, which somehow means women shouldn’t be allowed to come to work.
You can disagree with Cherry. Let’s face it, you’re a functional human being in the year 2013, so you do disagree with Cherry. But at least you have to give him some credit for standing his ground. He had a chance to make this whole thing fade away by offering an apology and backing down, but that’s just not how Don Cherry works.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: Jonathan Quick had a worse night than you
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes you get hit in the pills with a slap shot.
The second star: Mike Rupp could use a little help here, guys
Ever wondered what you’d do if you were in the middle of sudden death overtime and your skate blade broke? Mike Rupp found himself in that exact situation, and he went with the “comically flop around like a 3-year-old before eventually crawling off the ice” option. Solid choice.
The first star: Dustin Penner gets it
Tolerance is nice and all, but everything has its limits.
Honestly I don’t care if you are gay or straight as my teammate. As long as you don’t listen to Nickelback. #courage
— Dustin Penner (@Dustinpenner25) April 30, 2013
What’s the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week, we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if the anger is justified.
The Issue: Something happened and it’s the playoffs!
The Outrage: Literally anything that happens in the playoffs is going to inspire somebody to be outraged, or at least inspire somebody to fake outrage for page views. Dirty hits, clean hits, penalties, goals, no-goals, a run-of-the-mill icing call, a player saying something, a player refusing to say something … you name it. Somebody somewhere is going to go off about it.
Is It Justified? No. Stay cool, everyone, we can make it through this. We’ve got two months off playoffs ahead of us and a lot can happen, so let’s all keep our diapers crinkly and save the outrage for the really important stuff.
(Note: The preceding paragraph does not apply to me while watching any Leafs game. Also, Andrew Ference should be executed.)
Obscure Former Player of the Week
NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of those players.
This week’s obscure player is Manon Rheaume, just to annoy Don Cherry.
Rheaume was the female goalie who made history in 1992 by appearing in an NHL exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
While she was a legitimate talent who had played against men in junior, it was always hard to separate the skill from the marketing potential. She had no chance of actually making the Lightning, with GM Phil Esposito basically admitting her appearance was a publicity stunt, and that rubbed some fans the wrong way. But for others, she was an inspiration, and at least a small part of the reason that women’s hockey would take off in North America in the ensuing decade.
Rheaume would go on to play against men in the IHL, the ECHL, and even in professional roller hockey, and was part of Canada’s silver-medal-winning women’s Olympic team in 1998. She formed a foundation to benefit young women, and was still playing occasionally as recently as a few years ago.
Great Hockey Debates
In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have long plagued hockey fans.
This Week’s Debate: Should we stay classy?
In Favor: Stay classy, player I don’t like!
Opposed: Oh, god, are you one of those hockey fans who says this all the time?
In Favor: Stay classy, team I don’t like!
Opposed: Stop that.
In Favor: Stay classy, fans who cheer for that team I don’t like!
Opposed: Please stop saying that.
In Favor: Stay classy, Opposed guy!
Opposed: We all saw Anchorman. It came out almost 10 years ago.
In Favor: Stay classy, people who saw Anchorman!
Opposed: Are you fundamentally capable of communicating in any way other than admonishing people to “stay classy”?
In Favor: Stay classy, people who ask me questions to which the answer is clearly “No, I absolutely am not”!
Opposed: Look, you’re not even talking about class. You don’t even sound like you know what that word means. You’re just using a punch line from a movie as a catch-all rebuke for anyone who does anything that remotely bothers you.
In Favor: Stay classy, people who use the word rebuke!
Opposed: What does class even have to do with hockey in the first place? For 100 years, hockey was a sport full of hitting and slashing and stopping periodically to punch each other in the face, and fans loved it. Now suddenly we’re acting like everyone’s supposed to be wearing top hats and monocles, just because morons who can’t formulate an actual thought on their own saw a joke in a movie one time and decided to repeat it mindlessly whenever something happens that they don’t like?
In Favor: Stay classy, guy who talks in long paragraphs!
Opposed: SAY “STAY CLASSY” ONE MORE TIME, AND I SWEAR I WILL STAB YOU!
In Favor: …
In Favor: That escalated quickly.
Opposed: Much better.
The Final Verdict: Everyone who uses the word classy when complaining about anything NHL-related is an idiot, and you should send them a link to this post so they know it.
Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week
In which I complain about things that probably only matter to me.
The arrival of the NHL playoffs means lots and lots of overtime. And over the years, a tradition has developed among fans: When any game goes into OT, everyone has to make a pick for who’s going to score the winning goal. You might have noticed this if you follow a lot of hockey fans on Twitter and see your timeline suddenly fill up with random names.
There are three rules to making an overtime pick:
• You have to make your choice by the end of the intermission before the first OT starts.
• You can pick a team’s leading scorer if you want to, but nobody ever does because that’s just lame.
• You have to pick one player. Not one player from each team. One player.
Admittedly, that last point is controversial. In fact, it probably puts me in a distinct minority. Many smart people think picking two players is just fine, including ESPN personality and Buccigross Overtime Challenge inventor John Buccigross, who is probably in the process of sending me a T-shirt with “#youaredeadtome” on the front.
But this isn’t about being popular. It’s about right and wrong, and picking a player from each team is just wrong. This is sudden death overtime, where they throw two teams back onto the ice and force them to keep playing until somebody wins, even if it takes all night. There are no more loser points as a consolation prize. Just one winner. And wishy-washy fans hedging their bets by taking a player from each team spit right in the face of everything that means. I might be getting too worked up here. I feel very strongly about this.
The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page
In which we select one page on CapGeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheeks.
This week’s depressing CapGeek page belongs to Zdeno Chara.
There’s nothing wrong with his contract. It’s perfectly reasonable. It’s just that the Leafs are playing the Bruins, and so everything that reminds me of the existence of Zdeno Chara this week is impossibly depressing.
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. Each week we find one and break it down in way too much detail.
The Senators opened their postseason Thursday night, visiting the Canadiens for Game 1 of their opening-round series. And that makes this a good time for a look back at the greatest moment in Ottawa Senators franchise history: the crazy naked Spartan man.
• OK, so here’s what we’re looking at. It’s the first round of the 2008 playoffs, and the Senators find themselves in a hole after losing the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh. Now they’re back in their own building, and they need to do something to shift the momentum back to their side. But what?
• If you said “Hire a naked guy to put on a Spartan helmet and scream unintelligibly at the crowd before the game,” congratulations, you apparently worked for the Senators.
• First things first: Our hero needs to make a worthy entrance. Dramatic music? Check! Slow-motion camera work? Check! Various Senators players who clearly know this is a horrible idea but were forced to take part against their will? Super check!
• Let’s take a moment to fully appreciate the players here, because this may be the best part of the entire clip. Chris Neil can’t even bring himself to make eye contact. Jason Spezza is trying not to giggle. There’s a random “Mike Commodore’s Ginger Afro” appearance, even though you have no recollection of him playing for Ottawa. We see Dany Heatley at what is presumably the exact moment he decided to demand a trade. And it all ends with captain Daniel Alfredsson waiting until the guy walks past before giving a subtle but unmistakable WTF is going on here? look. I love this whole sequence.
• We then cut to a darkened arena, before a spotlight reveals the Spartan at center ice. He summons up his best Bane voice, and bellows “SENS ARMY …”
• … and then his mic cuts out.
• His mic cuts out! And it keeps cutting out through the whole speech. In hindsight, this seems like it would’ve been a good thing to test out in rehearsal, no?
• Oh, well, maybe nobody can understand what he’s supposed to be saying, but at least it can’t get any worse, right?
• Of course it can. Because at the 50-second mark, he goes to pull out his sword, at which point his helmet starts to fall off. He actually has to stop and try to fix it. Dude, you never go full Shockmaster!
• At this point, his helmet is blocking his view, but he decides to just forge ahead. Who cares if you can actually see, right? All you actually have to do is wave a sword around while giving a one-minute speech, which you’ve no doubt taken the time to memorize.
• Uh, you did memorize the speech, right?
• Apparently not, because when he starts waving his shield, we can clearly see that he has his lines written on the back. This part always kills me.
• Hey, would this be a good time to point out that the Spartans were Greek, while the Senators’ logo is a Roman? That’s close enough, right?
• To his credit, by about the 1:50 mark our Spartan has actually made a solid recovery. His helmet is back on properly, his mic is mostly working, and you can tell he’s starting to feel it as he builds to the big finish.
• “RISE UP,” he shouts to the crowd in an attempt to work them into a frenzy, which probably would’ve worked if the Penguins hadn’t chosen that exact moment to make their entrance. So instead, just as he’s building toward his crescendo, the crowd starts raining boos down on the ice.
• Finally, the camera cuts away from him completely and goes to the Senators dressing room. The Spartan man, who I’ve been told was originally intended to be a recurring character at Senators home games, was mercifully never seen again.
Needless to say, the Penguins won this game easily and went on to sweep the series. No word on whether they used brooms, or just borrowed this guy’s helmet.