Why I Love/Hate The NHL

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And there it is. Another year, another cup, and another cup drought ended by a team not from Toronto. Honestly though, I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy this year’s Stanley Cup – and neither did audiences, as ratings plummeted from last year’s highs. I think the biggest reason why I, and others, weren’t really into the playoffs this year were the contenders. It was difficult to root for either team.

As a Habs fan, and a fan of all Canadian teams, I cheered for Vancouver, but I found it really hard to like them. I live in Newfoundland, so we don’t get much coverage of the Canucks, and TSN religiously commits %90 of its broadcast time to the Leafs, leaving little time for other teams. I really had no idea they were such a bunch of tools: the diving, embellishing, bullshit between the whistles, and the yapping to the media.

And then there’s the Bruins. As a Habs fan, I’m biased, but goddammit these guys are assholes. They call it “old time” hockey, but they’re goons, straight up. They hack, throw the dirtiest hits in the league – even compared to the Flyers – and talk smack constantly. Yet, they’re babied by the refs and the disciplinary committee.

It was basically like watching obnoxious frat boys playing against violent thugs. Contrast that to last year’s finals of Chicago and Philly. Chicago, although young and cocky, were very likeable and played the game properly. And while the Flyers are no saints, I don’t think they sunk to the levels of these Bruins, with the exception of Dan Carcillo.

Nonetheless, I’m happy for Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron. Thomas played like a man possessed and Bergeron is a great, underrated player who has come back from some nasty injuries/concussions. I also feel bad for Marc Savard who didn’t get to play and will likely retire.

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I take no pleasure in pointing out that I predicted Boston would beat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup final. I know that entry was written after the first round, but if you know me personally, I’ve been calling that all season. Why? While hindsight is 20/20, this was a pretty predictable year.

At the beginning of the season, Boston and Vancouver each addressed their obvious needs and built winners. Vancouver needed a stronger defense, so they acquired Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. Furthermore, they needed secondary scoring to complement the Sedins, and Kesler stepped up in a big way. On the other hand, Boston needed to regain their scoring touch from two seasons ago and make up for the Savard loss, so they acquired Nathan Horton, in what I think was one of the best off-season acquisitions that went relatively under the radar.

It’s no question this series was Vancouver’s to lose, and they probably would’ve pulled it off if it weren’t for that meddling Thomas. Luongo wasn’t big when he needed to be and Vancouver’s offensive guns were silence too often, but Thomas kept them in the series at times when the team was failing and Vancouver were beating at the gates.

Another big turning point was the Rome on Horton hit. As a Habs fan, I find that suspension very interesting, although we can’t call foul on the Campbell connection and any potential nepotism. I think the suspension was probably deserved, but I’m not sure it was fair for the NHL to make an unprecedented ruling like this in the Stanley Cup final. I like that they’re taking a stronger stand on head hits, but this didn’t qualify as a blind side hit, and they were explicit in saying they didn’t want to eliminate all head-hits. It would’ve been much more reasonable to give Rome a game or two, and then use this as an example as something they want to eliminate at the beginning of next season, and then start dishing out the bigger suspensions.

I also find it ironic that Chara supposedly drew on the hit as a rallying cry for his team, posturing with some kind of righteous indignation. I totally respect a team wanting to avenge their fallen comrade, but I don’t think Chara is any position to take umbrage over an illegal play resulting in injury.

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Nonetheless, from the perspective of the Canucks, arguing the suspension of Rome is a moot point because he was a 5th/6th D-man and they had some glaring flaws in their main line-up. I’m weary to add to the inevitable hatefest that has already been unleashed upon Luongo during the Canucks post-mortem, but he really needed to be better. Although he had some really decisive wins, his loses were devastating – especially considering his contract and supposed status as one the best goalies in the league.

I’ve always thought that guy was overrated. I mean, what’s it take for him to win? Even with Team Canada in the Olympics he looked shaky. He had some great numbers during the regular season, but that was with a Canucks team that lead virtually ever statistic. My beef with Luongo is that he’s only ever as good as his team allows him to be. Contrast that with Thomas (or Price) who bails his team out and makes those big, impossible saves. A great goalie takes a sad song and makes it better.

Still, it’s hard to blame a goalie when his team only scores eight goals in seven games. The Canucks were fond of saying they “won by committee,” so I guess it’s safe to say they also lost by committee. I really noticed Kesler’s game declined after he suffered what is speculated as a groin injury during the series with the Sharks. The Hamhuis injury also seemed to have a huge impact on their play.

I also think the Sedins have been getting somewhat of a freeride, flying slightly under the radar thanks to the Luongo fiasco. While Luongo may be justifiably labeled as overrated and a choker in the playoffs, the Sedins are back to back Art Ross winners and potential Hart winners as well. They really needed to be better and, much like Joe Thornton did, will have to acquire that extra gear if they want to win within this small window the Canucks presently have.

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And then there’s the riots. Vancouver’s post-game Lord Of The Flies impersonation has become an international sensation and has been blown completely out of proportion and perspective. Firstly, every city riots. Get over it. L.A. riots over the Lakers, Boston rioted over the Sox, and the Brits riot after every soccer game. Am I mistaken? Or has the world suddenly forgotten about football hooligans? It seems to me that the international media have dogpiled onto this because Vancouver was the home of Winter Olympics and has become a focal point for Canada in international discourse, especially sports journalism. Americans riot? not news. Europeans riots? not news. Canadians riot? OMG?! (although Habs’ riots appear to be par for the course…)

Secondly, I think the Canadian reaction to the riots has also been perplexing for a different reason. For the life of me, I can’t understand why everyone is so anxious to dismiss the riots as the “actions of a select few,” or “anarchists” (oh no, not the anarchists! save me oh brave policeman from the horrible ANARCHISTS!!!!). I definitely think there were some thugs who came along with their Molotov cocktails and got the ball rolling, but I think it’s egregious to suggest this was the actions of a few bad seeds.

Last time I checked, pictures of the Vancouver Shitshow showed not only thousands of rioters, but thousands of rioters wearing expensive, official Vancouver Canucks jerseys – certainly not the mode of fashion of your current social anarchist. So let’s dispense with the whole “these aren’t real Canucks fans,” shall we?

As this Globe and Mail article explains, the phenomena of rioting in affluent, Western cities is all too banal. These are suburbanites who have willfully suspended the Social Contract and decided to have some kind of perverted carnival. So why are we so eager to try and shift the blame away from the true culprits? Perhaps it is too perplexing for our bourgeois sensibilities to accept that, deep down, William Golding, Thomas Hobbes, and Sigmund Freud are right: Western civilization really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Or maybe, warts and all, it’s not so bad.

cheers,

-B

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~ by braddunne on June 20, 2011.

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