hockey will break your heart

…and you won't know it until it's too late


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Two games I won’t be watching tonight…

…one out of fear and nerves, one out of anger and loss.

(Disclaimer: I realize this piece is very ME ME ME, and obviously whether I enjoy a hockey game or not is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.)

The NLWC game between the Pirates and the Cubs will make me waaaay too nervous to watch. I want the Pirates to win too badly to be able to sit and watch it. I’ll mostly stick with ABC’s Wednesday night sitcom lineup, and my heart will leap every time my phone dings with a notification.

I would love to be watching the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, letting their Stanley Cup banner raising and subsequent victory over the hated Rangers keep my mind off the Pirates and whether or not they can hit Jake Arrieta.

But I just can’t. I was an ardent Hawks fan. Not quite like I’m a fan of the Blue Jackets. I don’t live in Chicago, I live in Columbus. I’m a CBJ season ticket holder. I adore the Jackets with the passion that comes of being there for every home game,watching their legendary (and not in a good way) struggles and loving them for it.

I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan by virtue of having lived there for 27 years, and for having been introduced to hockey by Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens and Jaromir Jagr winning Stanley Cups together. Their loss in the ’93 playoffs to the New York Islanders broke my heart and broke my fandom for a lot of years. It took fandom of a different kind to bring me back to hockey, and I returned with a vengeance. (And with season tickets.)

My love for the Blackhawks is recent (and may have surpassed that of my Pens love) and completely intertwined with my love for two very special people. One lives in NYC and the other in Portland, OR. We meet twice a year in Chicago, where it’s all Blackhawks all the time for a handful of glorious days. The fan convention in July, games in the dead of winter. I already have my plane tickets bought for this upcoming February. We were at the Stadium Classic in March of 2014, where we froze our asses off and had the best time ever. We once had the opportunity to spend some time with Jonathan Toews, and let me tell you, a nicer, funnier, more charming and accommodating person I’ve never met. I have so many happy memories of the Chicago Blackhawks. Daniel Carcillo once poured me a drink.

And all that winning has made it even more fun, clearly.

And now it’s gone. Every memory is tainted, all the excitement of the upcoming season is gone. Jonathan Toews may be a sweetheart, but he’s also a guy that seems fine with whatever Patrick Kane may or may not have done. Every jersey, every autograph, every penny I spent on traveling, tickets, merch, are just sad reminders that the anticipation for another awesome Blackhawks season is done.

And I don’t mean because of Patrick Kane. There are assholes everywhere, in all walks of life and all professions. At this point, his guilt or innocence isn’t even the issue. I am worn down by the “innocent until proven guilty” crowd, exhausted by the misogyny of the specific kind of victim-bashing that comes with the accusation of a famous person, particularly an athlete. The leaking of DNA reports, the smarminess of Kane’s lawyer, the unfortunate behavior of the victim’s mother, the crap the Buffalo News prints, have all combined to make me sad and tired.

But it’s the Blackhawks as a team i’m angry with. By embracing Kane, they’ve made it pretty clear that rape is a crime that doesn’t particularly matter, at least not when compared to hockey. Who cares about women, amirite?

I feel like the whole training camp/press conference thing was very much a testing of the waters. Had a majority of fans reacted badly, I imagine Kane would have been quietly shuffled off back to Buffalo. But when the fans embraced him, the organization was able to ease him back into the fold, until the next thing you know, he’s holding the football for Andrew Shaw’s fieldgoal attempt at a Bears’ game.

Neither the Hawks nor Kane would have suffered had they suspended him until the DA makes his decision about charges. Remember, I used to live in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is doing just fine, believe me. Michael Vick draws more animosity from fans there than Big Ben ever did. How’s Kobe’s career doing? What about Drew Doughty? Semyon Varlamov? Mike Ribiero? Allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence don’t seem to have hurt them at all, whether they were charged, arrested, suspended, settled in court, or not.

No, by pretending that accusations of rape are a mere “off-ice issue,” a ‘distraction’ that can be overcome with enough wins and banners and Cup celebrations, the Blackhawks have joined the ranks of the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and the Nashville Predators as teams that stick by their players no matter what and value winning over anything else.

Oh, wait, the Kings don’t stick by all their players, do they? Let some guy with a history of multiple concussions get caught with prescription pain-killers, a problem that, whatever else it may be isn’t a “character” issue, and he’s terminated so fast it makes your head spin, because it’s good business. (I don’t give the Kings any more credit for Slava Voynov than I give the NFL for Ray Rice post-video. From what I gather, there were photos so awful that they didn’t have any choice but to suspend Voynov.)

The NFL has lost me, mostly, these days, for a myriad of reasons. The NHL is trying real hard to do the same, not all that long after I re-found my love for hockey. Bettman’s refusal to see sexism anywhere, or admit it if he does, plus the league and individual teams protecting players from the consequences of their actions, make me both sad and angry.

To top if off, every time I go to a Blue Jackets game I’m confronted with half-dressed ice girls, their cleavage bouncing as they shovel snow alongside their male counterpoints, who are warmly dressed in track suits. It all seems of a piece these days.

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So, I haven’t posted in 8 months…

…but it seemed like it was time.

Tonight is another game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This is hard for me.

I know I seem like a bad fan to some people, because my three years of being a Blue Jackets season ticket holder mostly trumps my 20-odd years of Pens fandom. All those years of loving the Pens, and I threw them over in a heartbeat for a few cute boys dressed like Union soldiers.

I see your point. I’ve been a Pens fan since 1989. My one and only Pens sweater is an authentic Kevin Stevens white jersey. I still remember the David Volek goal. That goal, in fact, is what threw my love off its axis and is pretty much the reason for the title of this little-used blog.

Life got busy, life got hectic, life got in the way. I admit to being a less than passionate hockey fan for a while there in the late 90s, early to mid 2000s. And just because I rediscovered my love for hockey in Columbus doesn’t mean I don’t still love the Pens.

But when the two teams play, I have such mixed feelings that it almost makes me nauseous. On the one hand, a team I’ve loved for over twenty years. On the other, a team who I’ve attended almost every home game for the past three years. It’s impossible to do that without becoming emotionally involved.

How do you reconcile those two things?

During home games between the Pens and Jackets last season, the Pittsburgh fans who filled Nationwide filled *me* with rage. I hated that they were there, I hated that they were as loud as the Columbus fans, I *hated* that they were Pittsburghers. Which was weird, as I still thought of myself as a Pittsburgher, since we just sold our house in the ‘Burgh last week. So you can see how much they annoyed me.

And I worried that during the playoffs – which was my nightmare scenario, btw – Pens fans would once more outnumber Jackets fans in our own place. But they didn’t, and it was glorious, and the Jackets came thisclose!

But I hated that Dubinsky targeted Sid the way he did, and I hated that he showed Marc Staal the way to get to Sid and that MStaal then spent the whole Rangers series cross-checking Sid in the head, and I hated that the Pens couldn’t beat them. I’m not always a fan of what the Pens and their front office do, but I am staunch in my love for and defense of Sid. I won’t tolerate Sid-haters for even one second. Same with MAF, although my feelings of protectiveness aren’t quite as fierce with Flower.

Which brings me to tonight. I’ll watch the game with such mixed feelings. Let’s be real, the Jackets have no chance of making the playoffs, even if they’re not mathematically eliminated yet. And the Pens could use the points. I’m not sure they’ll get past the first round no matter who they play – they have too many issues, seriously – but I’d still like them to get the points.

But I’ve discovered that while I may sometimes prefer the Pens to win on an intellectual level, on an emotional one I want the Jackets to win every time. It surprised me the first time it happened, but it’s that way every game these two teams play.

And I’ll probably spend the evening watching the game without Twitter. I’ll probably use https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xJIU4hOeMU&spfreload=1 – Kawaii Cooking – a tiny cooking show as a distraction instead.

Between Pens fans who bitch about the Pens and who think the Jackets suck and are laughable, and Jackets fans who hate the Pens because they think the Pens are privileged whiners who the NHL loves more than any other team, and who call Sid “Cindy,” I don’t think Twitter will do it for me.

May the best team win.

Argh, no, wait a minute! Not the best team! My team! Whichever team that is. Yikes.


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OMG stop with the bitching and moaning already

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I get how one controversial goal can change a game, and how one game can change a series. Sort of. Maybe. But seriously, if one goal in game 2 can lose a series in for a team that is playing well, has led the whole time, and only loses in overtime, well, then, they weren’t much of a team to begin with, in my opinion.

I may be a little biased because the whining and complaining that happens every time there is or isn’t goaltender interference called makes me nuts. Clearly, the League needs to change its rules to allow video review of possible goalie interference when a goal is scored with an opposing player in the crease.

But I will never understand the thinking behind defensemen shoving a guy into their goalie and then crying about interference. You don’t want an opposing player in your crease? Don’t shove them there. And if you do, don’t whine about it. And don’t launch a guy into your goalie and then complain if your goalie gets hurt.

COMMON SENSE, PEOPLE.

So, Hank. Explain to me how Dwight King was supposed to get out your way with you and Ryan McDonough making him the filling in a Ranger sandwich? Hmm?

Good teams overcome bad officiating, right? Or what they perceive to be bad officiating. Okay, maybe not in overtime of a game 7, but in the middle of game 2? I should certainly hope so.

Stop complaining, and just play the game.

 


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Martin St. Louis’ mother is not a plot device

I’ve been trying for the last little while to figure out why the whole deal with the New York Rangers and Marty’s mom has been annoying me so much, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until some misogynist asshole made the news and the #YesAllWomen hashtag came into being.

France St. Louis was close to my age, so that bothered me. My mother is dead, but so are a lot of people’s mothers, and it doesn’t make any of us special. Why was I so angry? Why has it made me a Habs fan all of a sudden?

(Well, that’s not really a hardship, what with PK Subban and all.)

And then it struck me: the whole narrative has been all about how poor Marty’s mother died (not Marty’s poor mother) and in spite of his grief he played in a hockey game, and that inspired his teammates so much they kicked the Pittsburgh Penguins right on out of the playoffs.

And he scored a goal on Mother’s Day and thumped his chest and pointed at the sky, or looked up at the lights, or some such thing, and didn’t it make you want to just cry?

Or, as so many hockey writers and commentators put it, “it got a little dusty in here.”

And that just made me want to gag, but I couldn’t figure out why.

And somewhere in there the whole team went to her funeral and then they played so well they kicked the Montreal Canadiens right on out of the playoffs.

Only they haven’t so far, and they may not, and that’s just fine with me.

To be fair, Martin St. Louis is not the one pushing this narrative. I’m sure he’d give up a dozen Stanley Cups to have his mother still with him.

Also to be fair, the Rangers aren’t the ones pushing this narrative, either. They’ve been very careful to walk that fine line between inspiration and exploitation. Brad Richards has been especially thoughtful in his comments on the situation.

But the media, oy. It’s died down right now, but if the Rangers go on to the SCF, I’m sure we’ll have to hear about it all over again.

And it all came to a head for me yesterday, when someone on the radio was discussing the Rangers and said that Marty’s story was a good story. A fun story to follow. If they make the finals it’ll be just like a movie. How Marty couldn’t score when he first came over from Tampa, but he had a terrible thing happen in his life, his team rallies around him, and he starts scoring goals. How like if it really was a movie, they would have swept the series with the Habs, but it was still a fun story anyway.

And between that and the hashtag, that’s when it all coalesced in my brain.

Martin St. Louis’ mother is not a plot device. She was a real flesh and blood woman, an actual person. She wasn’t just someone’s mother, or wife, she was someone real all by herself. She was no one’s possession.

Her death didn’t happen to Marty, it happened to her. She DIED. Her death didn’t happen to the New York Rangers, it happened to her. She’s DEAD.

Also, she had a name. She was France St. Louis. She wasn’t just Marty St. Louis’ mother. And if she had a choice, my guess is she’d choose being alive as opposed to her son winning a Stanley Cup.

So stop it already with the narrative of a man channeling his grief from the death of a woman to do noble things. The ice is cold enough; it doesn’t need a refrigerator in the middle of it.


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Come on, you guys

Look, it’s not Don Fehr’s job to worry about the fans.  It’s not his job to worry about the game of hockey.  His job is to get the best deal possible for the players.  If in the process he manages to make it less likely that the owners will immediately lock the players out when the new CBA expires, that’s an added bonus.

It’s Gary Bettman’s job to worry about the fans.  I know, it’s his job to take care of the owners, but when the owners are so obviously divided on what they need and want, when they’re so obviously duplicitous when it comes to finding ways to circumvent the cap, when some of them can’t afford to spend to whatever the floor happens to be, then it’s time for the Commissioner to take charge and protect the game of hockey.

Make them share revenue.  Make them follow the rules.  Tighten things up to avoid front-loading or back-diving contracts.  Whatever you want to call them.  Stop using the players to prop up the poor teams.

And come on, media.  All I saw Wednesday night, during Disclaimer Watch, was talk about how Don should take the moral high road and not derail negotiations by filing for the disclaimer of interest that the players had given him full discretion to use or not.

And then when he did the “right thing” and didn’t file, and the league took advantage of that by getting shitty with the negotiations ~again, all I see is that oh, the league called Don’s bluff, that having the players vote again to disclaim was a bad thing.  That answering the NHL’s lawsuit – which they had to do by Jan. 7 – was just another way to derail negotiations.

Come on.  If the PA didn’t file the disclaimer by Jan. 2 and there was still no deal, they were always going to vote again.  I don’t at all get the vitriol from some members of the press at that.

Parenthetically, I have at this point sworn off reading any comments to any blogs or articles about all of this.  It only adds to my own feelings of anger and disgust, mostly at people stupid enough to express their opinions without actually being the least bit informed.  So, while I’m sure voting again has added to the level of vitriol from fans, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

This is what I don’t get.  Okay, maybe I do.  Everything I’ve ever read about Don Fehr, especially from baseball people – and I mean people who have actually dealt with hm, not fans that are upset about their baseball teams and what they think are the catastrophic results of his dealings with baseball – says that he’s honest.

No matter what else they say about him, they say he’s honest and honorable and that dealing with him never involved the levels of duplicity and shenanigans the NHL accuses him of on a daily basis.

I wonder why that is.

If they fuck this up, if they cancel this season, I will know exactly where to place the blame.  And it won’t be on Don Fehr or the players he’s doing his best to represent.

 

 


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Lockout Theater of the Absurd

They’re meeting at 11! No, noon! Wait, they might meet at 1! 1:30! 2!

We have until January 2 to fix this or there won’t be a 48 game season, and that’s the minimum the league will sanction. January 5! No, wait, the 11th! We have to start on the 19th! Omg!

Meanwhile, fans are both angry and apathetic, NBC is furious, Molson is going to sue, Kraft took their money elsewhere, Sid’s talking about going to Europe, and five minutes down the road from Larry’s house is the new Marriott that was built partly to deal with the All Star Game that won’t be happening any time soon.

And the poor hockey writers. The league is winning! The union is winning! A deal should be easy! A deal is impossible!

Here’s what I love. Every blog post about the state of the negotiations includes tons of comments from people who say, “Who cares? Why are you writing about this? No one cares anymore.”

Oh, yeah? Then why are you slogging your way through yet another piece about escrow and caps and transition payments and pensions, and then taking the time to comment about how much you don’t care? Obviously you care, bro.

Here’s what I expect today. I expect the PA to come back with a full proposal, addressing things that will piss the league off and cause them to say, “But we told you we didn’t want you to do that! What part of take it or leave it do you not understand?” Especially if they suddenly throw in making future expansion and relocation fees part of HRR.

And then it could go either way. The league will either say, “Okay, cool, let us look at what you’ve given us and we’ll get back to you. If we have any questions, Bill will give Steve a call. We can have ‘informational conversations.'”

They could, you know, negotiate.

Or Gary could throw another fit and accuse Don of not negotiating in good faith, pull the whole 288 pages off the table and stomp away (again), and Wednesday the union will fill a disclaimer of interest and we’ll all go to court. I’ll admit there’s a part of me that wants to see what happens if it goes that way, but only a small part. It may be worth it in the long run, but the ensuing “every player is now a free agent, every team is now a separate entity, everything anybody has ever done is illegal” chaos would be kind of apocalyptic.

What great theater it would be, though.

Here’s my suggestions based on what’s on the table: Settle on a salary cap of $64m for next season, which is halfway between the $60m the league wants and the $67 the players want. Cap escrow. Have the one-time amnesty buyouts come from the league’s share of HRR. That gives everybody time to figure out how they’re going to fit under the cap – decreasing it from 57% of HRR to 50% is a big drop to deal with. Although part of me doesn’t feel sorry for the teams that signed the massive contracts that are so much a part of the problem – I mean, it’s not like they didn’t have fair warning that this was coming. I thought that’s what GMs do – find ways to circumvent the rules so that things get so screwed up the league thinks a lockout is the only way to solve their problems. Sorry, I mean, so that they can fit under a salary cap.

What do I think should really happen? I think revenue sharing should increase to at least 20%. And I think they should let them go to the damn Olympics. You don’t want to shut your business down for two weeks every four years? How about the fourteen weeks you’re going on now?

We’ll see. Don Fehr has played this masterfully, which is what he was hired to do. Every time the league said “this is our best offer, take it or leave it or we’re pulling it off the table,” Don has waited them out until they’ve put a better offer on the table. But time is running out, and I think, while he’s served the players well, now it’s time for the players to be selfish enough to stop fighting for the future and to think of themselves, right now, this season, at this point in time. It’s time for them to be on the ice again.

tl;dr Don’t fuck it up this time.