It’s time to face it, hockey fans. Hard as it is to believe, for the second time in a decade, there probably won’t be a NHL season thanks to this stupid lockout.
I hope I’m wrong. I love hockey. Not only is it great to watch, but it’s also fun to write about. But I’m not keeping my hopes up any longer. The players and owners are just being stupid, now, and nobody seems to realize that, in the United States, the NHL’s main competitor for TV ratings isn’t the NBA—it’s the World Series of Poker.
In any case, I’ll miss the NHL when they finally pull the plug. However, today I’m going to try to find the silver lining by doing this list of things we won’t miss when the NHL season kicks the bucket. Because, seriously, for all the great things we love about hockey, there are also some things that annoy us.
So let’s get started, shall we?
There's no doubt that, in every sport, the art of giving good nicknames is being lost. However, hockey is definitely at the forefront of this movement. Back in the day you had nicknames like "The Rocket" (Maurice Richard), "Mr. Hockey" (Gordie Howe), and "The Golden Jett" (Bobby Hull). Today? All people do is cut a guy's name in half and maybe, sometimes, add a -sie or an -er to the end. Thus, Matt D'Agostini is "Dags"; Scott Gomez is "Gomer"; Ovechkin is "Ovie"; Chelios was "Cheli"; and Dan Cleary is "Clears." Paul "BizNasty" Bissonnette is one of the lone exceptions.
That's just sad, isn't it?
9. Stupid Nicknames
You'll encounter a lot of incredibly annoying people at a typical NHL game, from the disinterested businessman in sitting behind the bench to the guy who thinks he knows everything about the game and constantly yells advice toward the ice when, in fact, he knows almost nothing. However, if I had to choose, I'd say it's guys like this (pictured above) that I find myself least able to tolerate. For one thing, they give the rest of us hockey fans a bad name. But, more importantly, I don't like sitting next to flabby shirtless guys. When they start drinking beer and dancing around, they start sweating profusely. And man, when that happens, look out.
8. Guys Like This
In recent years the NHL has done a lot of things to try to increase scoring and make the game more exciting to casual viewers. They've made up rules about where the goalie can and cannot touch the puck (hello, weird trapezoid behind the goal) and they've cracked down on all the clutching and grabbing that slowed the game down in the neutral zone. However, they have for some reason failed to address the most obvious reason why scoring is down so much from, say, the early 1980s: ginormous goalie pads.
Seriously, go on YouTube and search for "Wayne Gretzy goals" and just look at the net minders back then. Their pads are tiny. It's no wonder the Great One (speaking of nicknames) scored 92 times in a season.
But today, while the goals are still 6x4, the goalies pads are about 5x3. That more than anything explains the paucity of goals in today's NHL, folks.
7. Ridiculously Huge Goalie Pads
Originally I was going to say "The NBC Broadcast Team" here, because except for Mike Emrick, Joe Micheletti, Darren Pang and, occasionally, Pierre McGuire, the rest of them are pretty much terrible. I remember watching one playoff game this past spring—can't recall which one— listening to the five in-air commentators stumble over and contradict each other, and just thinking, "is this really happening?"
However, I respect NBC for giving hockey a shot. So rather than throw their entire team under the bus (hey, maybe they just need fine tuning?) I'll just focus on one guy: Mike Milbury.
Mike Milbury is, hands down, the worst hockey commentator on the planet. The guy makes Don Cherry seem thoughtful and progressive. So I definitely will not miss listening to Milbury—the guy who, as GM, helped fun the proud New York Islanders into the ground—make fun of players struggling with concussions by calling them crybabies, as though traumatic brain injuries are something to laugh at.
Speaking of concussions...
6. Mike Milbury
Another thing I will not miss is having to watch games featuring teams missing their best players. While Evgeni Malkin was truly great last year, it just kind of sucked watching the Penguins without Sidney Crosby. And while the Blues played a really great system under Jack Adams Award winner Ken Hitcock, they were pretty boring to watch without playmakers/sparkplugs David Peron, Andy McDonald, and Alex Steen. And of course, along these lines, I won't miss watching big games ruined by vicious, reckless hits like the one repeat offender Raffi Torres put on Marian Hossa during Game 3 of the Coyotes-Blackhawks playoff series last year.
5. Concussions & Head Shots
Tired as I am of seeing good players miss time and suffer from post-concussion symptoms, I'm even more tired of the debate over what should be done about it. I mean, the answer is clear: brain injuries are bad, so anyone who causes one through reckless play should face serious consequences.
To their credit, the league has stepped up their vigilance here. Discipline Czar Brendan Shanahan threw down some pretty serious suspensions last year, and he even starting doing videos in which is clearly explained his rulings.
Nevertheless, there are idiots out there (cough, Mike Milbury) who say that people are trying to make hockey into a soft, sissy sport. And it's getting pretty silly–especially as the scientific and anecdotal evidence (Junior Seau, anyone?) as to the seriousness of head injuries continues to mount.
So, yeah, I don't miss having to listen to this nonsense day after day.
4. Talking About Concussions & Headshots
If I were on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada or it's American equivalent (which doesn't exist, unfortunately), I would make the issue of diving my #1 talking point every week. To me, trying to draw a penalty by pretending to fall or be injured is contrary to the very essence of hockey and should not be tolerated. If the league would suspend players for doing it—lets say one game, 5 games, then 20 games for the first, second, and third offenses—the problem would be more or less eradicated in about half a season. But they'll never do that. So the problem will go on. And if the entire 2012-13 NHL season is lost, I won't miss watching the Sedin twins grab their hands in feigned agony every time another players stick comes up off the ice.
The Toronto Maple Leafs just recently became the first NHL team to be valued at $1 billion by Forbes. That puts them in very elite company. And yet, somehow, this team has not made the playoffs in seven years. I'm not a Leafs fan by any means, but as a fan of the NHL I still find this flat out embarrassing. So I won't miss watching Dion Phaneuf (pictured) and company hit the links again this April instead of battling it out for the Stanley Cup.
2. The league's most valuable team golfing in April
Every NHL team in a so-called "non-traditional market" has serious, die-hard fans. Even the Coyotes. Probably. However, they also have fans who come out of the woodwork when such teams find success and claim they were always "big fans."
Case in point: the L.A. Kings. That team has been in Southern California since 1967, so they do have a lot of real fans. However, there are still sports reporters in Los Angeles who struggle to report on hockey and can't pronounce the name of their team's captain. So you can't exactly say that the Kings are a priority on the L.A. sports radar.
Nevertheless, after the Kings won the Stanley Cup last June, there were suddenly millions of hockey fans in Los Angeles. So I'm sure that I'm in agreement with the real Kings fans when I say one bright side to the lockout is that we won't have to tolerate these idiots all year.
Unfortunately, we do have to tolerate all the bandwagon Notre Dame fans. Apparently they have no intention of cancelling the BCS National Championship Game.