What We Learned: 5 things I love about hockey (and other stuff)

Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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Given that there's almost literally nothing going on except for Patty Kane allegedly beating the hell out of some poor old guy over 20 cents, like, a month ago, I figure this is as good a time as any to bust out the latest in Puck Daddy's ongoing series of reasons why such-and-such a person is a hockey fan.

1. The cheap seats.

The first game I ever went to was a Buffalo Sabres-Boston Bruins game at the original Boston Garden when I was about five years old. We had fairly good seats for the game, back of the loge at faceoff circle. As the game went on, I asked my dad why we weren't higher up (I apparently wasn't a very smart kid). My dad explained that these seats were better because they were closer and certainly, the price of these tickets made a cogent argument on his behalf.

But a few seasons later, my uncle, who had a friend at one of the major Philadelphia papers, arranged for us to sit all the way up in the press box for a Bruins-Flyers game right before Christmas, and it was perfect. That game was probably close to 20 years ago, and even though I've been to countless more in that time from every possible vantage point, I still much prefer to watch a game from the balcony seats. You can see everything up there, and there's nothing quite like seeing a hole in the defense developing through the neutral zone three seconds before it actually breaks down.

(Coming Up: Dion Phaneuf's(notes) tabloid-less summer; the Jackets lose money; Bruce Boudreau's bad pitch; Luongo's contract and a trade the Leafs and Flyers should never make.)

2. Forwards getting lit up at the blue line.

Speaking of seeing things develop, there's not a more exciting non-scoring play in hockey than some forward dipsy-doodling his way through the neutral zone toward the blue line with his head down while a defenseman lurks a few feet away. The whole arena becomes aware of it, and there's a distinct buzz in the building that grows quickly and explodes just as the defenseman puts the poor, unsuspecting forward into the ninth row.

Scott Stevens, obviously, was despotic in his reign over that small patch of ice and because of things like, say, the hit on Kariya in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals or the one where he battered Shane Willis in 2001 (see below). The lesson's sound advice for anyone in any walk of life: Keep your head up.

3. Hockey Notes

When I was a kid, there was absolutely nothing better than a Boston Sunday Globe because it had one thing inside it: a whole page of nothing but hockey. Kevin Paul Dupont's weekly Hockey Notes feature is the reason I became a writer. That there was so much information packed into a seemingly small space, and it had it all: great photos, wonderful info graphics, insight that made me think about the game differently, an occasional look back at the Bruins of old. And I'd pore over that page for an hour, making sure I knew everything on it.

This was, of course, before the Internet, where you can get most of that information pretty much whenever you want; but yeah, I've been a hockey nerd for quite some time.

4. Rivalries

There are a lot of teams that don't seem to like each other very much. Blackhawks-Red Wings, Bruins-Habs, Rangers-Islanders, Leafs-Sens, Ducks-Kings, etc. etc. But those all pale in comparison with the Battle of Alberta for one reason: the guys on the Flames and Oilers openly admit they can't stand the sight of the other team's jersey.

I could literally watch Robyn Regehr(notes) put Ales Hemsky(notes) face-first into the boards 100 times a day and smile every time. That right there is what hockey's all about.

5. Bobby Orr

Okay, so I'm 26 and I obviously wasn't around for one second of Bobby Orr's career, but we've all seen the highlights and Orr is, unequivocally, the greatest player that ever lived. He was fast, fluid, skilled, brilliant, tough and mean. A misstep against Orr could mean two things: he'd either blow right by you and the Bruins would score, or they'd be scraping your blood off the ice while a trainer hurried to put your teeth in a glass of milk.

On top of that, Orr's a hell of a nice guy. If you went to a college hockey game in Massachusetts during the mid-to-late 1990s, it was not unlikely that Bobby Freaking Orr (who, by the way, still looks pretty much like you picture Bobby Orr in his prime) would be sitting in a corner of the arena, just watching the game. And he'd sign an autograph for you, and ask your name, and shake your hand, and enquire how school was going, and what position you played. And he'd do the same for every single kid in the rink that wanted to meet him.

No one would have held it against him if he didn't want to be bothered. But he did it happily because he's Bobby Orr.

What We Learned SVE

Because it's summer and hockey is a sport typically played on ice and toward which the media is traditionally apathetic, there's not a ton of actual news on every team floating around out there (shocking I know!). So here's a shortened version of WWL, where if I couldn't find a decent story within three blogs or news sites, I stopped looking. I'm on vacation too, dammit. Be warned: there's nothing going on.

Anaheim Ducks: This is what qualifies as news these days: Anaheim re-signed Brett Festerling(notes) to a two-year deal. What do you mean you don't care?

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Calgary Flames: Dion Phaneuf's offseason training regimen seems to have changed this year. Instead of summering with ol' whatshername, he's actually spending the summer playing hockey at Team Canada's camp, which is being held in Calgary. Maybe now he won't be terrible all season.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes are using some software company to help boost ticket sales. I have some ideas: 1) Lots of ads on the jerseys. 2) The team can only skate in counterclockwise circles. 3) The players have to be replaced by cars. A sellout every night, guaranteed.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Actually, trying not to lose money seems to be the new hotness in the NHL since the Jackets are doing it too. They've lost $80 million over the last seven years. Yikes.

Dallas Stars: A brilliant idea: Give a guy that is pretty good (and getting better) more minutes than a guy who is good-but-not-great and hurt all the time (and getting worse). But because Dallas' coach is Marc Crawford, the odds of this plan being used aren't high.

Detroit Red Wings: Take note, all you lucky fans of small-market teams with little talent: your life isn't as bad as that of a Red Wings supporter. Yup, Snapshots is once again bemoaning a Detroit columnist for disrespecting the Red Wings, this time "Evil" Drew Sharp's in the crosshairs for having the temerity to say Bryan Rafalski should stop crying over "The Handshake Incident." Imagine!

Edmonton Oilers: More than three quarters of all Edmontonians disagree that the city's taxpayers should front the money for a new rink, and almost half (46 percent) "strongly disagree." So that publicly-funded arena seems unlikely, no?

Florida Panthers: Tomas Vokoun(notes) wants very much to have a good start to the season. Given his usual starts, I can only assume that means an .890 save percentage and a 4.23 GAA.

Minnesota Wild: Yeah, they'd still like to get Alex Tanguay(notes) (just sign already!), but this cap number seems a stick wicket. They'll have to move someone really expensive or convince Tanguay he really sucks and deserves little more than league minimum.

Montreal Canadiens: Patrice Brisebois(notes) will be competing in next weekend's NASCAR race in Montreal and fellow drivers will find out what NHL forwards already know: it's real easy to pass him.

New York Islanders: Marty Biron is "a very happy man." Must not know he plays for the Islanders.

New York Rangers: Michael Del Zotto(notes) time? Sure, why not?

Ottawa Senators: The Silver Sevens thinks the Sens might be a bunch of no-tryin' punks (in so many words), which, given how things went last season, doesn't seem like it's too far off-base does it? Sorry, by the way, that this wasn't about Dany Heatley(notes).

Tampa Bay Lightning: Yeah, that whole ownership circus? It's about to get a whole lot sillier since there are two different sources telling two different stories about Len Barrie's involvement with the team. That shouldn't be distracting.

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Toronto Maple Leafs: This Luke Schenn(notes) kid? Yeah, he's pretty good.

Vancouver Canucks: Both the Canucks and Roberto Luongo(notes) would like to agree upon a contract extension by training camp. The only thing separating them now is the length of the contract, which the latter would like to be, presumably, many years.

Washington Capitals: Bruce Boudreau threw out the first pitch at the Nationals game the other night. It didn't go well.

Took the week off: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues.

Thing of the Week

I'm a big Quentin Tarantino fan. Who isn't? So I saw "Inglourious Basterds." Twice. And it was awesome. You should see it too!

P.S. If Christoph Waltz doesn't win an Oscar, I have lost faith in the system.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "bobermay" would like to see Philly 86 Dany Briere. So he sends him to a team that probably wants less to do with a guy like that than just about any in the league: Toronto. To wit:

To Philly: Jason Blake(notes), Matt Stajan(notes), Ian White(notes), Calgary's 2nd 11.

To Toronto: Danny Brier, Marc-Andre Bourdon(notes)




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