September 13, 2010
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and 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.
Well, yesterday marked the full start of the NFL taking over the next 22 Sundays for countless men, women and children across America. And it served as a perfect reminder of just how stupid, boring and interminable the sport this nation has grown to love really is.
Being in Boston as I am, I was "treated" to the Patriots beating the absolute hell out of the Cincinnati defense for three hours, and this was an actual sequence of events: the Patriots kicked an extra point after a touchdown, so the network took a commercial break. Then they kicked off, Cincy kneeled it for a touchback, and there was another commercial. Then the Bengals ran three hilariously unsuccessful plays, and someone got hurt, so they took another break. Then the Bengals punted, so more commercials were played.
Watching this, I wasn't sure exactly what type of person would be enraptured by this revolting display of commercialism run rampant ... unless of course they are particularly big fans of Denis Leary witlessly extolling the virtues of fuel-inefficient trucks several times per quarter-hour.
Sports fans in the U.S. often knock hockey as being boring, and why wouldn't they? In football, there's all the fun and excitement of running for three yards, standing around for 40 seconds, watching a pass fall incomplete, then standing around again. Now that's entertainment. You don't get any of that exciting stuff in hockey, where it's all skate-skate-skate, shoot, hit, grind, skate-skate, save, block, icing. Then you don't get to take a break for longer than 15 seconds or so. What a snoozefest.
There are 60 minutes on the clock in both hockey and football. But the difference is that in football, the 60 minutes takes three times that length to play, and during that time, you see 11 minutes of athletes actually competing.
Luckily, all that downtime gives football players ample time to dance around like morons after a perfectly conventional play. This allows fans to gripe about "prima donnas" not "actin' like they've been there before." And where would American sports be without that kind of thing?
We don't have that kind of wanton show-boatery in hockey for two reasons.
(Coming Up: First stretcher-hit of the season; Rick DiPietro(notes) is, gulp, healthy; the fighting AfroGator; Colorado still not at the cap floor; Marc Savard's(notes) mind-frame; Selanne's tires of retire talk; Ponikarovsky speaks; the unstoppable Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson(notes); Dallas's dire chances; and a trade that sufficiently shuffles the deck chairs.)
First, the speed of the game doesn't allow someone time to hug every individual teammate after a slightly better than average hit.
Some have argued to me that they look football for the strategy of it all, and they love seeing a defensive playcall that puts four linebackers within three inches of the quarterback's face the second the ball is snapped. I get that, but I'd also be willing to bet the average football fan can't read the difference between a nickel and a 4-3. So what gives?
It's not as if strategy doesn't go into hockey. These guys aren't out there skating around with no system telling them where to be and what to do at all times unless they're coached by Wayne Gretzky.
And hockey rewards plays that are executed exactly as designed. Maybe two or three times a night, you'll watch a play and think, "That's exactly how the coach drew it up on the whiteboard."
Typically these plays result in a goal, and in hockey that typically makes a much greater difference than it would in football. What's the most common result of a perfect run on offense? Eight or nine yards on a carry up the middle? Whatever happens after that is down to the players in the secondary, who sure weren't expecting to have to tackle someone on an up-the-gut dive, effectively removing strategy again.
But for most Americans, the best part of football are all the chips, and hamburgers, and hot dogs, and beer you can eat with your buddies.
And you just don't have enough nearly time to properly gorge yourself at a hockey game.
There's too much action for that.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Even Teemu Selanne(notes) is getting sick of Teemu Selanne retirement talk. Said the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, "That (mental) approach works well for me, because I want to leave it all on the ice. But nobody's going to believe me anymore, are they?"
Atlanta Thrashers: The past two summers, Angelo Esposito(notes) has had surgery on the ACL in his right knee. That's a lot of knee surgery for a 21-year-old kid, and not a good sign for his development. The Marian Hossa(notes) trade looks worse all the time.
Boston Bruins: Peter Chiarelli says Marc Savard is in "a good frame of mind." This could be because his concussion problemshave made him forget how the entire organization scrambled to throw him under the bus in July.
Chicago Blackhawks:The Blackhawks will broadcast five of their seven preseason games on local TV this month. In related news, today will be three one-hundredths of a second shorter because of a shift in the Earth's rotation generated by the force with which Bill Wirtz is currently spinning in his grave.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets' unofficial phrase that pays this season: "Hardcore Hockey." Because when all else fails, Rick Nash(notes) might smash Jimmy Howard(notes) over the head with a kendo stick.
Dallas Stars:"New-look Dallas Stars base hopes on youngsters, projects," says the headline. Or if you prefer, "New-look Dallas Stars to miss playoffs again."
Florida Panthers:The Panthers have a new P.A. guy this season, who also voices ads against drunk driving in which he asks, "Have you been drinking tonight, sir?" For Panthers fans who paid to watch that team, the answer is likely, "Yes."
Minnesota Wild: Darby Hendrickson(notes) has joined the Wild as an assistant coach. His qualifications, apart from being in the NHL for 10 seasons, is that he was the best high-school hockey player in Minnesota in 1991. You gotta love how much the franchise bends over backwards to appeal to its fans that way.
Montreal Canadiens: Fans in Montreal have had it rough, since the franchise hasn't won a Stanley Cup in almost two decades. On the Habs' 200th anniversary, they will only hold 14 ceremonies to honor last year's team.
New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro is actually going to participate in training camp this year. "He can just go out and play and not have any physical issues," Garth Snow noted. Not for the first 20 minutes anyway. Maybe.
Philadelphia Flyers: Matt Carle(notes) traveled all over this summer, with stops in Bora Bora and Alaska, among other places. This season he'll get to visit tourist hot spots like Uniondale, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. What a life.
Phoenix Coyotes: Brandon Gormley: Coach-talkin'."Just play your game, I think. You're here for a reason, and they want to see that, and it's obvious you have to step up your game. It's harder competition, and everyone's fighting for a job here, so you've just got to go prove yourself." Insight.
Pittsburgh Penguins: With some of the earliest actual hockey highlights of the young preseason, we get our first dirty hit/stretchering off at 55 seconds.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks signed about 400 college free agents last spring and Todd McLellan is excited to see an indeterminate number of them play in this rookie camp. Which ones? Don't worry about that.
Gold Star Award
Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson was unstoppable in the Canucks/Oilers rookie camp game I watched. He's going to be phenomenal.
Minus of the Weekend
I was so happy to watch live hockey games yesterday that I can't be mad at anyone.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "mrinsane" is shuffling the deck chairs.
This is good from where I sit.
What's Spanish for "I know you speak English?"