(Ed. Note: Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every weekend. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
Every Wednesday, I get a chance to chat with Jim "Boomer" Gordon on XM's NHL Home Ice channel and it's always an unpredictable conversation. The guy has more hockey gossip, theories and conspiracies banging around in his cranium than almost anyone else in puck radio. As his partner in crime and XM programming chief Joe Thistel told me for a Fourth Period profile of Boomer:
"[He's] one of those guys that has so much information stored in his head that you wonder where he stores it," said Thistel, who's also the program director for Home Ice. "He's the same off air as he is on the air ... he's never at a loss for an intelligent observation or an honest opinion. And in my experience, the best sports broadcasters are the guys that aren't controlled by an on-air light. They're the same whether they're on the air or not. That's Boomer."
Indeed. Here's Boomer with 5 Reasons He Loves Hockey:
1. Bad Hockey
I love REALLY bad hockey. The Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames played a 6-5 game the other night and analysts pointed out the series of mistakes that lead to such a goal fest ... thanks god! Hockey was never meant to be perfect -- chess on ice sucks! D-men get killed for pinching... forwards get ripped for trying to make a play as opposed to getting the puck deep.
The 80's may have had bad fundamentals but it was a great watch and I miss it. The odd man rush is becoming a dinosaur. I recommend one night a month we have coaches stay home tonight ... players today could put on a show if you let them out of their handcuffs once in a while.
2. Bad Music
I love that really bad music is mandatory in NHL arenas. I have always suspected that teams are fined by the league if they don't play "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue at least once a night. The NHL soundtrack may stink, but that is a good thing. Go to an NBA game and it is hip and cool and trendy, and draws an audience that reflects that. Hockey is counter-culture and welcomes anyone through it's doors. There is nothing more real than the feel of a hockey arena.
3. No Dre Bly
I love the fact that Dre Bly doesn't play hockey, and has probably never been to a hockey game in his life.
Last week, while playing for the Niners against the Atlanta Falcons while trailing 35-10, Dre Bly made an interception on his own 20-yard line. With nothing but clear sailing between him and the end zone, Bly elected to put one hand behind his head and do a little tap dance in Deion Sandersesque fashion. The only problem was that his Dancing with the Stars performance allowed a Falcons receiver to catch him, tackle him and strip the football.
Atlanta ball; did I mention it was 35-10?
I remember watching the replay with such complete disdain. The stupidity, the selfishness. I also remember thinking I am very fortunate that I make a living covering a league where that would never happen, never be tolerated. I do believe that a little more showmanship is necessary, but the team first attitude of hockey players is an example for other sports to follow.
4. Kyle Okposo
I love the fact that Kyle Okposo(notes) does play hockey. I go back to May 10th, 1993. I was standing on the 16th tee at Burlington Golf & Country Club and made my first career hole in one. I then had to rush home to catch Game 7 of the New York Islanders/Pittsburgh Penguins series. David Volek scores in overtime and my beloved Isles had upset the two-time champs.
Hard to believe that 16 years later, I haven't had my second ace and my Isles haven't won another playoff series.
I think that will all change. Tavares is all the rage and with good reason, but I love Okposo. Not the biggest or the fastest, but crazy talented and a great watch. With he and Johnny T playing together on the first line, I have reason for optimism for the first time in a long time! Now we just need an arena!
5. International Competition
From the time I was a kid, I loved international kid. I can still remember being afraid of Viktor Tikhonov(notes) and the Soviets in the early 80's. People think I am crazy, but I am looking more forward to the Olympic tournament than anything else in hockey this year. Russians, Swedes, Fins, Czechs taking on the North Americans. Might be the greatest hockey tournament ever! Love the sweaters, love the national pride, love the talent level. No other team sport translates as well to international competition than hockey. Cheers to Ovechkin for taking a stand; need more people like that guy!