Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yawn, Yawn, Yawn, Dear God Yawn

I’ve long maintained that North American hockey fans are not interested in finesse-style hockey, be it the regular season, the playoffs, or even the Stanley Cup finals. The evidence pours from different media sources like goals flying by MAF glove side.

The latest and greatest (from the Canadian Press):

A lack of Canadian content in the Stanley Cup final has had a dramatic impact on TV ratings.

CBC drew an average of 2.11 million viewers Saturday for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. That represents a drop of nearly 500,000 viewers over last year's opening game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Ottawa Senators.
But how can this be? This is “the dream matchup.” Sid the Kid, Gino, and the high-flying Pens against precision-powered veteran Red Wings.

Who wouldn’t want to watch this?

If you believed the 40 mph slap shots Gary B has been feeding you, you would actually expect ratings to be up with the amount of talent and skill on display.

What a farce. If anything, the spotlight has shed light on the fact that Cindy Crosby is a whiner, an occasional diver, and a babied superstar that has gotten away with more stick work than my brother at a Chinese buffet (he big boy). If anything, the fence-sitting fan has tuned in to see the league’s face covered with patchy, thin hair that would make any 14 year old jealous.

The Stanley Cup finals, thus far, have been anti-climatic, a steam roll with limited intensity, European hockey at its finest.

And while the finest of Gary B’s stars are on the big stage, those outside of Hockey-North America are tuning into the NBA playoffs and Dancing with the Stars.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ESPN's Patrick Hruby - Hockey Fight Fan Fanatic

Twominutesforblogging, Fried Chickens Hockey Fight Site, and ESPN Page 2’s Patrick Hruby recently hooked up for an E-Ticket story to give an inside look into the hockey fight fan community. The story has been in the works since last year.

At that time, Patrick, a former Washington Times staff writer and current Page 2 heavy hitter (with one of the best jobs in the world says me!), contacted Twominutes for a chat about enforcers and their devoted fans. With a bit of guidance, he ran with the story and was soon catching flights to meet some of hockey’s toughest enforcers, including Derek and Aaron Boogaard, Georges Laraque, Milan Lucic, and former LNAH and current AHL sensation Jon “Nasty” Mirasty.

As a member of Fried Chicken’s message board, we were also able to put Patrick in touch with some of the most devoted hockey fight fans in the world. Patrick again hit the road, this time to connect with some of FC’s finestl; and he was kindly taken in to homes and small town arenas so he could experience first hand just how loyal these fans are to their favorite enforcers and teams.

With recent news coming out that ESPN has expressed interest in bringing hockey back to their airways, you can’t help but think about other moves ESPN had made recently as well. Don Cherry, an outspoken proponent of tough, physical hockey and enforcers, was brought in on a part-time basis to cover the 2008 NHL playoffs. Cherry, night after night, continues to work in pokes at the NHL for their stubborn unwillingness to promote hockey’s true characters and fan favorites. And when you combine his commentary with long-time enforcer fan Barry Melrose, you can’t help but wonder if ESPN is sending a message to the NHL about just what fans, and their network, wants more of from a game that has come to resemble European hockey moreso than even 1980s and 90s NHL hockey.

Now ESPN hits the internet community with a huge E-Ticket story on the fans that continue to support the few remaining tough guys of the NHL and minor league circuits.

And at the very start of the Stanley Cup Finals mind you. Peculiar timing, eh?

While I am not saying the NHL’s hopes of hitting the ESPN timeslots once again are linked to the NHL’s ability or willingness to promote hockey enforcers, I will gladly say that I think ESPN is sending a message to NHL leadership that the “worldwide leader in sports” (and the final say on the image of all sports) is in tune to exactly what the overwhelming majority of hockey fans want to see more of in their game.

Now it’s up to NHL to listen or keep their index fingers firmly implanted in their ears. And since that the NHL has yet to acknowledge countless fan polls, or even NHL player surveys, displaying everyone's desire to see less rules in the game that handcuff players from policing the game as it happens, I doubt we'll see any movement on Sixth Avenue any time soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lack of Playoff Fights Nothing New

While I usually pin most of my blame for the overall lack of fighting on the finesse-like rules implemented following the lockout, the same cannot be said of playoff fights.

Fighting in the playoffs has been pretty much non-existent since the Detriot/Avalanche rivalry years in the mid to late 90s. And even then, if you were to take out those series', you'd still probably be looking at fight totals that look very similar to today's gentlemanly playoff scene.

In order to find real hate between teams (in the way of fighting) you have to look back to the 80s when a fight/playoff game was common.

And while most hockey fans salivate at the thought of hockey turning back the clock and reviving early to mid 80s hockey, that won't be happening under Uncle Gary's watch where protecting stars, levying large suspensions, late game penalties, and pre-series warnings about fighting are commonplace.

A look at fighting major totals and fights/game since 1970:

Year Number Average/Game
1969-1970 29 0.85
1970-1971 29 0.67
1971-1972 25 0.69
1972-1973 15 0.39
1973-1974 36 0.95
1974-1975 40 0.78
1975-1976 35 0.73
1976-1977 25 0.57
1977-1978 46 1.02
1978-1979 30 0.67
1979-1980 81 1.21
1980-1981 72 1.06
1981-1982 80 1.13
1982-1983 65 0.98
1983-1984 103 1.47
1984-1985 102 1.46
1985-1986 103 1.43
1986-1987 105 1.21
1987-1988 124 1.48
1988-1989 59 0.72
1989-1990 32 0.38
1990-1991 61 0.66
1991-1992 25 0.29
1992-1993 11 0.13
1993-1994 23 0.26
1994-1995 17 0.21
1995-1996 18 0.21
1996-1997 28 0.34
1997-1998 20 0.24
1998-1999 9 0.1
1999-2000 17 0.2
2000-2001 9 0.1
2001-2002 16 0.18
2002-2003 7 0.08
2003-2004 20 0.27
2004-2005 Gary's Alone Time
2005-2006 18 0.22
2006-2007 17 0.21
2007-2008 11 0.14

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let Them Play!

Anyone else bothered by the inconsistency of playoff refereeing? I've been screaming since the lockout that referees are controling the flow of the game with an influx of penalty calls, be them blatant, marginal, or non-existent.

And while past playoff years have yielded end-to-end rushes, bone curshing body checks, and passion-filled games, this year's playoffs have been filled with powerplays and penalty kills, emotionless dead zones that kill the flow of the game.

The NHL simply doesn't get it. Players are petrified that the next call will be on them. Why finish a check when there is a good chance the head zebra in charge will be raising his hand, blowing his whistle, and calling your number to the penalty box for two minutes of “remember to not to check too hard or touch a player with your stick above his knee time.” Derian Hatcher has pretty much gone numb to the star treatment Sid and Gino have received in their series. And why would John Stevens ever put out some toughness at the end of a game to send a message these days? We all know Collie and Gary have put the word out that message-sending will not be tolerated in their playoffs.

Meanwhile, ESPN has hired Don Cherry for the playoffs, a clear message to the NHL that they know what NHL fans want. I also am aware of another hockey story coming out soon, an E-Ticket story about the hockey fight community and the countless fans that cheer on their favorite enforcers. Boy, ESPN and the NHL are on the same page, eh?

But sorry hockey fans, it's too late. The NHL has spoken and we will get a snooze fest for a Stanley Cup final. Shoot, no one in Detroit even cares anymore. Empty seats for playoff games??? And the Penguins have been given a helping hand to the Cup finals. While they have been impressive, the number of astonishing calls are too many to be overlooked.

Well, at least Gary and Collie will be happy.

The rest of us will have to put down our beer cans, go to the convenience store, and bring home some wine coolers in preparation.