Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Raindrops on Roses and Black Eyes on Hockey Players

What is your favorite thing about the NHL?

In general I'd have to say its appeal as a perpetual underdog. For all its attempts to be loud and brash like the NBA or widely embraced like the NFL, it remains the little league that could and is probably better off because of it. Most of the players have been able to maintain that oh so lovable aw-shucks demeanor which, just makes the whole league stand out as something special despite its flaws.

I love the variety of fans found around the league that have adopted this game and made it their own. I love that people in Dallas stand up throughout the overtime periods and that Flyers fans will forever boo their team at the slightest sign of weakness. I love the old-time rivalries - Montreal-Toronto, Detroit-Chicago, Edmonton-Calgary - but I love some of the new burgeoning rivalries, too - Washington-Atlanta, San Jose-Anaheim, Columbus-umm...okay, bad example.

If we're talking specifically, I love the changing of the guard that seems to be going on right now. Yes, it's sad to see those greats I grew up watching finally hang them up - guys like Yzerman and Nieuwendyk, who exemplified the game and did it with a quiet class of a true gentleman. But we have been lucky enough to see one of the best rookie classes in years, first breaking into the league and now in their second year, really start to evolve into world class players. Guys like Ovechkin, Phaneuf, and Crosby to be sure, but also Lundqvist, Higgins, Meszaros, Prucha and so many others. The NHL is only going to get more exciting over the next few years, and that's something to look forward to.

What is your least favourite thing about it?
(That's right, I broke out the Canadian spelling in honor of my temporary adopted country...)

I would have to say first and foremost that I hate the divisional alignment we have right now. Sure, I'm starting to dislike the teams in the Southeast Division but for most of them it's not passionate. I grew up watching the Patrick Division, with the Caps, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders and Devils. Every year it was competitive, every year it was heated, and the close proximity meant that you had lots of opposition fans in the building to make things a little more interesting. It's very telling that here in DC, where you practically have to pay people to go to games, dates with those teams always draw the biggest and most rambunctious crowds. I can just get more amped up about games against the Penguins than I ever will for a Panthers game, and playing Florida more times per season won't change that anytime soon.

Which of course brings us to everyone's favorite complaint, the schedule. I get the intent behind it - play your own division ad nauseum and create the kind of intensity that was lost when divisional rivals stopped meeting in the playoffs. But 8 times a year? I don't even like seeing my own family 8 times a year. I'd much rather play all conference teams an equal amount and maybe get to see the West a bit more. Teams in the Western Conference complain that they don't get to see Ovie and Crosby enough - well, I'd like to see Phaneuf and Kopitar more often. It's just not right yet, and if the league would quit fooling around with trivial things like uniforms and net size, maybe they could actually get something done.

I do have one more complaint, and it's a truly biased one, so bear with me. The way the league seems to fall at Sidney Crosby's feet while designating Ovechkin to the sideline just absolutely drives me crazy. Now, I pick on Crosby because he's a Penguin and, well, it's just fun - but I can't deny that he's an amazing talent. I've seen it on a number of occasions against my own team - heck, I even found myself leaning forward in anticipation a few times when he had the puck.

So I have no problem having him in the spotlight...if he's willing to share. The fact is that Ovechkin and Crosby are going to be lighting up this league for years to come, and we should get to see both of them equally. Just seeing them together at press conferences for the All Star Game shows how marketable they can be together, how well they play off one another, and how their differences make them so intriguing to watch together. It's starting to even out a bit, and they've even filmed a commercial with both of them, but it always seems to be Crosby first, Ovechkin second. As a Caps fan who already deals with that inferiority complex that comes with being a Caps fan, I can't help but take that personally.


And before hockeygirl jumps down my throat about poor Dion Phaneuf who is hardly mentioned in the same breath, let me point out that Phaneuf is also a tremendous talent and is exciting to watch, but defense is just not as glamorous. That's the only reason he's not marketed as well as the other two...except maybe in Calgary, where he's achieved god-like status.


hockeygirl said...

*prepares to climb and stops*

Or maybe he is like a secret hitting machine that is invisible but leaves a path of destruction behind.

I, too, would like to see those two kids from the East more often just so I can see that kid from the West squish them against the boards or send them flying.

CapsChick said...

Hmmm...that sounds like a challenge to me!

*Ahem* Now as I recall from when the Caps and Flames last met, Ovie saw Phaneuf heading for him and proceeded to push him down on his butt...round 1 to my boy, I believe :)