Having played and watched the game for nearly my whole life, it pains me to come to the realization that there will not be an NHL season this year. With the New Year fast approaching, the likelihood of a season of any length being played by NHL players seems far from realistic. I’m not going to get into the logistics of the lockout, or bash on Gary Bettman. I’m just going to list what I’ll miss without hockey this year.
I’ve been a fan of this game for as long as I can remember. I’m still a youngster, so I can only go back to the mid-90s, but I remember the moment that I wanted to play hockey. I saw Dominik Hasek flip on his neck and rob a player who had an open net. The next week, my father and I were out buying me goalie pads. He is my all-time favorite player and was my inspiration to become a goaltender. My playing days are over now, but my love for the game lives on.
I tried to compile a shorter list, but just couldn’t sacrifice some things. I’m a Rangers fan, born and raised on Long Island (I know what you’re thinking: why aren’t I an Islanders fan then? Short answer: Because my dad isn’t.) I lived through the great times of 1994, although I was too young to remember. And I’ve lived through the bad times after Gretzky retired. I tell you I’m a Rangers fan, because some of my points are very biased. I tell you this, because I don’t care. This is my opinion. So here goes…
10. The Winter Classic
Having grown up playing hockey outside, I can tell you it’s as fun as it is cold. I know the Winter Classic hasn’t been around too long, but every single game has been very good. Whether you’re a Penguins fan getting to see your Pens beat the Sabres, an original six fan getting to see two classic franchises dual out a high-scoring matchup, or someone from the East Coast looking for something to watch on New Year’s Day, the Winter classic has solidified itself as a perennial event to be longed for by hockey fans young and old.
The two teams this year who were going to be playing are the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, thanks to this lockout, there won’t be a game played outside. Instead, after having spent all night listening to Ryan Seacrest announce how much time is left for this year, there will be nothing to watch on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. At least for hockey fans. Now I am neither a fan of the Red Wings or the Maple leafs, but I was still going to sit down in front of the TV, either at mine or my aunt’s house, and watch those two teams battle it out. However since Nik Lidstrom has retired who knows how the Red Wings defense is going to be? The answer: no one will, because there won’t be a hockey season this year to find out.
9. Rick DiPietro getting hurt… Again
Now I’m never one to rejoice in someone else’s pain. However as a Rangers fan I can’t help but say “I told you so” to all of those Islanders fans I know who were ecstatic after they signed old Ricky boy to a 15 year deal. Now as a goaltender I feel horrible for what has happened to this poor man’s career, but I think it’s about time that he retired. That is just my humble opinion, but I’m sure it’s the same opinion as many hockey fans. Having said all of that, perhaps the lockout will give Rick another year to recuperate from his various injuries. Or perhaps he will find new and exciting ways to injure himself. Hopefully it won’t be from eating pancakes, a.k.a Dustin Penner. By the way for those keeping score at home this is one of those biased points I was warning you about.
It’s a shame that Rick DiPietro getting hurt has turned into a thing to be expected every year. The raw talent and ability he possessed in his earlier seasons has become a footnote in how his career will be remembered, and the fact that the Islanders have him signed for so long just adds to the debacle that has been this man’s life the past four years. Now not to add insult to injury, but under the current CBA , were the Islanders to buy out the rest of his contract it might actually help them reach the salary floor each year, at least for the next decade or so. What I’ll miss is reading the articles about what the Islanders should do with Rick DiPietro, and listening to various announcers discuss what could have been and what is. But what I’ll miss most is that fiery attitude he brought to every game he played, especially against the Rangers.
8. Seeing aging stars play one last time
Now I mentioned before that Dominik Hasek was and is my favorite hockey player. If I had to pick a favorite skater it would be Teemu Selanne . I don’t know what it is about the man, (perhaps it goes back to my years of playing NHL video games and always wanting him on my team because of his sheer awesomeness) but he can’t retire before I’ve seen him play live. I don’t know if I could live with that. Another player I have the utmost respect for is Jaromir Jagr. Probably because he was captain of the Rangers and the reason for their resurgence these past few seasons. I’ll miss seeing his strange moustaches and mullet; and his incredible ability to make plays and score goals (PG-13.) These are just two players who I have stronger feelings about, but for a much more complete list click here. They deserve the opportunity to go out there one last time and play in front of their home crowds, knowing that it will absolutely be their last professional game ever, but half of them probably won’t. And that’s the biggest shame of all.
7. Overtime playoff games
Now just to prove to you that this whole article won’t be a Ranger loving Islander bashing free-for-all, I am going to reference two games which have stuck out to me in recent years as overtime classics. The first was last year’s Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. I was in college at the time, alone in my dorm room watching this fantastic display of sport. This game went into three overtimes before Marion Gaborik of the Rangers was able to beat Braden Holtby with a shot between the legs at 14:41. The video of this goal shows Gaborik jumping up and down right after scoring. I was joining him in his celebration by jumping up and hitting the ceiling in my room. Now while it wasn’t the longest game ever played nor the most important it was definitely one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. They played basically two games on top of one another. Each goaltender faced nearly 50 shots in a tightly contested defensive battle, typical of the Rangers and their entire season. I’ll never forget my roommate, who was sleeping at the time, yelling at me and asking what was wrong, to which I replied, “Nothing’s wrong.”
The second overtime classic was back when I was in high school. I didn’t have any homework that night, so I put on VS and started watching a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars. I don’t remember much of the game, but what I do remember is how late I stayed up watching it. This game went into four overtimes and nearly needed a fifth before. Henrik Sedin beat Marty Turco through the legs for the game-winner (Star at 3:05 or 3:06). The game ended somewhere around three or four in the morning, with Roberto Luongo having faced 76 shots. This was the sixth longest playoff game in NHL history and a classic in my mind. The Stars fought back to tie the game up multiple times in the third period, but the Sedin twins would not be denied.
Games like these two make for awesome hockey to watch for fans and really anyone. Both games went late into the night with all teams involved dropping a lot of sweat and emotion on the ice. The reason you never hear about either of these games is because neither game was a Game Seven or a deciding game, and none of these teams went on to win the Stanley Cup, or even be a part of the finals. The Rangers win put them up 2-1, while the Canucks win was the first of the series. However true fans will miss these kind of games, because they are the kind of games that create lasting bonds with a team. The kind of games where you don’t regret the lack of sleep that goes with the next morning. The kind of games you’ll have to cherish and remember this year instead of watching new ones take place.
6. The Goofs
Everyone either knows or has seen the video of Patrick Stefan missing a wide open net, and then allowing the other team to score a game-tying goal with less than a second remaining. If you haven’t, here it is. It’s become a classic example of futility at its finest. Recently I’ve seen a video of Pekka Rinne, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year and a top four finalist for Hart Trophy, basically pass the puck to the other team and give them an open net goal. Situations like this happen all the time in the NHL, but not this year. Instead of relishing in the misfortunes of other teams, we live with the lack of a season as a whole as a misfortune. Instead of giving Ilya Kovalchuk another shot at redeeming himself after having the puck slide off his stick to lose the game, Devils fans are left with this horrific image for at least another year.
5. The Trades
Every major sport has a trade deadline; however in my opinion no sport’s deadline is as hectic, shocking, or exciting as the NHL’s. In recent years the drama surrounding the trade deadline has been overlooked because of a lack of blockbuster trades. The NHL is not known for taking an entire team and trading them for a Carmelo Anthony type player. The most recent big blockbuster in the NHL sent two starting players, a prospect, and a first-round draft pick for a superstar goal scorer, a minor league player, and a draft pick. Football’s trade deadline goes almost unnoticed every year, except for the speculation of trades that certain teams should or should not make. The NBA’s trade deadline can be exciting, but in my opinion it should be called a team reshaping rather than a trade. And last but not least the MLB’s trade deadline isn’t exactly a hard deadline, because trades can still occur after the deadline. Baseball’s trade deadline isn’t too exciting either, because usually only one team actually gains something significant. The other team usually gains a few prospects. For example look no farther than the Carlos Beltran trade from two years ago. The Mets received prospect pitcher Zack Wheeler, who has yet to even start for the team in the majors. I’ll miss reading articles about possible trades to help a team make a significant run at the playoffs. Especially since there won’t even be a playoffs, because there won’t be a season.
4. The goal songs
This is a purely biased choice to put here. I haven’t gone to many Rangers games lately or any hockey games at all. This is not a knock at the lockout, well I guess it is, but it’s more a knock on myself. I’m not going to get all psychological or philosophical on you, so I’ll just move on. It’s the simplest little thing. You do it when you’re at the game, and you can do it from home, but singing along to that goal song is such a childish and necessary thing to do when watching an NHL game. In no other sport is a song so defining of a team or an event. In soccer the celebration after the goal is what people watch for; in football people watch for the spike with the dance or whatever the player might do; in baseball there might be a song that happens after a home run or a big hit, but it’s not always the same song and most times people may not know that it’s the song for their team; in basketball there are so many points scored that making each one important would take too much time. So only in hockey does that goal song represent everything good or bad to a fan. And as every hockey fan will know their team’s goal song is the best one. I’ll miss yelling out hey, hey, hey hey hey , just as I’ll miss yelling out “Potvin Sucks!”
3. History will be made
In recent years the NHL has developed an ad campaign prior to and during the playoffs called “history will be made.” For a fan like me it’s amazing to see just how thoughtful and creative the NHL can be when it wants to. For fans of the game both young and old the “history will be made” commercials serve as reminders of both joyful and crushing times, reminders of a culmination of years of hard work and dedication, and reminders about what the future will bring or what the past has already brought us. However, this ear, the only place we’ll find these near tear-jerking ads, for the truly dedicated fan, will be on the internet, because there will only be history taking place this year in the NHL, not a season. Here’s a video I found on YouTube with a few pretty good choices, and if you don’t like them there are tons of links on the side that you can choose from. Here they are.
2. The Announcers
A. Goal Calls
This is another purely biased point on my part, but I’m beginning to miss Sam Rosen’s voice. I mean that in the least creepy way possible. Hell, I’m even starting to miss Joe Micheletti’s voice. For those of you who have no idea who those two gentlemen are, they are the Rangers announcers. Sam Rosen also does some other sports as well, but the Blueshirts are where he’s at his best in my opinion. I remember the first year after John Davidson, the former color commentator for the Rangers, left and how much I hated Joe Micheletti. You may know John Davidson will as the former Blues President. He was also a goalie.
I’m even beginning to miss the voices of Doc Emrick and Gary Thorne. I still don’t miss Don Cherry yet, but then again I’m not sure if anyone would ever miss Don Cherry. I find myself using phrases such as, “Oh, baby,” to describe things in my life such as eating a favorite meal, or,” But it would not go,” to describe when I put my key in my lock wrong (couldn’t find videos, sorry.). Such silly and yet lasting phrases have become not just an expectation, but a part of the life of every hockey fan. Without my announcers describing the play-by-play or giving the stats of certain players on teams, I feel almost at a loss, and that’s a damn shame. I know I’ll hear his voice again on the TV someday, but until that time when I’m feeling down about anything I go on YouTube and listen to theHowie Rose call of, “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!” Just as every good Rangers fan should. And here is another video of some awesome calls and overtime goals.
It doesn’t always happen, but every now and then, during a game us fans at home or given the pleasure of hearing our hockey announcers turn into boxing announcers. This almost always happens during a fight. I think I’ll let the videos do the talking here.
Here’s a classic: Roy vs. Osgood (Start at about 1:30)
Daniel Winnik vs. Ryan Clowe Dec 15, 2011
Wayne Simmonds vs. Brandon Prust
And here’s a bunch of knockouts
1. The Saves
You all now know how I became a fan of hockey. For those with short-term memory loss, it has to do with a save by one if not the greatest goaltender that ever played the game, by the name of Dominik Hasek. He was a Sabres goalie for most of his career in the NHL, but also played a few seasons with the Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings. I’m a fan of none of those three teams, which made it hard to root against my Rangers when Hasek came to town. However my love for goaltending and goaltenders alike just inched out my loyalty to the Rangers. It also inched out my love for videos of awesome goals. Which is why that is not one of the top 10 things I miss, but the saves are.
Nothing is better than watching a goalie make an incredible save, rob a player of a point, and make it look so easy in the process. I can assure you that it is the farthest thing from easy on this planet. He takes such concentration and timing and practice and dedication and every now and then a bit of luck to make those kind of saves. The saves are what made players like Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Mike Richter Martin Brodeur , Bernie Parent, and Grant Fuhr such all-time greats; and in more recent times players like Henrik Lundqvist , Evgeni Nabokov, Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco , Jose Theodore, Miikka Kiprusoff , Ryan Miller and so much fun to watch. It’s probably also why half of these players make a lot of money.
The perfect save not only stops a goal, but it can mean so much more to a team. A save can turn the momentum of an entire game, series, or season around, just the same way a goal can. However due to such circumstances such as an increase in the size of the net, a decrease in the size of goaltenders pads, and a lack of ability to play the puck behind the net (or as I like to call it modern hockey ) I believe playing the goaltender position to be a much harder task than scoring a goal. Hockey fights bring viewers, and goals bring fans, but saves keep the fans coming back for more. And without hockey, without those saves, we are only left with memories and stories to hold us over; to satiate the hunger, the desire for more. And frankly it’s not enough for fans like me.
So I know I’ll miss listening to my favorite announcers describe the bad calls referees make, or adding a hint of beauty to something as monumental and exciting as a goaltender’s save or a team’s trade. I’ll miss singing out the tunes that signify goals or cheering on the names of aging superstars and role players alike as they skate possibly for their final time on professional ice. I’ll miss reading about poor Rick DiPietro injuring his groin, or his knee, or some other part of his body again and whether or not he will retire from it, something that has come to mean more than just a simple injury. It’s become something perennial, like the Winter Classic or watching goaltenders score into their own nets, or referees trip over the blue line. It’s become something to be expected, something to look out for every year. Like a good game, or a shootout winning goal, or an all-time great overtime game, or watching one-of-a-kind players like Nik Lidstrom and Eric Lindros, or Dominik Hasek and Teemu Selanne hang up their skates for good. I’ll miss it all, every aspect of the game, but those are the things I’ll miss the most.