Sometimes you just have to feel for the National Hockey League. It has but three dates on its calendar – the Winter (ahem) Classic; the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the all-star weekend – that might (gently) shake the world at large, and the all-star one happens to fall in the same week Barack Obama initiates the first Planet Earth Group Hug.
I mean there’s nothing Jim and Martha want to do more after sobbing uncontrollably for the better part of three days than to watch hockey.
The all-star extravaganza is a spectacle in much the same way the bearded lady used to draw crowds. All in all you don’t find it satisfying or worth the money you paid, but you’d be damned if you can turn away.
It’s not that the NHL doesn’t try hard to build buzz, it’s just that their buzz – even at its apex – isn’t that noteworthy.
Take the Skills Competition. We just have to determine if Zdeno Chara or Sheldon Souray will finally dethrone Al Iafrate as the hardest shooter in league history (at least since they’ve had the technology to measure this sort of thing and, of course, assuming no other player, with some other-worldly Herculean effort akin to lifting a car off a trapped youngster, has ever been superior in, say, an actual game situation).
Then, of course, the fastest skater competition in which a player has to complete a full lap of the ice surface – devised apparently to emulate a real game-type scenario where stupid players felt it was both easier and more strategic to chase an opponent around the rink instead of doing something relatively-logical like cutting across center ice.
The biggest attraction will likely be the breakaway challenge brought to you by Kit Kat (just guessing) where the more creative and talented players in the league try to out-duel each other with moves that would make Stephen Hawking’s head explode.
Alex Ovechkin is planning a move so theoretical people are asked to wear protective eyewear and everyone who enters the arena that night will be given a vile of insulin.
And while there are a myriad of these (ahem) events that night, my personal favorites (the ones I’ll stay awake for) are the Martin St-Louis Distance Toss and Drunk Goalie Leap Frog.
Then we get the YoungStars game, which pits rookies against sophomores in a battle to see who’s really as overrated as people are saying. I’m going with the first year players simply because I can’t bring myself to yell “Go Sophs!” (which is difficult to say and sounds slightly effeminate).
And the All-Star Game itself: The Anaheim Blackhawks against the mighty Montreal Penguins. You have to give the league credit for undoing a wrong created by zealous ballot-stuffers and coming up with the corrected starting lineup you’ll see on Sunday (the actual vote counts had Jean Beliveau starting on defense and Maria Sharapova starting in goal).
You must remember, however, that even with this star-studded lineup*, the level of hockey won’t be quite what you’re hoping for. As much as you’d like to see Rick Nash ram into Jay Bouwmeester (saying his name always reminds me of Speedy Gonzales), hitting in the All-Star Game is severely frowned upon (unless Jeremy Roenick gets tanked, pays off an usher and sneaks onto Team Blackhawk).
I’m predicting West beats East 10-9 (both teams are unbeaten this season so it’s a hard call). Winning goal scored by the guy who replaced the guy who replaced Stephane Robidas.
*contractually obligated phrase
The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN’s hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie’s cartoon delivered to you in each issue.
Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org