Monday, November 29, 2010

20 Games In

Greetings Friends,

Consider this my periodic rant about hockey, along with your handy holiday gift guide. The above image is that of a wine caddy, so if you happen to have a loved one who is both a wine lover and a hockey lover, here's the perfect gift. I'm not giving away the who, what, where and why; you can use Google, just like I did.

Here's the update: both my hockey teams still suck huge. The Toronto Maple Leafs have crashed back down to earth after a surprisingly quick start, and the New York Islanders are as perennially horrible as they've been for (I hate so say this, but it's true) decades. There's no joy in my Kraft Hockeyville and I don't believe there will be for a very long time. My feeling is that the Hockey Gods will be against my teams for time immemorial, and for as long as I live, I will never see either of them have any success, EVER. 

The isn't a "woe is me, the poor hockey fan" post; I'm actually angry about the behind the scenes details that contribute to both my teams being so rotten. It all boils down to this: bad ownership. The Leafs have the luxury of playing in Hockey Mecca West (Hockey Mecca East is Montreal), before a full house for every game, and a seemingly bottomless financial pit that affords them the luxury to not give a damn whether they win or lose. The Islanders, on the other hand, have Daffy Duck for an owner, a man who still can't tell the difference between a hockey puck and a urinal puck. Add to that the fact that Long Island itself is dying a slow death because of the crappy US economy, and an overabundance of right-wing political corruption. It's no wonder I couldn't get away from there fast enough. Well, there were other reasons, but the hockey team surely did not provide sufficient motivation to hang around. As a season ticket holder, I threw so much money away on the Islanders, I probably could have had a sizeable down payment on a decent Hamptons crib. It would have been just that - a crib, but in hindsight, even in these trying times, real estate would have been a much more prudent investment. 

When you're a sports fan, you come to the realization that there are some teams that get it, and some that don't. No team in any sport can be a winner every year. Then there are the teams that are just "good enough" but never seem to win any championships, and there are the ones that may have some past glory, but have been doormats for generations. You endure the cycle year after year, hoping some halfway decent, sentient human being will come along and break it, but if you get your hopes up too high, you end up crushed by the weight of them. Here in Toronto, the great general manager, Brian Burke, and his coach, Ron Wilson, will likely not survive the season. On Long Island, coach Scott Gordon bit the dust 10 games in, and as of Friday, the Islanders managed to stave off the dubious record of 15 consecutive losses by shutting out the NJ Devils, 3-0. Not that I'm turning my nose up at a shut out, but you reach the stage where you have to wonder, what the hell is the point?

One of my all-time favourite sports movies is Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own. Tom Hanks played manager Jimmy Duggan, and uttered this line after being accused of sitting in the dugout scratching his balls for an hour: "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." Ball scratching aside, I have to agree. The Leafs feel obligated to "go for it" every season, but manage to screw the pooch no matter how hard they try. The Islanders can't screw the pooch out of his leash, no matter how hard they try. Both scenarios make for some frustrating fandom, but it's impossible to walk away. No matter how hard I try, there's always going to be that little piece of me that can't help but give a damn. Somebody needs to come up with some sort of methadone-type antidote to that, because the feelings really are inescapable. And don't for a second believe anyone who tells you, yeah, I can totally walk away. 

There you have it. Unless there is some miraculous turnaround by either team, or if Gary Bettman happens to keel over while strolling down 6th Avenue, I've got nothing to left to say until spring. 


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