Mmmm, smells like french fries. Quick, someone get Paul Bissonnette!
Without angst and bitterness between the legions of loyal fans, we’d have nothing in hockey. The entertainment value would plummet to the level of Two and a half men.
We need the loud chants of “fire Wilson!”, and Taylor Hall getting booed after a gentle, harmless rub out of Brian Gionta. Don’t mistake this for just sheer passion. Passion brings fans to their feet, raises their hands to the rafters, and turns oversized jerseys into dresses. Passion is the core of fandom.
But angst and bitterness in December? Now that’s next level fandom, the kind of crazy that leads to the bottom of the facepaint jar, and makes teenage girls wake up in the morning feeling like Dany Heatley.
Without hockey hate, this game just wouldn’t be much fun. Right, Mr. Heatley?
Headlines and Storylines
Ottawa: Not the family city you thought it was…at least for one night
If you believed the hype and hysteria leading up to puck drop Thursday night, you were convinced that Heatley’s return to Ottawa was Canada’s answer to the return of some basketball player to Cleveland on the same night. In the end, the similarities between the two homecomings were remarkable. In both cases, the crowd fizzled fast because the home side spit on the pride of an entire city.
You want angst? For a usually polite city, Ottawa was full of it as the tension built towards Heatley taking to the ice at Scotiabank Place for the first time since he forced his way out of town. The Ottawa Sun–always a bastion for clean, unbiased, and accountable journalism–featured some clever sports page photoshopping, and a creative columnist calling Heatley a “selfish suckhole” while saying he’s just a notch below Alexei Yashin on the city’s hate list.
But the problem is that while Scotiabank Place was close to a sellout with its 18,017 seats filled with hate, it wasn’t a sellout. Close doesn’t cut it for even the average game in any Canadian hockey market, but it’s especially damning when the city of Ottawa was supposed to be filled with such intense hate. With the immense hype, outsiders were to assume wedding rings were being sold for tickets.
Ottawa came over 1,000 seats short of packing the house, bringing more disgrace to a city that nearly lost its team before Eugene Melnyk stepped up, and is often the butt of jokes in Canada’s original six hockey cities of Toronto and Montreal.
But on the other hand, who can blame them…
There’s simply no defence for Senators fans and their lack of attendance during Heatley Hate Night. But on any other night, I wouldn’t want to show up either.
The Senators’ week was saved by Chris Kelly’s three goals in a win over the Rangers Sunday night. But the problem is that if you’re not named Chris Kelly, you’re not scoring for Ottawa. The last time I checked, there are 21 Senators who don’t have “Kelly” on the back of their jerseys.
Those players combined for one goal over the past week, a brutal offensive display that led to the Sens being shut out twice this week and held scoreless for a total of 190 minutes of hockey. So Ottawa, with the exception of the Heatley embarrassment, I’d actually like to extend my applause. The only way to make an organization take notice of your displeasure is to not show up at the gates. Leafs Nation needs to learn a lesson from their hated Ontario rivals.
The Senators have sunk to ninth in the Eastern Conference after losing five of their last seven games, a stretch in which they’re scored only seven goals. I’m no Nostradamus, but when you’re scoring one goal per game, your offence belongs in a small town barn playing Junior C hockey.
This Crosby guy can sure play hockey
Sidney Crosby is a walking, skating embodiment of this week’s bitterness and angst theme. There are those who call him a whiner, a princess, and label him a serial embellisher, and there are nights when they might be right.
But the problem with greatness is that if you’re great, people will hate you. They don’t necessarily need a reason, but if you give them even the faintest weakness, they’ll use it as your kryptonite. If you even come close to committing a serious infraction, message boards will be flooded instantly.
This is your life if you chose to accept it, hockey star. Crosby has done more than merely accept his role as both hero and villain: he’s embraced it. No one is surprised by his torrid scoring pace this season, but two hat tricks in one week along with 31 points in 15 games is a little ridiculous even by Crosby’s lofty standards.
- Nothing builds a team quite like bomb suits and door busting. Just ask the Washington Capitals.
- The update on the Scott Gomez watch is still quite depressing despite his two goals this week. Gomez now has nine points this season, although in fairness his total after 27 games last year wasn’t exactly leaps and bounds better (four goals and 15 points). Gomez’s infamous mammoth salary will have him pocket $8,000,000 this season according to CapGeek.com, meaning he’s currently making over $885,000 per point.
- It’s the second week of December, and the Leafs have already been shut out six times. Over the past two seasons, Toronto has been blanked a total of 10 times.
- Friday’s 4-0 victory over Anaheim was Detroit’s 24th consecutive win while allowing three or fewer goals.
The thing that’s only interesting to me
- Maybe it’s because I live in Toronto, where the suits at the Air Canada Centre are plentiful, and the cost of a lower bowl ticket could feed a family of four for a week. But whenever I see the ticket deals offered by American teams in locations where hockey isn’t exactly the first sport of choice (or the fifth), my jaw has to be pried from the floor. For example, take a gander at the ad that greets viewers of the Anaheim Ducks site. A holiday special will give Anaheim’s eight hockey fans two tickets to three Ducks games, a snuggie, a water bottle, a beanie hat (score!), a player autographed item, a hot dog and pop at each game, and a lift ticket for a local California ski resort. I would have no problem becoming a Ducks fan with deals like this.
Pittsburgh Penguins: It’s impossible to put any other team in this spot. The Penguins earn another trip to the penthouse for not only their play this week, but the rampant scoring pace the boys in gold-and-black have been setting over their past 10 games.
Crosby and company have now won nine straight games, a stretch that’s been powered by 31 goals. It’s a pace that puts the Penguins among the nine teams averaging over three goals per game.
Anaheim Ducks: Maybe the ticket deals are so good and the ice girls so are easy to look at because the on-ice product is pathetic.
Anaheim began to show a shred of life this week, winning two of their four games. But the bad still far outweighs the good, as the two losses (to Detroit and Phoenix) were both shutouts. Prior to this week the Ducks had lost six straight games.
Ryan Getzlaf is the leading problem. The centre is still on pace to be around his average of 23 goals per season over the last four years. But two goals over his last 15 games is still insufficient for a struggling team that faded down the stretch last year and missed the playoffs.
- Sidney Crosby: He’s averaging nearly two points a game over his last 15 games. Haters are gonna hate, but Crosby will stay here until he comes back to Earth. If he does.
- Ondrej Pavalec: Dustin Byfuglien was provided the scoring for the resurgent Thrashers, but Pavalec has been the steady backbone. He’s won seven of his last eight starts, allowing only nine goals during that span and earning two shutouts.
- Pavel Datsyuk: The playmaking wizard on one of the league’s hottest teams has two goals and nine assists over Detroit’s last nine games.