Boston Bruins v Chicago Blackhawks

At the end of every speech made by every American politician today, you will hear a common refrain that has become something of a tick, a unique form of Tourette’s that only comes out when pandering to a large portion of the population – “God bless you, and God bless America.”

Allegedly, God has been hanging around this planet forever, sort of like Chris Chelios during the 2000s. America has only been in existence for about 240 years, but politicians have only recently become aware of the need for God to bless America and its citizens at the same time. Some say it originated with Ronald Reagan, others point to a speech from Richard Nixon, but it’s become commonplace over the past decade.

Of course, “God Bless You And God Bless America,” is goofy, but it’s also exclusionary. If you’re a representative from Missouri, and, in theory, you have God listening to your speech about why you think gay people shouldn’t be married in your state, why only ask Him to bless America? Why not Canada? What about some poorer countries that could really use a blessing? Or anyone who is dealing with hardship? “God bless you, and God bless anyone who paid to see Trouble With The Curve.”

Also, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of an invisible man in the sky and doesn’t particularly care if others feel the same, that politician is choosing to ignore you. You’re not as important. You don’t get your own special nod and wink. Forget if you’re atheist – what if you worship Satan? Or perhaps you live by the code of The Highlanders. Where’s the acknowledgement of your existence? Why are you being excluded?

And now for the hockey segue.

The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will play at least four, but no more than seven, games starting Wednesday that will decide which team wins the Stanley Cup. This is not a unique occurrence. The Stanley Cup has existed in some form since 1892 and has been the NHL’s trophy of choice since 1926, the year the Montreal Canadiens drafted Chris Chelios.

Yet the 2013 Stanley Cup Final is somehow more special than any in recent memory, for it pits “Original Six” combatants, something that hasn’t happened since 1979.

“Original Six” is hockey’s version of “God Bless You And God Bless America.” Whenever a matchup occurs that involves the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks or Rangers, an involuntary reflex occurs that causes people to blurt out “This is an Original Six matchup.” That’s how the game is marketed on television, how it is framed by announcers.

Say what you want about the NHL’s marketing style – I hear that guy from that TV show that you don’t really watch is taking over the Twitter account for two hours on Friday – the fact that “Original Six” is something people parrot today speaks to the campaign’s power and reach.

It should be noted that those six teams were not the first in the NHL. They are certainly the oldest in existence today, but they are not original. The first four teams in the NHL in 1917 were the Montreal Canadiens (The Original One!), the Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Arenas who evolved into the Leafs. Quebec and Hamilton had teams for a stretch, and the Montreal Maroons came into existence in the 1920s.

The New York Rangers were founded in 1926, but they weren’t even New York’s original hockey team. The New York Americans existed from 1925-42 before folding.

Eventually, when the dust settled on all the folding and relocating and name changing, we were left with the six teams that have the “Original Six” misnomer today. These six teams weren’t the NHL’s only six teams until the 1942-43 season, and it remained that way until the league doubled in size for the 1967-68 season.

So really, the illustrious “Original Six” era existed for 25 years and didn’t begin until 25 years after the NHL was founded.

Imagine if descendants of people who came over on The Mayflower were referred to as “Original Americans,” speaking nothing of the indigenous people who were already there and ignoring the immigrants who arrived later. That’s what it’s like when you say “Original Six.”

So where did “Original Six” come from? It was invented in 1967 to distinguish the super cool teams like Chicago and Boston from the loser new ones like Philadelphia and St. Louis. Who knows why it was really invented, but it was probably something used to placate those six teams, which are, in reality, the NHL’s breadwinners and most popular teams and tend to get special treatment, like an entire realignment plan driven by one team or a lockout engineered and orchestrated by the owner of one of those teams.

“God Bless You And God Bless America” speaks to about 90 percent of the U.S. population; “Original Six” keeps those teams feeling special, speaks to the fan bases of the most popular NHL teams and any hockey fan older than 50, so yeah, it’s probably about 90 percent of fans.

Can you name the first four, six or eight NFL, MLB or NBA teams? If so, get a life. But even if you can, who cares? It’s 2013. There’s a better-than-average chance you weren’t born when the “Original Six” existed. As a Blackhawks fan, if you never heard “Original Six” again, would you suddenly care less about them?

There are now 30 teams in the NHL and just the other day I used my phone to look up the lyrics to a Daft Punk song. We are living in the future. It’s great. A coach was fired by Skype over the weekend. Skype! If you heard “Skype” during the Original Six era, it was probably an anti-Semitic term lobbed around on the ice. Look out your window and it’s practically The Jetsons out there.

The same way “God Bless You And God Bless America” alienates people, “Original Six” does the same to the 24 other teams and their fan bases. Why is Chicago vs. Boston is more meaningful than Los Angeles vs. Pittsburgh? That Tampa Bay championship in 2004? Carolina’s in 2006? Anaheim’s in 2007? Somehow these teams failing to exist when black people couldn’t vote in the United States makes them less important?

Considering how rock-solid the “Original Six” franchises are financially, a marketing campaign that treats the other 24 teams as somehow lesser is counter productive. Don’t you want to grow things in the newer cities? When you shout “Original Six,” you are the real-life version of the guy on the Internet who declares “FIRST” in the comments section of a really good blog post that eventually gets way more quality comments as time progresses.

Oh. History. Tradition. That’s right. I forgot about that. OK. Let’s examine the history and tradition of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. I bet it’s glorious.

How many Stanley Cups did the Bruins win during the Original Six era? Zero! None! Let’s celebrate that Original Six history! Zero Cups! What a franchise.

Beyond that, who can forget when Hall of Fame defenseman and 21-season member of an awesome Original Six franchise bolted for the Colorado Avalanche and eventually won a Stanley Cup there in 2001. The Avalanche had existed for five seasons in Denver before winning Bourque’s elusive Cup. He didn’t seem to care Nirvana’s first album was older than the Avalanche. He just wanted to win.

Let’s not ignore the wonderful tradition of Chicago, either. Despite existing in a league for 40 years that had as many teams as your grandmother had cats, the franchise has a grand total of four Cups to its credit. They did win one during the Original Six era in 1961, but didn’t win another one until 2010 because apparently history and tradition doesn’t matter once the puck is dropped and you have mostly bad teams.

Not that we should be looking to ESPN for judgment on sports teams, but they declared the Blackhawks the worst pro sports franchise in 2004. They had an owner so inept and insane in Bill Wirtz that he didn’t allow for the team’s home games to be aired in Chicago. The first time all 82 games were aired locally was in 2008-09. Four seasons ago! History! Tradition!

Sorry, San Jose, Ottawa, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Columbus. You’re just never going to have “Original Six” credentials like those.

There’s nothing wrong with history, but simply being old does not make you historic.

It doesn’t matter when you broke ground on your NHL franchise. Not today. Fans in the 24 other cities don’t need constant reminders that they didn’t get in on the ground floor of the NHL. If being an “Original Six” team was so wonderful and all that mattered, maybe the Blackhawks would’ve drawn more than 14,000 a night before they started winning in 2008-09.

Could it be fans care more about the quality of the team than when it was born? Can’t we just do away with the idiotic term?

Nope. It’s grown too strong and powerful to be stopped, like Chris Chelios in the 1990s.

God bless you, and God bless America.

Stanley Cup Final prediction

Before the season, I picked Boston to beat San Jose in the Final. Now, I can’t prove this, but I was about 10 seconds away from predicting Boston to beat Chicago. I was sitting there, staring at the e-mail, convinced someone unexpected would come out of the West, and I had Chicago sitting there. But, being the doofus that I am, I decided, “This team isn’t getting to the Cup Final with Corey Crawford. Only a great fool would believe that. San Jose it is!”

Well, here we are. I am the doofus.

I am one of those sick people who sticks to preseason predictions until the end, so of course I’m going with Boston in six. I bought stock in Corey Crawford Is A Liability and I’m hanging onto that stock until the bitter end.

Chicago has a three-line team while Boston is a four-line team, even with national hero Gregory Campbell out for the postseason. Chicago has more blue-line depth, but Boston has the best defenseman on the planet. I like Bergeron’s line vs. Toews’ line. I like Krejci’s line vs. Handzus’ line. And I like oh my god there’s a Handzus line. How are the Blackhawks here?

It’s pretty even, but I’m going with Boston. Like it matters. Who cares?

Four questions: Conference calls, Damien Brunner, Game of Thrones, Me

Dave,
Is there anything worse in life than being stuck on a conference call when you have to poop?

Greg

A trained conference call professional will evacuate his or her bladder/bowels at least 15 minutes before the start of a conference call. Of course, sometimes nature can be especially unpredictable in the area of bowel movements, so there’s no telling when you will be forced to press cheeks to porcelain.

Depending on the type of conference call, you can do one of two things if you had Taco Bell and four cups of coffee for lunch and you want to be prepared. If it’s a call where your participation isn’t required, simply set up a digital recorder near the phone, which you will put on speaker, and record the call as you release your bombs over enemy territory. When you’re done, you come back to your desk and you have the parts you missed and you feel lighter.

The second option is if you must be an active participant. You have to take the call on your cell phone. You need to be dexterous as you mute and unmute while doing your poop as to not allow a thunderous splash to trickle into the call, but it can be done. Also, if you’re one of those weirdos in your office who lets out orgasmic groans each and every time you push out a loaf, you need to have a mute button. Also, stop making those noises because you’re freaking out everyone in the marketing department.

And don’t worry about talking on the toilet. People on conference calls sound like they are inside an empty corn silo anyway. It’s probably because everyone on conference calls is taking a dump.

Dave,

Is Damien Brunner going anywhere? I’d like to see him back in Detroit, but not sure what the price will be to retain him. Any other teams you see upping bids? 

Alex
Washington, D.C.

I don’t know. I’m not friends his agent and I don’t know Damien Brunner. I have never spoken to him. I don’t really feel like guessing about this. I hope whatever Damien decides, it is the decision that makes him and his family happiest.

Dave,

What am I do I do for the next year without Game of Thrones?

Gregg

Yeah, this is tough. Can we talk about the season finale? And Emilia Clarke in general? I understand that the GOT MO is go balls-out in the penultimate episode, then set up the next season in the finale. I don’t understand why that’s the thing. There’s a year in between seasons. Why set up something that’s a year away? At the start of this season, I could barely remember what happened at the end of season 2. If you’re going with a 70-minute finale, something has to happen besides a white lady crowd surfing on recently freed dark-skinned slaves while dragons fly around.

And is it me, or does it seem like the writers of the show realized last season that Emilia Clarke isn’t a very good actress and really chopped down her role, scenes and lines this season? I haven’t counted up her lines, but it seems like she’s rarely talking on camera anymore and when she does, it’s some dialect that isn’t English, which masks her inability to emote. “Should we have her end the show with some dialogue? Or just let her crowd surf. Yeah. Crowd surf. It’s the only way.”

I broke down after Sunday’s show and did the “Emilia Clarke bad actress” Google search and was comforted by knowing it’s not just me. Can you imagine her delivering a monologue the way Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did in the hot tub of emotions?

Anyway, the first thing you should do is cancel HBO. Outside of Game of Thrones and Veep, it’s a wasteland of awful television and movies. It’s like Mad Max only Tina Turner is played by Lena Dunham and instead of Thunderdome it’s a room where you’re forced to watch Girls, The Newsroom and Behind the Candelabra on a constant loop until the end of time.

I would suggest quitting your job and backpacking through Europe. Then perhaps hitchhiking through the American South. That should provide your fix of British accents, murder and incest.

Dave,
Have you always been a hockey fan? What made you go into journalism? How has covering the games changed the game for you as a fan? The good, the bad, the ugly… the funny.

Thanks,
Christine

I get these questions a lot — and answer them a lot — so let’s consider this the last time they will be asked and answered in a public forum.

1. No. From the time of my birth until the age of 5, I was generally a fan of sleeping, pooping, peeing, crying, eating, things that made funny noises or had shiny lights and cartoons. I can’t tell you exactly when I decided I loved hockey, but probably around age 9 or 10.

2. Poor judgment and a lack of proper guidance.

3. I used to be a fan of the Devils. Now I am not. It began to feel absurd to root for or against people you get to know on a personal basis. I can absolutely care less about them winning or losing, same as any other NHL team. I am sports dead inside.

The good: My life no longer revolves around whether or not a group of human beings who don’t really know me win a sporting contest.

The bad: There is no bad. If you can get to this point, do it. Chances are you won’t, but it’s great. Ever see a guy trying to beat addiction going through detox? Once you get through the tremors, it becomes wonderful.

The ugly: Tampa Bay’s uniforms.

(E-mail dave111177 at gmail dot com if you want a question answered next week that isn’t related to me)