Well, now that the Ducks have officially “made a series” of this Stanley Cup Final, or whatever, and now that the League has weighed in on the Pronger hit, and now that we’re sitting down with some daiquiris after some hard, rain-soaked hours laboring as gentlewoman farmers, it’s time for IPB to start grappling with some ugly truths.
Ugly Truth #1:
The Ducks are no better than they ought to be. Or whatever it was crotchety old men used to say about “loose women” in ’50s TV shows. Thanks to how badly we wanted to see the Senators get shellacked, we were willing to blind ourselves to the fact that the Ducks are really no better. In a season that was all about the new NHL, with its charm, and its spunk, and its “isn’t this so much better than things used to be?” attitude, the Ducks were out on the Left Coast gooning things up and generally being a group of thuggish asswipes. But we could all ignore them because their games start at the ungodly hour of 10:30 PM Eastern, and, frankly, it’s just easier to try to pretend Brian Burke isn’t really still involved with the NHL. But the evil architect of the infamous Bertuzzi Incident also managed to stumble onto possession of a team that is wicked good at hockey, despite all his efforts to make them otherwise, and here they are, the nearest thing resembling the forces of Good against the soulless, rapacious, holier-than-thou Senators. Unlike last season’s Final, where there the real winner, whatever the outcome, was the fans, this year’s SCF is a lose-lose, and last night’s game just reminded us of that.
Ugly Truth #2:
Chris Neil. He’s the Rollo Tomasi of this series, in that he gets away with everything: dirty play, dangerous hits, classless taunting, he does it all. And yet the announcers lap it all up as if it’s some cute act, like a cat that’s been trained to ride a unicycle. We don’t care that he’s been an integral part in some big goals this playoffs, he’s still lowering the standards of sportsmanship and skilled play that most of the rest of his teammates strive for. So why should we be excited and happy for him when he scores? Couldn’t Doc’s call for his goals go something like, “And Neil scores! Which is a pleasant change from his usual charging hits to the head and the disgusting lack of respect he shows to his opponents!” Moreover, on the missing teeth front, aren’t we all past that? Even Heatley’s wearing teeth these days. Missing teeth does not a hockey player make, Chris. It’s not cute, it’s not endearing, it’s not “classic hockey”. It’s just ugly, immature and frankly, it makes it seem like Neil isn’t taking his job very seriously. It smacks of unprofessionalism, and if there’s one thing IPB can’t stand, it’s unprofessionlism. Furthermore, with the way NBC went on about it last night, you’d think Neil invented having babies. For the love of God, just shut up about the baby!
Ugly Truth #3:
In 2003 we almost didn’t want to go to Game 7 of the SCF, fearing that our Devils would be the team that allowed the words “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” to be engraved on the Cup. The very thought of it made us sick to our stomachs. Fortunately the Hockey Gods intervened then (how else can you explain Mike Rupp scoring the Cup winner?) and again before this season. “Anaheim Ducks”, without the stench of Disney, is a far more palatable phrase to adorn that most precious of trophies. But the fact remains that there are far too many players in this series whose names we’d rather not see engraved on the same trophy as our heroes, Scott Stevens, Marty Brodeur and Jay Pandolfo. (You heard us! Jay Pandolfo!) First up (and this has nothing to do with the hit last night, so let’s just not bring it up, shall we?) Chris Pronger. His play has never once warranted the media splurpage he gets. Also, Teemu Selanne. Sure he’s a good player, but just because a guy’s played a lot of years and scored a ton of points, doesn’t mean it’s a feel-good story to see him win. The guys who deserve the be feel-good stories when they win the Cup at long last are the players who are already in hockey’s pantheon. Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson are not in that pantheon. Not now, and not when one of them is hoisting the Cup this coming week. Not everyone is Ray Bourque, you know? Case in point: Dave Andreychuk. He was the feel-good story in 2004, but really? Does anyone (besides maybe his mum and dad) feel that much better having seen him win? Anyone who watched that pathetic excuse for an honoring ceremony in TB this season knows even the Lightning could care less. On the Senators side, there’s the aforementioned gutless puke, Chris Neil. See Ugly Truth #2 for all the reasons he shouldn’t win it. Mike Comrie has been jerking his teams around since he started, seemingly because he thinks he’s better than them and the league. Oh, and then there’s Wade Redden. Schnookie has been trying to make him her favorite non-Devil player for ten freakin’ years, but because he’s been dropping the ball over and over and over, she’s been forced into thinking that split-ended, monocle-browed, quadzilla-ed Ryan “Crunchy” Miller is the bee’s knees. This is a travesty, people. A travesty.
Ugly Truth #4:
We want the Senators to lose because we are so sick and tired of being insulted by the Canadian media. Because we’re obsessed fans of this sport, and, presumably, because we’re gluttons for punishment (actually, that’s kind of redundant, isn’t it?), we pour over ever word about the playoffs that we can find on the interwebs at work. Which means we’re stuck reading a lot of Canadian newspapers online in which they insufferably gloat about how pathetic and unworthy of respect the American hockey fan is. Well, from IPB we send a hearty “Fuck you!” to the self-satisfied Canadian sportswriters. It used to cute, this “Poor little us, so hated by the League, so put-upon, so unable to compete against the American dollar” spew, but this is three straight years with a Canadian team in the SCF, so we just don’t want to hear it anymore. And to cut down the American fan is even more galling; since we live in a country that enjoys a crowded professional sports landscape, we have to be that much more dedicated, that much more hard-working, to follow our beloved team. If anyone deserves a break in this post-lockout NHL world, it’s the American fan.
Ugly Truth #5:
This truth can be best conveyed in an open letter:
Dear Ryan Getzlaf’s teeth,
What is going on here? Does he never clean you? Does he chew tobacco or something? Have they not introduced toothbrushes to Re-jay-jay, Saskatchewan yet? Because seriously, you kids are making it really hard for us to like him. Some people dislike your boy for his rat face and assy smirk. Others point to his questionable work ethic and apparent misplaced sense of entitlement. Still others mock him for his youthful baldness. Hey, we like the baldness. We admire a man who can own his state of shiny pate with aplomb, a guy who says, “Screw it. My hair might be going, but I’m still sexy as hell.” We point to one Ed Harris as an example. But we digress. The fact is, you, teeth, are heinous. Is he assuming you all can go the way of his hair and he’ll still look good? Because if so, he is grievously, grievously misinformed.
Ugly Truth #6:
We should be better than this, after over a decade of responsibly hating, as all good Devils fans do, every big-name star. But we can’t deny it: we love Sidney Crosby. Adore him. We were in a terrible place during last night’s game, but as soon as his dorky little visage appeared on our TV during the first intermission, everything was coming up roses. And what is it that we love best about him? His adorkableness. Has there ever been a more adorkable professional athlete than Sid? We want to take this moment to share with you, Gentle Reader, a glimpse into the wonderful way that Sid has wormed his way into our hearts:
The scene was an early-morning drive from Buffalo to Toronto to visit the Hall of Fame on our March road trip. We were on the Canada side of the border, approaching the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe” (and seriously, puh-lease! If you’re not in the heart of the I-95 Corridor, you can’t even pretend to consider yourself as such), when we passed a megaplex advertising on one of its screens a film called “Firehouse Dog”. This fine bit of cinema had yet to hit the States, so we assumed (incorrectly, as it turned out) that it was one of those hilarious Canada-only movies that you see advertised sometimes during commercials on HNIC. Calling back to an interview we saw with Sid following his media-assigned viewing of “The Rocket” (which truly was one of those hilarious Canada-only movies you see advertised sometimes during commercials on HNIC), Schnookie suddenly started riffing an imaginary interview between Sid and a CBC Sports talking head:
Interviewer: [voiceover] Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby had a chance today to see the new film “Firehouse Dog”, and I sat down with him to share his thoughts.
Interviewer: [in person] So Sid, you saw “Firehouse Dog”.
Sid: Yes. I like movies. Bleep bloop.
Interviewer: Is that so? What kind of movies do you like?
Sid: [protracted, slightly painful pause] I like, um, inspirational movies. About sports. Especially hockey. Actually, I like just the hockey, and not so much the movie. [further long pause] And I like movies about Firehouse Dog.
Interviewer: So what can you tell us about what happens in “Firehouse Dog”?
Sid: [doing that weird, jowly swallowing thing he does when he composes his thoughts] Well, in this movie Firehouse Dog has to overcome a lot of tension and violence. Dogs and cats are fighting, you see, and he has to stop them.
Interviewer: Do you see a lot of yourself in Firehouse Dog?
Sid: [with the utmost sincerity] Oh, for sure.