In what is perhaps IPB greatest exercise in irrelevance, we are now setting forth on game diarizing FSN’s summer series of “15 To Remember”.
With no lead-in from FSN, we just get launched into the somber, serious intro from Doc from this actual game, which was our season opener. There is sweeping, portentious music, and Doc intones weightily, as we emark on the Devils’ 25th season, about Cups that have been won, players seeking more, young guys looking to win their first, a “new coach” and the GM/CEO/President. We can’t help but snicker about the last two. As for the young guys looking to win their first Cup… sigh. Next year boys. Next year.
Wha-huh??? This game starts with what Doc flippantly describes as the “Parise, Gomez, Gionta” combination. Like, oh yeah, that! Considering that the Devils top three lines were set in stone for what seemed like the last 75 games of the season, it’s really bizarre to see Parise up with the “GG” part of the EGG line, and we are not even going to know what to do when we see Patty alongside Travis and Langer. What would that line even be called? “PZ Pops” just doesn’t have that same ring to it.
19:34 Things really did start well for us this year, didn’t they? Chico sounds so optimistic as Gomez forechecks well, Whitey gets a shot from the point, Zach artfully tips it, and Cam Ward never even knows what hit him. This marks the first and last time Gomer forechecked all season.
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The tenth in our 118-part series.
The Hartford Whalers
When we first feel head over heels in love with the sport of hockey we were the fan equivalents of golden retriever puppies. We approached everything about the sport with a boundless enthusiasm, running around, tails wagging, yipping “hockeyhockeyhockey”, never questioning anything. Now, 12 cynical years later we’re more like wise old Standard Poodles, reserving enthusiasm only for when it is most deserved. In the beginning, though, there was one team that perfectly met our golden retriever needs, the Hartford Whalers. They had a tall, dark and handsome (and once upon time, young) captain in Brenden Shanahan. They had a speedy, flashy forward in Geoff Sanderson. They had scrappy forwards like Nelson Emerson, crazy twitchy goalies like Jason Muzatti, and grizzled but unassuming vets like Ron Francis. They had a super broadcasting tandem, pairing the subtle and sly John Forslund with the not-yet-buying-into-his-own-myth Daryl Reaugh. They had the old Sportschannel vibe, where everything felt low-key and friendly. And, needless to say, they had that theme song, a perfect slice of hockey nostalgia for newbie fans like us.
Things ended badly for the Whalers and us (Shanahan introduced us the ugly “it’s a business” side of the game when he stripped himself of the captaincy and demanded a trade, the team relocated to Carolina of all places and didn’t take their theme song with them, and, worst of all, they won the game that was the second-to-last nail in the coffin of the Devils’ Cup defense hopes in ’96) but they did give us one gift that we’ll always cherish — our first live game. Why did we trek all the way to Hartford for our first game instead of staying closer to home in NJ? Who knows. But the fact remains our first live game was Whalers-Islanders in Hartford and it was the start of something beautiful for us. And although we were only followers of the team for one year, and quickly found our RIGHT team in the Devils, the Whalers remain near and dear to our hearts.
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