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Archive for September, 2007

It’s time to do some season previewing, and this year IPB’s going at it all Bucci-style. That’s right, Gentle Reader — Just like Bucci does, we wrote down 30 song lyrics we thought were awesome and cool, then randomly assigned them to teams in the hopes that they would add a depth of meaning and emotional resonance to our predictions. Yeah, you heard us: we literally drew song lyrics out of a hat to assign to each team, exactly the way we assume Bucci does. We would be remiss not to mention that we are hockey savants, super-geniuses who correctly predicted who would win the Cup last year, so you can definitely take everything we say here to the bank. Today we’re starting with the Western Conference, listed from worst to first (click here for our Eastern Conference preview).
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Well, Gentle Reader, it’s another beautiful day here for all manner of outdoorsy, autumnal activities, but only a crazy person would opt to do those things instead of watching hockey! So we’re settling back, keeping our fingers crossed that the tech crew at O2 arena has learned how to turn on the lights, and hoping against hope that the Ducks don’t remember how to play hockey before the end of today’s game.

Oh, that’s right! Today’s game is on VS! No Brian Hayward for us… we hope. Instead it’s Gary Green and Paul Romanuk, two guys we’ve never consciously heard call a game before. Nice of VS to bring their “A” team to the NHL’s stupid big media-event season opener, instead of just coopting the NHL Network’s feed. That’s just the sort of move a big-time sports broadcaster like ESPN would do.

After Bernier impressed us all yesterday, the Kings are doing what we all would have done if we were in their shoes – starting LaBarbera instead. In the studio show, Larry Murphy seems to think this is a good idea, because the Kings would just be “setting [Bernier] up for failure” if they left him in. Pookie says Cloutier is down in the minors saying, “Vindication! They set me up to fail! It wasn’t my fault!”
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This is the last submission we got for the fabulous Reasons You Love Hockey series, and we think it’s only fitting that it comes from our Devils buddy, Morgan. We’ve known Morgan for as long as we’ve been attending Devils games in person, so about 10 years now. Frankly, at this point, we can’t imagine being Devils fans without him and his unique insight (“I’d like to see Odelein traded to the moon for a microbe to be named later” being our personal favorite Morgan-ism). Our last year as season ticket holders was more about sitting up in the last row of the arena and hanging out with him than it was about watching the team (they weren’t doing much that year to warrant paying any attention to the ice). So it’s our pleasure to present to you Morgan’s reason he loves hockey:

Esprit de Corps and Trying to be a Plus

Being a hapless Yank from south of the boarder, I never learned to skate as a kid, and gaining a proficiency in ice skating beyond “a moose stranded on a frozen lake” has proved to be difficult for me to learn in my fourth decade of life. I loved hockey (still do), and desperately wanted to play. I finally found a non-skating, co-ed street hockey league last year, whereupon I joined up with a brand new team in this league. Being a Devils fan, I naturally played the part of the stay at home defenseman, and I played pretty well. I ended up minus 16 for a team that had a goal differential of… hang on, I can look this up… HOLY CRAP MINUS 89!
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Can you believe it, Gentle Reader? It’s hockey! For reals! It might be from England, but according to the schedule, it counts. It’s impossibly bright and sunny here, and this noon start time feels like we should be watching football, but who are we to complain? IT’S HOCKEY!

Unlike many with fancy TVs, we’re not watching today on HDNet, since the tree in our backyard is blocking our satellite HD feeds, and Comcast doesn’t want to carry it on our cable. Instead, we’re rocking the Center Ice, with the Kings feed; we love these two guys. Bob Miller does a pretty decent play-by-play, and Jim Fox is like the most chipper guy in the universe. We love his cadence when the Kings do something crappy – they could take a catastrophically stupid penalty and he’ll chirp, “And that was a stupid play by [that guy], so now the Kings are going to be down a man!” like it’s something to be really happy about. We heartily approve of Jim Fox.
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The last in our 118-part series.

The Stanley Cup

Lord Stanley’s Cup is the undisputed heavyweight champion of sporting trophies. Everyone knows all the reasons why: it’s the hardest to win; it’s passed on from team to team; it’s presented to the team captain (not the owner) on the ice (not in the dressing room later); it’s identified the world over and everyone knows immediately what its proper name is; it’s engraved with the names of everyone who’s won it (from the Rocket Richards to the Drew Millers); it’s freaking huge and weighs more than a guy with a previously undisclosed separated shoulder and 6 weeks of playoff wear and tear on his body should be lifting (but damned if Scotty Stevens wasn’t going to hoist it anyway). But here’s the real kicker with the Cup — there is nothing to prepare you for how stunningly beautiful it is in real life. We had the opportunity to have our pictures taken with the Cup after the Devils 2003 win. We’ll admit our enthusiasm for the event waned with each passing hour of standing in a lengthy line that never seemed to move. But when we got close enough to see the guest of honor, we suddenly understood what was taking so long. When you see the Cup, polished and especially shiny (we like to think it has a happier sheen when it’s graced with the names of your favorite team), there is nothing you can do but stand and gape with a ridiculous grin on your face. Each name is like a tiny pinprick of light in the glowing firmament of hockey history, each successive ring is a forged promise of the strong foundation of our favorite game, each engraved curlicue on the bowl is a filigreed embodiment of the grace and beauty of the game. And wrapped up in that trophy is a century of the hopes and dreams of every player and every fan who’s ever fallen in love with hockey.

And starting tomorrow, every team in the league is gunning for it!

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The 117th in our 118-part series.

Opening Night

What day of the year feels like your birthday, Christmas (or other similar religious holiday), Thanksgiving (or other similar national holiday), and every other fabulous holiday all rolled into one, but a zillion times better? That’s right: NHL Opening Night. After months of no hockey, and before that months of playoffs with its ever-decreasing number of teams (along with the decrease in teams comes a decreasing chance you’re going to like the outcome every night), Opening Night is like water in the desert. Or actually, more like manna from heaven. Except even that’s not quite a strong enough term to describe it’s soul-enriching succor. It just… Opening Night. One day you go from desperately hoping to find a preseason game — any preseason game — somewhere in the 600 channels on DirecTV, and the next day you go to having real hockey. And the morning after that, when you go online, there are real games, real standings, real league leaders, and a lineup of games on slate for that night. And the next night. And the next night. At the risk of stating the stupidly obvious, Opening Night brings hockey back! It is the single best, symbolic, significant day of the year.

Okay, so this season is starting with a wonky stutter-step, with these two crazy day games in London, then a few days off, and then what will really feel like Opening Night on Wednesday, but the fact remains: tomorrow it all comes back. And if you don’t want to count tomorrow as Opening Day, then defer the celebration until Wednesday. One way or the other, it’s time to break out the bubbly and start pommerdoodling!

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We have a terrible track record when it comes to attending NHL practices. We’ve had the distinct pleasure of sitting through an optional game-day skate in Buffalo that featured a grand total of six Amerks and Andrew Peters, and on this past Saturday we spent three hours freezing our fannies on the bleachers at South Mountain Arena so we could take in the sights and sounds of exactly zero players taking the ice. So when Pookie decided to take a day off from work so we could make the long drive back up to West Orange today, we should have expected the worst. Well, call us optimists (or people who don’t learn from our mistakes), but we had high hopes. We also came prepared — after spending over five practice-less hours lurking at the rink over the weekend, this time we brought a travel cribbage board.
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