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Archive for January, 2009

We turned on HNIC tonight to discover that the Leafs are holding a number retirement ceremony tonight. And for that, we thank them. Why? Because we realize now, as much as we bemoan the ugsome presences of Blobby Holik and Brendan Shanahan in the Devils line-up, the role of aging, ex-Devil could be filled by someone much, much worse. It could be Dooouuugggg Gilmour.

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It’s Friday of a looooong week at work, and the day after a playoff-esque win over the Bruins, so instead of diarizing this game, we’re going to give ourselves a — what’s it called when Zubrus takes a day off from practice? — a maintenance night. So join us for an open thread as we take in another night of hockey.

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This has not been an easy couple of weeks, Gentle Reader, as PandoNation has watched its emperor/god get shunted aside to make room for one of our all-time least favorite players. We’ve been angry and mopey by turns, and today, with the news that Pando was once again going to be scratched, but this time in his hometown, we reached breaking point. Here’s the thing – several years ago a friend of ours was devastated when her favorite player was traded from the Devils. We asked her if she was a fan of that player or a fan of the team, and she honestly couldn’t answer. We don’t want to be like that. We don’t want to be the fans who are more devoted to any one player than the team, even one who is as emblematic of all that’s good about his team as Pando. We had a long (totally work-related) discussion this afternoon that culminated in this proclamation from Schnookie:

I have no control over it, and it frustrates me too much to think about. Not least because I don’t want to be the person who hates her team because they’re jerking around her favorite player. Favorite Player should be nasty, brutish and short. Pando’s not it anymore. Travis is. The Favorite Player is dead! Long live the Favorite Player!

And so begins a new age here at stately IPB Manor. After almost a decade of Pando primacy, it’s time to let the apotheosis happen, let Pando ascend to the firmament, hang that 20 in the rafters of our hearts, and crown Travis an emperor/god.

If this means Travis is going to be traded this year, we quit.

FIRST PERIOD

19:34 Do the Bruins shoot at the wrong goal? Are they the opposite of everyone else? Seriously, the teams are both facing the wrong way to start this out.

18:28 TravisNation’s emperor/god starts the game off with an easy shot that Thomas has no problem stopping. Hm. New emperor/god, same old shit.

17:44 It should be noted that Chico spent the intro to this game comparing Zach to a mountain lion. Yes, we are going to spend all evening making that sound that the Panthers play after their goals. No, there’s nothing Zach can do to stop us.

16:57 Nothing much is happening in the Devils zone, and all of a sudden Thornton and the Iron Boar toss their gloves in the air and have a fight that involves the Iron Boar leaping on Thornton like a mountain lion. Zach seethes with jealousy on the bench.

IPB Fight

It should be noted that we don’t really like when Iron Boar fights – it seems like it shouldn’t be his job, and we feel even more so when he skates to the box waving his hand as if it’s hurt.

15:57 The emperor/god of PaulieMartinNation flattens Lucic at the blue line. It doesn’t do much good, though, as the Bruins set up in the Devils zone and proceed to spend an entire shift looking like they’re toying with the Devils until Clemmer is forced to cover the puck in his typical bobbly fashion.

14:09 Chico gives us the Tim Thomas Tale of Redemption, and Pookie says, “I’ve just figured out what Thomas’s story is! He’s the girl who gets cut on the third episode of ANTM, and says ‘You’re going to hear from me again.’ And now Tyra’s hearing from him again.” Pause. “Clemmer’s story isn’t that good. He’s the one who gets to stick around because he’s an obnoxious reality show contestant.”

12:12 Our obnoxious reality show contestant makes a very good quick save off a shot from the slot. Whatever, Clemmer. Whatever.

11:05 Shortly after giving up the puck directly in front of his own goal, Madden hurtles headfirst along the far boards into Clarkson, and looks rattled for a moment. We wonder if maybe Pando might be playing himself back into the lineup right now.

10:32 Doc also thinks the name Byron Bitz is hilarious. He doesn’t say it in so many words, but we can tell.

9:23 Chico says, “Good news for the Devils: Dainius Zubrus has a big snarl for this game tonight.” We are puzzled, as Schnookie thinks he said that Zubrus has a big smile for this game.

8:31 The teams trade rushes, but the Bruins’ rush leads to sustained offensive-zone pressure. Pookie: “We’re not winning this game.” On the bright side, though, it appears that Paulie may have broken Lucic.

6:58 The Devils finally set up in the Bruins zone for the first time in what seems like months, and what happens? Shanahan takes a lazy hooking penalty on the near boards. Boomer: “I told you! What did I say? I said he’d take a penalty. Leave him on the bench!” We might be ready to not be the fans who hate their team for pushing Pando to the margins, but that doesn’t mean we’re ever going to relent on Shanahan. (It should be noted that Wideman took an enormous dive on the play. It was a legit hook, but also a legit dive if they’d wanted to call two and two.

6:41 Wheeler is sprung on a breakaway on a nifty set cherry-pick play, and Whitey manages to cleanly dive at him from behind and throw his stick into his feet. Wheeler still gets a shot off, though, and it beats Clemmer, but bounces out off the pipe. Of the lack of a penalty shot call on the play, Pookie says, “Well, that evens out the dive non-call.”

4:59 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What in the hell??? The Devils stay strong in the face of a pretty uptempo PP and suddenly Langer and Travis are rushing down the other way on a two-on-one. Langer doesn’t have a pass option thanks to some strong D, so he just flings the puck toward the net, where it bobbles around all over Thomas for a moment then bounces through him and just over the goal line. Just the way Langer drew it up. 1-0 Devils.

2:26 Hm. It seems Paulie did not, in fact, break Lucic. He’ll never be a henchman for Zach at this rate.

1:51 We come back from commercial to see a teaser for the upcoming intermission content; MSG is going to be providing us with “an insight into Tim Thomas”. Only one?

0:00 The period comes to an end with Whitey smushing Kessel on the near boards, and he gets interviewed on account of it. Now, we watched most of the big Bruins/Caps game earlier this week, and we’ve got to say, this was a way more feisty, up-tempo, intense period than we saw from that one.

FIRST INTERMISSION

Holy shit, you guys — Tim Thomas invented yoga.

SECOND PERIOD

19:55 Chico points out that the Devils, having given up nothing in the first, have further cemented their standing as the best first-period team in the league. Yes, but now it’s the second period. And there is no way they’re the best second-period team in the league.

18:45 Zach suddenly finds himself at the side of the slot with the puck thanks to a Chara turnover, but he’s not quite able to beat a down-and-out Thomas. Pookie: “That’s why mountain lions shouldn’t play hockey.”

18:21 Langer’s fired. The Poppers are swirling madly, and when Thomas leaves a rebound in front of an open side of the net, but Langer’s facing the wrong way with his stick held at waist height, so he has no chance of putting it away.

17:46 Well, that was our favorite non-goal-scoring shift of all season. The Poppers just put on a clinic, and the whole thing culminates in a delightful exchange of Lucic trying to get back at Paulie by steamrolling him out of the zone and out of camera range, then Paulie springing back into the picture to deftly keep in a clearing attempt by the Bruins to set up one last good scoring chance before Thomas finally gets a whistle.

14:35 The fans are starting to get restless about the relentless Devils offensive pressure, and just as the boos are starting to crescendo on a Zubrus/Patty/Gio shift, Gio puts an end to the Devils momentum by taking a hooking penalty.

13:03 Patty whips a no-look backhand pass to spring Travis and Oduya on a short-handed rush, and honestly, we don’t know who this team is. Since when do the Devils look this interested in skating during the second period? Does this mean the third is going to suck? We don’t trust this game at all.

10:36 Things resume to normal when the Devils’ big, slow, dumb fourth line takes the ice, gets pinned in their own zone, and then, just as the Bruins look to be giving up control of the puck, Holik hauls Savard down from behind and gets called for holding. (Yes, Savard could have been called for the embellishment; once again we have a textbook case of when there is a legitimate infraction and a legitimate case for diving to be called as well.)

9:17 Schnookie: “I get the feeling that the momentum has…” Pookie, finishing for her: “Irrevocably transferred to the other team? Yes. The Unseen Hand has scampered down the ice to the other bench.”

8:36 That was a surprisingly emphatic PK. So emphatic, in fact, that Chico has to marvel at how every Bruins pass seems to be just “a couple of feet off. Or one foot.” For the shorter Bruins, that’s a big problem, but for Chara, there’s a wide margin of error when setting him up for a one-timer.

7:59 Kessel, that skanky little bitch, slashes the Iron Boar. The Iron Boar goes to the bench looking injured, and Kessel goes to the box.

7:00 This is an emphatically awful PP. Of course, it’s got Shanahan and Holik skating on it, so what did we expect?

6:34 Zach lace a perfect pass from behind the net through Thomas’s legs to Langer streaking down the slot, and Thomas makes an insane split save to get a foot on the shot. We’d fire Langer, but that was a really good save.

6:21 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Poppers dig hard at a tiny rebound off a Paulie point shot, and as the Bruins scramble to hold the post, Zach tosses the puck toward the paint from behind the goal line and it banks in off a stunned Thomas. 2-0 Devils.

4:31 Doc tells us that Rupp tortured him earlier today with a discussion of baseball, in which Rupp tried to convince Doc that Manny Ramirez was going to sign with the Pirates. Chico says very seriously, “You know that’s not true for two reasons. One is that the Pirates aren’t going to spend that kind of money. And the other is that Manny’s going to want to play for a team that has a chance to win, which the Pirates don’t.” Doc, feigning injury: “They’re not???” Chico, tenderly: “I know, I know. You don’t normally find that out until early April.” Have we ever mentioned how much we love Doc and Chico.

2:38 A potentially potent Bruins rush comes to naught thanks to some random chance (we may not have noticed the play), and Chico tells us it was the Unseen Hand at play. It definitely seems to have scampered back down the ice toward the Devils bench again.

0:00 The fans at the game don’t agree with us, but these forty minutes have been, without question, the best two periods we’ve seen in ages.

SECOND INTERMISSION

Boomer has busy this evening figuring out all the details that go into the transfer of power from PandoNation to TravisNation, like printing new money and stuff like that. Long after the conversation has moved on, she suddenly pipes up, “Oooh, you’ll have to issue new stamps, too.” That’s why we keep her around — she dots all the “i”s and crosses all the “t”s.

THIRD PERIOD

We come back from intermission to see footage of the old BC days for Clemmer, Mottau and Gio. We had no idea Gio and Mottau played together. In case you were wondering.

19:00 Lucic gets a mini-break, but his lumbering stride lumbers too much, so Oduya cuts him off. Lucic tries to crank a giant slapshot before running out of real estate, and in so doing, launches Oduya’s stick toward the glass. Remembering how Lucic stripped Greene of his stick during the second period, Pookie declares, “Lucic hates the Devils’ sticks!”

18:43 TravisNation throws up from sheer nerves as Travis rips a sassy little wrister through a defender, but hits the post. We demand a review of that! We’re pretty sure it went in. (Um, after further review, we’re pretty sure it didn’t.) Stupid Unseen Hand.

17:41 The hell? Kobasew strips the puck from an oblivious and criminally lackadaisical Clemmer behind the net, then tries to wrap the puck around to stuff it into the vacated goal, but for some reason ends up stuffing his shot hard into the short-side post so it just stays there. In the ensuing wrestling over it, the puck somehow kicks up into the air, and it looks like Clemmer has managed to pull it off the goal line with his glove. How… did that not go in?

Oh, Unseen Hand, you vixen. A video review ends up showing that the puck did go in, and it’s 2-1 Devils. It looks not unlike Salvador shot that into his own goal, too. He must hate the thought of a Clemmensen shutout as much as Boomer does.

13:43 It must be post-All Star Break, because we are nervous as all hell.

13:21 The Bruins fly up the rink on a three-on-three rush, and as soon as they gain the zone, bodies and sticks start flying everywhere. The Devils finally retrieve the puck, and the whistle blows as it’s Whitey who’s crumpled on the ice, clutching at his throat, neck, and shoulder. We go to commercial break as the fans lustily boo (why? The Devils had the puck when the whistle went, morons), and Whitey staggers to the dressing room. When we come back from commercial, we see on replay that Krejci basically ended up skewering Whitey in the throat with the toe of his stick on the rush. Whitey has already returned to the bench, and we get a long look at the vicious welt all over his neck.

12:49 Poop. The Devils to a hapless job of defending a play where the Bruins carry the puck behind the net, and leave Savard alone in front to put a half-whiffed-on shot past Clemmer, who is slow to figure out which side of the net the puck is on. 2-2 game, and Pookie half-jokingly declares, “I am so sick of Clemmensen.” We’re not nervous anymore.

10:51 Chico says what we’re all thinking on a play by Bitz: “Well, Doc, it’s Bitz puttin’ on the Ritz!”

8:40 We have seen so little of the Bruins end of the ice in this period that Doc drily remarks, “It has been a 60 minute game for over a century…” Burn.

8:31 There is what seems to be the first offensive-zone draw for the Devils in the period, and immediately off it, Rupp gets called for picking Savard. Replay reaffirms our long-standing dislike of Savard based on his days with the Rangers where he was the league leader in whipping his head back as if he’d been high-sticked on every play. The first two penalties taken by the big, slow, dumb fourth line could have been two-and-two; this one is just a flat-out missed call where the official bit on the dive. Oh well.

6:30 Just as we are about to say there’s justice in the world, and the PK ends successfully, the PK doesn’t end successfully. Wideman fires a shot from below the blue line, and Lucic appears to tip it past Clemmer to make it 3-2 Bruins. Clearly the trade-off for a good second period from the Devils is to have the usual second period in the third.

3:33 We pin all our hopes and dreams on our new emperor/god as he works the puck up the ice after Langer makes a nice play on the far boards to clear the defensive zone, but then Doc calls Travis “Shanahan” and our hearts break.

2:04 Clarkson isn’t seeing much ice time now, either, having lost his spot on the third line to none other than Shanahan. Shanny’s like a virus spreading across this entire team.

1:45 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Patty! Patty! Patty Elias! It looks like absolutely nothing is going on as Gio pulls up with the puck in the corner to Thomas’s right, and then Gio flings a prayer of a shot/pass toward the net, and Patty, crashing the crease, deflects the puck off his foot and/or leg into the net. 3-3 game.

1:10 Clemmer manages to get a piece of a giant slapshot from the point, and Boomer mutters darkly, “Do you think he can hang on for just this much longer?” We’re suddenly nervous again.

0:16 Zach gets a chance from an impossible angle at the side of the goal, but hits the outside of the net. He then tries to bank a shot in from behind the goal line, and Thomas says, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

0:00 Whew! That’s one more point than we thought we were going to get after watching the wheels fall of in the third period!

OVERTIME

3:49 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOLY FLIRKING SCHNITT! WOOOOO!!!!!! Travis and Langer work the puck smartly off a dump-in, Travis sweeps a pass out to Whitey at the point, Whitey fires a rebound-creating shot at the net, Travis jostles the puck loose, and then Langer is there to whip the puck past Thomas. 4-3 Devils! WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

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Another All-Star Game has come and gone, and as much as the NHL would like us to believe that Ovie was the star of the show, and as much as Chara attempted to prove the league wrong, we believe the true winner of the weekend was Stinger. Katebits brought some fabulous pictures of him to our attention, and the Versus feed showed footage of him cheering rinkside at least five times. It got us thinking back to the lock-out, when (along with Morgan, Boomer, and our friend Paul) we wrote a fake season to make up for the one we lost. One of Schnookie’s assigned match-ups included the Blue Jackets, and halfway through a hockeyless year, it was tough to find inspiration; she turned to the first logical place — the mascot’s bio on the Blue Jacket’s website. The following is the content from the bio (circa 2005) along with Schnookie’s commentary (in italics). It’s as timely now as it was then. (Also, the only updating done to the bio for 2009 is that “Marc Denis” is replaced with “Pascal Leclaire”. We’re pretty sure Mason checks it out before every game, waiting to see his name in the bright lights of Stinger’s bio.)

Player Stats

Name: Stinger

Position: Mascot

Shoots: Right

Height: 6’9″ (from the bottom of his feet to the tip of his antennae)

Weight: Don’t ask

Birthdate: 7/4/1999 [My God. I feel so old.]

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Favorites

Foods: Shark Flambe, Thunderburg Soup [Who doesn’t love Thunderburg soup? Now, Thunderbug soup, on the other hand, is much more of an acquired taste.], Predator Purée and Broiled Duck

Drink: Bug Juice

Book: Any books from the “Brady Brady” series by Mary Shaw

Movie: “A Bug’s Life”

Car: Blue Jackets FANBONI [Henceforth my Prius shall be known as a FANBONI. That is not a word that gets enough everyday use.]

Hobbies: Buzzing around the interNET, Brushing his teeth [This almost doesn’t warrant a comment. I just wanted to make sure you noticed Stinger’s hobby is BRUSHING HIS TEETH. Do kids actually fall for this?], Reading [Which is not as favorite a hobby as brushing his teeth…] and Visiting boys and girls at schools and hospitals.

Player: Marc Denis (#30) — because he’s as quick as a bee and plays like a butterfly [and he’s the only Blue Jacket anyone has ever heard of]! It doesn’t hurt that Stinger was showcased on Marc’s helmet for the first three seasons. [Maybe Marc Denis could fill up some of that spare time he’s so notorious for by brushing his teeth more often.]

Career Notes

If Big Bird and Bart Simpson collided in the rink, the resulting character might just be Stinger. [O-kaaaaay…] Kids will love his hug-ability. [Shouldn’t that read: “BUG-ability?”] Adults will take to his irrepressible irreverence. Stinger has something for everyone!

While Stinger is definitely mischievous, we can’t lose sight that his antics are always focused on the opponent’s mascot. [Harvey the Hound, I’m looking at you. And Thunderbutt. But good old T.B.’s antics tend to be inwardly focused, bordering on scary self-hate…] While he certainly interacts in a fun, positive way with home team supporters, the other teams’ mascots and fans are always the recipients of his impish charm. [Is that what the kids are calling it these days?]

Just take a look at him. Slender and fast as can be, Stinger projects a fun and engaging image-almost a Jim Carey like quality. [Oh my God!! A Jim Carey sighting! Someone call the Capitals – I’m sure they’d love to have him back.] And what Stinger lacks in stature, he makes up for in attitude-and that attitude just screams “Rock Star.” [Uh huh. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I think it’s the brushing his teeth that gives him that edge.] He’s the center of attention wherever he goes!

He may taunt and tease the opponent, but he’s a regular do-gooder when it comes to his hometown, whether he’s supporting Children’s Hospital or rallying behind youth hockey.

In his case, being a bug has its advantages. Through his antics, Stinger buzzes, flies and stings, just like his real-life counterparts. Fans will see him as friendly and michevious. [Sic. I’m hoping kids will be inspired by Stinger’s tooth-brushing ways and overlook his propensity not to spell-check documents he is posting on an NHL team’s official website. His mouth may be hygienic, but his professionalism is sorely lacking. Also, I’m really drawing a blank trying to think of a real-life bug I think of as “friendly” and “mischievous” that isn’t a lightning bug (already taken, her mate already served up in a soup in Stinger’s “Favorites” section) or a lady bug (kind of girly for a hockey team, even one based in Columbus).] Opponents will fear his “sting.”

And while Stinger is a tough guy, he’s also an underdog. [Umm… How? Is this an admission that he sucks, even by modern-day mascot standards?] This adds another aspect to his likable nature. It’s through his “tough but tender” persona that Stinger is sure to succeed in winning over fans.

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The 2009 NHL Superskills was surprisingly fun (thanks to Chara, not Ovechkin, of course), so we have high hopes for the All Star game proper to not suck 100%. Join us in an open thread as we take in the sights and sounds of the mid-season classic on ice.

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Inspired by Patty (in Dallas)’s kind words for the All-Star Game we now present to you our reasons why we aren’t joining the ranks of whiners and complainers trying to kill the midseason classic buzz.

1. The Superskills and All-Star Game bring out the very best in mic’ed up players. Between Marty Turco, Manny Legace, and Rick DiPietro, we’ve been treated to truly wonderful, off-the-cuff commentary in a relaxed hockey environment.

2. The consistently hideous uniforms. There has never been a cool all-star uniform in any sport, and that’s something many people would see fit to complain about. But you know what? We love the equalizing effect the ugly unis have. Every All Star team has its brightest lights and its “Her?”s, but the guys at both extremes, and all the ones in between, look evenly dopey in their dumb sweaters. There’s something incredibly charming about Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of standing next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer during player introductions, both of them knowing that in a few years someone will look at the tape of it and think, “Holy crap, but both those guys look ridiculous in those sweaters. Were those ever cool?”

3. The random mashup of players on the bench during games. It always seems remarkably silly and fun when they show shots of the benches during the ASG and we see Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of sitting next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer, interacting in an actual hockey-ish context.

4. Players we don’t normally pay attention to. We have massive tunnel vision when it comes to watching hockey these days; we can spend all day deeply immersed in hockey coverage and conversation online and never once venture beyond discussion of just the Devils. Sure, we watch other teams when the Devils aren’t on TV, but we’re often watching our designated secondary team instead. We’ll follow two or three teams closely during a season, and just ignore everyone else. So the All-Star events give us a chance to spend a couple of days being forced to watch a bunch of players we only know by name. And not just watch them in a regular “guys on the other team” way — no, we get to watch them chilling out, having fun, and often being surprisingly appealing. (See: Zdeno Chara last year.)

5. Players we do normally pay attention to doing well. When you spend the start of the season thinking the world needs to know that your favorite player is awesome, it’s nice to get some affirmation when said favorite player wins a plastic star for said awesomeness.

6. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to spend the next two and a half months watching stretch-run “every game is vitally important!” regular-season hockey, and then launch into the pressure cooker of the playoffs. It’s nice to have a weekend where we can sit back and relax.

7. The ridiculous player introductions. It’s not often we — fans who wax poetic about the lack of in-game entertainment at Continental Airlines Arena — are going to embrace laser lights and smoke machines. But when you pair them with a Mike Richards who looks like he’s going to die from embarrassment for how over-the-top the introduction is, we’re sold!

8. Cool superskills! Dude, the accuracy shooting is, like, the coolest thing we see all year. If they had accuracy shooting instead of penalty shots to decide OT winners, we probably wouldn’t hate the abolition of ties so much. What a wonderful world it would be if hockey games went to an accuracy shootout after five minutes of four-on-four OT…

9. Superskills down-time. Who doesn’t love seeing the guys sprawled out on the ice, waiting for their turn to do fastest skater or hardest shot? We get to see who forms cliques, who pays attention to the other events, and who pretends to have friends (Paul Kariya, we’re looking at you).

10. Foxy All-Star portraits. We’ve said it before and we’ll probably say it again — the portraits of the players in street clothes are a godsend. Every year we grouse that there aren’t enough hotties in the All-Star Game, then, come playoff time, we get a whole bunch of new playoff-only hockey boyfriends and Pookie decides to hone her mad reference-librarian skillz by researching them online. And lo and behold, every year, we discover our newfound dreamboat was at that year’s All-Star Game, we totally ignored him, but thanks to the portrait series, we have a treasure trove of pictures to use as our desktops on our computers at work. (And then, a few weeks later, when his team is eliminated from the playoffs and we go back to not liking him, then we’re all embarrassed to have that picture saved to our hard drives. But such is the circle of life when you’re cool like us.)

11. Mascot All-Star pictures. Every year finds a few photos interspersed in the Yahoo gallery of Foxy All-Star Portraits which show a giant mass of NHL mascots partaking of on-ice tomfoolery. Is it silly and stupid and should we be above it? Sure. Is it also totally awesome to see Youppi and Thunderbutt sharing the same ice surface? You bet it is!

12. It’s different. Look, we all know the All-Star Game isn’t going to be a classic game for the ages. It never has been and it never will be. But if you go in expecting just to see an assortment of great hockey players having fun in a low-key setting, interspersed with interviews and gushing sideline report stories about the participants, you’ll be duly entertained. It’s hockey, but it’s not. It’s a nice change of pace.

13. Saying, “There are the doors… There’s the seats…” as a guy starts racking up the points in the game.

14. Hoping this’ll be the year someone breaks the hardest shot record.

15. Watching the guys who think they can dog it on the puck-handling relay get burned by the guys who stay focused on the task at hand.

16. The passers on the accuracy shooting event. They’re a total afterthought, but without them, the sexiest superskill would be nothing. It’s fun to watch superstars like Sakic and Spezza sit back and enjoy a colleague getting to be in the spotlight, while they just go about their business of doing what they do best.

17. When offensive rushes break down during the game because the guys all try to be too fancy.

18. The plastic stars and uncool cars the MVPs win. We know they often give the cars away, but we love laughing at the end of every ASG about the unlucky recipient of the ugly car having to drive it for a year.

19. The red carpet. We owe Dallas big time for introducing the red carpet to the ASG festivities. It should be so wrong and so out of place but we can’t help but love getting the opportunity to fire up the TiVo of the pre-game stuff and then go all Go Fug Yourself on the NHL once a year.

20. “Mark Messier! FOUR FOR FOUR!” In Patty’s post she scoffs at sportswriters saying the ASG was better when they were kids because things are always better when you’re a kid. 1996 was the year we were essentially hockey kids, and the Superskills and ASG seemed impossibly awesome to us. And now we don’t want to be the people who whine that it was so much better then — we want to tune in every year hoping to see something that good again.

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Gah! Stupid Wednesday night games! We’ll be watching the Devils on tivo delay, and probably won’t have anything coherent to say when we finish it up at 1:30 in the morning. So,we hope you have a lovely evening of hockey, Gentle Reader, as we go under radio silence.

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