I decided to partake of my first game from the confines of a sports bar, hoping the din of perpetually disappointed Knicks fans would drown out the constant string of Eastern European names that passes for hockey commentating. Possible interesting future experiment to try on drunken Canadiens fans: turn down the volume, read the Minsk phone book, and see how long until/if they notice.
For a group of guys named to be the best in the league, and for the wattage of the spotlights they were using, no one really looked all that psyched to be in Dallas. I’m sure Rory Fitzpatrick didn’t begrudge the opportunity to kick back and watch the game without being overwhelmed by the smell of barbecue. It’s not the sort of thing one can usually determine with the sound off, but the level of enthusiasm in the Center looked to be less “deafening roar,” and more “Peanuts, get your peanuts!”
I’d been warned that I should in no way judge all professional hockey based on the All-Star game, which was just as well, as right from the start, I found the night lacking in bloodthirstiness. Not knowing or really giving a shit about any of the players yet, I tried to acquire the basics of the game with the help of my resident expert, the Earl of Rochester. Still, without any sort of penalties, strategy, or any actual desire on the part of either team to win, there wasn’t a lot to work with. By the time the first period break came around, if there was any doubt into my mind that hockey was the red-headed stepchild of the sports world, the hiring of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (was the scraping of nails against a blackboard already taken as a band name?) as the headliners pretty much sewed it all up.
This isn’t to say the night was completely devoid of momentary delights; I believe I actually giggled like a schoolchild when the first mini digital hockey player was superimposed on the screen during play, even though the Earl immediately informed me that I would grow plenty distasteful of the “ghetto VS graphics used by Popup Video ten years ago.” I also recognized both the name and team of Martin Brodeur, whom Ben had described to me, wide-eyed, using the term “second coming” in entirely serious tones. After a couple of periods I decided to make a go of it at my own apartment, in part due to the bar’s decision to change the channel to what appeared to be an amateur cricket match, giving me a small glimpse into the kind of adversity I’m facing in the next few months if I don’t suck it up and get Time Warner’s Center Ice package.
Back at home, after a mere nine minutes of play time with sound, the name Shanahan was like a gentle lullaby to my Anglo ears. Not much more excitement was to be found, and when Dion Phaneuf—geseundheit—scored a goal the same way that one wins a stuffed Spongebob at the county fair quarter toss, I think we were all pretty well set to call it a night. All in all, some foundation was laid, but until I see blood on the ice, I’m not feeling quite born as a hockey fan yet. So for this week:
Birthing Status: Mild labor pains.