-one of the greatest playoff races in the history of the NHL was played out.
The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs brought an entire country to its feet in one of the best hockey games I have ever seen.
A defensive battle it was not, but it was high scoring, as fast paced and aggressive as a seventh game of a Stanley Cup playoff series, and was everything that American critics of the game have been claiming the game has needed for years. The momentum shifted radically at least twice, and the game ended with a Toronto victory in regulation, eliminating Montreal and allowing for maximum drama in New Jersey the next day, putting the New York Islanders in position to eliminate the Maple Leafs and gain a playoff spot with a victory.
The next day, in the largest media market in the country, an entire season came down to one game, was tied up with less than one second remaining and after a thrilling, five minute overtime, was settled by a shootout that pitted two rookie goaltenders against each other with the seasons of two storied franchises on the line.
You know what was on NBC?
NBC did show an NHL game- it was the Buffalo Sabres, who had clinched the division last week and had nothing to play for, facing off against the last place Philadelphia Flyers, in a matchup that was interesting almost exclusively to relatives and close friends of Ty Conklin.
Do I need to mention that Ty Conkin does not have many close friends?
Oh- and by the way- the head broadcaster, and face of hockey in America for the NBC High Definition broadcast was this man:
If you'll allow me a moment, I'd like to compose an open letter:
Dear Whoever Is In Charge Of Selling The Game Of Hockey In America,
It's your pal Ritch.
I just wanted to let you know that on the most exciting weekend of the entire hockey season, with a budget of millions of dollars, you decided to show the nation a meaningless game that no one wanted to watch and paid a snake oil salesman to host it.
The face of your sport is on record here comparing Wayne Gretzky to Richard Simmons.
Let me be clear:
You are missing what makes this game great.
Real hockey fans lost an entire season because idiots like you were allowed to make decisions about our game.
You have a great product that people will watch, and you are doing a terrible job.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs, the best tournament in sports, is starting on Wednesday, and it is so goddamn entertaining that even you guys probably can't fuck it up.
You will note that I say "probably."
If those games get good ratings, it isn't because of anything you do.
There are two facts that at this point in the hockey season are unchangeable:
1) The Stanley Cup Playoffs are great
2)You are terrible at your jobs
Oh, and just becuase I love the game and I love American hockey fans, here's a tip- with the Devils, Islanders and Rangers in the playoffs, you're gonna wanna say that there are three New York teams in the playoffs this year, and that's the first time this has happened since blah, blah, blah.
Well, Buffalo also happens to be in New York, and there's a good chance they are going to beat each one of those teams on the way to the Stanley Cup finals.