I have moved on, but I am leaving this site as a virtual testament to our former greatness, whatever that means. I wrote this blog for a long time, and I'm fairly proud of it. (I think I picked a good time to stop blogging, chronicling our demise might have been too depressing for a drama queen like me.)
You are welcome to read more of my writing at Nocturns, but it's not hockey related. I'm not sure what it's about yet -- pondering of existence punctuated by panic...
Two goalies, no great starter. Blown leads. A Spezza injury, followed by a devastating (but short) Alfredsson injury. Sloppy, sloppy defensive work and a languid offense.
Each slump is new in circumstance and context but ultimately it comes down to the same goddamn thing: no goaltending, no defense, no offense, and no wins. No confidence, no smiles. This too, shall come to pass.
Forget about the players having a Stanley Cup Finals hangover. I have a damn hangover. I can't watch hockey for more than a few minutes without thinking of the damn playoffs and those damn Ducks and how long the season is before anything matters, how nothing was easy and conversely the ease with which the Senators played was a small miracle. I cannot practice the Zen art of hockey watching anymore, unless it's a team that I don't care for. Like the Chicago Blackhawks. And even then I am more amusing myself with Patrick Kane's angelic curls and pondering Toews' possible Mennonite roots than actually watching, watching them.
Am I losing interest?
Is this what it feels like to be on the other side of the divide? To be sickened by hockey, to have the nerve to say "fuck hockey" and change the channel to watch Gossip Girls?
Yet it's not like I can stay away from hockey news, from knowing what the score is, who's in net, who took too many penalties, and who handed out whiskey to a homeless dude in Montreal. I just can't fathom why the hell the season has started already and we've already finished a quarter while I'm still thinking about what went wrong in Anaheim. The start of this regular season has felt like an overblown epilogue to the real story that's already ended.
Please don't strip me of my hockey stripes just yet. I don't really watch Gossip Girls.
While watching the Leafs lose the game in the first period, I really enjoyed the film "Rhino Brothers" on CityTV. It's the story of a precariously professional hockey player who tries to quit hockey. He returns home to his overbearing, ambitious mother and his bitter brothers. The mother stiffly accuses his fiancé of distracting him from the ice and reminds him constantly of his points, goals, assists, ice-time … his older brother, a failed minor-leaguer, seethes in the background as an example of what happens when a hockey career fails.
The film really made me think about what happens when hockey fails. The theme of failed dreams isn't exclusive to hockey, but I find that often hockey, especially, is full of those clichés -- "perseverance," "fight through the pain," etc. Dedication, suffering through body checks and roster cuts are the ultimate badge of what it means to be a real hockey player -- one with "heart," you might say. But my god, metaphors of the ice can't be applied to the real world that easily. Hockey exists in a vacuum in that sense. As much as we glorify the "gritty" player for his heart, the player has to be constantly aware that he's an injury or a bad off-season away from losing his job. A player can try as hard as he wants but when he has marginal talent, no amount of blood, sweat or tears will ever make up for it.
What a cruel, cruel world.
How many of those real-life minor leaguers are playing in the leagues of Texas? Italy? How many of them still dream of being called up? When does hockey stop being love and start being a curse?
There is one TV character that reminds me of Chris Phillips, a younger, more socially awkward Chris Phillips. Matt Saracen, quarterback for the Dillon Panthers, plays football in a backwater, football-centered Texan town, takes care of his aging, senile grandmother by himself, deals with a sweet, naive but bratty, girlfriend/ex-girlfriend. He's quietly possible the most mature character on the show.
And you won't find any recent, long, emotional stories about Chris Phillips. He doesn't block shots heroically to win the hearts of young girls everywhere; he hasn't scored any key goals lately; he hasn't founded a school for young girls in South Africa. He probably will never attract much attention outside of Ottawa, but he has one of the most intriguing stories of any player.
He had a compelling story to tell about how he gained an inner strength at home, where he had to grow up quickly and learn the meaning of responsibility. Phillips didn't have time to be a kid. His mom was partially paralyzed by a virus that affected her spinal cord. His dad was 90 percent blind. Yet Chris and his sister, Jennifer, acted like it was no big deal to give of themselves when their parents needed them.
After doing countless interviews, Phillips quietly left the Kiel Center, pushing his mother's wheelchair. His father, holding on to one of Chris' belt loops, followed.
You often can paint pictures of how an athlete gives and gives in competition, but you never can get more inside an individual than I did at that moment.
To a certain degree, not many people completely regret the terrible things that happened to them in childhood. All the little slights of adolescence disappear. Chris Phillips doesn't lead so much as he exudes a sort of emotional confidence. It's not the coldness of Wade Redden nor the quiet determination of Alfredsson, but he knows it's not the end of the world if we lose, it won't be the beginning of the world if we win, and there is no strength like the strength inside.
Jason Spezza $49 millions over 7 years, when most people predicted $8, $9 million on the outside market.
He loves us, doesn't he?
I mean, it's hard to know if a player really even likes where he's playing, or if he's accepted it with a sort of grimness.
Besides cheesy TV segments, the only way to really show your loyalty and appreciation of the team and fans is through money.
The players really feel it too, don't they?
Still, we can't ignore the irony that a few years ago, Hossa's untenable $6 mil contract forced a trade, as we celebrate the wonderous occasion of this signing. 2 years later, Heatley has already re-signed, and Hossa has not ...
There are many things in hockey that will displace an unwilling player from a team. Most of these things are never mentioned publicly, such as extramarital affairs with a teammate's wife. Scoring a hurtful own goal isn't necessarily one of things things, but in Toronto, the only appropriate response for Bryan McCabe was to sob uncontrollably and beg for forgiveness. Instead, he said stoically that these things pass .. that fans will forget ...
No Bryan, they won't. YouTube remembers everything.
Everything about this situation seems to be PR. The chances of McCabe being traded, due to his hefty contract, are fairly slim. The correct move for Bryan right now to do is call an emotional press conference, express his undying love for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mats Sundin, and hope that the fans take it easy on him with the rain of "Shoot!."
However, I would like to thank Bryan McCabe for a source of endless amusement and another reason to laugh at the Leafs. It's a bottomless pit of fun ...
The NHL uploaded 2006-7 player profiles that are kind of cute. You can see Wade Redden's hometown of Lloydminster, SK (it's full of tractors). Half of this is an ad for his wakeboarding company. Note: Don't watch this if you have a slow connection. Even with my relatively fast connection, Redden's buffering, slow, slurred speech was like listening to somebody on an acid trip. (Metaphor only.)
Watch it well. It may be his (second) last.
The one with Jason Spezza was done during Winterlude, with random scenes of strangers drinking hot chocolate, and old draft footage. You can really see the gel in Spezza's hair. There is also a disturbing scene of Spezza eating a beavertail ... "Ooh that is too good." No, Jason, no. You naughty boy.
I almost posted the Zdeno Chara one until I realized ... you know. He's gone.
On a weird parallel note, Tyler Donati, who I last saw play for the St. Michael's Majors, is now a Binghamton Senator.