Monday, May 12, 2008

Iced Down Medallions

Last night's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh puts the Flyers in tough spot: they now have to win four out of five games to advance to The Stanley Cup Finals, and will have to do so without their top defenseman, Kimmo Timonen, and possibly the next best blue-liner on the team, Braydon Coburn. With the season hanging by a thread, I'll take this opportunity, while they still have life, to put out a short and sweet hockey guide to all loyal readers who don't know and don't give a flying French Canadian fuck about the brutal ballet on ice. Why should you give hockey a chance? I'll try to explain.

What You Should Know:

The Concept
The object is to put the puck in the other teams net. Simple enough. It's on ice, the players carry sticks, rock sharp blades on their feet, and wear more gear than football players. This is because hockey is a unique combination of skill and strength; essentially a hockey player possesses the speed, hand-eye coordination, and explosion of a basketball player, and attempts to utilize these skills while colliding into the competition with the violent fury of a football player. The game is played at such a high speed and taxing physical pace that players play in brief, forty-five second(give or take) shifts before taking a rest, making for a constant shuffle of players on and off the ice.

The Rules

Many casual fans claim ignorance at the myriad of confusing rules and stoppages of play that can distract a virgin fan. My advice to anyone who has no idea what icing, off-sides, or a line-change is, is to simply watch a friggin game. Hockey has fewer rules than football, less strategy and tactical minutiae than baseball, and when it is played well, a better pace than basketball. What you don't understand should not bother you; simply assume when the game stops it stops for a good reason and ask a friend what happened; if your friend is equally perplexed then try listening to the explanation given by the announcers. If the announcers are predictably useless it is then ok to give up and watch a sport you understand, such as American Idol.

The League
The National Hockey League is way too big and exists in too many crappy cities that never demanded a hockey team and thus treat it like a spare bedroom in a huge house, ignoring it except during the holidays when they stuff it with relatives and luggage. When Philadelphia was granted a team in 1967, there were only six teams in the entire league, now there are close to thirty. The only teams in the league anyone should know and care about are these: The Flyers, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vancouver Canucks. I included all the Canadian teams just because.

What You Should Like

I love hockey fights. Everyone should. I love the build-up to a fight, the actual fight, the crowd frenzy that accompanies a fight, and in general the entire code of law that enables a fight. Because hockey is so physical and hockey players so tough, it is assumed, correctly, and understood, largely, that these dudes need to occasionally try to beat the shit out of each other. It fits into the structure of the game nicely due to each team having a pugilist specialist or two, who's main job is to take on the other teams pugilist specialist when there is a dispute that needs to be settled. In basketball guys will talk shit and get technical fouls. In football there will be comedic entanglements featuring facemask grabbing and helmet punching. Baseball has some great brawls but they are too brief and chaotic to follow properly.
In hockey one guy taps another with his stick, they drop their gloves, square off, and give you an actual fight to watch. It's great.

The Players
The players in the league are mostly Canadian and European, with a solid amount of America-born dudes as well. Apparently every small boy in every desolate and snow-crusted fishing hamlet throughout Canada and Eastern Europe was strapped into skates and pushed onto a frozen lake as soon as their delicate baby skin could handle -15 degree air. The result is a league comprised of hardworking and honest guys with great names and tougher than leather M.O's. Even the highly skilled offensive players who never fight and rarely throw bodychecks are tougher than just about anybody in the NBA. If I had to put my life savings on either Wayne Gretzky or Lebron James in a fight to the death, better believe my money's on The Great One cuz. They are rugged, they are boring, they all have fake teeth and crooked noses. I want my daughter to marry a hockey player.

The Playoff Beard
During the playoffs just about everyone grows a beard. I find this beyond great.

The Stanley Cup(the actual hardware)
The championship trophy, The Stanley Cup, is a huge thing that can hold a lot of beer. The team that wins it drinks a lot of beer from inside the Cup, then gets to keep it for the entire year, each player getting it for a day, presumably to drink more and more beer from it. I, again, find this beyond great.

The Game Itself

Hockey, especially in the playoffs, is fast, exciting, and physical. There is an ebb and flow to the game that few games can equal; opportunity for one team can instantly turn into a chance for the other team. Did I mention they fight?

What To Ignore

The Canadian Accent
It can be distracting and annoying, and flavors many a boring player and coach interview. Accept it and move on.

Following The Puck

That little bugger is small and moves fast. Often you will have no idea where it is or who has it. This is part of watching hockey, so get used to it and don't complain about it. If anything worthy happens you will know.

Hard To Pronounce Names
The NHL has some of the best names in all of sports, and quite a few nobody can say. Ignore the ones you can't say and enjoy the ones that are incredible, like Rod Brind'Amour, Roman Hamrlik, and Cristobal Huet.

Everything Else


  1. Chief Naka,

    If this doesn't convince people to give hockey a chance, I don't know what will. Excellent summary of all things hockey. It might be worth mentioning how annoying it was when the blue highlight used to follow the puck around, and that it is better to have to search for it at times.

    On an unrelated, but incredible not, check out flintskin's favorite toy:

    Speaking of which, Flintskin's quote about hockey was mysteriously missing from your post, so I will tack it on: "I don't know shit about hockey, but I know that Malkin is on the Flyers."

  2. This is an argument for loving Wimbledon, football (aka soccer), cricket, and limeys in general...Well, this one, at least:


  3. GO Flyers!!!!!!!!!!!!