I had hoped to watch the Leafs – Sens rookie game last night, and maybe write a little bit here about the game.
Unfortunately, the game wasn’t on LeafsTV – hey, what are the chances that anyone who is willingly extorted by MLSE pays for this service would be interested in actual hockey being played by actual Leaf prospects – so I had to wait instead for the tape-delayed feed being shown on mapleleafs.com.
I don’t want to say that the online feed was difficult to watch, but let’s just say that what the video quality lacked in “herky”, it made up for in spades with “jerky”. The video player in my browser was delivering about six frames per second; as I tweeted earlier this evening, it occurred to me that this must be what the world looks like for Matt Carkner after he fights Colton Orr. Anyway, I quickly found myself longing for something slightly easier on the eyes, like for example an epileptic seizure. At one point, I thought the video feed had died completely, as the image on my screen didn’t appear to move at all for an extended period of time. The confusion was cleared up, however, when I realized that the camera was just showing the Senators’ Jared Cowen playing defence.
On the plus side, spending time watching the game using this feed allowed me to appreciate more fully the superior visual technologies available in today’s modern era: things like “flip-book animation”, for example.
I don’t know if anybody else was experiencing the difficulties with this feed that I was, but I sort of assumed that the Maple Leafs’ video servers were crumbling under pressure with so many people watching, just like Maple Leaf goaltenders have been doing since the lockout. I don’t suppose it’s fair for me to wonder aloud whether fault should be found with the Leafs’ IT folks; after all, after several consecutive years of hearing that the team is “building for the future”, who could have possibly known that many Leaf fans might have some interest in seeing what the prospects look like? It’s planning and foresight like this that gave us the Andrew Raycroft/Vesa Toskala era, folks.
In any event, at some point I saw Jerry D’Amigo with his arms in the air, so I assume he scored a goal. Either that, or he was trying to scare away a bear. I don’t know, it was a little difficult to follow the narrative. Are there many bears in the vicinity of the John Labatt Centre in London?
In the end, I have no insight to bestow upon you. Instead, I give you a photo of the most wicked awesome baby booties ever manufactured – these were given to Spouse and I by a co-worker the other day:
Little known fact: the Montreal Canadiens ordered several sets of these in their team colours for Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri. Anyway, Furious G is going to have the coolest shoes on the block.
Both Kidkawartha (via Twitter) and MattBlack (via the Pension Plan Puppets FTB links roundup) recommended to all Leaf fans a reading of the comments in the Silver Seven Sens game thread. It is sage and wise advice, gratefully accepted and immediately productive this morning of several out-loud guffaws hereabouts. The game thread is a written record of the comments made by those inhabiting the Senators-themed blog thread dedicated to the Senators/Leafs game on Saturday night. The Senators, of course, came into the night with high expectations. Rested and rolling (they had Friday night off and were on an 11-game win streak), they and their fans looked forward to making some sort of a claim to bragging rights in this year’s version of the Battle of Ontario. By comparison, in the previous day or so, the Leafs had travelled to and from Newark, had there put in 57 solid minutes of work before coughing up 3 goals in as many minutes to lose 4-3 in heartbreaking fashion, and had received news of the passing of their General Manager’s son.
Happily for all fans of the Blue and White, it was the Leafs who showed up ready for the most recent installment of the Battle of Ontario. They ran the Senators out of the building, quickly and efficiently, much to the despair of Senators fans everywhere.
Following along with the game’s progress in the aforementioned game thread is an exercise in comparative anthropology: whereas ordinary human beings experience “reality”, we are able to learn that Senators fans enjoy a rich and imaginative fantasy world of their own invention. In this charming, but barely recognizable version of the world :
It is uncertain who the “most overrated” band of all time is, but we know that the honour belongs to one of either Led Zeppelin or the Beatles; and
The “running” of J.S. Giguere by Daniel “Clownpants” Alfredsson was a great job.
After that, with the Senators thoroughly failing to provide any sort of sustained resistance to a Leaf victory, things got decidedly more fatalistic and profane. They also got less entertaining, except in a “Senators fans, your tears of shame are delicious” sort of way. Which, come to think of it, I enjoyed very much thank you.
But it has to be said that it is not just the Leafs’ good fortunes that have sparked the positive mojo; also playing a role in Leaf fans’ gleeful anticipation of the coming season are the disasters-in-waiting being presided over by Messrs. Murray and Gainey in Ottawa and Montreal respectively. It cannot be denied that a healthy dose of schadenfreude in relation to our divisional rivals’ struggles is spicing the Blue and White soup of excitement just so, turning this particular dish into a gourmet delicacy upon which the faithful are gratefully gorging themselves.
I can’t help but think that we owe our friends in Montreal and Ottawa a debt of gratitude for the enjoyment we’ve received from this most delicious and nourishing meal (trust me, I’m going somewhere with this). Accordingly, I have a proposal, set out in more detail at the end of this post, for a way in which we might show our appreciation for our rivals’ hospitality.
But first, a little refresher on the facts.
The Senators contributed the first ingredient or two to our delicious repast, first with Dany Heatley’s ridiculous team-chemistry destroying trade demand (followed up expertly by his refusal to waive his no-trade clause upon the conclusion of a trade agreement with Edmonton). Next came that delightfully flavourful moment at the draft, thankfully captured for posterity by TSN cameras and microphones, during which our angry Irish overlord produced, with the unwitting assistance of the beleagured Murray, the most astonishingly public gobsmacking in recorded history. Just a few days ago, Murray put the cherry on top of his part of this concoction, signing the chronically apathetic Alexei Kovalev to a contract so unbelievably lucrative that I originally assumed that the financial figures must have been reported for some reason in pesos.
These events, though, have in truth paled in significance when compared to the struggles of one Robert “Bob” Gainey, the manager of generalities in Montreal. On the heels of the “centennial” season that wasn’t, the laughable drive for 25 that ended up as a bug to the Bruins’ windshield and widespread public dissatisfaction with the Habs players (I’m looking at you, Carey Price) and management, Gainey gave Leaf fans another gift or two. In the early hours of free agency, Leafs fans were like disappointed children on Christmas morning (having opened a box containing Colton Orr when the Sedins had been expressly requisitioned of Santa Claus) but Gainey gave us something to focus on and deride: his trade for the enormous contract of a tiny underachieving centreman: Scott Gomez. The trade made no sense, even to Leaf fans, who are especially adept at attempting to piece together the demented and alleged logic underpinning the roster moves of our own organization; why would the Habs take on a massive salary, give up their best young prospect and get back so (literally) little player for their troubles? Just as the startled laughter began to fade over this move, along came the punch line: Gainey apparently designed and built a nuclear powered money-throwing machine that he immediately deployed to assist him in propelling currency at both Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, which currency the two gnome-like wingers quickly stuffed into their tiny pockets.
Then the Fun Train really got chugging along as the Leafs signed Mike Komisarek – a big part of the physical presence on the Montreal blueline – and Gainey fired his riposte, an overpayment for defenceman Jaroslav Spacek to the tune of $11.25 million. It was as if the spirit of a drunken, brain-injured John Ferguson Jr. had inhabited Gainey’s body, and (predictably) had begun rampaging through the Habs’ organization like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, with nary a Ghostbuster in sight. Fans of the Blue and White couldn’t get enough of this poltergeist’s mischievous destruction.
Leaf fans have been wiping away tears of laughter ever since. Sure, Mike Cammalleri is a talented player, and the Leafs even wanted to sign him up to the hometown squad, but Mike Cammalleri is no Steve Austin; he just isn’t a Six Million Dollar Man. Gionta and Gomez were/are also vastly overpaid, but more amusingly – I don’t know if you’ve noticed this – they’re all rather diminutive. It occurred to Leaf Nation – and approximately 100% of the rest of humanity not pulling on the controls of the Hab machinery – that this might not be the best plan ever concocted for success in the National Hockey League.
Gentle reader, it’s a known fact that people can be cruel about such things. I am saddened to report that some among the Leaf fans gathered at Pension Plan Puppets even succumbed to their lesser nature and fashioned a jest or two thousand premised upon the central organizing conceit that Montreal Canadiens forwards, this coming season, might be somewhat smaller than average. I have even heard the occasional jape fashioned around the notion that Alexei Kovalev might not exhibit the sort of leadership that even, say for example, a fourth grade hall monitor might. Shocking and misguided, I know.
Watching the whole series of events unfold in the Twitterverse, I’ve started to get the feeling that Habs fans were feeling a little down about the whole thing (side note: is there a collective term for Canadiens fans? Is there a “Habs Nation” or are we just sticking with “that bunch of fickle pricks chanting `na na na na’ and singing fucking soccer songs”? Yeah, I thought so.) I started to wonder whether, in the spirit of good karma, we Leaf fans ought not to pitch in to cheer the fuckers up. I got to thinking about the many ways that the Leafs’ free agent signings had improved the general welfare of the universe and it occurred to me that there MUST be something positive, from a wider societal perspective, to say about the Montreal transactions (we know they’re no damn good in terms of improving their chances of winning hockey games, that’s for sure).
As for Senators fans, well they’re a bit different. The thing about the Sens fans is, bless their little hearts, they don’t understand how totally screwed their team is. They have, to put it mildly, a problem. I have a suggestion about how to help fix that for them (watch this space in the coming days), but – for now – the immediate concern is our depressed friends in the bleu, blanc et rougechandails.
So here’s my proposal.
To thank the Montreal Canadiens and their fans for the part they played in cheering us Leaf fans up, I propose that we come up with a series of 100 simple statements (one for each year in this, the REAL centennial) about the state of the Canadiens’ franchise along the lines of a positive affirmation for our friends. Each statement should delineate some beneficial feature of the Habs’ present predicament that represents a silver lining in the storm clouds gathering over the Bell Centre, along the lines of the model set out below. Let’s collect a hundred such statements (remember, it’s their centennial), package them up with a nice bow, and send them off to our friends at Habs Eyes on the Prize with our compliments; after all, they’ve been so supportive of us during the last few difficult years, I truly feel this is the absolute least we can do.
Here’s my first contribution to Project “C’est Something Nice!”:
In the future, the Montreal Canadiens will be leaders in the field of hockey equipment innovation and research: the Buster Brown shoe company, for example, will be retained to design and manufacture special “right-sized” skates for the Habs’ forwards.
Feel free to leave your own efforts in the comments below. Let’s make this happen, Leaf fans – I know you have this kind of compassion in your souls.
Update, Thursday July 9 8:30 p.m.: Well, folks, we’ve only managed to gather together an even dozen zingers so far. Quite frankly, that’s a Kovalev-ian effort, dammit. We are far, far…erm….”short” of our goal of a century of zingers soothing mottos to package up for the burning cop car/broken windows at the depanneur set. I know there are some of you who have more love to give. Maybe you’re uncertain whether your first attempt at soothing the Gallic pain will hit the mark; no problem, leave a couple of attempts in the comments below. Let’s work this bee-yatch up, yo.
My second contribution to the project:
Corporate cash cow: sales of official Montreal Canadiens “game-used booster chairs” expected to skyrocket in 2009 – 2010 season.
I bought the Toronto Maple Leafs today. No, really, and although the Maple Leafs I own will never win the Stanley Cup, I’m just as happy as can be. Just to fit in with the previous owners, I told the first guy I met on the street today, “you’re fired.” I also raised the price of beer – formerly free in the paradise that is Juniorvania – to $18 a pop – and you’ll be lining up to use the bathroom at my place from now on, too. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, I promptly forgot everything I ever knew about hockey and have instead begun following the Market quotes rather obsessively.
Okay, seriously, what’s this all about?
Some of the regulars over at Pension Plan Puppets are having some good-natured fun at the expense of fans of other NHL teams. There’s a new reference site about hockey being set up called, oddly enough, hockeyreference.com. That site has a page for every NHL player, team and coach. Evidently, the good people at hockeyreference.com would like to bank a little coin to pay for all the server space being devoted to such arcana instead of hosting Second Life netizens; accordingly, they have set things up to allow regular folk like you and me to sponsor the page of their choice. Sponsorship entitles the rights holder to inscribe upon the page a caption for all to behold, as well as to insert a link of the sponsor’s choice.
Interested fans of many teams are scooping up the rights to their various principal nemesises (can that word be plural?) and posting appropriately scathing tributes to their targets. Thus, Caps fans have taken care of Jaromir Jagr; choosing not to overthink the prank, the not-so-huge fans of their former captain at Japer’s Rink (a Leaf fan’s home away from home while cheering on the Caps) have selected a heckle of a traditional bent, pointing out that Jagr wears women’s clothing. They happen to have a link to certain photographic evidence proving the claim (on at least one occasion) to be indisputably true.
Leaf fans have secured the rights to the pages devoted to certain of our own historic arch-rivals, with extensively comedic results: thus Daniel Alfredsson, Wayne Gretzky, and Chris Neil have been skewered. Toronto supporters have also turned some of their anger about the team inward and have given some of the Leaf players the same treatment: see for example Vesa Toskala, Bryan McCabe and – inevitably – Jiri Tlusty.
I chipped in a few bucks on my own behalf and in honour of dear old Dad (hey, Father’s Day is coming up and a guy never knows if he’s going to remember to get a card) to ensure that the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators franchise pages are under the control of Toronto sympathizers. As I understand it, a suitably stinging caption is still being crafted at this time. I will update with linkies when the deed is done and the prank is posted.
I was of course personally interested in the Wendel Clark page, but it had been snapped up by Sean at Down Goes Brown. I know Sean will take good care of the page; anybody who names their blog in honour of a hockey fight featuring Sylvain Lefebvre is okay by me. (I believe “Down Goes Brown” is a reference to an incident in a game that I actually attended, a December 1992 dust-up between Sylvain Lefebvre and Rob Brown of the Chicago Blackhawks. An overhand right from the usually mild-mannered Lefebvre clobbered Brown and sent him crumpling to the ice, causing Joe Bowen to exclaim – repeatedly – the title phrase.) Since I couldn’t get Wendel, I decided that I would buy the whole damn 1992-1993 team; as I’ve written before, that team gave me so much joy watching their run to the Conference Finals against the Kings.
Another great post from Theory of Ice. Describing Sunday’s Habs/Bruins game, e says that she has been told that Sunday’s game is what playoff hockey is all about. In particular, she says the game was:
…[f]ast but claustrophobic, conservative but chaotic, tidy at the core and sloppy around the edges. Imagine a ballroom dance competition being attacked by a legion of zombies; everyone frantically trying to fend of the ravenous undead with folding chairs and feather boas while simultaneously struggling not to miss a step in their foxtrot routine.This game was a lot like that, only weirder.
Bullseye! I’d like to see that as the new marketing slogan for the NHL – “a ballroom dance competition being attacked by a legion of zombies”.
What was the thinking with that little bit of theatre? I am no fan of trash-talking goofball players, but it’s infinitely more acceptable for dimwit players to flap their gums than it is for the suits to ramp up the chutzpah for them. That’s what was so weird about Ottawa’s waiter-by-day, tortured-artiste-actor by (occasional) night standing bare-chested (what, Sens army is too cheap to pony up for even a fake breastplate?) at centre ice, gripping somebody’s little brother’s flying saucer and waving a cocktail sword; none of the actual Ottawa players were participating in that little demonstration of hubris, it was all actor-guy barking out empty threats that (had we been able to hear them – nice job, Ottawa tech department!) were probably drafted by a committee. Why can’t the corporate marketing types who are pulling the levers behind the curtain on the Amazing Entertainment Machine of sports get it through their thick freaking heads that no team – NO TEAM – should be pounding their chests and boasting when everybody and their little sister knows you stink like nobody’s business.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were guilty of spewing this kind of hot air last year – yes, the very same Ticats who went 3 and 15. The same Ticats who were eliminated from playoff contention – in a league where six of the eight teams qualify, mind you – during the singing of the national anthem at their first game. The Cats had this genius promotional idea that they would play a crappy video on the giant screen in the west end zone at all their home games; according to the video, it was “Hammer Time.” What exactly the enigmatic and arrogant video meant to convey through these claims remained unclear throughout the season; it certainly had nothing to do with punishing defence, powerful offence or successful football of any kind being demonstrated by the Cats. While the video was playing on the screen, at some arsehole’s seriously misguided direction, the Tiger Cats players would run on to the field and gather at midfield around a ceremonial sledgehammer (no, I’m NOT kidding) in embarrassment, neither looking the fans nor their opposition as everybody had a good laugh at the hilarious idea that any other team might be intimidated by this phony and farcical display of so-called Tiger-Cat power. I felt sorry for the players, having to participate in that charade.
In what world did the Senators have any business sending that sad-sack excuse for a thespian out there to trumpet the will and determination of “Sens Army”? Was it the fact that the Army was so massively dedicated that they weren’t even buying all the tickets to the game? Is it the team’s historical propensity for crapping the bed in the playoffs? Perhaps, you might say, the Sens were entitled to make a little noise owing to the vigour of their late-season play, which was so astonishingly good that they would have missed the playoffs entirely if Carolina could have managed two freaking points against Florida on the final weekend of the season? Or maybe it was the Senators’ failure to mount any kind of a credible effort whatsoever during the two initial games of the series in Pittsburgh?
As an aside, why was Marvin the Martian doing that ridiculous speech with some sort of vaguely British accent? Did every Roman centurion in Ye Olde Days of Roman Hockey sound like Michael Caine with a mouthful of marbles?
In the end, what a perfect metaphor it was for the Senators’ entire season: a man in a skirt failing miserably to make a statement at centre ice, in the middle of the team’s biggest moment.
I got home right at 7:00 only to find that TSN was showing golf, for God’s sake. I know it’s the Masters, but dude – anyone who’s still chasing their ball around the course at 7 pm isn’t likely to win, am I right? Thus, as a result of some idiot in Programming’s questionable decision-making, I was consigned to watch as some fool in even more questionable pants stood with his hands on his hips in the middle of a wooded area, evidently in the area of a golf ball, instead of Ovie and the boys taking to the ice as the Phone Booth goes batshit for playoff hockey. I also missed Donald Brashear’s opening goal, though I did manage to catch the replay of both the goal and the most unco-ordinated seizure masquerading as a celebration I’ve ever seen.
Instead, I flipped over to CBC and caught a bit of the first period of Game 2 in the Ottawa/Pittsburgh series. The first period is now over and the Senaturds are down 1-0, having been outshot by a margin of 20-8 in the opening frame. What a bunch of lame ass mailer-inners, and I oughta know – I watched a lot of Leaf games this year.
Anyway, apparently enough old guys are now finished spraying their Titleists into various ponds to permit the telecast of the Caps game to continue. Excuse me, I’m going to enjoy having a team in the playoffs for a while.
Update: What a finish! The Caps had a collective brain fart there in the second period and coughed up three quick ones to Philly. Down 4-2 to begin the third, first Mike Green and then the Great 8 willed the Caps on to a rousing victory. First Green pots a backhand on a lovely feed from an apparently rejuvenated Sergei Federov, then he goes all Bobby Orr and pops one in past a stunned Marty Biron and wooshes overhead like some badass F-18 for good measure. Then, with the score tied and little more than a minute remaining, Ovechkin makes like a freaking wizard, casts some crazy voodoo spell on Kukkonen and turns him into stone steals the puck deep in the Flyers’ zone. In a flash, he’s rocketing towards Biron, who tries to go to his left as fast as Ovechkin is cutting for far post. Biron seems to stumble and is going down; simultaneously, Ovechkin-wan-Kenobi unleashes a fucking laser that hurtles through space so quickly Einstein sits up in his grave and says “holy shit.” 5-4 Caps, and Ovechkin looks like he’s trying to knock down the rink board glass as the entire Phone Booth has a collective brain aneurysm and collapses inward under the weight of its own joy. Game over, comeback complete, and a classic moment for the ages from a truly remarkable player. Just say Ovie!
I flip quickly over to CBC to see what’s up with the Sens/Pens. I am dismayed to see that the Senators have finally managed to put a couple biscuits in the basket and the game is tied at 3-3. I curse loudly. No sooner has the profanity left my lips than Marty Lapointe draws a high-sticking minor. His arse has barely grazed the bench in the penalty box when the Pens scramble the draw and Ryan Malone tucks one past a sprawling Martin Gerber on a wraparound. In the final minute of the game, Ottawa can’t even get the puck out of their own zone long enough to get Gerber to the bench; they may not have managed to get the extra attacker on at all except that Gonchar makes like a dimwit and ices the puck with 12 seconds left; not to be outdone in an impromptu imbecility exhibition, Bryan Murray one-ups the Pittsburgh blueliner by calling a time out to permit the tired Penguin defenders time to rest, so that they can manage to diffuse the attack after one final faceoff in their zone and extinguish the final fading hope of the National Capital Region gang. A shot of the Ottawa bench during the said timeout showed the Senators players looking like Wile E. Coyote after yet another ACME-product related, smolder-inducing incident with that damn bird. “Meep meep” say the Penguins and race out the Zamboni doors, leaving a trail of fire behind them.
Yesterday, I foolishly opined that the hockey gods had turned their malevolent attentions upon Ottawa fans, leaving Leaf fans alone to suffer another long, hot summer while the hopes and dreams of the Capital City bunch were crushed in agonizing fashion.
I tuned my virtual Intarwebs radio in to the Leafs/Senators game tonight, deliciously anticipating the beginning of the end for our cross-province rivals from the National Capital Region. It’s now just shortly after 9 p.m., the Senators are missing Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher and were at one time being outshot by the Leafs, but with 3:30 remaining in the second period it’s 4-1 Senaturds and my pathetic Leafs cannot seem to muster even a faint whiff of offence that might suggest comeback.
It seems that the hockey gods, far from abandoning their mission of humiliating the Leafs and their fans – oh, fer Chrissake, it’s 5-1 Ottawa now – the gods chose instead to pummel their plaything and then appear to leave it for dead, feigning an intention to concentrate on the despoilment of another, only to reveal a further and more frustrating, disappointing and degrading level of losing for the chaps in blue and white.
I am really trying to figure out why I shouldn’t go downstairs and pound the brains out of my head with an iron bar as punishment for my own stupidity. How could I have hoped and believed that the Leafs would give me even this tiny joy in a woebegone season? I mean, Lord God and Sonny Jesus in a Sidecar, this was a year that began with one of our top-two D-men confidently and forcefully golfing the puck into his own net in overtime. Did I really expect this team to close the deal in a game like this?
What sacrifice do you demand for our release from your ever-lasting wrath, o cruel and capricious hockey gods? The blood of a fatted calf? How ’bout Kyle Wellwood instead, would that do? What about Johnny Pohl and a second round draft choice in the ’09 draft? Send us a sign – enough with the famine and pestilence, couldn’t we just go with a burning bush or something from here on in?