This year we have no Hockey Free Zone

Warning: This blog contains a sports rant. This means there is copious profanity. [For the record, no self-respecting Penguins fan can write or say the word Philadelphia without adding "fucking Flyers". It's impossible. I'm sorry if this offends you. I can't help it!

Well, I was hoping to be writing this blog with elation and in celebration as we went into the second round; but alas, I'm writing it after my team has ended their play off run. This year, the Pittsburgh Penguins were tossed out of the play-offs in 6 games by the Philadelphia Flyers [fucking Flyers]. The rounds are "best of seven" so they got to four wins before we did.

Frankly, the games weren't all the fun to watch, or listen to. I love love love my radio guy, Mike Lange; he is a hugely entertaining play-by-play announcer. Our "colour commentator" is Phil Bourque, and I love him too, especially the little thing he does before every game: Two Minutes with the Old Two-Niner" [he wore number 29]. He interviews coaches and players on the Penguins and the other teams, and it's always fun to hear that little bit of unscripted "hey, tell me about that". At least, it is, if you're a sports fan. I imagine that if you didn't like sports, or understand hockey at all, it'd be deadly boring.

I've been a hockey fan for many years; through the various ups and downs and some times scratching my head as I wonder what the hell those coaches are thinking, anyway! I am not so immersed in the game that I think I could do better, nor do I really enjoy most Madden-style games. [On a side note: If Evgeni Malkin gets picked to be on the front of the 2012 NHL game, I"ll pick it up for my 360. It'll be the first time I've bought a hockey game, ever.]

I do question the actions of the various GM's and coaches throughout the league, and yes, there are some teams I loathe, some coaches I'd like to see catch fire-- right there, behind the bench! It'd be amazingly funny, and pretty easy to put out, I mean, there's Gatorade/powerade everywhere. I discuss trades and buy-outs with my husband; usually draft picks don't come into our conversation much-- the vast majority of the gents drafted go straight to the farm teams and so we don't hear much about them for a couple years.

We had long discussions about the Red Wings picking up Modano last year (me going, WTF? and him saying, I'm sure he'll go out with a bang! What an awesome last year!), only to cringe visibly when he was out for three-quarters of the season due to severed tendons in his arm (yes, those skates are sharp, and yes, they cut! Horrible, huh?) He mourned with me when Talbot went to Philadelphia [Fucking Flyers], because he knows I loved Max so. We watched to see what would happen with Jamir Jagr, and he smirks a little every time I growl about that fiasco [Pens hero returns from Russia, and doesn't even entertain a contract with the Penguins. He went straight to the Fucking Flyers. Ugh!] But my dearly beloved partner knows he'd be doing the same thing of Lidstom up and left like that, so we can commiserate together.

The year we got together was 2008; that year the Red Wings and Penguins met in the Stanley Cup finals. That'd be for the "whole bag of marbles". The Cup, the most glorious piece of silverware in the world! And Pittsburgh lost in 6 games (remember, best of seven, that means Detroit won 4 and Pittsburgh won 2). I was crushed! Of course that summer, just before the season started up, I started dating this guy who was really nice, and geeky and I thought that was fan-fuckin-tastic! Then I find out he likes hockey. The exchange went a little something like this:
Me: You like hockey, by any chance?
Him: Yes! I do! Wasn't this past season awesome!
Me: Ummm... you're a Wings fan, aren't you?
Him: Yeeesss.... you're not...?
Me: Nope. Pens to the core.
Him: Shit, sorry. At least you're not a 'Hawks fan?

I have to admit, that I really thought about how our relationship would be, him being rabid over Detroit, while I bleed black and gold. I decided that 1- he wasn't a Philly fan [fucking Flyers!] and 2- I wasn't a 'Hawks fan [long standing rivals of Detroit] and 3- we'd only see our teams duke it out once, maybe twice a year, and then in the play offs only for the Cup. So I could handle it. I mean, they're in totally different Conferences, after all.

In 2009 just take a guess what teams won their Conferences and made it all the way. Yep, Detroit and Pittsburgh. We were living together, and it was some time in the second round, the Conference semi-finals, that we realised we were staying up way too late discussing strategies, mistakes, wins and loses. There was a lot of "what the hell is Coach thinking?" And not just for our teams, for all of them! We get really bad about nitpicking the coaches to death at play-off time.

I finally declared our bedroom a Hockey Free Zone for the duration of the play-offs. The first round we were free to yak it up all we wanted, after that, though, not in the bedroom. Of course we still discussed it in the shower, and while we were getting ready for bed, and over dinner, and randomly through the day, and while we were watching/listening to the games. But not the bedroom.

We laughed about it, too! Two very passionate fans, trying very hard not to put on the rose-tinted homer glasses, we tried to be honest when our teams fucked up. We got pissed off and annoyed, and yelled about diving motherfuckers! But at least we didn't have an echo chamber going on, because I'd call him out and he me! "No, Honey, you're wrong, lookit here, that was a high sticking/ripping/whatever." We also called down curses upon our partner's teams' enemies. "Down with those Ducks and those fucking Flyers! Away with those diving pansies and thugs!" It's what you do.

When our teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals the hockey talk kinda died down. It had to, in order to keep the peace. The games were punctuated with "Yess!" and "NO!" Simultaneously. It was surreal, I have to admit.

This year, however, we didn't have to declare the bedroom off limits to hockey; it's such a huge bedroom suite that we'd probably modify the rule to "no hockey in bed" but you get the idea.

His team got knocked out first round, too. So our rabid-hockey fandom has left us disappointed in our teams, and trying to decide who we hate least amongst the remaining teams. We settled on the Panthers and Ottawa in the East, and the Kings and Coyotes in the West. These are four teams with whom we have no baggage. The Eastern teams have to get through their games Thursday in order to make it to the next round. Lots of OT this round, it's been crazy! (Chicago and Phoenix played into Overtime every single game, except the last one when Phoenix won in regulation. It's the wildest thing.)

We'll re-shuffle our picks after the semi-finals, but I'll go on the record and say I hope the Kings make it to the Finals. They're about the most innocuous team, and they've never won a Cup. They're not in my Conference, so I have no animosity toward them at all. Go Kings!

Oh, why can't you just root for your Conference? Or some team in your Division, you ask. Well, I hate my Division. That's normal, for hockey fans. There are five teams in each Division (six Divs) and the inner-divisional schedule is upwards of six games a year. That's a lot of times to meet the other teams and let the loathing fester. In the Atlantic Division are the following:
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Jersey Devils
Pittsburgh Penguins
Philadelphia Flyers [Every Body Now: Fucking Flyers!]

These five teams play the hell out of each other. Most years we have to climb over each other to get to the cup. This year only the Islanders didn't make it to the play-offs. Four out of the five teams were in the play-offs--- there are only Eight play-off slots per Conference (The Central Division did the same thing, they have Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus. Poor Columbus was left out.)

I'm sure that sufficiently shows why I absolutely cannot root for the Atlantic Division as a whole. I'd tell you what I think of each team separately, but it'd take too long, and be so profane that I'd probably catch the keyboard on fire. The nicest thing I can say about any of them is the Islanders: they're still "rebuilding" and their goalie's nickname is Rickety! I love that.*

As for the Conference, often times I do just that. I root for my Conference, as long as it's a team I don't despise. The more rabid the fan, the fewer the other teams that are OK, I realise-- no matter what the sport. In fact, I've heard we're pretty progressive not throwing our remotes into our televisions in disgust when our teams get pushed out of the play-offs. Football fans, especially college football-- those guys are fucking scary!

I could root for the Washington Capitols, which would make my best friend Matt very happy. But I won't, I kinda want to see Ottawa make it to the Finals, or the Panthers Of course, if the Panthers make it to the Finals, it'll be the most boring hockey ever! They play boring hockey. 

Ah well,  There's always next year. Maybe we can declare the bedroom a No Hockey Zone next year. Until the Cup is raised, though, Go Kings!

I feel kinda dirty writing that.

 Us, a couple years ago. As you can see, we're kinda cute!

*Speaking fairly, the Central Division gets beat the fuck up at our house too. We do tend to have nice things to say about Columbus. Our good friends are hugs fans, and they have a fucking cannon to announce goals! A Cannon! That's so damned cool! I want a cannon at Consol to announce goals, that'd be the best thing ever!


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