FSN's Mickey Redmond, taking exception at lengthy face-offs Thursday night: "Drop the puck, for goodness sakes. ... It ain't brain surgery dropping the puck between two guys with sticks on the ice . Get 'em straightened out, take control, drop the thing, and let's play hockey."
I remember the joke back in the old days when 16 out of 21 NHL teams made the playoffs: They spend 5 months, playing 80 games, to disqualify 5 teams? WTF??
This was back when only four teams made baseball's playoffs, eight football teams, and the NBA had five teams, starting with best of three between wild cards. I understand the baseball purist argument for 4 playoff teams. It's simple and elegant: you either won your division or you were out. But the NHL vision of a long, bruising, dramatic 16 team, best of seven tournament created the best playoff system in sports. So much so, that I think we're a few series away from the disappearance of divisions. Even the NHL.com page for standings only shows conference standings come the first of March. Even here in an expansion city, they know to call the playoffs "the real season."
Went to the Sharks playoff opener Wednesday night. Lord, help me, but I do love expansion team playoff fever. . . The game was fun, especially since I didn't have a dog in that fight. This year I only went to one game pre playoffs: a new low in 13 years. Part of it has to do with my work schedule, it's hard to take time out in the fall to get down to San Jose. The other reason is this: the Sharks, without fail, suck before Christmas. Every. Single. Year. Teams do have personalities, and Sharks are strong finishers. This year they became the first team ever to go the whole month of March without a loss.
Getting to a game down there is a pricey thing these days. The Sharks are generally a sell out, so extra tix generally go for around $50 a pop. Plus gas, parking, drinks at Patty's, Beers at the game . . . it's usually somewhere around $80 a game. I'll take some of this wrap, 'cause now I'm a working grown-up and I'll splurge for the drive and that means drinking only once I get to SJ. Back when I was a happy go lucky hourly type guy, tix were cheaper and more available, it was take the train, split a six pack on the way . . . the whole venture was half the cost of today.
Playoff games are even more expensive since some Gary Bettman drone figures out to escalate tix each round of the playoff. This man should be pulled out to center ice in Toronto and beaten with over sized goalie pads until he changes everything back. This ponzi scheme like pricing led to last year's interesting situation, I spent more on tix for a SJ home playoff game than I did for airline tix and a seat at back at The Joe* two days later.
*Read in an article this week that "Detroit has that great old hockey barn, The Joe Louis Arena". The Joe opened in 1979, when I was 14, and it replaced a real hockey barn, Olympia Stadium, dagnabbit.
So, the expansion Sharks are back in the most wonderful of playoff series, the tournament for Lord Stanley's Cup. This year I was lucky that my friend Mike came up with his Father in-law's season tix, because this will be the year the Sharks might actually draw some local media attention. The 49'ers are paralyzed by ownership issues, the Warriors checked out months ago, the Giants are in a "rebuilding" year, and this leaves the Sharks as the only local team with serious championship possibilities. This means that those 18,000 some tix at the Shark Tank will be fought for fiercely by their 70,000 fans. As opposed to Detroit, where seats were still available at game time.*
*Empty seats, but still drawing great TV ratings. TV is free. Try and get a sports bar in the Bay Area to turn one of their 20 TV's to a Sharks game, it's fun. One time, Mr. Ryan and I, two of only a dozen some people at Rich's, had to leave between the second and third periods of a playoff game because they needed needed all the Televisions for the Giants and the NBA playoff games.
Last night, 11:20pm, I get this e-mail from The Dad: The Wings game was on TV here as was the Senators/ Pirates game last night followed by the Sharks/Flames game on CBC. Two days in and he was on his Fourth game already. He was in a cheery mood, he'd just watched Detroit win their home opener against the even more recent expansion team, the Nashville Predators. After two frustrating periods, where it looked like yet again Detroit would give birth another "hot goalie from nowhere story", the Wings pulled it out and won.
15 more to go. I'm sure they'll find room for another banner.
Go in Peace