Sunday, January 28, 2018

One hundred reasons to love hockey

Hockey is the world's greatest spectator sport, which makes the NHL my favorite professional sports league.

This is the NHL All-Star Weekend and it has been taking place right here in my own sunny waterfront metropolitan area, with the All-Star Game itself (actually, a 3-on-3 tourney with each division fielding its own team) slated for later today.

That makes this the perfect time to list 100 reasons to love the game of hockey. Before I do that, I should admit that I stole the idea from Tampa Bay Times writer Joe Smith. But so what? I swear my list is better than his! And here it is...

Nikita Kucherov one-timers from the right circle.

Steven Stamkos one-timers from the left circle.

P.K. Subban one-timers from the point.

Overtime playoff games.

Lanny McDonald's 'stache.

Playoff beards.

Warroad, Minnesota.

That Canadian players hail from towns with names like Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, and Yellowknife.

That European players hail from towns with names like Ornskoldsvik, Kuopio, and Jacovce.

That the alternate captain's "A" on a Calgary Flames jersey is also the franchise's original logo from when it was the Atlanta Flames.

The Winnipeg Jets logo.

"He shoots, he scores!"

"Number four, Bobby Orr!"

"Jesus Saves. And Esposito scores on the rebound."

Slap Shot.

Eddie Shore: First as the authoritarian blueliner for the Boston Bruins, then as the authoritarian owner of the Springfield Indians, and finally as the recurring old-school reference in Slap Shot.

Hating the Habs.

Hating the Flyers.

Playoff octopi in Detroit.

Personalized goalie masks.

1994 Eastern Conference Finals: Brodeur, Leetch, Messier's guarantee, and eventually "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!"

2002 Western Conference Finals: Sakic, Forsberg, Drury, Foote, Blake, and Roy... versus Lidtsrom, Fedorov, Yzerman, Robitaille, Chelios, and Hasek... and that's just getting started.

Tennessee Titans offensive linemen chugging beer at Nashville Predators playoff games.

Doc Emerick's play-by-play.

Don Cherry's bombastic commentary.

Don Cherry's bombastic suits.

The Miracle on Ice.

50 goals in 50 games... but especially Wayne Gretzy's 50 in 39.

Hearing both national anthems.

The one -- and still only -- Mario Lemieux Hat Trick.

Elliotte Friedman's "31 Thoughts" column.

Backyard rinks in Manitoba.

Frozen ponds in Maine.

The Beanpot Tournament.

All those dulcet French surnames: Beliveau, LaFleur, Lemieux, Lecavalier, Giguere, Dionne, Dumont, etc.

All those craggy Russian surnames: Kucherov, Kuznetsov, Konstantinov, Tretiak, Tikhonov, Gonchar, Zelepukin, etc.

The Summit Series.

1996 World Cup.

2010 Vancouver: US, Canada, Parise (yes!), overtime, Crosby (shit).

1994 Lillehammer: Canada, Sweden, shootout, Forsberg, Salo.

Patrick Roy saying he couldn't hear Jeremy Roenick trash-talking because he had plugged his ears with his championship rings.

Reminding everyone that the New York Islanders were once a dynasty that dominated the NHL.

Reminding Toronto fans that despite all their entitled "capital of hockey" gasbaggery, it's been more than 50 years since their team hoisted the Cup.

Defending Alexander Ovechkin's playoff productivity.

Line nicknames: The French Connection, Legion of Doom, Trio Grande, West Coast Express, ZZ Pops, etc.

Player nicknames: Rocket Richard, The Vladinator, The Russian Rocket, The Finnish Flash, The Golden Jet, etc.

The anticipation when Patrick Kane is on a breakaway with the puck on his stick.

Goalies "stealing games" by "standing on their heads."

T.J. Oshie in a shootout.

The eternal argument: Gretzky or Lemieux?

The "era argument": Was Brett Hull's 82 goals in one season a more impressive accomplishment than Wayne Gretzky's 92?

The Three Stars.

Sibling players: The Neidermeyers, Espositos, Bures, Hatchers, Sutters, etc... and by all means, this includes Tony and Cammi Granato... and can I count the Hanson brothers?

Father-son players: The Howes, Hulls, Parises, Tkachuks, Hextalls, etc.

1964 Stanley Cup Finals: Bobby Baun scores in overtime while skating on a fractured ankle.

1999 Stanley Cup Finals: It was not a goal.

Mike Lange's Lange-isms.

Phil Kessel.

Esa Tikkanen.

Johnny Bower.

Neal Broten.

Martin St. Louis.

Tony McKegney.

Justin Williams.

Rod Langway.

Vaclav Nedomansky.

Ryan Callahan.

That the Anaheim Ducks dropped the "Mighty" from their name.

That the brother of Sebastian Bach (lead singer of Skid Row) had a brief career as an NHL goaltender in the 1990's.

2014 Winter Classic.

"Potvin sucks!"

Gordie Howe's final goal.

John Scott in the All-Star Game.

Washington-Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

Detroit-Colorado hatred 1996-2002.

Jacque Plante's mask.

Gerry Cheevers' mask.

That the Chicago Blackhawks pay homage to Black Hawk himself with their name and logo.

That the Chicago Blackhawks refuse to bow down to the PC blowhards who falsely and ignorantly call their logo racist.

Complaining about Gary Bettman.

Complaining about suspensions handed down by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Wondering where Connor McDavid is about to pass it to.

That the winning players' names get engraved on the Cup.


Goals banked in off of goaltenders from behind the goal line.

Chasing down the puck to avoid an icing call.

2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning.

2016-17 Nashville Predators.

That the 1990-91 Minnesota North Stars got hot at the right time and played their way into the Stanley Cup Finals.

That during those finals, Mario Lemieux showed his skill by shaking and baking them so bad on this goal that, as the aforementioned Mike Lange liked to say, "they lost their liquor license!"

The hero's welcome Dominik Hasek received in Prague after backstopping the Czech Republic to the 1998 Olympic Gold.

Old-school real men versus analytics-geek pajama boys.

Goal songs.

The goal lamp.

Childhood teammates growing up to become NHL superstars.

Sidney Crosby's loyalty to "his" numerals (he was born in '87, wears jersey #87, and forever sticks with a salary of $8.7 million even though he knows he would get much more if he asked).

And, although this is a bit of a repeat: "Do you believe in miracles!?!?"

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