Monday, June 13, 2011

Gone in 50, 49, 48, 47 ...

Yes, I've reached that point where there will be fewer Stanley Cup finals in my life than more. Or, at least, I am willing to now rule that I am a mortal lock to not be watching a Stanley Cup finals game 50 years from now. After all, there's no such thing as an immortal lock.

The Lounge was closed as I attended a wedding, drank fine beer along the banks of the Hudson, celebrated the Five-Oh, saw Smokey Robinson in Atlantic City, made some crazy money in the big room and raced to the aid of a family member in the hospital. The last few hours of the break were spent by the grill, preparing chicken and staring deep in to the fire.

I have seen the light. If I have fewer than 50 Cup finals left, I had better enjoy every game from here on in.

Game 6 is tonight.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Done and Gone. Time for Game 4.

In the afternoon, you can go into any bar or lounge in the afternoon and drink in the melancholy and defeat. In some rooms, it is mixing with cigarette smoke, serving as your personal dark cloud.

The things you should have done, the things you cannot fix, the sins for which you can never be absolved. It's all there, clouding your vision, making you both bitter and pessimistic. You almost forget that you can get off the bar stool, take steps toward the light and see what promise this day has.

I'm tired of the talk about Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The conversation about being a fool after the whistle is over. Game 4 is where we agree to being again.

I'm ready for the game, and I don't care if they play all night. I just want to be thrilled, entertained. Do something fantastic tonight and make me smile again, just like the 5-year-old kid who truly embraced this game when my parents plugged in our first color TV in 1966.

The bar stool then was a foot stool in front of the TV. My drink was Grapette and I never had a hangover. That's where I go when the day is darkest. It guides me, moves me past Monday and Tuesday. Done and gone.

Let's start Game 4 already.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fix It, or Heads Will Continue to Roll

The roller coaster ride continues well after Vancouver's Aaron Rome ended the season for Boston's Nathan Horton early in the first period. (Today, the NHL told Rome he has the rest of the playoffs and summer to ponder his actions.)

The hit was not from the blindside, many will argue. Few if any will support the elevated shoulder shot to the chin of Horton as a legal hit. But many will tell you that Horton should have kept his head on a swivel to recognize the road ahead. He did not, and that is where we are now.

I've argued this point in this blog and another one, so I'm not going to spend more time stating the obvious. (Besides, it is too easy to be mocked for suggesting that players be mindful of being responsible.) Keep your head up, and if you are going to hit someone, respect the game and your fellow players. Do the right thing, not the vicious thing. You can hit someone hard without taking their head off.

The two Boston papers blame the league for everything that went down last night, but look at the Globe's temperature's rising if somebody doesn't do something take on the situation. It's a pretty rollicking read. Do you feel the envy/loathing of how such a hit on Horton or any Bruin would have been dealt with by the Big Bad Bruins in the old days? Yes, I do. I love it/I hate/Just don't do it to my team.

And the Herald comes off as the more mature neighbor, saying the league failed to pull these weeds a long time ago. Now look what has come to seed in the TD BankNorth Garden.

Heck, we all have to shoulder some of the blame. I see a legal hit where you do not. We all scream. At the end of 2009, I realized that until we are on the same page, we will all draw different conclusions to the same basic question: how can we keep this game rough and tough without killing everyone on the ice?

We still cannot. That is why I cannot emphasize enough that players have to keep their heads on a swivel when they come through the middle of the ice. Defenders have to draw a line and say I will hit somebody in the chest rather than finish a check dangerously high. (I don't know how to help Zdeno Chara, who even if he were to crouch would still take 5-foot-5 Nathan Gerbe's head off; perhaps Big Z could just put his mitts on Gerbe's head and lift him like a Weeble and place him back on the bench and out of harm's way.)

That's where the NHLPA and the league have to settle the issue. Workplace safety, hmm. That seems to be a perfect topic for the union. And for management. Perhaps we can lock the two sides in a room and have them trade head shots, blindside checks and legal but dangerously high checks like the Three Stooges until they exit, more than a bit googly eyed, and say enough is enough.

The time is now. While you ponder your answer, I'll freshen that drink on the bar.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Preparing for the Party

It's over. As much as I can summon up some hope for a long series, it's not enough to see anything beyond the Vancouver Canucks parading the Cup at the end of the week.

Tim Thomas, who looks like a Zach Galifianakis routine when he flips and dips his way to get in front of a shot, has said he will not alter his game. The Canucks have the confidence to wait for an opening and get the job done when it appears.

The Bruins? Their inability to clear the puck has been surprising. Can't get it from the end zone to the faceoff dot. Struggle to chip it to the blue line. Put a tape-to-tape pass on a charging Canuck going the other way.

It's 2-0 now, and I need a sign tonight from the Bruins that they will not go down in four games. But they are done. It's not a question of if. It's all about the when.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Never Forget an Old Friend

My childhood friend Brad will never believe this. I am putting up pro-Bruins videos for all to see. As a kid, with only the Western Pro League and then the WHA Denver Spurs to cheer on, I was free to pick any NHL team to support.

On 30th Avenue, between 4th and 5th streets in the Broadview Park section of Greeley, Colo., a clash was born. Brad was a die-hard Boston Bruins fan, or as much as a die-hard as you can be at age 12. I supported the bad and the good: the Los Angeles Kings, because they were the closest NHL team in the West that did not wear white skates, the Montreal Canadiens, because my table hockey game had two sides. Canadiens or Leafs. You decide. Yes, I can see you follow my logic. Already have one bad team on my roster, time for a good one.

There were frequent battles on the table hockey rink, and post-game wrestling matches and fights to settle scores that were not decided on the rink.

When the Canadiens were on a run of Cups in the late 1970s, Brad and I were in high school. Locker partners, but still with a determined split. Canadiens on the top shelf; Bruins just one shelf down. (As it should be, some might say.) By then, the Rockies were amid an endless string of horrible, so we were able to embrace both the bad and the good.

Brad never let me forget that he held the Canadiens in contempt, and that included a note on graduation day that said, rather than congratulations, "Hey locker partner, the Bruins are the best."

The Rockies moved on and I moved on and around the country, finally landing in New York. My interest in the Canadiens has dipped, but I have managed to retain a spot in my heart for the Kings.

But today, with the Kings still waiting for another day in the sun, I think of my friend Brad. For him I put these videos in circulation in the Lounge. They capture the youthful enthusiasm of being a hockey fan, and they allow me to relive those days in Broadview Park, when it was the center of the hockey world.

Yes, I am crossing over to the dark side, but I am doing it, temporarily, for an old friend.

(Ps. But to be fair, if you have a Canucks video to link to, send them along. They are a western team, and the West, as we all know, is the Best.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bad Hockey Is Bad Business

I do not know this particular economics analyst. Nor do I know this particular writer. But if they were to show up in the Lounge, they would be on a cash-first basis, especially when the Stanley Cup finals are on the big screen.

This particular economics analyst, who appears in the sports pages when reporters need a quote on economics and sports, can be handy. He's a good quote when you need an expert opinion (although I believe he misses the mark here).

And I'm no expert on economics. In college, I had an economics class at 8 a.m. Failed it. Then I retook the course, but this time the class was at 2 p.m. Passed it. I learned about guns and butter and the negative side of twice paying dearly to have a seat for the same lecture.

And I learned that when the time is right and the product is right, success can be had. Economics at 8 a.m.? Not a chance. In the afternoon? We have a winner.

I bring up this particular economics analyst because he is in an article about sports franchises that may or may not succeed after a move.

And in this article, the writer gives an unattributed thumbs down on NHL teams in the South and the West. Excuse me while this Colorado native shows someone the sunnyside of the front door.

Hockey in the South and West was never going to be an easy sell. Even with significant numbers of transplants from the Northeast and Midwest, there's no natural affinity for a cold-weather sport in a warm-weather climate. It's not part of the daily conversation. Kids don't grow up playing it, and there are no powerhouse college programs to generate interest.

I'm going to speculate on the passage above: South, to the writer, must mean anywhere below South Holland, Ill., the point where the Tri-State Tollway flows into the Kingery Expressway, and West must mean somewhere past O'Hare Airport. If you've lived or followed hockey from any point beyond the Tri-State Tollway, which I remember as that bland ribbon of Howard Johnson's and prairie grass, you know that good hockey is appreciated in your local precinct.

Where good hockey has had trouble drawing consistently strong crowds has been in East Rutherford/Newark, N.J. The Devils win Stanley Cups and struggle to fill their building when the Rangers are not sharing the marquee. And out on Long Island, the good times of the 1980s have been buried in the dunes of ineptitude left by various ownership groups. Two teams in the Northeast, not the South or the West.

This is something the writer does not mention. (I will give the economics analyst a bit of credit here; he might have mentioned something about this point when he was being interviewed -- I doubt it -- but the writer did not include it in the article.)

You offer me a bad product and I will give you no money. Better hide behind that mound of rotten butter because I have spent my money on guns and I'm coming after you. That's an economic fact I learned before I passed economics on the second try.

I know hockey in Chicago is experiencing a revival. But many of the Lounge's patrons can recall the Blackhawks' numerous Empty Seat Night promotions at the United Center just a few years ago.

If you eventually give people a good product, you just might find a winning business as well. That's true in anywhere. This article has a scent you can pick up, north, south, east or west.

So don't give me an economics lecture on bad markets for hockey. Better that you lecture a few owners and a league commissioner about how bad hockey is bad for business in Atlanta, Chicago, Long Island and anywhere else you might find on a map.

A Challenge at the Bar

Yes, the Lounge has had more dark days than a winter in Sweden. And that is why I am answering the challenge of Tapeleg, who urged blog writers like myself to give up the crutches, excuses and hangovers and get back to the keyboard.

Type, he said, be part of something bigger. And so we will try.

Hockey is the greatest game. And if Bobby Baun can get back on the ice with a damaged leg, I guess I can fight through a writer's block to give something back to the game as well, albeit a much smaller contribution.

I grew up a hockey fan. And through expansion, franchise shifts, the WHA, shifty owners, SportsChannel America and two lockouts, I am still here.

I am a survivor. Today, so is the blog.

Thanks, Tapeleg, for the challenge. What'll you have?