Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Cup To Cup: My '08-09 Season

The NHL season has officially come to a close and what a season it was. For myself, it was one where I was insane lucky enough to go to 59 hockey games in four different countries. It started with the Victoria Cup and ended with the Stanley Cup. Since September I saw 25 NHL teams (missed the Sharks, Kings, Predators, Blue Jackets and Blues), two British Elite League, two EPHL, one Swiss and one Russian in person. This is not to boast or brag, but an attempt to reflect on the wonder that is our favourite sport.

I saw great goals, great saves, great hits, great hockey and great hockey fans. There were highs and there were lows. I felt the Garden shake amid a deafening roar in the playoffs, I heard the players' chatter from the empty upper deck in Newark as the Devils took on the Stars.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, my second game this season began with song ...

... and my second-to-last game of the season ended with song.

Last summer Tiger Woods said that he doesn't "think anybody really watches hockey anymore" but he was most assuredly proven incorrect. Aside from the thousands of folks at every game I went to, plenty of people would come up to me (as I am often clad in something with a logo on it) and want to talk pucks - from the conductors on the LIRR to street vendors in Bern, Switzerland.

Some say that the game is a niche sport but it really transcends gender, age, race and physical borders. I was sitting on the Amtrak train at the US/Canada border coming back from Montreal and the all-too-serious-looking Homeland Security officer came through the car, asking everyone a battery of questions. Everyone was quite quiet - either nervous or annoyed - and there was an uneasy tension in the air. When he came to me, the officer asked the usual questions about where was I from, where am I going, what I was bringing into the country and what did I do in Canada. I answered the last question "I watched the Rangers beat up the Canadiens. And it was terrific." The entire car erupted with laughter, the officer smiled and went on his way.

That is what it is all about: the smiles, as corny a thing as that is to say. We take this kids game - played by men who, frankly, aren't us - all too seriously all too often. But for all the moments of sadness and frustration - seeing Wade Redden in a Ranger jersey, seeing Brooklyn Aces goaltender Eddie Neville lying prone on the ice fearing the worst, seeing Cindy raise the Cup - I have to take a step back and remember the smiles.

-Adam Graves' sly grin as a 'Potvin Sucks' chant filled the silence amid the emotional banner raising ceremony.
-Jason Spezza laughing at my "Please Sens, Take Redden Back" sign before a game against Ottawa.
-A Swiss man enjoying the spectacle that was me jumping up and down like an idiot as the Rangers came back to win the Victoria Cup.
-The smile on my buddy's four-year-old son's face as I handed him a Ranger game puck provided by a kindhearted MSG employee.

Finally, my own. Minutes before I left Pittsburgh after Game 3 of the Finals, the last game I went to, I stopped in the media workroom in the hotel to check my e-mail. As I walked out to go catch my ride to the airport, I caught a glimmer of light out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked over to see that in a mostly empty ballroom there was Stanley. There is just something about that trophy that draws a crowd and I stopped to take a picture. Walking out I was sad that the Rangers went another season without getting it but I had to smile to myself because the quest continues.

Through all of the games, all of the ups and downs, I can say that Badger Bob was right: it is a great day for hockey.

Every day.


Unknown said...

Great write up. Really enjoyed visiting your blog all season and throughout the playoffs. Look forward to reading your opinions durring the off season.

Honestly, Thank you very much Scotty. Great work, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Nice write up. Look forward to the offseason reporting and next season as well.

Do you get media credentials through your blog? If so, how'd you manage to swing that??

Pete said...

Very nice, Scottsman.

With the reality that I am going from being a 3 year season ticket holder to someone that may not get to see a live Rangers game next year slowly and sadly setting in, I am heartened to know that I at least have you and your blog to live vicariously through.

A final thought: The punctuation on a disappointing Rangers season is that, as far as I can tell, not one Rangers player is up for an award tomorrow in Las Vegas. I don't even think one is playing in the charity poker tourney.

kels said...

Well that's quite a season you've had. Amazing.

Thanks for sharing!

jamestobrien said...

Interesting stuff, Scott. I have my own rather ambitious hockey traveling plans, so I might bounce a few ideas off you next season. Good stuff either way.

nyrmike21 said...

It would have been nice to start with the Victoria Cup and end with the Stanley Cup. Oh well, another disappointing season in the books, with another great year of blogging from Scotty. Thank you for everything you do.

Scotty Hockey said...

Thanks for the kind words guys, was a helluva season. and I am glad you enjoyed reading my rants and raves. Been writing here for almost two years now and I like to think I've found a nice lil niche. I really appreciate all of your readership.

joe - I've only gotten media credentials through the blog once - the BlogBox on the Island last year. I've been credentialed for a few other games but that was through my "real" job. I pay for the vast majority that I go to ...

And James - feel free. I hope to knock a few more arenas off my list but it depends on what happens with the Olympics. I may get to cover it for the day job, but if not, it will be quite the expensive trip.

Daniel said...

like the post, especially about the part the rangers beating up the habs, brilliant. If only the rags could win lord stanley, all the more satisfying wen your team is historically, terrible