Now Not Playing: The NHL Playoffs

Walter Gibson www.dbbsports.comContributor IApril 27, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 26: Brandon Dubinsky #17 and Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers face off against Shaone Morrisonn #26 and Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 26, 2009 in New York City. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

I’m a Red Wings fan. From before the Russian invasion. From before the Swedish invasion.

I was going to The Joe before Yzerman skated his way to the Conn Smythe trophy, before Probert went three rounds bare fisted every night, cocaine and booze hangover included (Probert, not me).

So you can imagine how sweet the past decade has been for me? You can imagine how jacked I am right now. How awesome it is to see the Red Wings take down the Blue Jackets in four straight.

How awesome it is to see the playoffs develop from top to bottom? To see the Caps and Alex Ovechkin fighting to hang on. To see the Ducks pushing the Presidents’ Trophy Sharks to elimination. To watch the battle in PA between the Pens and the Flyers.

Oh, except for one thing. I haven’t watched any of it.

Why, you ask? What kind of hockey fan am I?

Did I forget to pay my cable bill?  No.  But thought about it.

Did the Geek Squad repo my plasma? No. I have a big German Shepherd.

Did I stare too long at Shyla Stylez (real name) and go blind? No. But not a bad option.

Maybe I just had my first son, and I’ve been too busy parenting to squeak in a game?  No. Working late? Definitely no.

As it turns out, the answer is much simpler than any of that. Thank you, again, to the gift that just keeps on giving: NHL Commissioner Gary Von Bettman.

I travel. A lot. And even at the good hotels you’re screwed. Yes, hotel room TVs are nice these days. Usually 27” or bigger HD LCDs with lots of channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Classic, Discovery Channel, History Channel, TNT, USA, TBS. Even the Cartoon Network.

The list is long, and as you may have noticed, does not include Versus.

On hotel room TVs I can watch almost anything. I can watch fat chics lose weight and cry. I can watch shitty singers sing shitty songs, or Sponge Bob Square Pants for 24 hours straight. I can learn how Galapagos turtles inspired Darwin, how a road is being built in freaking Bolivia, and how a blender from 1977 can slice, dice and chop vegetables into smoothies for three low payments of $19.95 each.

But there’s one thing I can’t watch: the NHL playoffs. That’s right, the most intense playoffs in the entire sporting world. Thank you Gary.

Much as I love the Champions League, it’s no match for the NHL playoffs. Look at the coaches. Yes, Jose Mourinho and Josep Guardiola keep us up to date on all the latest Canali and Armani trends.

Really, nice scarf Jose. Does your husband have one too?

But do any of them go toe-to-toe with the fans behind them? That’s right, NY Rangers coach John Tortorella had it out the other night. Cold cocked an obnoxious fan who got in his face. Ok, maybe he didn’t punch him. But he did squirt him with his water bottle.  Good luck seeing that in the Champions League.

Then again, good luck seeing that in the NHL. It happened. Just not on any TV channel that you watch.

Even the MLS is on ESPN. Quick, name three stars from the MLS. Nope, Beckham is still in Italy. And Brian Ching is not a star. He’s a hard working athlete in a sub-par league.

But at least he’s on ESPN. Can’t say that about Sidney Crosby, Niklas Lidstrom, or Jeff Carter.

What, you never heard of Jeff Carter?  Exactly. The NHL’s leading goal scorer behind Ovechkin and he’s got about as much a chance of making the cover of Time, GQ, or Vanity Fair as I do. Again, nice work Gary.

But don’t lose hope. Celine Dion is rumored to buy the Habs, so at least one team in the NHL will know something about marketing. If she can sell her music, imagine what she can do with hockey!


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