Tue Aug 16 05:13pm EDT
(Ed. Note: Our series "Puck Daddy's Guilty Pleasures" features puckheads from all walks of life answering questions about their own hockey-related guilty pleasures. It will run daily during the month of August. Have a suggestion for a "Guilty Pleasures" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
1. The Player You Most Love To Hate
This one is tough, because I don't so much hate any individual player these days. When I was a teenager and an intense New Jersey Devils fan, man did I hate Mark Messier. I don't think I ever loved hating him though. The guy ripped my heart out in 1994, held in front of me and laughed while he did it. If any games from that 1994 East Final are ever on NHL Network, I still can't watch it. I also wasn't very fond of Stephane Matteau.
Nowadays, you get to know players as individuals and not just nameless, faceless entities you can hate. It kind of rips the fan out of you, which is the part of you that chooses to hate people. Even professionally, there are guys who are notoriously difficult when it comes to getting them to talk. I've only heard legends of Jeff Carter(notes) talking to the media. Do I root against him because he's never in a locker room after a game when I'm there? Of course not, what do I care? I wouldn't want to talk to me either.
2. Other Than Your Own, The Team You Can't Help Rooting For
As you may have noticed earlier, I grew up a Devils fan. Am I still one? Sure, I guess. But there was a time when I lived and died with regular-season games. Nowadays, not so much. Again, getting to know individuals on a personal level saps your fandom. It feels weird as a grown man cheering for guys who are 20 years old to score a goal. When the Hurricanes scored two goals in 80 seconds to knock the Devils out of the playoffs, I was like Martin Blank talking to Bobby Beamer. "There is no us. We don't exist." I felt distant and removed.
But I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Leafs. I always loved the jersey and I always loved rooting for a team that had a long Stanley Cup drought. I used to pretend I was Doug Gilmour when I played, despite being right-handed and untalented. I still have jerseys from men's leagues where my number is 93. I was probably the only person outside of Toronto rooting against Wayne Gretzky and Kings in 1993. A team in a Canadian city combined with the Cup drought makes it easy to want to see that city get one.
3. Favorite Fight or Brawl of All-Time
Lemieux hadn't played in the first three games that season, but in that fourth game at the Joe, he dressed and all hell broke loose. The rumble had everything -- Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon going at it and even Igor Larionov dropping the gloves against Peter Forsberg(notes). I could watch two goalies fight anywhere, but everything building up to this brawl made it special.
4. The Hideous-Looking Hockey Jersey You Secretly Love The Most
It's easily the V-necked Canucks jerseys. Those things were like bulldogs -- so ugly they were beautiful. Deep down, I admire the logic behind the guy who designed it. He's sitting there at his work station, staring at a blank piece of paper when it dawns on him.
"Vancouver! V! V-neck jerseys! It's genius! Genius I say!"
I think if your city starts with a V, your sports teams should all wear V-neck jerseys.
5. Your Favorite Hockey Cliché (terminology, traditions, announcer-speak, etc.)
I've listened to a lot of Doc Emrick in my time, and I don't know if it counts as a cliche, but he complete redefined "pitchfork" for me.
I've literally heard him tell me that a man pitchforked a puck into or out of a zone about a thousand times. It's physically impossible to stab a puck with a pitchfork then flip it 50-60 feet. The puck would stick to the pitchfork. I always carry a puck with me wherever I go just in case I happen upon a farm, just so I can try to stab the puck with a pitchfork.
I wish pitchfork became a more common term that you could hear everywhere. "Johnson, can you pitchfork these files over to Jesse in accounting, then have her pitchfork those documents I requested this morning to my secretary? Thanks. You're doing great work. Pitchfork yourself a half-day today. You've earned it."
6. The Injury You Couldn't Stop Staring At (Non-Skate Lacerations Only)
When Kevin Stevens broke his face against the Islanders in 1993, I remember it being the first time I cringed at an injury.
At first, it looked like he and Rich Pilon collided and just hit the ice awkwardly, no big deal. Maybe he caught a stick in the face. But when they showed the slow-motion replay, you could see Stevens hit the ice face-first, completely limp. I don't think I understood the concept of being out on your feet and unable to brace yourself for an impact before that hit. I also remember his face being completely blue when they took him off. I thought he was dead. I must've watched that injury 50 times on SportsCenter the next morning.
7. Your Favorite Cheesy Hockey Reference in Popular Culture
I'm betting I'm not the first to think of this one, but it's "pull the goalie" for anyone trying to get pregnant. When my friend first told me his wife was pulling the goalie, I asked if he was telling me because he wanted me to be the "extra attacker." I'm just that kind of friend.
8. Finally, What's The Thing You Secretly Respect Gary Bettman For The Most?
It's for still presenting the Stanley Cup, something he will get booed for no matter what. Even as a kid, I used to wonder why he didn't let someone else do it. He could make 2011-12 the season of free tickets for all fans in all cities, have the team that wins it do so at home, and when he's announced in that arena, he will still be booed. It takes some pretty thick skin to do that sort of thing year after year.
Basically, I respect how he doesn't care about getting booed. He's going to do his job, congratulate the team, give the captain the trophy, and it doesn't matter if he's going to get mindlessly booed. And that's what it is.
I bet if you asked 100 people who boo him why they do so, no one could give a coherent answer at this point. It's like booing when a pitcher throws to first base. It's just a reflex.
Still, I respect Gary's willingness to subject himself to it all these years.
Yes, I call him Gary.