Sunday, March 22, 2009

Damn you Cherry!, Minor league hockey

So, the most anticipated Coach's Corner in years came and went with only a few tears, and those were from Cherry himself.

I can't remember the last time I was excited to hear what Don The Dick was going to say, but I wasn't about to miss Saturday night's edition. After Ovechkin's 'hot stick' routine after scoring his 50th of the season, I was sure Cherry would have something to say that would boil my blood.

But...nothing, really. I mean, he did have that one dig at the beginning, "Ovechkin - Alex - is that his name?" - I'm sure you had no idea what his name was Donnie. But after that, he was almost magnanimous. "You're a class guy," said The Dick, more than once. "You don't need to do that."

Ok, you're right, Mr. Cherry, he doesn't need to do that. It was over the top, and no matter how much I enjoyed the theatrics, I hope it ends there, and Alex the Great returns to his glass pounding celebrations.

I mean, you must admit, Donald, that Ovie would never have warmed his hands on his hot stick (that's what she said) if you hadn't babbled some nonsense about him 'being a goof' in the first place.

In fact, something seemed wrong with Don the Dick this week. The tears I mentioned above were shed while naming the Canadian soldiers that had died recently in Afghanistan. While Cherry does this regularly, (and I have issues with it) I've never seen him get so emotional. Something personal was bothering him this week, and it seemed to make him a non-confrontational person.

So maybe that's it. The Ovechkin vs. Cherry feud is over. Much to my chagrin.

I can only hope Ovechkin keeps filling the net and pounding the glass, and that 'Hot Air' Cherry keeps saying things to piss me off. I don't know what to complain about otherwise.

***

I was fortunate to see an OHL playoff hockey game tonight. It had been about 17 years since the last one I had seen, and it stirred all kinds of emotions.

If you're lucky enough to live somewhere where you can see junior hockey, do yourself a favour, and go and see it. The small arena creates an atmousphere of familial familiarity, and I'd forgotten how much I loved that.

I used to be this fat little kid, that went to see every Sault Greyhounds game. I'd grab a big bag of chips, and an extra large coke, and at the end of the game, the chips would be gone, the coke would be empty, and my voice would be horse. I knew everyone that sat around me, and while most of them were adults, they accepted me as the fat little kid that adored these Greyhounds (my favourite player on that Soo team was Adam Foote, by the way).

And, in remembering these times, I remembered a whole time of my life that I had forgotten. I recalled feelings, and feelings I didn't feel then, and I missed being twelve.

It was a time of my life that I miss deeply. My world existed in the few blocks that surrounded my house, and no further. I loved girls, but they didn't love me. My best friend tried to beat me up on a regular basis, simply because somebody suggested he try (I easily outweighed him by twenty pounds, but I would never fight back). The summer, at dusk, smoking cigarettes stolen from my mother, with my group of friends will forever be one of my favourite memories.

There was pain, and sadness, and heartache, and I can still remember all of that hurt. But I'd return to that age in a second.

In the middle of those most formative of my years was the Greyhounds. My sweet mother, a single parent, provided me with season's tickets each year. I lived and died with those Greyhounds, and they never let me down. I'm sure there were bad years, years they didn't make the playoffs, but I don't remember them.

I do remember the Eric Lindros fiasco. Remember what he did to the Nordiques? That was old news to us Sooites, as he had done it to us a few years before. Which was fantastic, because it set up one of the finest rivalries I've ever been partial to.

Lindros ended up playing for the Oshawa Generals.

That year, Oshawa met the Greyhounds in the playoffs, and defeated them on their way to a Memorial Cup championship.

That only made us hate Lindros more.

The next year, we met them again. It was some of the most amazing hockey I've ever seen (in my overly-biased, memory-blurred mind).

In fact, the only thing I really remember from that series was Bob Boughner and Eric Lindros getting into a fight, and the end result of that fight being Lindros down on one knee with a bloody nose, and Boughner skating to the penalty box with his hands in the air, a decisive victory.

We won that fight, and the series. It was amazing.

The Greyhounds went on to the Memorial Cup, which we lost handedly.

The next year, we went back to the Memorial Cup, and lost again, though this time it was much closer.

That summer, I moved to Sudbury. For the following year, I had to stomach many hardships as a 14 year-old. I had to get used to a new city. I started highschool, without any friends. I had a step-father, two step-brothers and a step-sister to get used to. And that spring, the Soo hosted and won the Memorial Cup, and I had to watch it all on tv.

Talk about teenage angst.

I remembered all of those feelings tonight as I watched the Sudbury Wolves lose to the Belleville Bulls. It was a fun, close game, and it reminded me of why all hockey fans should go to junior hockey games.

Not because we owe it to those teams, or that support should come at all levels. If you don't like junior hockey, don't go. It's your money, and you get to decide how to spend it.

But, if you enjoy hockey at an intimate level, go support your local hockey at every chance you get. We were in the second row, and while we couldn't see what was happening in one corner of the ice, it was fun letting the crowd that could see that angle dictate how we should cheer at that moment.

There was a pregame tribute to Matt Dias, a player who's been with the Wolves for four years, and who is not going to the NHL. His career is all but done after these playoffs. It was touching, even in its brevity, and he received a standing ovation.

When you attend an NHL game, you cheer for your team, but it feels bigger than you. You know thousands or hundreds of thousands or more people are watching on tv. Even more will read about them in the paper. It's exciting, and it's fun, but it's beyond you.

When you watch a junior game, you become almost family with the other four thousand people in the arena, and the players become your own.

When I was twelve, these guys were heroes to me. Now that I'm 31, they still are.

Go Wolves Go!

***

Favourite player stat of the day: Well, he's not a favourite player of mine, but it was fun to see PK Subban live. During the juniors, he was exciting to watch, and he was no less tonight. So the stat? Well, I can't find any stats on tonight's game, but I believe, for a 60 minute game, he played about 74 minutes. Seriously. He was never off the ice. Even if he left, it was only brief, and he was right back on. AND HE WAS GOOD!!! Canadiens fans, you've got something to look forward to.

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