So far this hockey season, there've been some cool things going on, and some not so cool things. When I think back on the first part of the 2009-2010 season, these are some things that come to mind:
* Injures. Injuries to key players. Freak injuries.
* Teams like Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Colorado being among the Western elite, while perennial favorite Detroit struggles.
* Carolina going from being a super hot playoff team in May to pretty much being out of playoff contention already the following fall.
* The non-surprises among the league's leading scorers to date, like Ovechkin, Crosby, and Thornton (most points since 2005-2006 season by far), coupled with the one Rangers fans were praying would be included but didn't know for sure - in Gaborik -, and the outright surprises: can you say Tomas Plekanec?
* Players hitting milestones, like Brodeur finally (seriously finally) passing Terry Sawchuk, and as recently as Shane Doan's 1,000th game. Both players hit their milestones having played ALL games with their respective teams, which is commendable.
And on a personal level with my favorite team and one of my favorite teams to follow:
* The Rangers had one of their typical years. Start fast, get hopes up, come back down to Earth (crashing actually), and slowly pick up the pieces amid a winter doldrum. But you know what. Screw it. I like this team. I like this team better than I liked last years team. Yeah, the captain may lack some sense of captain gene (although he does have five points in his last five games!), the team is still saddled and inevitabley ruined by contracts bigger than Sather can count to, and they still throw out crap efforts against teams (*cough* Islanders) they should be psyched to play.
BUT - they've got a goalie who wears his heart on his sleeve. Win, lose, shootout - don't tell me that Hank doesn't care. They've got Marian Gaborik, a healthy Marian Gaborik, who is as advertised and more, dazzling us fans with his every move. We've got a young defense corp, the youngest being a 19-year-old Del Zotto who makes me pray to everything holy that he never leaves the red, white, and blue. And you have a mix of Avery (even if he needs to mix it up more), of Prospal (the steal of the year), and Artem Anisimov (who I am so excited to see come into his own). It's a great team - well maybe not a great team - but my team and for the most part, they are SO much more fun to watch than last year.
And as for the Coyotes, if there was ever going to be any good coming from my favorite player being traded, it was the pleasure I'd had in following my adoptive team. I miss Prucha being in New York, surely, but nothing has made me happier than seeing a once confident and happy hockey player I so loved watching AGAIN BE that confident and happy hockey player. Nothing brings me such joy.
As a bonus, I've gotten to watch a team that I have really grown to like over the last nine months have a really kick butt first half of their season. They have the right mix, the right players, and the right system for the players to buy into. Credit management, credit coaching, credit anyone - but they are incredible and they are fun to watch.
I never contemplated being a fan of two different hockey teams to such an extreme. Surely I followed many - the Stars when Pat Verbeek and Manny Malhotra were there, the Sharks when Adam Graves went West, the Maple Leafs back in the early 2000s becauase those were some fun teams to watch. But I can honestly say even though I haven't gotten to watch all the Coyotes games real time, I've Tivoed them all. And since there is no rooting interest of rivalry between the Rangers and Coyotes, I pretty much want them to win each and every night. It may have started for Prucha, but it grew into a genuine love and appreciation for this team. And it opened up a whole new group of Twitter/blog friends, who I enjoy sharing the experience with, countries apart.
Hockey is for everyone, they say.
Lastly, I haven't put much stock into this End of the Decade stuff, but...since it's floating around, I'll put in a few of my best and worst memories of hockey during this time. It's a hard task and I'll forget tons, but it's been a remarkable 10 years for the best sport in the world. So glad to be fan!
- Messier returning to the Rangers in 2000. He ended up where he was supposed to be.
- The FLY Line
- The 2002 Olympic games - the most enjoyable I've ever seen.
- The game at the Garden on November 5, 2003 when Messier passed Howe in points. He needed two points to do so and ended up scoring two goals, the second being an empty netter with less than 5 seconds to go. I remember sitting there, numb, just knowing when he got the puck that he was going to do it, right then and there. That was, probably, my only moment of seeing live what was the once (and on some level always) great Messier having one of the great moments he seemed built for.
- Watching Jagr and Prucha, et al, during the 2005-2006 season, my favorite season to date.
- Jagr eclipsing Rangers records for goals 54, points 123, and Prucha getting 30 goals as a rookie, and a record 16 power play goals, that year.
- Seeing Jagr's hat trick, in Pittsburgh, at Mellon arena, in a 6-1 Rangers win over the Penguins in 2005.
- Seeing what I thought was a fantastic 7 game final between Carolina and Edmonton, led by an unsung hero in goal for Edmonton in Jussi Markkanen.
- Starting to listen to the Team990 in Montreal one boring day at work early in 2007 and being blessed with entertainment for the last almost three years.
- Roszival's OT winner at the Garden versus Buffalo in Game 3 in 2007. (The most important a game has felt in the Garden in a long time).
- Jagr's masterful performance in Game 4 versus the Penguins on Garden ice in the second round of the playoffs 2008.
- Getting to see five retirement ceremonies during the decade - Richter, Messier, Leetch, Graves, Howell and Bathgate.
- The 100 year ceremony in Montreal on December 4th. That may have just been one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
- Even though it's early, getting to watch Marian Gaborik play night in, night out. Rangers fans were blessed, BLESSED, with Jagr. We are now getting to be blessed twice.
- The pleasure of getting to watch some of my favorite non Rangers, like Trevor Linden, Mike Modano, Alex Ovechkin, Pat Kane, et al, play hockey.
- Richter's consequtive knee injuries and concussion and the inevitable end to a great career.
- The day Manny Malhotra was traded.
- The day Brian Leetch was traded.
- The day they announced they were cancelling the season on 2/16/05.
- The day the Rangers signed Chris Drury and Scott Gomez because every team needs two incredibly overpriced and very often useless centers.
- The day the Rangers let Jaromir Jagr walk even though he and Hank rebuilt this franchise from disaster.
- The day the Rangers signed Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival to the mind-numbingly stupid contracts.
- The day the Rangers traded Petr Prucha.
- The day the Penguins won the Cup.
- PJ Stock leaving the Team990. Some of my greatest days were spent listening to him, but may he enjoy the time with his family. Our loss, their gain. All the best to Peej - one of the true GOOD guys!
Again, I'm sure there is more...of course there is, but these were top of mind. Here's to TONS of wonderful new hockey memories to be shared in the new year and decade to come.
I'll be out of computer range for a few days, although I may tweet from time to time. So as much as this blog has been quiet (continued apologies for that beyond my control and the laziness which was not) it will remain quiet throughout the end of 2009. Hopefully next year, lots more chatter and lots more hockey.
Wishes for a healthy and happy 2010! Thanks for reading! ;)