Tag Archives: Yzerman

Fighting Ends with NHL Lockout

The Ontario Hockey League(OHL) refuses to justify fighting and won’t allow it, and they’re fighting back. The NHL is listening and may follow the call.

“For years, Campbell and his staff in Toronto have chewed on the subject. The Rangers-Devils game last season, where three staged fights broke at the drop of the puck, was a black eye for the league and certainly caused some in-house deliberation at the NHL office.”

The influential intolerance of violence is trending as the NHL lockout lingers. Fighting is a problem in hockey, but just how much fighting is really happening?

Brandon Prust and Shawn Thornton are the two grinders who have racked up the most majors in the league. Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, accrued 156 penalty minutes. Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins racked 154 minutes of bad behaviour. Not all penalty minutes are for fighting, rather diving, tripping, misconduct, slashing, boarding, and high-sticking (which can rip open a lip, eye or nose).

Is this the death of the doomed fighting controvrsy to make way for a kinder, gentler hockey agenda? The lockout may be a contributing factor for initiatives to curb relentless fighting in the NHL. Players do not make a habit of fighting and the enforcer role has diminshed on every roster. With the NHL work stoppage, fans may expect to see a stoppage of the bloodbaths on the ice when the season returns.

Can hockey survive a cultural shift so great to adapt to the new culture?

Fans have many options to watch hockey for less expense and travel time. This may be good for hockey overall to take us back to our roots in local ice arenas. The mention of the delapedated concrete building that house large ice rinks and skates, brings joy. It’s the environment where every hockey fan got the itch. It’s the same traits that bring fans to other arenas. It’s a hockey culture where your neighbors are enchanted with the scraping of skates, the whoosh of the ice, the cold, and the fortitude to watch every last minute.

A large part of that willingness, for hockey fans like myself, was the promise of a scrap or two. That culture is dying for the sake of a new breed of hockey player. They’re faster, analytical, and avoid roadblocks like a Prust or Thornton. The new skater must be keen and lean.

Growing up with the Detroit Red Wings, you knew that the Wings represented wth wheels of speed and innovation. Players like Steve Yzerman modeled the quiet, calm leader with the intelligence to create. The Wings moved like a machine. The story of the  tragedy and triumph of the Wings was your story too.

Now, living in New York, the glory of the New York Rangers is quickly falling. Talented players are exiting to play the game they love, and who can blame them? While most fans realize these players enjoy their job, they are men who have families to support. An energized city, an energized Madison Square Garden has dimmed for the Rangers fans this October.

The NHL has shut down neighborhoods.  Hockey fans are resourceful enough to know how to handle their hockey fix. “Run for the exits” is what the NHL has done to the fans.

I really don’t want to start a fight, so perhaps we will see you in the near future. I’m working on locating a KHL channel.

 

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Summer is here

Red Wings fans have sobered up now that the Wings are gearing up for summer in Michigan. Time to get the boat out, head for the lake and fondly reminisce about what could have been. Next season for sure!

Lidstrom will surely retire after this season at age 41, six Norris Trophy wins and 4-time Stanley Cup winner. He’s won the Viking Award twice, which is given to the best Swedish player in North America. While Lidstrom may be bound for Sweden to retire, the Red Wings will be losing Mike Modano and Chris Osgood as well. The 2011-12 NHL season in Detroit will look different with new additions from Grand Rapids moving in.

Fine wine ages, and so must the Wings fledglings. This new flock will have their growing pains, but overall will maintain quality hockey for the fans and in the Western Conference. Detroit will not be in danger of sitting last in the race next year to make the playoffs.

Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar are just a few who have had some ice time in Detroit. Notable Griffins not ready for prime time include Gustav Nyquist from Maine and Brandon Straub from Colorado College.

We still will have Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen but how long will it be before Rafalski leaves? A few more productive years in Detroit, then he could be done or NHL rumors have focused on Rafalski as a trade option.

The new team will work under Babcock and Holland. Change is good so look forward to getting to know the 2011-12 team and think fondly of the 2010-11 Wings. Somewhat like the transition from Steve Yzerman heading to Tampa Bay, the triumph comes with perseverance. Detroit fans will not be denied a good game of hockey.

The playoffs continue with Tampa vs. Boston and the Canucks vs. the Sharks.

Boston is a Bunyan of a team with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, and then some. Tim Thomas in net creates the beast within the Boston Bruins. I expect gritty games with incredible puck-in-glove action from Thomas. Boston bets: Marchand, Peverley, Recchi.

Tampa Bay boasts Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vinny LeCavalier and in net, Dwayne Roloson, who has been on will-call for a Stanley Cup trip. Other names you need to know: Purcell, Malone, Bergenheim.  Tampa won the Cup in 2004, then the lockout derailed the NHL for years. The experience on the Lightning is just enough to take out Boston.

Tampa Bay takes the series because they shut down Ovechkin to get here.

Vancouver Canucks stands for Canada. Ryan Keler will also take out anyone who gets in his way of this Cup. He was gyped out of the Gold, so now he must conquer the Cup. The Sedin twins are expected to get the job done as well. Roberto Luongo is a proven winner in net and so is his opponent. Gentlemen’s duel. Canucks who can make the plays: Bieksa, Burrows, Torres.

The Sharks have carried some playoff baggage that needs to get tossed. With Logan Couture, Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe, the Sharks look tough to beat. Clowe will clock Kesler I’m betting on that one. The Sharks have Joe Thornton. Plus, Dan Boyle has won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

Vancouver Canucks will move on, despite both teams having difficulty closing the deal.

Let the Octopi Fly

The Detroit Red Wings were the first to advance to  the second-round of NHL playoffs. Energized, the Wings swept the Coyotes with the depth in player skill the Wings are known for. The break means rest, which is essential for the Wings as Zetterberg and Franzen will make a return. The Red Wings do it every year and will continue to do so with the type of managment and care for their players. Red Wings fans are happy fans:Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy and Pavel Datsyuk nominated for a Selke. Jimmy Howard is holding his own and can keep the Sharks out of net to win.

San Jose has been enjoyable to watch, but the LA Kings stalled the Sharks.With Anze Kopitar out, the nimble netminder Quick is just one piece of the puzzle that fits so well in Los Angeles. This team continues to display the type of fan base and talent base to become an elite league leader. Going toe-to-toe with the Sharks was a bit unexpected. The Sharsk are tired, but pumped they made in through to the next round. Sharks defeated the Wings in three of the four games played during the regular season. The Sharks also eliminated the Wings last year in five games. Watch out for Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture as a powerful force on the Sharks.

The Sharks-Wings series will begin Friday in San Jose, with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vancouver looked solid and on their way to annihalate the defending champs, but the Hawks found out how to play Luongo for a chance to defedng their turf. Fighting for a first round advancement, Alex Burrows buried the winning puck in net to grab the Canucks the series win, for the second year in a row. Ryan Kesler was also nominated for a Selke for his awesome season. Just like the Sharks, the Canucks got their workout but are propelled by adrenaline.

Nashville holds on to finally seek a Round 2 in the NHL playoffs. Anaheim was a tough hump to bump this season but give credit to Pekke Rinne who look unfazed most nights. Watch Rinne play against any team and the stun gun comes out as his stance rarely flusters. Barry Trotz, one heck of a coach, will see how his team rides the next curve with hometown boy and Hobey Baker winner, Blake Geoffrion. Smashville has smashed on through. This team is building a strong house.

The Vancouver-Nashville series is expected to start Thursday with a 9 p.m. game in Vancouver.

Western Conference final prediction: Detroit vs. Vancouver

I’m taking the Red Wings, because I always do. Vancouver deserves to battle it out with the best.

Ovechkin in, Pens out

Buffalo proved that goaltending does make a difference, but couldn’t surpass the fire of the Flyers. Miller had two shutouts in the series, but the tandem of Boucher and Leighton is brotherly love in true form. This has been a great series with higher scoring numbers. The Flyers wanted it more.

Boston and Montreal had quite a battle, but Boston moves on. Tim Thomas is a stable goaltender who will give the Philly boys a challenge. Boston is a good team, but the Flyers are scrappier.

The Philadelphi Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. The series will start Saturday afternoon at 3 EST. Classic east coast matchup.

Tampa Bay wouldn’t go away. With am 8-2 victory in Game 5 of the Pens-Lightning series, Tampa refused the exodus. That game was the turning point to rid the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance for the Cup. Sidney Crosby will recoup over the summer for a hopeful return in September. Tampa Bay’s victory is good news for the Southeast division and the growing hockey fandom down south. It’s also good for new GM Steve Yzerman. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was a great catch for Yzerman’s Lightining and will square off with the Caps rookie Neuvirth in goal. Tampa didn’t get the break as the Caps did.

Washington took back their spark beating the Rangers convincingly. This season, goalie Neuvirth illustrated his skill as former Calder Cup MVP. And he did it against Lundqvist who is the backbone of the Rangers. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers were down a man but the toughness expected of New York sputtered after two OT losses. Washington got a rest before the new clash in the East with their divisional rivals, the Lightining. Caps won 4 of 6 games during the regular season. This is a difficult series to predict.

Tampa will head to Washington on Friday to begin the series at 7 EST.

Eastern Conference final prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Philly

I’m riding the Lightining with their solid cast of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Roloson. While Washington is good, the playoffs cause the Caps to fumble.

Let the playoffs begin…

Congratulations to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who won the Frozen Four Saturday. It’s the first national championship in men’s hockey for the Bulldogs beating Michigan in overtime, 3-2.

Despite Michigan’s loss, Michiganders still have hope as the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs as the third seed in the West. Let’s look at the playoff pairings in the Western Conference:

#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago
The Blackhawks eked in from a Dallas loss and will face the winner of the Presidents’ Trophy. Goaltending in Vancouver will be difficult to diffuse as Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider took home the Jennings Trophy for goaltending tandem. Beyond that, the Hawks have their work cut out with Daniel Sedin securing the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer with 104 pts.  The Canucks have an opportunity to win big in the first-round edging closer to the Cup. Chicago has tough talent but has not been as steady through injuries and malaise. The Hawks could make it tough for the Canucks, but Chicago has lost their Mojo. Canucks should wrap up the series, 4-2.

#2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles-
One of the best matchups in the playoffs. A must watch, especially for California viewers. Three teams from the Golden State have made it in illustrating the shift in power from the East to the West. The Sharks are at it again and seem more relaxed as they enter yet another playoff fun. The Kings are a tough crew with some awesome talent who are fun to watch. San Jose players who have upped their game include Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture who have given the Sharks some needed energy. The Sharks look poised this year. The Kings could be a spoiler, but still have some maturing to do. And without Anze Kopitar, the rest of the gang will surely fire back. Sharks could surprise the Kings with a sweep. The question is can Kings goalie Quick maintain his namesake in the series?

#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix-
So many Coyotes fans are from Detroit. The Yotes have something to prove and could be a nasty pest for the Wings. Phoenix fans are pumped for the playoffs. Wings fans are confident, but without Zetterberg in the first game fans are concerned. Depth is key here- the Coyotes have played very well this year, while Detroit has had their ups and downs. Wings will take the series but Phoenix will fight and make it tight. Goaltending is a factor. Bryzgalov and Howard must play the best games of their lives to move on and both are capable. Tight race but Wings move on.

#4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville-
It’s the Nashville curse- they get in and lose. Anaheim has struggled but have dynamic players in Cory Perry, the winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer with his 50 goals. The Ducks are fighters and are scrappy. With home-field advantage, the Ducks could easily wipe out the Preds. Perry, Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf will score. Energetic play will keep this series one to watch. Too close to call, but Anaheim has more oomph to take control.

The Eastern Conference is looking extremely tough:

#1 Washington vs. #8 New York Rangers
A must watch for anyone. Ovechkin meets Lundqvist is a slice of heaven for any hockey fan. Washington has not done well in past Stanley Cup runs, but then New York wiped out last year against the Caps despite leading the series. This series will go down to the wire.

#2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo-
Philly rocked last year and could be heading to the Cup finals if they can hold on. Buffalo has fought to stay in the hunt. Goaltender Ryan Miller has to be top-notch to get past the Flyers. Flyers’ goaltending has been a revolving door. Great playoff history between these two teams will give this series some bite. The Flyers can win if the goaltending is stable and can beat Miller.

#3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal-
Can’t even begin to describe the fierceness of this rivalry, plus the animosity with the Chara-Pacioretty incident. A healing game on some level, but anyone’s game at this point. Price and Thomas are excellent in net, so grab a beer and pop some popcorn for this double-feature. This one will go to the end. Fighting is likely.

#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Tampa Bay-
Without Crosby and Malkin, the Pens have really shown the depth of their bench and that usually wins games. Staal, Talbot and Kennedy will continue the play that has kept them in the hunt. Tampa Bay lacks some playoff experience; however, with Martin St. Louis and Steve Yzerman as elder statesmen the Lightning will make the series tight. Yet, another good exhibition of players and punch and will come down to the wire if the Pens can keep it tight. Tampa Bay can do it if they shut down the Pens momentum.  Fleury is experienced and Roloson pulls out the stops.

Great games ahead and refreshing teams that have made it into the rotation make this year’s Stanley Cup run a must see.  Complete disappointment in Denver though. The Colorado Avalanche tanked this year after a good start. Recently, I saw Kevin Porter and Kyle Quincey on the day of Adam Foote’s retirement and they looked like someone had died. The loss of their captain in a losing year is a bummer. Better luck next year to all the teams who are heading to the golf course.

NHL All-Snub Game

Hey, NHL All Star Game– are you kidding me? His name is Jimmy Howard and you forgot to send his invitation.

Every year some player, who deserves to go, gets the snub generating drama to hike ratings. Red Wings fans are clambering for some justice. Right behind the Canucks in the Western Conference standings, the under staffing seems odd, yet the Canucks are sending three. With talent on both teams, it is strange that Detroit only has Lidstrom making the trip.  The NHL is bending backwards not to make this a Red Wings show, because they’ve slipped somehow and the injuries cannot look good for Detroit’s case. There is no doubt Howard has done his job and then some (22-7-3).

King Henry deserves a trip to Raleigh to showcase his tremendous skill for the promising New York Rangers but he’s propped up the Rangers for years. Fans of the Los Angeles Kings question the dismissal of goalie Quick, who has lived up to his name but not on the roster of All-Stars. Off to a great start, Quick has softened recently and reflects in his numbers (19-12-1).

The Western Conference rolls out Sharp, Kane, Keith and Toews in the Hawks section, who have the obligatory pass. Can’t snub the Stanley Cup champs. Patrick Sharp has had an outstanding year with 44 points. Vancouver gets a big nod with the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler. The Redemption for the NHL All-Star game this year is Dustin Byfuglien gracing the roster after last year’s snub.

The Staal brothers are well represented minus Jordan. Matt Duchene and rookie Kevin Shattenkirk will be there for the Mile High club. No Stastny listed either. With the absence of Chris Stewart in the line-up, Duchene has become a stronger leader on the ice. Stewart will be there next year or this article will be about that snub.

The NHL All-Star game really isn’t a game, rather a showcase light on the PIMs. Kesler and Backes could throw down for a few and I’d enjoy seeing that. Regards to the rookies who made it including Taylor Hall (EDM), Tyler Seguin (BOS), Cam Fowler (ANA) and Carolina Hurricanes own Jeff Skinner. San Jose’s rookie Logan Couture also made the cut, as he has become quite a catch in fantasy leagues.

Despite the snubs, someone is always forgotten. Semin, Zetterberg and Tavares are the hyped snubs this year. Western teams have excelled in play and popularity. Eastern players sell more jerseys. Since the NHL is based in New York, no stun in how this has been spun. Heading down south, the NHL is placing the southeastern pack in the forefront. Look what that division holds in Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Yzerman as the Bolts GM. Right time, right place. Load up on the BBQ and grits and take a gander at the skills competition, which really is the best part.

All I want for Xmas is a….

Nothing could be better than the smell of pine wafting from the Christmas tree, presents, treats and festivities galore, except a Detroit Red Wings win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 27. After all the gifts are opened, Franzen needs to pull out a power-play goal, Rafalski must deliver the hits, and Justin Abdelkader needs to put on his boxing gloves for a present every Red Wings fan wants.  This game will be a celebration.

With the series tied 1-1; the Detroit Red Wings will hit the Mile High City two days after Christmas. The altitude and attitude of the feisty Avalanche should put the Wings to the test. Though the Avs have slipped in the Western Conference standings a few notches, they are still only two points behind Detroit, who sits in the top spot. The last meeting proved educational for both teams. Both proving they could keep up despite the age and experience level, junior or senior.

The Avalanche lost to the Wings on Nov. 13 at Joe Louis Arena, 3-1. No fights in the game, and only J-M Liles scored for the Avs. In a prior game played on Oct. 12, also in Detroit, the race was tight. Going into a shootout, Colorado was able to win off of a goal by Brandon Yip. Exciting game and a fight ensued between Cody McLeod and Doug Janik, now in Grand Rapids with Detroit’s AHL affiliate Griffins.

So it goes, with a new configuration it could go either way. But it must go the way of the tiebreaker. Grab your beer, jalapeno poppers and some grit because this one expects to be a battle. A renewed rivalry? Not so much. For those who remember the swagger of the old rivalry understands the modern NHL debate, Yzerman or Sakic? Some were blessed with both in the forefront of their hockey memories, not the history books.  If we look at the new faces, the pivotal figures haven’t clearly been established. Stastny vs. Zetterberg? The legends are on their way, but not to the extent of Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. Stastny is by lineage a hockey power, and Z brings the dominance of the European play of Sweden.

No matter the outcome, these two teams will remain as the elite of hockey with their past wins and illustrious rosters. I leave you with the gift of five for fighting in this tremendous rivalry that has ignited such memorable moments.

From 1997, this is the classic hockey brawl:

Yes, even goaltenders want payback:

And to the recent brawl:

 

Happy Holidays and Go Wings!

 

The coast with the boast

What’s with the love affair with the Western Conference? Los Angeles seems to be a hot bed for hockey now that Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Justin Williams is the supporting cast for Anze Kopitar- the depth of the bench holds great value. The youth movement hit teams like the Kings, the Avs and the Sharks. Couture is in, and the Blues are singing happy tunes.

The lowest team in the East lags behind the wins in the West by seven. Toronto’s fall from grace was heard around the league, yet the struggling Rangers pulled their team up with their groomed talent in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. The West takes bigger chances. The East sticks to tradition. There is more pressure in the East to win, not so in the West. Ebb and flow. Los Angeles chose to rebuild and invest in marketing and public relations with the other Heidi. Colorado got lucky with some smart picks who were willing to take a salary reduction. Numerous reasons have put the West into high gear for now. The population influx in western cities is evident, but few are relocating eastward. Old school hockey fans live in the West now and expect a higher level of play from their NHL franchise. That’s how it goes in Denver, where you will meet people from the cold northeast looking for 360 sunny days a year in the Mile High City, and a hockey team. It’s the people who influence, the demand for the product. It’s pure demographics and market research before investing in the product. If the population pressures the management, more will be spent on building.

The Western Conference used to stop in Detroit. Since Chicago stole the show and grabbed the Cup last season, the westward migration continues. Vancouver, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix speak to the newest generation of hockey fans. Don’t get me wrong- the East is not dead by any means, but the trend shifts west for now. A generation has turned more aware of hockey, growing up with Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman as the superstars in the West. Gretzy in Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St. Louis brought more attention past the Mississippi.

Montreal, Philadelphia and New York have emerged recently to wow fans. Washington and Pittsburgh are no slouches, neither are Overchkin and Crosby, who still dictate hockey stats. Stamkos has become the new face of NHL hockey, and he’s in the East, and a beach league to boot. The expectations in the Eastern Conference are fierce and that has caused the stern look at the differences. The Western Conference has been under rated for so long, that the shock of their revival emphasizes the weakening of the East. Right now in the standings, in the West, Vancouver has 31 pts. and sits in the No. 2 slot, while Tampa Bay also has 31 pts. but sits in the No. 6 slot in the East. The consistency in the West allows an evening of the race in standings almost weekly. The hold on the top spot is tighter in the West, thus more competitive match-ups regularly. More attention to detail and fewer mistakes is a must if your team is facing stiff competitors.

The West has stayed competitive to keep up with the Red Wings over the years. Yes, I said it. Every team wants to keep up with the Wings, now and in the past. But for teams truly in the west, it seems ironic as the West touts the lone gunslinger mantra, yet the team concept translates well. Teams work well in an ambush. The East develops individual talent, so the team concept has dropped in significance, some have suggested. The Flyers seem pretty tight, as does the Rangers. Benchwarmers in the East aren’t as NHL ready as they seem to be in the West. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an eastern team benefiting from the knowledge through Steve Yzerman’s leadership. Stevie Y. learned from the best franchise team both on and off the ice.

Best bets for the Stanley Cup have pitted the Detroit Red Wings against the Washington Capitals. Another speculation could be Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Some exciting possibilities have been created in this fluctuating season sending fantasy teams into clunkers and numerous hat-tricks. Great games are great gifts for any hockey fan, so may the season be magical!

Returning home with the Red Wings

After the tearful departure of Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings extended their power across borders and bad lines by adding Mike Modano and Chris Chelios.

Modano will return to the Red Wings to end his career, near to his roots growing up in suburban Detroit. But Modano was always a Red Wings kind of player. A kid from Westland can’t play on Mike Illitch’s youth team without some kind of loyalty to the red and white.

Pre-game partying at Cheli’s won’t be a thing of the past. Though the Wings declined to sign Chris Chelios to play, they have brought him somewhere, anywhere within the team’s organization. Is this like the Messier internship that I so covet?  Bringing in experienced Red Wing alum will calm the crowds. Chelios, who already gets the drift, will make an impact out of sheer loyalty despite the disruption from last year.

So how does all of this benefit your fantasy hockey roster on draft day? You can still rely on Detroit to fill you fantasy needs, particularly Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. These two power forwards will make it work. Injuries and an off-kilter mode sent the Wings into tight situations yet they still took a spot in the playoffs.

Johan Franzen is the third guy on the running relay team- he makes up the difference to hand off the score. He wants that role, so expect plenty of assists and shots on goal.

With the return of Jiri Hudler, anything goes. He was ranked 12th in scoring in the KHL, but that may not translate to NHL quotas. If you can spare the spot, then take a chance.

If someone in your league is keeping Jimmy Howard, too bad. This is the catch him if you can pick. Don’t think it’s crazy to draft a goalie first either. The role of goaltender is diminishing in its impact, but you must have one starter to lead the charge. Two solid goalies work for your stats to diversify your scoring into more categories.

For those who have Chris Osgood, I don’t know what to say. Look at your options.

Adding Ruslan Salei was fine. I watched him play in Denver and he stood solid on contributions to the team. He could get fired up alongside Justin Abdelkader, who will return for the Wings. Watch this winger with a punch- he’s from a hot bed of western Michigan hockey that I grew up with. A burst of brilliance could come from either, but not enough scoring or penalties for either defensive player to sit on you roster just yet.

I’m still waiting for Jonathan Ericsson to show that he has the fight and might to play like the usual Detroit defensemen. He fits in so well with the Swedish stronghold in Detroit it seems to be just a matter of time that he lifts his play to the level expected.  Todd Bertuzzi leads the team in PIMs, so that’s that until someone else on the D-list can step up.

Though it is only approaching mid-August, my hockey groups are actively discussing the upcoming season. The Wings fans are analyzing the power of “our” roster, the New York Rangers are analyzing the moves of the management, and the Colorado Avs fans are drinking a beer in the mountains chill about their hockey team exceeding expectations last season.

Take a few more weeks to relax, and then get ready to plan your strategy as training camps begin in September.

The Many States of Hockey

I’m caught between two teams: my hometown team and my home team.  But, it’s an amazing opportunity to have been a part of both team’s histories and battles.  I feel lucky.

As a staunch Red Wings fan, I’ve been criticized for my lack of scope.  My hockey mom pal Michelle woke me from my one-sided love, “Oh Heidi, there’s more teams than the Red Wings.”  True.  She should know; she lives in Boston, is a Bruins fan, but loves her hometown San Jose Sharks.

So now that the Red Wings are pacing their stride in their division, the expectations that once were sky high have become a let down.  Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche are steamrolling through their division and have stunned many by exceeding expectations.   All of this doesn’t change the club, rather conveys the natural order of change.   I have been blessed with the Yzerman Era in Detroit, and the Sakic Era in Denver.  It is my sole purpose to glorifying two different types of hockey cities in this commentary.

Hockeytown will always be in Detroit.  The Red Wings are equivalent to the Canadiens for Montreal.  It’s just in our genetic makeup and we can’t be punished for sticking with the lifelong team, the team of our childhood.  My memories of hockey in Michigan are my foundation for my love for the sport and influenced my understanding of the game.  Respect is the name of the game in Detroit, and any hockey fan cannot forget that.  Detroit deserves a ton of respect, and that’s just good hockey.  Textbook hockey is what I hear from fans of the Red Wings.  Pure hockey fans love the Red Wings.  We’re the Yankees and Cowboys of the NHL.  But we’ve had our bumps.  The Wings went through a forty-year drought as a team, but the Wings fans held on.  Oh, and then there’s Gordie Howe.  Aretha Franklin wrote her iconic song Respect in Motown, Hockeytown.

When I saw Joe Sakic on a fire engine holding the Stanley Cup, I knew I was a fan.  Having moved from Ann Arbor to Denver, the Avs weren’t here yet.  A few years later, I was standing downtown watching the Stanley Cup parade go by.  What an awesome team the 1996 Avalanche were; truly, hockey at its best.  But Denver still isn’t a hockey town like Detroit.   I meet too many people who aren’t interested, yet the Avalanche fans are the most polite people I’ve ever encountered at a hockey game or hanging out with at morning skates.  When I tell them I’m also a Wings fan, they tell me they’re sorry, But they still talk to me about hockey.  DU Pioneer hockey has always been my link with Colorado, and the Pioneers just celebrated 60 years on ice. That’s tradition.

The series of playoffs games between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche were an exhibition of old-time hockey greatness.  Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic together on the ice fighting for a right to represent the Western Conference starting in 1996, is classic.  The Avalanche came in as the new kid on the block facing the tested and true Wings.

Avs fans love to razz me about the Wings mediocre season, and the Wings fans tell me I’ve “gone to the other side.”  I’ve always been diplomatic in my approach to relationships, and this is no different.  I like the New York Rangers too because my husband gave me his Rangers jacket from the 1980s.   My nights are spent watching hockey and writing about the sport I can’t live without.  I’ll watch any game, any team.

Yzerman’s Detroit Legacy

Last Saturday Detroit Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and his contribution to the world of hockey is indisputable.  I always knew his role in hockey, but his imprint on me was validated when I had to fill out a questionnaire regarding my favorite hockey team for a website.  The question asked, “Who is your favorite player of all time?”  I didn’t hesitate with my answer, Steve Yzerman.

The banners in Joe Louis Arena display championships dating back to the 1920s when Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay were the “production line.”  Most associate Gordie Howe with Red Wings hockey greatness, but my time with the Wings begins in the Yzerman Era.

Stevie Y was drafted by the Wings in 1983 and became team captain in 1986. That’s when hockey became alive for me.  I didn’t keep track of his scoring rather his presence on the ice.  His leadership was from the heart and his commitment to the team and the city raised the bar.  He was my Mr. Hockey.

I remember family events would mosey into talk of how the Red Wings were doing this season.  No change since I was young. Recently at a cousin reunion in Ann Arbor, I was reminded of my “admiration” for Steve Yzerman.  It caused some great laughter.

My cousins would come home from their factory jobs at Ford and watch the Red Wings in their basement.  A few years ago, I traveled back for my Uncle’s funeral in Pontiac; my cousins and I felt the awkwardness of the day.  Our talk turned to the Detroit Lions, the Tigers and the Wings.  We all agreed that the Red Wings were our favorite.  We talked about Stevie Y and his leadership, representing the hard work and persistence found in Detroit.  In many ways the “production line” hadn’t quit.

Meeting old high school friends in Ann Arbor even raised the profound impact of the Red Wings.   I would be attending the Wings-Predators game that next afternoon at the Joe, and was excited to hear about others who had recently gone to the games. One friend recalled her dad taking her to Red Wings game as a kid.  She had that far and away look, “great times,” she said, “I miss those times just me and my dad. It was our special day.”

Steve’s portfolio is impressive leading in scoring his rookie year with 87 points and lifting the Wings into the spotlight after a long drought.   But what Detroit fans will always remember about Steve Yzerman is his stint as team captain from 1986-2006 making him the longest served captain for one team.  Detroit was proud of that bond with our captain and our Wings.  We considered him to be home, one of us.  He turned it around like the city had so many times, and graced us with three Stanley Cups.  He proved that hard work and strong bonds could create success and honor.  Steve Yzerman showed the world that the Detroit Red Wings was a family.  That’s his legacy.