If you mention the town Aurora, Colorado to anyone nowadays, the words “terror”, “fear”, and “tragedy” will probably pop into people’s heads. Only two weeks ago a gunman opened fire on unsuspecting moviegoers at a midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Many families were devastated by the list of dead and injured as a result of this heinous crime, the hockey world included. Among those who perished was an up and comer by the name of Jessica Ghawi, better known in the writing world as Jessica Redfield. Redfield had a blog in which she recounted narrowly avoiding a mall shooting last month. This was a terrifying experience that Redfield avoided on a gut feeling and it is sad to see she never had the chance to live out her dream of becoming a sports broadcaster.
But that’s not why I’m writing this.
Rather than mourning the life that was cut too short, I’d like to celebrate the talent that was. Redfield’s only other post on this blog embodied the feelings I have as a female hockey fan. I am essentially split between having the sport love for this game/ these players and having that emotional attachment that we the female population of the earth stereotypically suffer from. Redfield compared the loves woman (and many men) suffer from and attached teams to each of them. As Dallas wonderfully put it, she writes with the humor and style of the ladies of What’s Up Ya Sieve and I couldn’t agree more. Please make sure to read her beautiful depiction of the 2011 off season in which she gives her readers a glimpse into her history with hockey. Just from reading it, you can’t help but love her. I wish I had the chance to talk to her and congratulate her on the wonderfully poignant post she wrote over a year ago.
I wish her observations could stand up for years to come, however, with her fresh perspective of the ever changing world of hockey at the time, a new year brings new views, player combinations, and situations to take into consideration. Like a crazy person, I’m going to attempt to write a followup. Don’t view it as an attempt to one-up her article. View it moreso as a passing of the torch to a new year, new experiences, and a remembrance of the life and light that belonged to Redfield. She will not soon be forgotten. (If at any time you find yourself becoming sad for her situation, as you are allowed to, feel free to check out her first official player interview with the fabulous Chris Summers then tell me, would this girl let you cry over her?) Cross your fingers as I attempt to follow in her example and present the world of hockey with half the gusto of this hilarious young woman who will most definitely be missed.
I, like my predecessor, am very new to the world of hockey. One quickly finds that hockey is a schmorgesborg of testosterone and players and teams start to fall under specific labels like the boys you walked past down the halls of high school. As I read about and watch hockey at an alarming rate the distinctions become more and more clear. I find myself leaning towards guys I never thought I’d like and shying away from others who scientifically I was bred to adore. Admit it, you remember the bad boys, “just friends”, loves of your life, and studs you made room for in your heart before you really knew what life had to offer. The rink brings no different assortment of clowns, fighters, and hotshots and as we all find, the NHL has oh so much in common with the male archetypes that cross our paths as we go through life.
The Unicorn: It’s a utopian mythical creature that stands alone as the top of the pyramid. It holds power that no other can posses. Many imagine what it’s like to be them, but no one truly knows. This year’s unicorns are the LA Kings. No other team knows what it is like to barely make the playoffs then off the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in the division. In addition, they won 10 consecutive away games in the playoffs, did not lose more than one game in any series in the western conference, and were the first team in franchise history to hoist the cup. They stand alone as a unique creature that many will have in the crosshairs in the 2012-2013 season.
The Bad Boy: You know him, you hate him, but you can’t help admiring his ways. He has a seat in the principal’s office named after him. He gets caught breaking the rules but he doesn’t care because that’s who he is and like hell you’ll make him change his ways. No matter how hard you try to resist it, you find his overconfidence kinda sexy and you find yourself watching his antics from behind the corner and get excited when he riles up others. To me, this is the Pittsburgh Penguins. No matter how many times their fearless leader gets knocked down a couple pegs due to injury or their leading scorers throw elbows, you know you’d gladly sit ice side to watch them and, ya know, root for the other team….
The Boy Next Door: Whether he’s God’s gift to the human race or the Devil’s spawn, he lives next to you and you always know what’s going on with him whether you intend to or not because, well, he’s in your back yard and you see him when you go about your daily life. That’s the New Jersey Devils. Not really on my radar but when something big happens, I hear about it. I worked with 3 Devils fans up until this year… and that’s about half their fanbase.
The Guy You Lost Your Virginity To: He was the first one to stake his claim but definitely not the guy you planned to spend your life with. Like the Emilio Estevez in your Breakfast Club, you know he’s just not Judd Nelson. He works hard, not too shabby in the looks department, but just not the one you see yourself going long term with. This is the New York Rangers. They looked real good with Brian Leech, Mike Richter, and Mark Messier donning the uniform, it just looked so good when I first heard about them, but let’s be honest, unless fostered and nourished, a 9 year old’s love of hockey can only be temporary. (What did I know back then? I was a COWBOYS fan!)
The Party Guys: Always good for a fun night but not the types of guys your really want to hang around on a regular basis. These guys are always great to watch when they’re playing. These are the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Would I buy a shirsey with one of their emblems on the front? Probably. Would I buy a jersey and/or season tickets? Probably not.
The Class Clown: Having once been the team to beat, you try not to think about the Edmonton Oilers unfortunate year. With two straight #1 overall draft picks in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and a strong winger in Jordan Eberle, this team should be cruising to the playoffs, right? Wrong. The three of them were rarely ever able to play together due to shoulder injuries and Taylor Hall’s need to let his locks flow in the wind during pregame skates. They also got a record-setting performance out of Sam Gagner with 8 points in one game which turned out to be 1/5 of his season’s points. With one player managing to play in ever game (that being aging veteran Ryan Smyth… yes, the one who cried his way back to Edmonton), this team could never be taken seriously. In addition to the injury ninjas, they were actually a funny team. Have your doubts? Read Jamie Jones’ twitter. Wife of forward Ryan Jones and billet mom to Jeff Petry and Nugent-Hopkins, the antics were non-stop and an entertaining escape from the reality that this team was far from being a cup contender.
The Nice Guy: As Redfield pointed out, he’s sweet, hard working, good looking, and has great hair. This is basically the description of the Chicago Blackhawks. With the emergence of Viktor Stalberg as a scoring machine, the call ups of Brandon Bollig and Andrew Shaw a.k.a. “The Piggyback Heard ‘Round the World”, the birth of Maddy Sharp, and the return of Joey the Junior Reporter, you just found them endearing in every way and always there when you needed them to be (except in the playoffs).
The Friend with Benefits: Oh yeah, you were that hottie in the corner who I admittedly wanted the second I saw you. Nothing serious, but when my guy isn’t in town, I have your number and I know you’re just a phone call away. You just look so good and we get along great but we’re just keeping it casual. This is the Washington Capitals. We have such a good time and I’m addicted like Simple Plan but it’s not necessarily for forever. Always a good roadtrip, they’re fun for now but could always develop into something more…
The ‘Oh My Gosh He Got So Hot Over the Summer’ Guy: Neither of them was attracting my attention. Sometimes I even forgot they existed, but one summer, some training and a couple changes in lineup took these guys from drowning dweebs to luscious lifeguards. To be fair, each conference had one. The west got oh so good with the reemergence of the St Louis Blues and the Florida Panthers went from chump to champ. Both finished #1 in their divisions and were riding high on life into the playoffs… and were eliminated by Round 2. So maybe all the kinks haven’t been worked out, but they’re on the right track. Will they be the teams to beat come October? No one knows.
The Fresh Meat: The Winnipeg Jets were the new old kids. Same old name, all new players. Manitobans didn’t care as long as they had NHL hockey back in the ‘Peg. Arguably the loudest arena to play in, Jets fans were rowdy for their team. Although they did not make the playoffs, the Jets have the foundation and support to be competitive contenders in the race for the Southeast… even if they’re in western Canada. When are those realignments happening?
The Disappointment: Starting the season, I would venture to say the Minnesota Wild were THE team to beat. They had acquired Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi and off season surgeries assured the Wild this was the year. All the puzzle pieces were finally in place, they just needed to stay together, but as Minnesota always manages to do, the injury bug bit hard and the Wild were left scrambling for replacements. With their final record of 35-36-11, it was no surprise the top two point scorers also had perfect attendance. Although the team health was declining, the fan attendance didn’t. With this off season’s acquisitions, hopefully the Wild have gotten Karma back in their favor and will make this the year for change.
The Quiet Guy: The wallflowers of the group, you kinda forget they’re there sometimes. These are the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders. If it wasn’t for the fabulous tweets by the Islanders’ Michael Grabner, I wouldn’t pay them much mind. With the off season changes though, you never know…
The Former Stud Turned Dud: The star quarterback whose six-pack became a keg. What potential they had but they let themselves go and are on the downward spiral. By the end of the season they were the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Last season’s Cup winners and the safe bet for playoff wins, these two teams should have had better fates than they did.Some of the issues were injuries and some were just old age. Neither team really added much youth so they both had veteran leadership but sometimes young blood needs to pump through an organization to pack a punch. These teams just looked old and slow and left the playoffs far before they should have. Each should be proud of this season’s accomplishments, but come on, next year there needs to be some more spring in their steps.
Your Friend’s Boyfriend: They were forced in my face whether I wanted it or not. With the lumberjack love for Rick Nash, I was constantly surrounded by the Columbus Blue Jackets so the options were smile and nod or do some research. I found players I liked (which helped in the 2 times I went to see them in DC) and started to occasionally check on their progress. Unfortunately, this year he was the epic disappointment some boyfriends turn out to be. Lord only knows if Dallas will keep him now that he’s missing some key components (a.k.a. Nash) but nonetheless, he gave some good memories.
The Snob: Some fanbases are exclusive. Being someone who roots for an exclusive club, I see how unwelcoming my team’s supporters can be, however, few can boast their own language. Of the six Canadian teams, the Montreal Canadiens pride themselves in being the Francophones of the bunch. This is almost to a fault. Any authority figures in the organization are greatly scrutinized if they do not speak French. Luckily, this upcoming year they are supported by their fearless leader Michel Therrien behind the bench and Marc Bergevin behind the desk. Hopefully the addition of Colby Armstrong will showcase the Habs’ lighthearted side and give them a more friendly face in addition to returning them to playoff contention.
The Independents: The Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes, and Carolina Hurricanes… they all have players on their rosters who I admire and respect, but as teams they don’t strike my fancy. They do their thing and I support it, but they are in the background in my mind.
The One True Love: He has everything you look for in your significant other. Strength, sense of humor, loyalty. You take him in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in 30th place or hoisting the cup. He lulls you to sleep at night and is there after a bad day. No matter how much he changes over the years, you will stand by him. For me, this is the Philadelphia Flyers. They are the team I stand behind no matter what they do. The time I have spent with this team so far has been an emotional rollercoaster but when all is said and done, they are the group of men I hold closest to my heart. Over the years I only see this relationship growing stronger.
Even though my observations/opinions are probably unique, the love of the sport remain the same among us all. Although Jessica will never get the chance to show her talent on a national/international level, I hope her brief existence brings out a passion for the sport in others for years to come. She suffered a terrible fate but two things are for sure: she was loved and will be remembered. Her memory encourages others to follow their dreams and cherish life, no matter how long it is. I hope you enjoyed this romp through the league as much as I enjoyed writing it in honor of Jessica.