We had a good time watching the hockey at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday night. Though a large part of me really wants to add an extra "B" to the name of the place, with a footnote explaining that Words ending with a Consonant-Vowel-Consonant double the extra consonant before the -ing, and thanking them for their attention to this matter. But, hell, what do I know: I'm still trying to work out what a "kudzu" is - apart from a climbing, woody or semi-woody, perennial vine. [Thank you, Wikipedia, for that]
A good, close game, won by the visiting Vancouver team 2-1 in a sudden-death shootout; they took the lead mid-way through the third period, but we forced overtime, scoring a goal with less than six minutes remaining. The extra, five-minutes period was scoreless, and then we went to the shootout, where one player from each side went up against the keeper from the half-way line. After three shots apiece, both teams had scored once, but Phoenix missed their fourth attempt, and Vancouver nailed theirs.
Let's be honest. My knowledge of hockey is largely from about ten years back, when I spent a couple of months playing a game on my Playstation - no, not my Playstation 2, my Playstation. Therefore, I am aware of "icing". I know about the "offside" rule. I am aware of offsetting penalties. That is the limit of my hockey knowledge. I vaguely recall making out with some chick after a hockey game in Streatham, London. But since Mrs. SnakePit is not aware of that particular incident (until now!), I had probably better move on. Fortunately, Chris's knowledge of hockey is about as slim as mine, so I didn't have to explain anything. We just sat there, went ooh and aah at appropriate moments, and had a blast.
It was interesting to compare baseball and hockey, and the approaches taken, in and around the two games. Have to say, we may criticize the AZ fans for not getting into the game, but they were like Attila the Hun and his barbarian hordes beside the Coyotes fans, who didn't seem to get into the game until the final five minutes of regulation. This was despite the presence of The Pack - "the official dance team of the Phoenix Coyotes and the first NHL spirit squad to perform routines directly on the ice." I guess doing anything more than walking sedately, directly on the ice, deserves some sort of credit, but let's just say that it's not the reason we go to hockey. The Candy Store, perhaps. However, there are a few tricks the D-backs could perhaos learn fron the 'Yotes. Here are a few thoughts.
National Anthem Singer Naturally, they have someone to sing the National Anthem before each game, but unlike the D-backs, it's not 81 different people per year. They have one singer who does most of the games. I like the concept, largely because it reduces the chance of what happens so often at Chase: singers who seem to think they are auditioning for American Idol, and that this is the perfect opportunity to show off their vocal range. Coyotes' singer Patrick Lauder got it right: it's not about the performer, it's the National Anthem.
Giveaway Remember the crappy white towels handed out at BOB for the playoffs? Well, at Saturday night's game, here's what everyone in attendance got:
Large, fluffy and well-made, that is probably the second-coolest freebie we've ever got at a sports event [Those "Anybody, anytime" shirts are still #1] I appreciate that, with the larger number of attendees at a baseball game - probably about twice as many as Saturday's crowd of 17,471 - perhaps it's harder to get decent giveaways. But am I the only one getting a little bored of bobbleheads?
Canucks? Isn't that an insult, and hence, a very odd name for a pro sports team? I mean would we have the San Francisco Queers, the Houston Crackers or the Atlanta Squaws? [Though actually, as late as 1965, the Braves' AAA affiliate was called the Crackers] Opinion on this seems mixed: this piece, "Used by Canadians, the word is acceptable in virtually all applications. Used by an outsider, however, it has the potential to take on an offensive or derogatory tone." On the other hand, Wikipedia says, "A few Americans misinterpret "Canuck" as an offensive noun but would be hard pressed to find a Canadian, French or English, insulted by the word," and also mentions that in 1995, the Canadian Post Office released stamps featuring comic-book characters Johnny Canuck and Captain Canuck
Screening close plays. At one point, the Coyotes scored, but there was some debate over whether the whistle had blown for a foul on the Canucks keeper, before the puck entered the net. While the play was being reviewed, the screen hanging above the center of the ice showed continuos replays of the event, from a number of angles. Compare and contrast MLB, where they never show close plays. This can sometimes backfire - would the crowd in the NLCS have reacted to Upton's ejection if they'd seen his slide into second-base? Mind you, MLB are so scared of the umpires, they removed the strike-zone from MLB GameDay, because it was cold, clinical proof of when umpires f'd up and called balls as strikes, or vice-versa. Oh, that my employers were so forgiving when I made mistakes.
Captains I know some players (the Yankees?) designate a captain, but it's entirely an honorary description. That isn't the case in hockey, where the captain is the one nominee who gets to bitch to the official about their decisions, without getting into trouble for it - a role almost entirely delegated to the manager in baseball. I quite like the idea of Orlando Hudson being designated our captain, simply because they would eventually give in, and reverse their decision, simply to get O-Dawg to shut the hell up. :-)
Reducing players per team in extra innings. This was particularly interesting. In the five-minute overtime, the sides had to drop one player from their lineup, which made for more open, exciting play. It would be an interesting twist on extra innings if baseball teams had to drop a player; do you go to a three-man infield? Or a two-man outfield? Also, while winning still gets you two points, you also get a point for losing in overtime. Should losing a game in extra-innings still get you something in baseball?
Hockey is firmly our second-favorite of the big five sports. To a certain extent, that's because we can not stand NASCAR or basketball, and the NFL is only of interest to see how the Cardinals can self-destruct this week. But I could conceivably see us getting into hockey, especially if it wasn't on the other side of Phoenix. The Coyotes seem to have a good, young team - their keeper, Ilya Bryzgalov, looked particularly good, stopping 34 of 35 shots before the shootout. The 27-year old was picked up off waivers from Anaheim, but has allowed barely two goals per game in sixteen contests since. Nice to see another team, besides the D-backs, banking on youth and building from within.