Howdy y’all. I have to admit that the last few months have been far busier and stressful both things that are hockey-related
and personally. As of a result, please accept deepest apologies for a three (3) month or so lag between articles of this exciting series. However, as the seven (7) loads of laundry spin round and round in the washer here at the laundromat, I finally have some time to catch everyone up on what’s going in in my #HockeyLife. This is a fairly in-depth article so grab a sandwich, favorite beverage, and stay a little while so we can catch up dear friend.
How About Them Preds?
Obviously, the hottest thing that is on the board right now is the Nashville Predators. Who would of thought their ups and downs in the second half of the season would get them to where they are now. Think about it for a brief moment or two. Starting off squeaking by and grabbing the last playoff spot to many would be a dagger and potential first round exit. However, I personally think that was more motivation to play some of their best hockey not only of the season but possibly in recent memory.
Feathered, Tarred, & Determined
Breaking down the analysis a little further as I add some laundry detergent and fabric softener into the swirling clothes and blankets, here’s some fun things to think about as you read along. The Predators ended up drawing the Chicago Blackhawks for the first tilt of the playoffs. To many, and to be honest – myself included, this was not something that any of us were looking forward to. Just that pairing, the eighth seed against the mighty Blackhawks (which has some hardware already in their trophy case and toots it like a cabbie horn on the streets of the Windy City) would frighten even some of the most veteran players some days.
However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and certainly David did in fact beat Goliath. Some may reference that Hell froze over when the horns of the comfy confines of Bridgestone went off with more than 17,000 friends and family of the Predators cheering, screaming, and yes, crying as the Predators SWEPT the Blackhawks. Epic is merely an understatement because Chicago was beat by every angle – offense, defense, goaltending, and the like. It was shocking. Four straight wins against Chicago (and two in the almighty United Center too!).
Déjà Vu With The Blues?
And if you thought that was a tough battle, the Missourians of St. Louis were right behind them ready to try to blast sour songs in our ears. The shocks and awes from the hockey community were epic after the feathering of the Blackhawks and that increased the hype and energy for the series tilt against St. Louis. Would this series be a repeat of last year which went down to the wire and an epic triple overnight win against the Sharkies? Best answer to give – not a chance.
A lot of people had more doubt that we were going to beat St. Louis because of Jake Allen and his stick that was hotter than a single on an R & B chart for weeks at a time. Only split by about 300 miles from each other, this series was one that would really define what would happen not only going forward this season but future ones as well. Given that the distance was short, it was no surprise and in fact very encouraging that hundreds of fans not only camped out on the front porch of Bridgestone Arena but also made the drive or flight to Scottrade Center to watch a game.
Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen, this series was much tougher than the Chicago one for three (3) reasons. First, the goaltending on both sides of the ice was much, much, tougher. There weren’t any blowout games like ones between Edmonton and Anaheim and certainly no huge collapses either. Overall, the teams were fairly evenly matched too so it made for a great series. Both fan bases are passionate about their own but also came together when water overtook most of eastern and central Missouri after days of very heavy rain and flash flooding.
Sadly, the Predators didn’t get the job done in four (4) games like the Chicago series and who would of thought that they would anyway. I will say that the storylines and series was probably one of the most watched and followed because it definitely dictates the future between the clubs. Sure, they didn’t like each other before but not there’s definitely some blood between the clubs. Hence, rivals are formed and deepen when they meet in playoff hockey (and in this case – the first time in the playoffs).
While Nashville went up 3-1 in the series, game 5 was probably one of the most decisive games of the season thus far for both teams. St. Louis had their backs against the wall while Nashville was trying to write history. The big thing is who would step up to the plate and conquer the enemy? With the loss in St. Louis, they had one last hope as they brought the series back to Bridgestone for Game 6 thinking they can take the tilt to seven (7) games just like last year.
Going into game 6, the pounds on the junk car doinked in fury and frustration as the Loyal Legion hoped we could swim out with a series clincher at Scottrade. Those hits, though, were for a great cause nonetheless. However, the amperage inside the arena was as my friend Jacob would say “LIT!” Regardless of when it was, it was so loud in there, according to my friend (see below why I had to be elsewhere), you couldn’t hear yourself think and likely had an eardrum or two pop. Smashville needed to be there as the 7th Man in a big way.
And did they ever. Regardless of if it was a TV timeout, penalty on the Blues, or even being down that first goal early in the first, the Legion held strong. As some of the players mentioned, they felt it was a good thing to actually come back for this game…and write history anew. After being down 1-0, the mighty Preds would score three (3) – including an empty netter for Jankrök to silence the St. Louis Blues 3-1 and waltz into the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever.
Anticipation & Determination
Well, not that history is about to be made and Lord only knows what the Hell happens next, the players are cooler than cucumbers in a garden salad. They know that #TheRide is only halfway complete as they come to the ‘mid-course brake’ and the best is still yet to come. When interviewed, they admitted that it was great to get to the conference finals but there was work still to be done. They know that their next opponent – whether it’s the Ducks or Oilers, will be just as hungry and determined to get to the fourth and final stop on their hockey tour. Besides, we have plenty of room in the trunk for some hardware if the stars align and all goes well.
And to close on that note this part of the story, a lot of people doubted that hockey can survive in the south. This almost didn’t occur about 10 years ago when the team was threatened to be moved to Ontario when it was on the selling block. However, the fans came through and a Loyal Legion was born anew. Now, more than ever, hockey is not only surviving in the south; it’s alive, kicking, screaming, jamming, singing, and envying even some of the deepest-rooted fans. Get on board as there’s still plenty of room for more.
Deepening Hockey Roots
Now that the clothes have done washing, it is time for them to gain from freshy smell round and round in the dryers. Since the last time we chatted, it was natural to be excited and happy that I started playing hockey and netted an early season goal. Well, the good news is that I haven’t given up on playing and have eight (8) games in the coffers so far this season. Even though that lonely goal is still on the scoresheet, assists and more goals will come in due time.
For those that are interested, the season, at least from a win-loss perspective, hasn’t been anything to rant and rave about to be honest. Thus far, we don’t have a win in the ledger and realistically, that is okay. Why would you say that (as some have inquired because it doesn’t look good when you’re 0-9 with a few games to go in the season)? To put it in perspective and in summary, half the team has never been on the ice (and some haven’t even skated before with a stick in their hand – myself included). Thus, there are growing pains but as each week progresses, one part of the game gels ever so slightly more and one of these days, a win will come.
Beer league hockey is far different than the NHL. Nobody is drafted and there certainly are no contracts. You can’t get traded to another team unless you choose to do it yourself. The costs associated with hockey are not only monetary. They are mental and physical as well. Much like a cancer, it spreads as you get more and more involved. Like any sport, once you get started, it is difficult to get away from it. It is what it is.
Change of Scenery
Speaking of deepening roots, there was one decision that I made a few weeks ago that will help intensify and deepen my hockey IQ so to speak. I decided per executive decision to take a part-time position at Ford Ice Center to assist with a number of different roles. For those that don’t know me too well, I did mystery shopping for almost 5 years prior to this opportunity and though it made decent money, it was boring, monotonous, and lonely. This was a welcomed change and thus far, it has helped out quite a bit.
For those that are curious to know, the main position I have is scorekeeping. I average anywhere from four (4) to nine (9) games plus a week keeping score which is for most of the beer leagues that play there (B, C, and D). But I also devote some extra time to the front desk and skate guarding. Outside of keeping score and watching numerous games of hockey, skate guarding is a huge benefit because I can get on the ice and skate – one of my weaknesses. This will help with time as I can gain confidence, speed, and maneuverability on the ice.
While this venture has just begun, I’ll be sure to provide some more updates about it from the news desk as time goes on. That’s even incorporating a new recreation center and hockey facility in Bellevue slated to open in late 2018.
Hockey 101 Lesson – Patience With The Puck
No issue of ‘As The Puck Spins’ can’t be whole without a quick hockey lesson. One of the things that I learned early on is to not fear the puck. When I first touched pucks in different learning sessions, open stick time, and even the first couple of games, I was very hesitant of touching the puck. It was almost to the point I felt like it was going to bite me in the hand.
However, after dodging a few that came flying near the scorekeeping booth, I have realized you can’t fear it. It is an inanimate object. Sure, it may come to you or at you at high speeds but what is it going to do? You have to grab it, pass it down the ice, or even give it to another player to try to set up a defensive play or a score in the offensive zone. This brief lesson may sound silly because of the way it is written but is one of the most common challenges early players have – regardless of age. You could say that this is true for other sports (well, except bowling because if you’re afraid of it, you’re likely to have it land on your foot, haha).
Honorable Horn Blasts This Go Around
As time is nearing the end of the drying cycles, there are so many honorable horn blasts that could be given here. But, going off the script a bit, I want to say that the horns blast to the sky so that the whole world can hear. Not only am I am grateful for the Nashville Predators organization and what they have done this season, I am excited to be a part of the Loyal Legion and many of the friends that I have gained in the adult league hockey community. Pekka, Arvy, Ryan, Ryan, and the crew deserve a blast too. However, the horn needs recalibrated for some more honkings coming up here soon.
Next Steps & What’s Coming Up
The rest of this week and month of May for that matter has a lot of changes in store. I will be moving into a new apartment that will be converted to a hockey hangout. This adventure of decorating will have an ‘extreme move-in’ twist at friends of mine are going to assist decorating it into a place I can call home and bring friends and family into. That being said, the schedule for the Western Conference Finals will likely be announced and the Preds will take the third leg of #TheRide towards bringing the Stanley Cup home to Smashville. My promise to y’all is that I’ll get another article on the docket here soon once I get settled in. Thank you for all of your support and appreciate your time and attention reading. Cheers and Stand With Us!