Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 4, Rule 4

The game: Philadelphia vs. Carolina.

Why I chose it: I love underdogs, which Carolina has mysteriously turned into after a stellar playoff run last season. And, they are facing one of the most fearsome, physical teams in the league. I don't care if they lose - if they get out alive and with a goal, I will be impressed.

My peeve: I dare Philadelphia to win a game without stopping to punch someone every 11 seconds.

The quirk: A few of the Philadelphia players seem to have forgotten the eighties are over - mullets are out, boys. Note to self - make a pit stop for Supercuts the next time you're on the road.

The rule: Section 1, Playing Area. Rule 4: Signal and Timing Devices.

Number of sections in the rule: 2.

Definition: A bored transportation engineer must have come up with this one. Hockey signals and timing devices are a sport version of traffic lights. This rule defines the color of the lights for goals, commerical timeouts and the end of the periods. For example, a red light will signify the scoring of a goal and a green light will signify the end of a period or a game. A goal cannot be scored when the green light is showing. It's backwards from the standard of green means go, red means stop.

My favorite highlights: Rule 4.2, Timing Devices. This wins hands down for the most comprehensible run-on sentence ever. Each rink shall be provided with some form of electronic clock for the purpose of keeping the spectators, players and game officials accurately informed as to all time elements at all stages of the game including the time remaining to be played in any period and the time remaining to be served by at least five penalized players on each Team. So, I guess the coaches don't need to keep track of the time remaining? At least five penalized players? The rulemaker must have been a Philly fan to boot.

Number of times rule violated: 0. Don't worry, we'll get to the section of the rules that are easily broken.

The final score: Philadelphia 6. Carolina 1. That sixth goal was just mean. Give 'em a kibble, Philly. It's not like you were tied at 2 in the third period with 10 seconds to go.

The morals of the story:

The game: 1) As long as the devices work the way they should, this is a hard rule to break. 2) The clock is everyone's enemy in hockey. If you're winning, it's one less second you have to score. If you're losing, every second is one less you have to catch up.

Life: Life is like a hockey timing device. We start losing time the minute we're born. Every second that ticks off the clock is one we don't get back. Philly may be insane, but they play nearly every game like it's game 7 of the playoffs. Crazy, yes. But they play the way we should live. Out loud, in your face and without apology.

Next up on 11/2: Section 2, Teams. Rule 5, Team.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 3, Rule 3

The game: Ottawa vs. Tampa Bay.

Why I chose it: Two teams whose recent past did not involve playoffs or the Stanley Cup are back in the game and on the rise. It's hard to pick a side.

My peeve: There are way too many injuries happening way too early in the season. Good, sturdy, young players are going down. Supensions are up. Slow down, boys. It's a long season. You can take somebody's head off and decorate your yard with it AFTER the Olympic break.

The quirk: All parts of the rink are surrounded by glass or netting, except the players' benches. Safety first, unless you're a player.

The rule: Section 1, The Playing Area. Rule 3: Benches.

Number of sections in the rule: 2.

Definition: Think this is a silly rule? Think again. This one is all about the foundations of diplomacy and fairness: equality, neutrality and uniformity. For example, accommodations, including benches and doors, must be uniform for both teams. Or check this one out: the doors for each bench must be uniform in location and size and as convenient to the dressing rooms as possible. But really, who wants to watch a diplomatic, fair hockey game?

My favorite highlights:

Rule 3.1, Players' Benches: The players' benches shall be on the same side of the playing surface opposite the penalty bench and should be separated by a substantial distance, if possible.

Rule 3.2, Penalty Bench: These benches or seats must be capable of accomodating a total of ten persons, including the Penalty Timekeepers. The penalty bench(es) must be located in the neutral zone.

Number of times rule violated: 0.

The final score: Tampa Bay 5. Ottawa 2.

The morals of the story:

The game: This rule requires that players be kept as far away from each other as possible. The penalty benches are designed to accommodate multiple players from each team sitting in them at one time. Make no is uncivilized. The people who created this rule knew this. If you want civilized, join a country club. Because you won't find that here.

Life: You have two choices in life: you can sit on the players' bench, quietly, not breaking any rules or getting into the action. Or, you can get out there, break a few rules, be uncivilized and sit on the penalty bench knowing that you put it on the line. Benches were never meant to hold us down forever. Don't let them.

Next up on 10/31: Rule 4, Signal and Timing Devices.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 2, Rule 2

In answer to your question(s): Records are a relic of the stone age also referred to as Vinyl Records, Vinyl LPs or any combination thereof. Long before they became a conduit for dust bunnies in music stores, "records" were a staple of every household in America. Today, sadly, they are the exclusive domain of DJs and anyone born before 1980.

The game: Pittsburgh vs. Montreal.

Why I chose it: It's the Habs versus the reigning Stanley Cup champs on Pittsburgh's home ice. The once and future champions facing off against each other. Plus, Hal Gill returns to face off against his former teammates. What other reason do I need?

My peeve: There is no pre and post game coverage included in the Center Ice game broadcasts. I paid almost $150 for this deal, and I don't even get to watch sweaty, half-naked, 20-something hockey players say how they lost because they "just weren't playing their game tonight?" I want a refund.

Bonus trivia: Where did the Habs get their nickname when their official name is the Montreal Canadiens? Les Habitants is the informal name given to early French Settlers and the H inside the C in their uniforms was taken to be a reference to the first French Canadian Settlers. Not true - the H surrounded by the C in the uniform actually stands for Club De Hockey Canadien, the team's official name.

Super Bonus trivia: Montreal is one of the "original six" teams who were part of the NHL from 1942 to 1967, prior to the expansion of the league in 1967. The other five are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks. The NHL now consists of 30 teams.

The rule: Section 1, The Playing Area. Rule 2: Goalposts and Nets.

Total number of sections in the rule: 2.

Definition: This rule is deceptively simple. It's only got two sub-sections, but they outline in detail the color and materials that must be used to construct the goalposts, the color and size of the pegs that hold it in place, and the weight, color and configuration of the nylon mesh that comprises the net and the protective padding at the bottom.

My favorite highlights:
Rule 2.1, Goal Posts: The flexible posts shall be ten inches (10") in length and bright lime green in color.

Rule 2.2, Nets: The net shall be made of three-ply twisted twine (0.197 inch(5mm) diameter) or equivalent braided twine of multifilament white nylon with an appropriate tensile strength of 700 pounds. The size of the mesh shall be two and one half inches (2 1/2") (inside measurement) from each knot to each diagonal knot when fully stretched. Knotting shall be made as to ensure no sliding of the twine. The net shall be laced to the frame with medium white nylon cord no smaller in size than No. 21.

Number of times rule violated: 0. Unless somebody scrimped and used No. 20 cord.

The final score: Pittsburgh 6. Montreal 1.

My favorite play: Matt Cooke defending teammate Jordan Staal after a high stick to the face.

The morals of the story:

The game: Slap shots typically travel at speeds upwards of 100 miles per hour. The goalposts and netting must be sturdy and strong enough to stop these and other shots, and men who "crash the crease." It takes 700 pounds of carefully knotted white twine to stop a puck traveling faster than the legal speed limit. Shots that miss tend to break the protective glass. Imagine what happens if it hits the goaltender dead on. I see now why so many slap shots make it into the net.

Life: We all build nets of our own making in life to protect us from life's slap shots: car insurance, the H1N1 vaccine, prenuptial agreements, 401(k)s, botox, antioxidants, airbags. But just like a slap shot, life eventually finds its way in.

Don't fight what you can't stop. There are too many other, more important things to worry about.

My personal top 5 "give it up" list: gray hair (which started when I was 30), living on five hours of sleep, a power bar and a soda (pretty much done after I turned 25), being good at being a New Yorker (tried for 10 years, ran out of money, jobs and the reason for doing it), going to the prom with the boy I liked my senior year (turned out to be gay anyway), and being six feet tall (missed it by three inches and even heels barely get me there).

Up next on 10/29: Rule 3, Benches.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 1, Rule 1

The game: Toronto at Anaheim, October 26, 2009. Jonas Hiller is starting in goal. Toronto comes in with their worst start to the regular season in franchise history.

Why I chose it: It’s an hour until the replay of Phoenix-NY Rangers game on Center Ice and that's an hour without hockey - not gonna happen. And, I only watch Anaheim when Jonas Hiller is the starting goaltender.

My peeve: If one more player or coach in the NHL says “we just have to keep it simple” I might have to rethink this whole hockey worship thing. Simple means fewer fights, fewer power plays, and fewer backhanded hat tricks into the Carolina net during the semi-finals. Why bother? If fans want to see a simple game, we'll let you know.

The quirk: Both goaltenders are named Jonas.

The rule: Section: 1, the playing area. Rule 1, the Rink.

Total number of sections in the rule: 9.

Definition: This literally defines every inch of the rink, from the width and PMS color of the blue lines to the dimensions of the faceoff circles and the goalie’s restricted area. Did you know, for example, that the bottom of the kickboards must be bright yellow? That the blue lines and center line must extend fully up the sides of the boards? Or that the goaltender’s restricted area (the trapezoid outlined area behind the goal) must be five feet outside of each goal crease? Do you care? I do. I love it. At long last, I know the exact definition of the divisions between the neutral zone, the defending zone and the attacking zone.

My favorite highlight:
Section 1.5, Lines: “the ice area between the two goals shall be divided into three parts by lines, twelve inches (12”) in width, and blue in color, drawn sixty-four (64’) out from the goal lines, and extended completely across the rink, parallel with the goal lines, and continued vertically up the side of the boards (Paint Code PMS 286).” Memorize it. I dare you.

Number of times rule violated: 0. Unless the paint police called a foul while I was opening a bottle of cabernet.

The final score: Toronto 6, Anaheim 3. Look at it this way Ducks fans – our team nobly sacrificed themselves to end Toronto’s dismal start to the regular season.

The morals of the story:
The game – Quite literally, every inch of the rink has to meet specific requirements. There are no exceptions without authority from the NHL. The people who layout and build the rinks deserve their own Stanley Cup. And Anaheim needs a regular season do-over. Or a spa weekend.

Life – If only we could divide our lives with the mathematical precision of a hockey rink. The line between work and play will be a minimum of 100 feet and no employer shall cross it past 5 pm. The distance between you and your ex will be a minimum of one mile and must be laid out in a cell phone “dead zone,” ensuring that neither party can make midnight desperation phone calls.

Up next on 10/28: Rule 2, goalposts and nets.