|Nancy Koenig has been an NHL.com contributor since 2000. She will share her thoughts regularly on NHL.com's Blog Central.
Some real reality TV
I stand corrected.
It took a wild ride like Game One of the Final to help me see the light, but trust that you will never hear me mocking hockey superstitions again.
I'd planned to meet my brother for the game as we are rooting for the same team and can therefore, watch harmoniously. But at the last minute, he was offered overtime, something you don't pass up in the New York Fire Department for Game One, unless of course, the Rangers are in the Final. I chose to stick to my original plan, which involved watching the game at my mom's house.
The Oilers were in sound control when my mom, a reality TV fan until I threaten to try out for Survivor, went upstairs to watch the finale of The Apprentice. Hey, at least she passed up Deal or No Deal. "I'd rather watch the Stanley Cup Final!" she'd proclaimed. I was so proud.
Moments after she left the room, Rod Brind'Amour began his quest to prove how important timing and leadership are in this game.
I begged my mother to come back downstairs, sensing this seemingly innocent goal was the start of something for Carolina, but to no avail. She did come back down to get a beverage at one point and, wouldn't you know it -- Edmonton scored.
Needless to say, I believe in superstitions again.
Despite how horribly things unfolded for anyone related to or rooting for the Oilers, it was one hell of a game to watch. It had a little bit of everything: exciting scoring chances, incredible goaltending, phenomenal defensive plays, end to end rushes, a penalty shot, a shorthanded goal …
And unfortunately, an absolutely heartbreaking injury.
I can list several Oilers I wouldn't have wanted to be Monday night, from Ty Conklin, having to jump into a game like that with no playoff experience, to Jason Smith, Shawn Horcoff, Marc-Andre Bergeron and obviously, Dwayne Roloson.
Ouch. Physically and mentally.
Can the Oilers move on? Like Mark Messier said, to win the Stanley Cup, you must overcome some adversity. This seems like a tall order, even for a team that squeaked into the playoffs and convincingly knocked off the Presidents' Trophy winners, the red-hot Sharks and the soaring Ducks, while flu-ridden. Anything is possible for this team, even if not terribly likely.
Speaking of Mess, I must commend OLN for bringing him aboard the studio show for the first two games. Good move. It almost made up for the amount of airplay they gave Carolina's cheerleaders. Storm Squad. Whatever.
I hear there was a celebrity hockey game on The Apprentice, to benefit the Leary Firefighters Foundation. Thank you, Denis Leary, for dedicating yourself to such an important cause and Donald Trump for giving it such great publicity in our unfortunately reality-addicted country.
Finally, the Final is here!
I realize it was a strange time of year for me to vanish, and no, it had nothing to do with the Rangers getting swept. I have several favorite NHL teams and one of them has made its way to the Final.
My disappearing act was prompted by influences outside the hockey world, as incredulous as it may be to consider life outside the NHL at this time of year. I won't bore you with the details when we have more important things to discuss, like the fact that the Final is about to commence!
The Ducks had an impressive run and having finally recovered from watching them knock out the Flames, I had a hard time rooting against them during the last few minutes of Game Five vs. the Oilers. As much as I fancy Edmonton, I couldn't help hoping for OT that night. My condolences go out to all Ducks fans, particularly Carolyn Sherwood, who sent me an e-mail that afternoon describing the torturous blend of agony and hope that she was enduring. "They can do it, but will they?" Carolyn, I could feel your stomach twisting into hardcore hockey fan knots during that six on three.
Speaking of great runs, how about those Sabres? They were fun to watch and impossible not to respect. I cringed with each injury, especially Tim Connolly's. Concussions always freak me out, and I'd really been enjoying watching his confidence catch up to his ridiculous skill level.
Of course, I'm happy that Edmonton advanced and ecstatic that the Final will be returning to Canada. I will never forget the experience of being in Calgary two years ago and it pains me that I won't be returning to the glorious province of Alberta to take in the festivities. Such is the plight of a freelance writer who has taken too many vacations this year to justify further travel expenses.
I'm also excited for the Hurricanes and their surprisingly raucous fans, and am thrilled to see a class act like Peter Laviolette make it to the Final as quickly as he has. Thrilled, but not remotely surprised.
So, now that you have a 50-50 chance of being heralded a hockey genius, let's hear who you think will be hoisting that Cup, and why. I didn't receive any predictions of this representation of East vs. West, although I have friends in Edmonton that finally got brave enough to forecast the Final when the Oilers went up 3-0 in the last round. I understand that no one wants to jinx their team; it is, after all, the time of year when otherwise sane (relatively speaking) fans and players begin subscribing to some very strange superstitions.
I recently had to explain the notion of the playoff beard to my mom, who incorrectly assumed scraggly beards were making a comeback in the fashion world. Sure, the unkempt facial hair makes guys appear tough and weathered and tradition is a nice concept, but let's face it; looking like a contestant on Survivor does not help one outwit or outlast in the playoffs any more than dressing order or unwashed socks do.
Fan superstitions are even more difficult to comprehend, although I admit I have partaken in the lunacy. During the '94 Final, it seemed the Rangers only won when I was waiting tables at a local sports lounge. As there were places I preferred to be, I tested the theory too often for comfort. I actually switched shifts with someone to ensure I was there for Game 7. Thankfully, I had the foresight to fill my tables with friends so I only had to work between periods. I was so convinced my whereabouts would control the fate of the series, I would have turned down tickets for that game. And if I hadn't, one of my Ranger-fan friends would have stolen them, captured me and delivered me to work. If memory serves me, I lost my job that night for not stopping the riot that erupted when the Rangers won. As if I had that much power!
So yes, I understand that you believe games and series come down to whether you wear your home or away jersey, or which chair you sit in. Please be sure to send your most bizarre rituals and superstitions so I can share them next in my next blog.
Happy Stanley Cup Final!