|Nancy Koenig has been an NHL.com contributor since 2000. She will share her thoughts regularly on NHL.com's Blog Central.
Reasons to be thankful
A spirit of gratitude has permeated the NHL ever since the pucks started dropping Oct. 5. Since Thursday happens to be Thanksgiving here in the States, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect upon some reasons to be grateful in the hockey world.
First and foremost, it's reported that Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer is doing very well after collapsing on the bench Monday night. Health is often overlooked as a reason to be thankful; it's an easy thing to take for granted until it's threatened in some way. Visit DetroitRedWings.com to find out how to extend your well wishes to Jiri.
NHL hockey is back. No gratitude list inked this year should neglect this concept.
After the biggies, reasons to be thankful (and gloat a little) vary by zip code. Ranger fans can give thanks that their team has been laughing in the face of those cellar-dweller predictions cast before the season began. It's been four years since the Blueshirts have been seven games over .500.
Fans in Detroit are waiting for detractors to retract forecasts that had the Wings plunging by way of salary cap; instead they have already posted 15 wins. And there aren't many complaints being registered in Nashvilleabout the number in the Predators' loss column.
The Flames had lost three of their first four matches by the end of Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations in early October, but Calgarians can be thankful their Red Mile memories don't seem quite as distant now that their team is rising in the standings.
And in case sitting atop the Eastern Conference isn't cool enough for Senators fans, how about the fact that three of their players have already collected 30 points this season? Need I add that two of them are under the age of 25?
For teams that are struggling, there's the fact that the season is still quite young. There are always positives when you look for them and when you concentrate on them, they tend to breed.
League-wide, fans were grateful for Tuesday night's match-up between the Penguins and Capitals, where Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin met for the first time on NHL ice. Of course, not all fans had the luxury of watching the game, and not only because it wasn't televised by OLN.
The Center Ice package isn't an option for fans that can't handle abundant access to games -- I've heard of extreme cases where subscribers have feigned bad cases of Agoraphobia as an excuse to never leave home.
On the flipside of the accessibility equation, I felt for fellow NHL.com Blogger Risto Pakarinen when I read his entry about having to pull all-nighters to catch games from Sweden. Then I received an email from an Australian fan named Marichu, who informed me that NHL games are no longer televised in Australia.
While researching the notion of hockey down under with the diehards at HockeyPulse.com.au, I confirmed the sad truth that NHL games are not shown this season, not even occasionally, not even on delay. Even highlights are reportedly hard to come by for NHL-starved Aussies, who count on the generosity of North American fans to provide copies of games televised here while they await the start of the next AIHL season (also not televised) and root for their Junior National Team in the World U20 Division 2 World Championships. And no, those games won't be broadcast in Australiaeither.
Australians aren't the only fans facing this plight worldwide, but they're the ones I've been chatting with this week and to hear their stories, your hockey hearts would bleed.
I can't sit down to a big, gluttonous Thanksgiving dinner without knowing I've done something to help those less fortunate. Likewise, I can't reach for my remote tonight without knowing I've at least raised some awareness on this front. Surely, there must be something we can do to help get these fans some NHL hockey!
Hockey and surfing go hand-in-hand
With the 2004-05 season approaching the quarter mark, the lockout has become an outdated and somewhat taboo topic. Yet, I still enjoy hearing about what players did with their idle time because I know I made the best possible use of mine.
I didn't cover the sport overseas; while hockey may be a universal game, I cannot compose a complete sentence in any language other than English. I didn't work on my family's potato farm, as did Blues forward Aaron Downey, or head a music management company like Islanders defenseman Brad Lukowich. I didn't golf or run any charity events and as those who know me would correctly surmise, I did not do any hunting or fishing.
Few would guess how I did spend my extra leisure time last winter. In the past, I have been a very public hater of bone-chilling weather. Snow is beautiful the first few times it falls and I would embrace a few frigid weeks if they didn't turn into months. But I live in New York and winter has rarely complied with my pleading for it to make tracks in February. Perhaps I should have chosen less ambiguous words.
The season has been bearable only by virtue of hockey alone and without the NHL, I wondered how I'd get by last year. I thought about joining a women's league, but recalled from pick-up games past that my skills fall into a category somewhere below impressive. Plus competition and weapons aren't such a good mix for me. It takes a lot to really get under my skin but when you're successful, you don't necessarily want me to be holding a hockey stick.
Surfing brings out more admirable aspects of my personality than my temper, so a friend suggested I spend my extra leisure time in the ocean, where I live as a mermaid during the off-season.
The ocean that drops into the 30s in January?
After laughing at the absurdity of this idea, I paused to reflect upon the fact that I was no longer the winter wimp from the days of yore. After all, I did survive the Heritage Classic, opting to sit outdoors to enjoy it the way it was designed to be experienced when I could have been in a heated media area.
I made it through the MegaStars game and two periods of the historic match between the Oilers and Canadiens before giving in to potential frostbite, and that was only due to having lost all feeling in both feet and one hand. Even then, I had to be talked into taking shelter by a friend from Calgary who is better accustomed to ridiculously cold temperatures. Knowing he'd see the game in its entirety the way it was meant to be viewed made it that much harder to concede, but hey, the kid from New York didn't do so bad for herself out there.
That trip to Alberta really toughened me up. A year after Heritage, the effects hadn't worn off. I was still donning t-shirts in the early stages of sweater season. So why not try winter surfing? I wasn't optimistic I'd make it out there the whole season but I decided to go as long as I could, the way I did in Edmonton.
To my surprise, I lasted all winter, discovering new dimensions to a favorite hobby. No crowds, consistently better waves, heightened appreciation for the hot showers and soup that followed. Like a coach who respected my extra efforts, the ocean rewarded me with favorable conditions and winter flew by faster than I wanted it to.
With the NHL's return, however, she has turned her back on me, delivering flat spells on all my off-days. This afternoon, I was finally granted a small, but rideable, session. Day turned to evening and between sets, I admired a sunset to the west which shared the sky with a huge, full moon rising in the east. They reminded me of the importance of balance.
NHL hockey and winter surfing should make for quite a tandem this year.
Crosby impresses off the ice
There isn't much that hasn't been said or written about Sidney Crosby Live. With that in mind, I suppose I should be grateful I don't have to come up with an original way to describe the show. There's no pressure to write about something when you just haven't seen it for yourself.
Sure, I've watched him razzle-dazzle ‘em on TV, but I don't even have Hi-Def so it's not the same. It's just not the same.
I wasn't in attendance for his first two-goal game on Long Island last week. Even when it comes to things I want to do, I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator and the Penguins were going to be at the Garden on Monday.
Who would have predicted I'd get lost hiking with my mother that day? Not me. I've never been lost in the woods in my life, at least not literally. Getting truly, cluelessly, anxiously lost was fun and exhilarating and terrifying. It was a good time to let go of my need to be right; for it was my mom's sense of direction that eventually got us out of there.
Thanks, Mom. Next time, I promise to bring a trail map and a compass even if we're only planning to check out some foliage.
There was no chance of getting back downstate in time for the game, but "Sid the Kid" will be back in the tri-state area soon enough. At least I got the chance to talk to him at a morning skate last week and can speak to the fact that he is every bit as affable, genuine and well-mannered in the locker room as advertised.
Every time he enters a new city, he is surrounded by a new media mob with an endless array of questions, most of which he has already been asked dozens, even hundreds of times. If the tables were turned and he was sticking a tape recorder in my face asking the same question I'd answered yesterday and the day before that, I'd tell him he was boring me.
Crosby didn't tell us we were boring him. Instead, he chatted and laughed with the poise of a veteran and the patience of a saint. Maybe this will get old for him eventually; for now, he is all smiles.
We respectfully waited in the center of the locker room as he unlaced his skates, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was about to get swarmed. Perhaps he was just trying to be discreet about the fact that he was surveying the room for its best escape route.
Silently, we agreed upon the right moment to approach and began moving toward him, ever so slowly, like hunters afraid to scare off their prey.
He wasn't scared. There were only a few of us and I guess we didn't seem like a terribly threatening bunch. After we introduced ourselves by names and affiliations, Crosby turned to someone who hadn't and asked, "And what is your name, sir?"
Observing him in the room may not be as exciting as watching him on the ice, but it's equally refreshing.
I'm writing to explain why my last entry on Blog Central ended so abruptly.
A friend who isn't shy about critiquing my work shot me an e-mail asking if he was supposed to write his own conclusion. Like when the credits start rolling prematurely in a film and you're like, "No way did it end like that."
I had no clue what he was talking about until I logged onto Blog Central today. I stared at my screen in disbelief. Huh? How did Phil get that entry? I never sent him that one!
My sent mail begs to differ.
I started writing that bit about my losing locker room allergy last week; then like any fickle writer displeased with the direction their work is heading in, abandoned it. Mid paragraph.
While I don't think anyone was left hanging onto the edge of their seat and most unfamiliar with my obsessive tendency to tie beginnings and endings together may not even have noticed, I felt compelled to explain. And I'll admit I was tempted to rewrite it, complete with an ending, but I'm working on my perfection issues so I'll just let it stay as is, alongside that headshot I'm less than crazy about. (Where did you dig up that one, Phil?)
For those who are wondering, I can assure you I haven't gone into any losing locker rooms since my discovery. But hey, feel free to write your own ending.
It's official. I am allergic to losing locker rooms.
It's something I've long suspected, but I have finally gathered enough scientific evidence to state it with conviction.
Each time I've entered an NHL locker room after a loss, I have walked back out with symptoms ranging from fatigue to mild depression, accompanied by bouts of frustration and rage inexplicable in nature. After all, I have no personal investment in the outcomes of games witnessed.
Sure, like any other media member that feigns objectivity, I may be silently and without display of emotion rooting for one of the teams playing on any given night. This does not, however, factor into my allergies as I am not truly attached to any outcomes other than the ability to walk away remarking on what an exciting game it was.
Nor does it matter how the game was actually lost. Close battles do not immunize me to the effects and blowouts don't minimize them. The only thing that seems to make a difference is energy.
I'm not talking the type of energy that follows the consumption of multiple Red Bulls or an invigorating workout, but the uber-contagious kind that permeates through locker rooms after games. If you somehow found yourself inside one without having seen or heard about the on-ice events, you could discern the outcome within seconds.
Faces either carry Cheshire smiles or somber frowns. Music is either blaring from the sound system ... or it isn't.