Hello Stars fans. This is Ralph Strangis coming to you somewhere over the Rocky Mountains. Once again this season I've been given the task of ice-level reporter for NHL Radio for the Western Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals.We are in the midst of the Western Conference Finals with the series tied at two games apiece between Anaheim and Detroit. I'm heading back to Detroit for Game Five on Sunday afternoon. From a city standpoint, there's no comparison. You'd rather be in sunny Southern California. However, what I really wanted was a San Jose-Anaheim West Final so that it would be two weeks in California, but that didn't happen.
So now we head back to what might be the hardest building in the hardest city in the National Hockey League (Joe Louis Arena). I've also discovered there is actually a worse place to work a game than the press box of Joe Louis Arena and it is the bowels of Joe Louis Arena. I've been roaming underneath the stands, having beer spilled on me, rat traps are all over the place (and I'm not kidding), and during the overtime of Game Two I was literally under the bleachers right next to Chris Osgood behind the Detroit bench and could not see a thing. But I had to report from ice level like I could see something. The only thing I could see was Henrik Zetterberg changing his gloves because the dryer was about two feet from me.
So when you talk about glamour in the National Hockey League, you do not start with Detroit.
You know, one thing I've noticed while covering the West Finals is that all we really do is eat, even more than we do during the regular season. The National Hockey League is tremendous about making sure that the media crew covering the series is out at good restaurants every night. And we're just eating all the time. You eat breakfast and then you eat lunch and then you eat at the game. Then of course, there's the full-on gathering of all the media after the game at a Morton's Steak House or something similar and everyone usually jumps in on that. It just never ends. That's the fun part -- it's all the guys from CBC and TSN and VERSUS, as well as the local broadcasters. It's kind of like a mini convention with all of the print and broadcast media that are there.
On the off-day in Anaheim, I went with Eddie Olczyk up to Hollywood Park where the scenery was tremendous but I'm sad to say that we did not profit from our excursion.
We've been having a great time covering this West Final, and a lot of that is due to some good people working the games.
Mostly, the players have been great to deal with in this series (as most NHL players are, no matter what the circumstances). Although both team PR staffs are doing a good job, they have reinforced the feeling I have for our PR crew there in Dallas and the great job they do for us on a daily basis. Both Detroit and Anaheim have been very accommodating and have tried very hard to make sure that we get all of our requests. Actually, NHL Radio is very high up on the food chain and they have been great in getting us the players we need. I've interviewed just about everybody of note on both rosters, including J.S. Giguere and Nik Lidstrom, and the list goes on and on. Basically I can get my pick of who I want to talk to every night and that's been good.
A Best of Three
I've pretty much been wrong in every game of this series when it's come down to picking a winner prior to the contest. The Anaheim people asked me what I thought prior to Game Four and I said, "You know, I've been wrong every night so based on that I'm going to take the Ducks tonight because I really think it's Detroit."
I thought from the beginning of the series that Anaheim was the better team and that they just had more. Then there's the other side in Detroit, that is aging a bit and its core is made up of older veterans, but they do have some good younger skill that blends in nicely with that team. But Hasek is defying age and so is Chelios, and Lidstrom is 37 and he's playing like he's 27.
To me this is a real "pick-em" series right now. I honestly could see either team winning it. If I had to pick a winner, I honestly do not know what I would do. Maybe you pick Detroit because they at the #1 seed and they have two of the three games at home. But Anaheim is a good squad and can win on the road. This one could go either way. Should be fun to watch, regardless.
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