LCS: Guide to Hockey

ESPN’s Guide to Hockey

by Howard Fienberg, Correspondent
Issue 119, April 28, 1999

It’s that time of year once more. A little extra jump in the press box. A bit more bounce on the ice. A lot less goals scored. And, oh yes, the never-ending shpiel from some guys who think the hockey world revolves around them.

They think that a hockey “linebacker” is a great invention. That a “hard-fought, intense game” beats one with more than one goal scored. That penalty calls interrupt a game’s flow. That black eyes and debilitating injuries are just par for the playoff course. That two referees will eliminate the most egregious nastiness rather than simply provide an extra whistle to be left at home. That green eggs and ham are best served with ketchup and a warm light beer.

It started the first night of playoff action, and the “gurus” of the hockey world have never looked back. As Ulf Samuelsson clobbered the lackluster Ducks, he was venerated as a “linebacker.” Oh, how wonderful to have a football player on my team. Ulf was laying out tackles, literally, sacking waterfowl and scoring chances left and right.

Those fantastic hard-fought intense games fall into two categories - the end-to-end pointlessness or the neutral zone tar pit. The end-to-end summarizes the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers series. They can pound themselves into oblivion at Mach 3 for all the shots they get on goal - very few. Who can forget the stirring feeling as Marchant grabbed the puck, zipped down the wing... and had his shot blocked. Followed by Langenbruner, zooming across the Edmonton blueline... to blast a shot into the stands. Now that’s entertainment. Or, in the tar pit, we can watch a speedy Toronto team lost its puck every few seconds just outside the Philadelphia zone... and watch Philadelphia toss the puck back. But thank God no penalties were called because that would have interrupted the flow of the game.

It’s like watching flies have sex. Dirty, disgusting, and pointless.

One final note to ESPN commentators. You may have noticed that there is one phrase you are all using ad nauseum - “Wow, a four-on-three! You don’t see this very often!” Heads up, chaps, but I hear it several times a game. In fact, for next issue, I am planning a statistical breakdown of the number of times that phrase has been used this year in the playoffs versus the comparisons made between hockey and warfare.

Oh, von Clausewitz would have had something to say about the waging of hockey by other means, I’d bet.

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