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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

He's Smiling Like a Butcher's Dog!! or why hockey is the greatest sport... ever

I'm not a huge sports nut. I'm not a football fan, except for my home team and even that is pretty much fair-weather. PNC Park makes baseball a lovely evening out, particularly since the Pirates can't get a decent team together. I enjoy watching English Premier League football amongst rabid, Brit Manchester United fans in our local pub on weekends. But hands down, my sport is hockey.

Hockey is the most exciting spectator sport EVER! In no other sport can the outcome of the game change within a mere 20 seconds. The players have such a great blue-collar work ethic. Busted nose, stitched up forehead...whatever, they never say die.

Tuesday night's game was a perfect example. My beloved Penguins were battling their Stanley Cup nemeses, the Red Wings in Detroit. This was their first meeting since that heartbreaking, game six loss in the finals this past June. Off-season trades had made the Wings a much stronger team, while the Pens had suffered enormous player losses due to the evil free agency market. Our boys really needed a win to regain their confidence and break the spell of the dominant Wings.

Geo and I were watching The Mentalist (a fine, entertaining show from CBS of all places) when we flipped over to catch a game update at the start of the third period. We were losing 5-2 with 14:47 left to play. That's when Jordan Staal exploded in one of the greatest comebacks in Penguin Hockey history. He got three consecutive goals--a hat trick--in the last 7:58 of regulation play to tie it 6 all and force the game into overtime. Geo and I were screaming!! Holy Crap this was exciting! The Mentalist was just going to have to wait.

With 1:22 left in overtime, our power play depleted, Staal fed a perfect pass to the waiting stick of Ruslan Fedotenko who blasted the puck into the back of the net. The Pens' bench erupted and flooded the ice to celebrate. Geo and I were flipping out. The boys had pulled it off, man. They did not give up. In the immortal words of Mike Lang, the most entertaining hockey announcer in the biz, Jordy was "Smiling like a butcher's dog".

What a great victory. The team needed this win badly to get that bloody Cup monkey off its back. And to win in such dramatic fashion, in overtime against such an enormous opponent can only propel them forward in their quest for Lord Stanley's Cup. But you'll never hear one of them boast about his accomplishment. They know it's a long season, and it's all about teamwork. They're respectful. They're humble. They're hockey guys.

Don't believe me? Here's a link to the newspaper's article

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