In the tradition of [American] Thanksgiving, I thought I would take a few minutes to discuss some of the things I am thankful for in the hockey world. Feel free to share your thoughts on these and please share your own with us by commenting on this article.
I am thankful for all the young talent that continues to enter the NHL. Since the lockout, we’ve added Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and Steve Stamkos to name a few. The pipeline doesn’t seem to be slowing down either as players like Chris Stewart, John Tavares, Claude Giroux and Matt Duchene have come along and seem to have the potential to join the ranks of the elite.
I am thankful for the sounds of the game of hockey from the ping of a puck squarely hitting the post, the smack of the boards after a good, hard body check. I also love the sound of some good organ music stirring a crowd or hearing “O Canada” before a game. Even Zambonis make a noise that screams hockey as do the sound of dozens of skates gliding across a freshly cleaned sheet of ice.
I am thankful for the fact that hockey players come in all shapes and sizes. Zdeno Chara can be a successful NHL player, but so can Martin St. Louis and Tyler Ennis. Simply put, if you have the skills, you can excel at this game.
I am thankful for the great rivalries in the game whether it’s Habs vs. Leafs, the Battle of Alberta or the Rangers vs. Islanders. A little bad blood goes a long way towards making a game more exciting and interesting for the fans.
I am also thankful that the NHL is trying to do something about head shots. No, I don’t want to see the physical element removed from the game, but I don’t want to see hockey players suffer long term disabilities because of concussions either. Sure, it will take some time and trial and error, but let’s find a way to make things as safe as possible for players while keeping the best aspects of the game we love.
I am thankful for the classic buildings that the game was played in, even as two more of them (the Igloo in Pittsburgh and the Spectrum in Philadelphia) have passed into history. We shall never forget the ghosts of the Forum in Montreal, the organ in Chicago Stadium, the intimacy of the Boston Garden, the Olympia in Detroit or the Maple Leaf Gardens to name a few.
I am thankful that hockey fights have a code (did you hear that Sean Avery?). Fighting has always been a part of the professional game but there are rules that are voluntarily followed. Plus, for those of us who are lucky to get to know them, the guys who make their living with their fists are usually among the nicest guys you’d ever want to know off the ice.
I am also thankful for playoff overtimes. Is there anything more exciting in sports? Each time the puck enters or leaves a zone, thousands of fans at the arena and watching on TV exhale. Any play could end it, or we could play on deep into the night. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that the season is most likely on the line.
I am thankful for the goalie mask. First, because it protects players (I still don’t know how they played without them) but second because it gives goalies a chance to make an individual statement and connect with fans in a unique way. We’ve seen stitches, Cobras, lions, soldiers, the names of children, flags, eagles and so many other things on masks and it just adds to the color and personality of the game.
I am thankful for the Stanley Cup. No other trophy means so much to so many people. People in other sports talk about winning rings but how many of us get to see one up close, let alone touch one. The tradition of having each winning player’s name engraved on the Cup and then having each player spend a day with the trophy personalizes the experience for thousands of people. The Stanley Cup has been to many countries and hundreds of small towns. It’s been in hospitals and at parties. It is something that is uniquely hockey and binds together generations of hockey players and fans. Thank you, Lord Stanley of Preston.
I am thankful that I get to cover this great game and to the players, coaches and management people who take the time to discuss it with me. Most of all, I am very thankful for my readers who take the time to read my thoughts and hopefully insights about the sport of hockey.
Happy Thanksgiving to all…