Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winging in the New Year

The tradition is only two years young but I must say, I couldn't approve of the Winter Classic more. I watched most of the original game last year between the Sabres and Penguins and I ate up every second of the Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup a few days ago. The mystique. The history. The nostalgic pond hockey memories. The skill, the weather, the new yet old memorabilia. The little things, like the layer of brick outside the boards to simulate one of the most famous parts of Wrigley Field. It's all good.

Obviously, I'm happier about the game because the Red Wings won but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the amount of money, work, and effort that goes into making this event happen. My point is that it's not just that the Red Wings won, it's that they got the chance to play in this game. I think everyone, including some nonchalant hockey fans, love this new tradition and will allow it to prosper in the coming years. Especially if the rumored Fenway Park game between Boston and Montreal comes together. That might even put this year's classic to shame with all the history between that park and those two teams.

I'm just glad that the NHL has at least one great thing going for them that is on national television and hyped up enough to grab people's attention. The league is moving forward, and I like that.

Speaking of things moving about Pavel Datsyuk and the Red Wings? They are certainly bringing the New Year's celebration to Detroit in style, with that impressive win over Minnesota last night. If you didn't see Datsyuk's shootout the video below. His skill is staggering, jaw-dropping, eye-opening, and any other amazing adjectives you can throw in. I honestly would be hard pressed to find a better player with the puck anywhere in the world.

To finish off this Wings update, I like what Scott Van Pelt had to say about the Wings during last night's top ten plays on Sportscenter where Datsyuk's goal was #6 (WHAT?). He said, "Just give them the Cup now. I'm telling you, nobody beats them four times in the spring." I like that too. I wouldn't say it myself because, well, I wouldn't want to risk jinxing my team. But to have an objective observer like Van Pelt say that means something. It means watch out NHL, these Wings aren't ready to let go of Stanley yet. He's still ours.

One more thing before I go: the NHL All-Star Game starter voting. It's dumb. It really is. I assume that you think I'm only saying it because no one on the Wings was selected, but that's not it at all. It's dumb because the starters in a hockey game stay on the ice for a maximum of 60 seconds. Why does it matter? Let the coaches decide. It caught my attention because the fans can vote as many times as they want and essentially, "stuff the ballot boxes," which led to this: (the game is being played in Montreal, mind you).

Western Conference All-Star Starters
F - Patrick Kane (CHI)
F - Jonathan Toews (CHI)
F - Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
D - Scott Niedermayer (ANA)
D - Brian Campbell (CHI)
G - Jean-Sebastien Giguere (ANA)
Eastern Conference All-Star Starters
F - Sidney Crosby (PIT)
F - Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
F - Alexei Kovalev (MON)
D - Andrei Markov (MON)
D - Mike Komisarek (MON)
G - Carey Price (MON)

I'm not sure if anybody from Chicago, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, or Montreal voted in these polls...but from the looks of it, the residents of those four cities spent the past four months in front of a computer clicking their votes in every second of every day. How else do you explain Crosby's 1.7 million votes? What a joke.

The game's in Montreal, so I can see why the Canadiens fans would want their players to start the game, but Chicago? Anaheim!!? Crosby and Malkin are obviously deserving, but how can players like Alexander Ovechkin, Tim Thomas, Phil Kessel, Marc Savard, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Joe Thornton, Dennis Wideman, and Dan Boyle not be in the running for starting positions? (Not to mention Wings players like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa, and Lidstrom who are all amongst the tops in the league). It's ridiculous. How is it possible that the TOP FIVE TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE (San Jose, Boston, Detroit, Washington, Calgary) are left completely unrepresented? Doesn't make any sense. But, not to worry since all of those players I mentioned will be on the full squads anyway (I hope). So, just for kicks, here are my all-star starters just to spite the fan-voting process laid out by the NHL.

Cam's Western Conference All-Star Starters
F - Pavel Datsyuk (DET)
F - Marian Hossa (DET)
F - Jarome Iginla (CAL)
D - Dan Boyle (SJS)
D - Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)
G - Nicklas Backstrom (MIN)
Cam's Eastern Conference All-Star Starters
F - Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
F - Alexander Ovechkin (WAS)
F - Zach Parise (NJD)
D - Dennis Wideman (BOS)
D - Mike Green (WAS)
G - Tim Thomas (BOS)

That's what I'd do anyway. But seriously, leave it up to the coaches. There should just be an all-star team, not separately-decided starters. It's dumb. I hope I emphasized that.

I hope everyone's New Year's celebrations were fun and exciting. Since 2008 was great, I can only expect 2009 to be ever so fine. Stick to those resolutions!

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