It may have only been the fifth game of the season, but on Friday night, a strange decoration was thrown onto the ice of the Air Canada Center. In Detroit, there are octopi, in Sunrise, there have been rats, but in Toronto, there are jerseys being tossed from the bleachers. It was the second time this season a disgruntled fan decided to donate his blue and white sweater to the ice surface.
It began in boxing – throwing a white towel in the ring in order to acknowledge defeat. Trainers would do it so they no longer had to watch their fighter take anymore punishment. Maybe after witnessing only one trip to the postseason since the 2004-05 lockout, Toronto fans are starting to feel the same way.
Let’s not forget that the one postseason appearance for the Leafs ended in one of the most prolific collapses in recent memory. Up 4-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins, the boys in blue gave up three goals in the final 11 minutes of the third period – including two in the final 90 seconds – before Patrice Bergeron’s overtime heroics sent Toronto packing.
I’m not saying it’s been an easy decade for Toronto fans – it’s been quite the opposite – but there are many other diehards who have had it much worse. Honestly, if you filter out the seven NHL franchises in Canada, the Leafs have had it much better than the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, or even the Edmonton Oilers. Of course, the latter two are on the rise thanks to a plethora of young talent, but that doesn’t mean the road to this point hasn’t been littered with potholes and speed bumps.
At least the Leafs have a legitimate MVP caliber talent in Phil Kessel, and – perhaps more intriguing to the fans – they get to be in the presence of Elisha Cuthbert every home game, who has been married to Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs’ captain, since 2013.
Anybody who says that the crowd doesn’t affect performance is off their rocker. Sure, professional athletes are programmed to tell the media that they ignore any recognition from the crowd – whether it be boos or cheers – but anyone who has ever been on the ice knows how much strain the fans can place on your mentality. As an away team, if you have turned the home fans against their own team, you have already locked up the momentum, which can be the difference between zero and two points.
Looking back again to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013 between the Leafs and Bruins, which was in Boston, the fans never turned on the B’s. This led to the Bruins buzzing the Leafs’ cage late in the game and eventually pushing them through to the next round. On Friday night, and down 3-0 entering the third period, the Leafs took the ice to a barrage of boos from the hometown crowd. Even after Mike Santorelli scored 21 seconds into the third period to bring the lead within two, the stagnant crowd subsided – if ever there was a time to try and rally the troops, it was then. Instead, the Air Canada Center stayed silent and the Leafs eventually lost 4-1.
Sure, the fifth game of the regular season is a far different atmosphere than Game 7 of a playoff series, but there’s never an excuse to toss your jersey on the ice. Anyone who has grown up around hockey will tell you that there is nothing more respected than the logo.
Phaneuf’s comments on the matter may put it into more perspective:
“To see a jersey on the ice like that and to see someone throw it, it’s too bad because obviously I get the message you’re trying to send, but it’s something we have a great respect for and we fight hard for that logo,”
In my opinion, the fan that threw his jersey on the ice is no better than Justin Beiber standing on the Chicago Blackhawks logo last year.
Whether you understand the meaning behind the logo or not, there is one thing we can all understand, it’s five games into an 82-game season – it’s not like the Leafs haven’t won a game all year, either. Starting the season 2-3-0 is far from magnificent, but first off, what did you expect? And second off, two days after the jersey throwing affair there are still four teams in the Eastern Conference who are yet to win two games – get over yourself.
Now I don’t want to throw an entire fan base under the bus because it was only a few people who have actually went to the level of throwing their jersey on the ice; however, if Toronto fans want to prove to their franchise that they’ll stick with them through thick and thin, put the poutine down and quit raining your stadium with boos whenever they take the ice.
It’s easy to cheer when your team is winning, but true fans shine the brightest when their team needs it the most.
With that being said, here is the MLIH must-see play of the week:
First off, why on earth is John Tavares shooting fifth in the shootout? I don’t care if the Islanders think they have multiple “shootout specialists” on their roster. When the game is on the line, you put No. 91 on the ice. Here’s why:
If you needed another reminder why hockey fans are awesome, here’s a story from Lac La Biche, Alberta, which is where Rene Bourque‘s parents reside.
Facing elimination, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 7-4 on Tuesday night thanks to three goals from Bourque, who now has eight goals in 16 playoff games. Bourque has been on a roller coaster this season and many Canadiens fans thought he should be dealt at this years trade line. But Bourque has been at his best when it’s mattered most. After only 16 points in 63 regular season games, Bourque has been a spark plug for the Habs and is a main reason why their Stanley Cup hopes are still alive.
Lac La Biche is 2,350 miles from the Bell Center, and while Bourque’s parents would have loved to partake in Tuesday night’s madness, they got a little taste of the fun on Wednesday when about a dozen hats were dumped on their lawn to celebrate their son’s hat trick.
Here’s the picture of the yard, courtesy of @opinionated_mom:
Usually when you hear someone’s yard has been littered, it signifies something negative. For you Friday Night Lights fans out there, the ol’ “For Sale” sign in the coach’s yard is something I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve also heard of brooms being placed by the garage of a coach whose team got swept, but this shows that sometimes littering can be a good thing.
Paul “Biz-Nasty” Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes called the Canadiens fans at the Bell Center out for being stingy with their lids, but some residents of Lac La Biche tried to make up for it.
Shane Darrow is currently a graduate student at Ohio University studying journalism, you can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow.
Let me start off by saying that I am not condoning what Milan Lucic said, but as a player it’s clear to me that Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise crossed the line. What happens on the ice, stays on the ice; it has always been that way.
In case you missed it, after the Canadiens upset the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Lucic had some choice words for Weise as they went through the handshake line.
“I’m going to f***ing kill you next year,” Lucic said to Weise.
At first glance, this is a pretty serious offense. The ceremonial handshake at the end of the series is usually one of the more beautiful moments in the sport, but every so often, something like this happens.
It was later discovered that Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov told Lucic to look his players in the eye when shaking hands, which most likely rattled Lucic as he approached Weise.
Now, anyone that has watched Lucic play couldn’t have been too surprised at his comments, and anyone who has ever gone through a handshake line in hockey knows that it’s not always so friendly.
The ol’ “good game, good game, good game, f*** you, good game, good game…” is still alive and well. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, it’s just a part of hockey.
What bothered me the most is the media making such a big deal out of this “death threat.” Come on, I can guarantee that there were much worse things said on the ice during the series. Honestly, what Lucic told Weise was rated PG for most of the chirping that takes place during a game.
People need to understand what Lucic was trying to do, and that’s get inside Weise’s head, which I guarantee he did because Weise went crying to the media about it after the game.
The Bruins and Canadiens are one of the most historic rivalries in the NHL, which means that these two teams will meet often over the next few years. Every time Weise steps on the ice against the Bruins, he’s going to be looking for Lucic. It’s not like Lucic is a 5-foot-10, 200 pound finesse player, either.
Lucic is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and one of the toughest and most fearless guys in today’s game. Other players are scared of him and I have proof.
In 2011, Lucic ran over Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller as he came out to play the puck, which is a pretty serious infraction that usually leads to a fight or two. Watch how the Sabres players react:
The look on the Sabres’ players as they go after Lucic is priceless. Thomas Vanek, who you could tell wasn’t psyched about having to be the first one in, gets rag dolled by Lucic from a light shove. Then, it’s up to Andrej Sekera to go after Lucic, but his altercation doesn’t pan out too well either.
Point is, Lucic is a big, bad man and Weise will be looking for him in the future.
I’ll say it again, I’m not condoning what Lucic said in the handshake line, but I do know why he did it; however, the biggest problem I have with the situation is how Weise handled it.
After the game, Weise went crying to the media about how he was “threatened” by Lucic. Really? Many believe that hockey players are the toughest athletes in the world and you’re going to tell the media that you were threatened in the handshake line?
This wouldn’t even be a story had Weise kept what was said on the ice between him and Lucic.
I have no problem with players calling out other players for dirty hits or cheap shots that occur during a game. For example, it was interesting to hear how players felt about Todd Bertuzzi’s career-ending cheap shot on Steve Moore. In 1996, Dino Ciccarelli gave us one of the best sound bites in NHL history after telling the media how he felt about Claude Lemieux.
These were situations that deserved to be talked about because they involved plays that injured teammates. The saying isn’t “sticks and stones may break my bones, but when I hear bad words I tell the press.”
Be a man, Dale. Laugh it off and pour yourself a glass of champagne for upsetting the President Trophy winners, don’t cry to the cameras about how classless Lucic is.
Lucic was confronted about Weise’s comments and called him a “baby” for saying what he did. Well Milan, I agree.
What’s said on the ice, stays on the ice.
“Better luck next year.”
There aren’t four words that sting harder after you watch the final seconds tick away from their final game. The bar you’re in gets dimmer, the drink your sipping gets chugged, the potential excitement dies and it seems like there’s nothing more to look forward to.
Everything starts to bother you. The person in the screen printed T-shirt going ballistic when his team beats yours makes you want to whip a full glass toward them. How big of a fan can you be when you only have a damn T-shirt to watch game 7?
Everyone turns into an expert, yourself included. It was the coach, it was goaltending, it was the power play, it was the refs, it was a lack of execution, they weren’t focused, they didn’t play with emotion, the superstars didn’t show up, they took too many penalties, the rink wasn’t cold enough, their plane arrived late… It had to be something.
Every year feels like it’s supposed to be the year.
29 fan bases will feel the same way, but that never makes it any easier. You followed the team since the preseason and you know the ins and outs of the roster. Nothing can go wrong.
Every conversation over the next few days is about who should be fired, who should be resigned, who should be released, etc. But the thought that there are fans who are looking forward to the next series makes your teeth grind. Why can’t that be us? We deserved it, not them.
It took me a few days to calm down so I could write this. Had I written this on the night the Penguins were eliminated I don’t think there would have been too many words spelled correctly. You put yourself in an emotional coma and when you wake up you hope it was all just a nightmare. But it never is, it actually happened.
In the end, it’s the beauty of the game and it separates the real fans from the fake ones. Real fans struggle to go on with their every day lives when they know they have to keep their jersey stashed until the Fall. They’ve imagined the night when their captain hoists the Stanley Cup, but that night will have to wait at least one more year.
Reality will eventually sink in and people will tell you it’s just a game. It’s only hockey. There’s no reason to get upset over the things you can’t control. They were going to lose in the next series. You’re not personally affected.
But for most of us, hockey is all we are and all we will ever be. We eat, sleep, breathe and dream the game. It’s one of the worst days of the year for most of us, but it’s also what makes the game so great.
Better luck next year.
Shane Darrow is a graduate student at Ohio University studying journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow. Also, please check out Just Dangle Hockey for the best apparel in the business.
Once again, we’re reminded there are things in life that are bigger than hockey.
As a Penguins fan, it hurt watching the Penguins get spanked by the Rangers Friday night in game 5. It was difficult to watch a team come out so flat at home with a chance to close out a series. It was frustrating to hear the boos from thousands of people who spent a significant amount of their income to attend the game. All they got was a front row seat to their favorite team getting embarrassed in their own building.
However, as a Penguins fan it was also a blessing to see what the boys did for Martin St. Louis.
In case you haven’t heard, St. Louis’ mother, France, unexpectedly passed away on Thursday. She was 63 years old. No one would have questioned St. Louis if he had decided to stay at home in Montreal and be with his family. Players have missed games for far less, but St. Louis decided he wanted to be with his team and take the ice just 24 hours removed from one of the worst days of his life.
People love to rag on Sidney Crosby, but what he did for his Olympic teammate before Friday’s game exasperated nothing but shear class. Crosby seeked out St. Louis and found him warming up on an exercise bike. He shook his hand and had a brief conversation with him, which was caught on camera – you can view the footage here.
What amazes me is that St. Louis has only been with the Rangers for a few months. Remember, he was traded for Ryan Callahan at the trade deadline. This isn’t the Lightning team that St. Louis played the majority of his career with, it’s dozens of new faces and a completely different atmosphere than that of Tampa Bay, Florida. I’m sure he’s found camaraderie, but anyone who has played juniors can tell you that getting a player midseason is always a transition.
However, hockey players are a strange breed.
St. Louis decided to take the ice and his brothers in red, white and blue followed him out onto the ice at Consol Energy Center. The Rangers came out flying and dominated the Penguins in the opening period. They gained a two-goal lead and the Penguins never recovered. It’s impossible to be certain what it was that made the Rangers the most energized they’ve been all season, but I’m sure it had something to do with St. Louis. When one of the boys is struggling off the ice, it’s amazing how it translates on the ice.
The beauty of the game is that it allows us to take our minds off of the rest of the world and be free for a couple of hours. When one of my best friends passed away during the summer heading into my junior year of high school, I decided that I was no longer just playing for myself. At the end of every national anthem, I would get on one knee, touch the ice, hit my heart and then point up to the sky and say the same thing.
“I know you’re watching down on us, I miss you and I love you.”
During my senior season, I scored in overtime against our rivals in the playoffs and I broke away from my teammates so I could point to him. At the time, it was the biggest goal of my career – I wanted him to share the moment with me.
Martin St. Louis’ story isn’t sad because his mother passed away, it’s sad because it was so unexpected. In this world, we will all eventually flatline, but being able to say goodbye is the only thing we can ever ask for. Some of us will be lucky to do so, but some of us sadly won’t.
I have always respected St. Louis. He was a player that was told he would never make it. He’s only 5-foot-8 and went undrafted, yet he’s been in the league since 1997 and at 38 years old is one of the elite players in the game. The fact that he decided to play on Friday night makes me respect him even more.
We all have our own ways for handling tragedies, and for most hockey players, it’s taking the ice when no one else thinks you should. St. Louis flew back to Montreal to be with his family, then flew back to Pittsburgh to play with his brothers.
Marty, you’re the man.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own adversities that we never stop and think about what the athletes who we call our heroes have gone through.
Dominic Moore, an NHL forward currently playing the New York Rangers, recently shared his story with Jeremy Schaap and it will bring even the strongest of us to tears. Moore, who could be called an NHL journeyman having played for nine NHL franchises, walked away from hockey during the midst of a playoff run in 2012; he then sat out the shortened 2012-13 season.
Some of us never knew why, but his story tells the tragedy of his wife, who he met as a sophomore at Harvard, and her eventually fatal bout with cancer.
The life of an NHL girlfriend or wife is not easy and it is a story that is seldom told. Hockey players might be the toughest athletes in the world, but many of them are only able to be so strong on the ice because of their other half, who consistently give up their own dreams in order to allow their significant other to chase theirs.
Moore’s story is a sad one, but it shows how professional athletes are people just like you and me. It shows that under all of the equipment, there’s still a heart. It shows that hockey players aren’t invincible. It shows what hockey wives will go through and how supportive hockey players can be.
Hockey players, coaches, fans, mothers, fathers, girlfriends, wives… This is a must watch.
First off, writing this as a Pittsburgh Penguins fan isn’t easy. I want to believe that the Penguins will steamroll the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs, but there is one landmark standing in the way.
Sergei Bobrovsky is only 25 years old, but he has already carried a city on his shoulders for the last two years. The Blue Jackets are the only major professional sports team in Columbus, and even though there is the Columbus Crew and Ohio State University, Bobrovsky has finally brought some life into a city that used to be the laughing stock of the NHL.
Rick Nash just couldn’t do it. He was the face of the franchise for years, but he couldn’t get the Blue Jackets that precedented first playoff victory in franchise history. Many people said he wouldn’t really thrive until he was sent to a city with a larger market, but after only 39 points in 65 games with the New York Rangers this season, that argument isn’t looking too strong.
Bobrovsky on the other hand spent his first two years in the NHL in Philadelphia, which has proved to be one of the worst locations for talented goaltenders. The media ran out Ilya Bryzgalov and now it’s Bobrovsky who has been striving ever since he departed Philly.
The expectations in Philadelphia were always too high. It was win the Stanley Cup or get out of town.
Bobrovsky only played a total of 223 minutes in the playoffs with the Flyers, so the amount of pressure placed on the starter has never been felt by him; however, there will be no pressure felt by the Blue Jackets or Bobrovsky when their first round playoff series against the Penguins begins on Wednesday night.
The Penguins are supposed to destroy the Blue Jackets.
The Penguins are 5-0-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and have the four most established offensive players between the two teams in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz.
But remember two years ago when the Penguins took on the Philadelphia Flyers and Marc-Andre Fleury basically blew the entire series after allowing 26 goals in only six games? Or how about last year, when the Penguins escaped a first round matchup with the New York Islanders, even though they had no business coming out on the better end of that series.
Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by Tomas Vokoun last year as well after he struggled once again when it mattered most.
Fact is, if past years have taught us anything it’s that goaltending wins championships, which is ironic considering the NHL has been working for the past decade to find more ways to create offense.
When you think of the Chicago Blackhawks‘ championship run last year, the first few names that come to mind are probably Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, but Corey Crawford was just as important to their championship equation; he had a 16-7-1 record, .932 save percentage and allowed under two goals per game.
Are the Blue Jackets the more talented team in this matchup? Of course not – it isn’t even close – but they have the one weapon in between the pipes that can make average teams in the regular season great in the playoffs.
All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if the Blue Jackets turn some heads. There is no reason why the 2014 Blue Jackets can’t become the next 2003 Anaheim Ducks or 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
The pressure is all on Pittsburgh, which can be enough to make a team fail.