Yes, I am bewildered again this year by the results of the hockey playoffs. Also puzzled, flummoxed, confounded and confused.
Try as I might, I just don’t understand how year after year teams from Alberta and Ontario and Manitoba get beaten out earlier than teams from Florida, California, Nevada, North Carolina. And Texas!
The past three or four weeks were great fun, as I joined friends and other hockey fans in a few different sports-themed taverns around Niagara-on-the-Lake.
A few times each week, I selfishly cheered for the Toronto Maple Leafs because the longer they lasted in the playoffs, the more fun I was able to have watching hockey.
I fully comprehend that many of the players who ply their fast and furious trade come from Canada. Our great country is still a hockey power and many of the best skaters come from north of the 49th parallel.
Which leads me to ask why there has been a paucity of goaltenders who call Canada home? The past two decades, non-Canadians have been the kings of the creases.
Between the pipes, I’ve seen Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Samsonov, Andrei Vasalevskiy and the now-retired Henrik Lundqvist performing splendidly night after night, keeping their teams in contention with key saves. How acrobatic, brave and cool are they, eh?
Not long ago, when I was a truly committed hockey fan, goalies had names like Glenn Hall, Gerry Cheevers, Jacques Plante and Johnny Bower. Not to mention Georges Vezina and Gump Worsley.
Quite often, they were smaller than the defencemen and forwards. As a kid playing on neigbourhood and community centre rinks, the smallest boys, and perhaps the weakest skaters, were shoved into goal if they wanted to play the games.
Oh how, times have changed. Now, with the butterfly style of goaltending seeming to be the flavour of the times, many of the goaltenders are often well over six feet tall.
There is precious little room to shoot the puck into the net, except over their shoulders. In fact, most goals seem to be skilfully deflected, or redirected off a skate or hip, after the goalies have been screened by opposition players taking a beating the “the dirty zones.”
When we watch games from the 1950s and 1960s, the players we thought were speedy were actually playing “slow motion hockey” when compared to the highly conditioned and skilled players of today. Thank goodness for video replay, which is often essential to determine who actually scored the goal.
It will be over 30 years since a Canadian-based team won the coveted Stanley Cup. This can’t be true, but it certainly is a fact.
So now I ramble back to my original disconnect about how hockey teams based in the United States of America annually dispatch our Canadian franchises. When I think deeply about this, I get a bit out of balance. They are not smarter and their payrolls are roughly equal.
Canadian hockey fans have a genuine, DNA-rooted need to win hockey games. Our basic genetic makeup demands success on the ice.
Having said that, we seem to be willing to be disappointed each spring, as our ice warriors look forlorn in the handshake lines and while suffering through the post-game “media availability.” May I ask, whatever happened to press conferences?
American teams beating us in ice hockey can only be compared to teams from South Africa or Australia beating Dutch speed skaters. Or Canadian alligator wrestlers beating rasslers from Florida or Louisiana. Or badminton players from Canada whupping players from Malaysia.
This whole hockey situation has me off-balance. I really need to see a Canadian NHL team win the Stanley Cup. And, moreso, Canada needs it.