As the Stanley Cup playoffs proceeded, my team, the St. Louis Blues, took on the Dallas Stars, my hometown team. Of course, I couldn’t really lose in this playoff best-of-seven, because I love both teams. But the way it turned out was a super-win for the good guys.
The Stars won their first-round playoff based on the magnificent play of Goalie Ben Bishop. His play recalled for me the days when the Great Glenn Hall won the playoff MVP award for the Blues in the Stanley Cup final that the Blues lost to the Montreal Canadiens in 1968.
The Blues, led by leading scorer Vladimir Teresenko, have been the hottest team in the second half of the NHL season. They came from far back in the pack and out of the playoff picture into the playoffs, winning against the favored Winnepeg Jets in the first round.
And the series itself could not have been more amazing. The Blues finally won the deciding seventh game in the second overtime on a goal by Left Wing Patrick Maroon. It could not have been more exciting. Especially after the Blues had playoff hopes dashed in the first round so many times in recent years. Now, if the Blues can only beat the hated San Jose Sharks, they will be in the Stanley Cup final again for the first time since 1970.
I am, of course, not a sports reporter. I am a loony Blues fan who never gives up even though his beloved hockey team has never won the big prize.
Yes, it happened again. My favorite hockey team, having advanced in the playoffs by beating a team they weren’t supposed to be able to beat, have lost in the next round. No more nonsense about this being our year. The St. Louis Blues have the playoff blues again this year. No Chicago Cubs’ end-of-the-world theatrics for us.
Our resident superstar, Vladimir Tarasenko, failed to bring us the elusive Stanley Cup again this year. I mean, I have only been rooting for them to win it all since the team was founded in the 1960’s. We were able to be in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals. The Great Glenn Hall cemented his standing as a Hall of Fame player by being the first and only goalie of a losing team to win the MVP of the playoffs award in the twilight of his career. The team was the winningest team in all of hockey for several straight years in the 90’s, and were led by legendary Brett Hull (who only managed to win the Cup after moving to the Dallas Stars) and still no Cup win. 50-plus years without a championship. I guess we have to wait another 50 to play by Cubs’ rules.
I will be 110 years old when we celebrate that Stanley Cup.
It went to seven games just like the Chicago Blackhawk series. I was fully prepared to see the Blues lose and be out of the playoffs… again. But it didn’t go quite that way this time. Hope has returned to roost in the heart of this Blues fan.
The Blues are going to the Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001. It will be a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970. The Blues have never won the Cup. Now that the string of first round playoff exits is ended, I have reason to hope that some of the endless frustrations are coming to an end. The next round will either be against the Nashville Predators or the San Jose Sharks. The Blues have already defeated much tougher foes in the first two rounds, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the division champion Dallas Stars. But I am, of course, aware that either team is capable of upsetting the Blues. I am mentally prepared for a loss. However, there is reason to hope.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott stretches just before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on January 14, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The reason to hope is goalie Brian Elliot. He stood up to more than 30 shots on goal in last night’s game. Only one got past him. The other side was not nearly so lucky… or so skilled. Combined with the scoring abilities of Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny they should be unstoppable. I know I am rattling on with my own self-absorbed fascinations and ephemeral joy at last night’s victory. And I know it may not be any more than a moment’s flicker of light and hope and happiness… but that’s what being a sports fan is all about.
Senator Tedhkruzh, the lizard-man from the doomed planet Galtorr Prime.
The orange-haired bloviator known as Donald Trump.
John Kasich flipping the byrd at teachers.
Last night brought second-hand victories to Mickeyworld. I am definitely NOT a Republican, but the Indiana Primary results put a smile on my face. Not, of course, because the Orangutan Man with a pocket-full of wall plans won and will probably be the GOP nominee. Rather, because the evil space lizard who wants to put an end to everything good that comes from government finally dropped out of the race for President. Yes, Ted Cruz has put his world domination ambitions on hold until some future election or military or political coup. And Trump against any candidate the Democrats put forward will probably lose… unless Americans all have lobotomies before November.
The NHL playoff game last night also yielded good news. The St. Louis Blues, after having beaten last year’s Stanley Cup champion, beat the Dallas Stars 6 goals to 1 in the third game of round two. They totally dominated the division champions and took the lead in the series in a way that makes it seem that going to roll over them.
I am certainly not fool enough to imagine the good times will last. Good things happen one day, only to evaporate into nothingness the next. But I tend to believe that I have every right to enjoy the good things while they happen. Boo-hoos for tomorrow. Yippee-kai-yays for today.
Sunday was a bad, bad day for me. My football team, the Arizona Cardinals, were in the National Football Conference championship. One game away from their second trip to a Superbowl. But they not only lost, they were crushed 49 to 15. Not one morsel of goodness was left to a poor humiliated die-hard fan who has been waiting for the team to succeed his entire life. So, how do you recover from that? My wife decided to take me to a hockey game. Surely that would make me feel better. Of course, I was dying at the time of virus-related lung-mangling coughing fits and total lack of will to live. My novel that I have worked so hard on and was so proud of is in jeopardy of never being published. My sky no longer has sunshine. It is only natural that the Dallas Stars hockey team would help. Hockey is my real favorite sport, and I have loved the Stars as my second-favorite team since the 1960’s when they were the Minnesota North Stars.
It should be explained at this point that I love hockey in the same way that I love Mark Twain and the basic concepts of comedy and humor. It all stems from the same basic seed… ridiculous behavior lampooned by its own awareness of itself. Look at how it all started. The hockey gods, Dave and Rick, sat down together beside a frozen lake in Saskatchewan some time in the cold winter in the late 1800’s and decided to invent a national sport for Canada.
“Canada deserves a pretty cool national sport, eh,” said Dave.
“We gotta frozen lake right here, hoser,” answered Rick. “We can take some other sport and do it on ice, eh?”
“You got it, hoser,” said Dave. “What could be cooler than that lacrosse game the Iroquois and the Hurons play? With the whacking sticks and junk! Wouldn’t that look cool on ice, hoser?”
“They’ll never get a good hit in on anybody else’s head if they are slip sliding all around the ice… Let’s put ’em on skates. And we gotta make sure the game ball ain’t too big so they can whip it around with the sticks really, really fast.”
“Yeah, let’s increase the difficulty by taking the net-thingies off the sticks, and let’s make the ball into a little hard rubber disc. We’ll call it a puck. And people will die all the time in this high-speed multiple-projectile game with lots of whacking sticks!”
“Truly excellent idea, hoser. You are one really great hockey god!”
“You too, hoser… you too.”
So you can see by this carefully researched and verified origin story that hockey is not a sport to be taken lightly. Grown men with skates and sticks going around in circles really, really fast, trying to whip a puck past the goaltender into a net and at the same time trying to avoid all manner of collisions… though not trying very hard.
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 21: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars defends his net as teammates Jordie Benn #58 and Derek Roy #11 defend Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings in the second period during the NHL game at Staples Center on March 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
So my wife drags me to the American Airlines Center, the arena the Stars share with the NBA Dallas Mavericks. We get in easy enough, and then march all the way up to the three hundreds’ sections where all the cheap seats are. To get there, you must go up and up and up on multiple escalators, get to the arena roof, and take the stairs up higher still. This we do with Filipino friends in tow… who know absolutely nothing about this whacky sport, but they like big spectacles and the arena food. And I have the added benefit that they will believe absolutely anything I tell them about the game. Oh, it turns out it could be really fun after all! And I wouldn’t even have to lie to make their eyes pop out of their heads.
Of course, from the rafters with the bats, the game looks like a bunch of colorful ants scrabbling all over a big white postage stamp, but the new highlights screen makes it kinda like watching TV at home, except with lots of expensive snacks that you have to go mountain-climbing for and drunk guys that have had too much of the beer that vendors actually carry up into the stands. (One fight actually almost broke out in the crowd near us, three rows down, but the young guy got scared of the really loud and old fat guy who was yelling obscenities at him and scurried away faster than a drunk fat guy can follow.)
Of course, my wife never lets me bring binoculars to these things because I might lose them… and also because the Ice Girls who scrape the ice during time-outs wear skates and very little else. I have to look at the big hanging TV very closely during those times. Especially when those times occur while wifey is down the mountainside searching for affordable snacks.
And, of course, it is always a very welcome thing when the Stars win. As you have probably guessed, I don’t get to see my favorite teams win in front of me very often, and we have to savor those things when they occur.