It’s that time of year again. The playoffs are back and it’s hockey season. Whether you’re a seasoned hockey fan or you’ve been missing out on the action due to being away this year, there is no denying that the sport is back and it’s as dangerous as ever.
One of the most exciting things about hockey is the fact that it is completely reversible. A hockey rink can be completely transformed into a baseball field, and since the ice has been removed, there are no limitations on what can be done with the terrain. This year, the Calgary Flames will be playing their intra-provincial rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, on the road in a best-of-seven series that will determine the final spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is tonight, April 16, in Vancouver and the puck will drop at 7:00 PM Mountain Time (MT).
It’s game day and you’ve made it through the day without a hitch. The anticipation, the excitement, the butterflies…we’ve all experienced them. Now it’s time to settle down and enjoy the game with some good old-fashioned hitching. It’s time for you to take a knee and pray to the hockey gods that your team wins tonight’s game and goes on to advance to the next round. You might even want to grab a camera and document the event for posterity. Maybe you’ll even send me a tweet. That’ll be fun.
I’m sure most of us can relate to one thing or another about tonight’s game. Maybe you’re an avid fan who has been waiting for this moment for years. Maybe you’re a transplanted Calgarian who has been living in the Vancouver area for a while and this is your first opportunity to take your hometown team out for a spin. Maybe you’re in the Vancouver area for work and it’s an opportunity to check out one of the most historic rivalries in all of sports. Whatever the case, this is a big deal. You have a chance to witness history in the making.
We know what happens next. The Canucks win the game and the Flames lose team owner Bill Davidson’s (mostly) annual $100 bet. Even the most diehard NHL fans might be surprised how many people choose to lose that kind of money on a game that has no bearing on the big picture. It’s a sad day for Davidson, but it’s also a day many of us look forward to. We were there that day and there will never be another like it. We were a part of something special. We’ve all been waiting for this day for a long time. It’s finally here. The Flames are playing for pride tonight and it feels great.
It might not be a traditional sports-related question, but it’s one that’s been on my mind. There is no question that the game has evolved over the years and with the increased use of analytics and data, we’re seeing more and more oddities. Let’s take a look at how to flood a hockey rink. First, you’ll need to identify the center-ice line. This is the line that will be in the middle of the ice when the game is over and waiting for the puck drop. You can use a flag or a cone to represent this line. Once you have that down, everything else is relatively easy. Just make sure you clear out all the space around the logo and all the lines are in their proper places. You’ll also need to make sure the goals are in the correct places and that the ice has been leveled properly before the game starts. Finally, have some fun! Install your benches, have some fun hockey fights and make sure to wave to the fans as they’re leaving the arena. You can also ask the security guards to keep an eye out for any fans trying to get in and keep the game going. They’ll have a good laugh at that too. It’s always nice when fans can have some fun with the employees too. That’s teamwork right there.
As a former goaltender, it’s safe to assume that I’m a little bit bias towards the position. While the other players seem to have an endless array of flashy moves and tricks, the goalie‘s main job is to stop the puck. In a perfect world, the goalie would stop all the shots and all the players would have to work for a win. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and I have to believe that at least some of the shots I face are going to find the back of the net. Sometimes, it just takes a little something extra to pull off a win. When that happens, the goalie deserves some credit.
The team’s leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, is among the best in the NHL at shooting the puck on goal. A lot of that has to do with his incredible wrist shot, but he also scores a ton of goals by driving the net and throwing his body in front of the puck. It’s an unselfish play and it usually pays off. You can bet that if I have to pick one player to score the most goals in the playoffs it’s going to be Gaudreau. This year, he is on a tear and if the Canucks want to keep up they’re going to have to shut him down or risk getting dominated on the score-sheet. Watch out for Gaudreau right now because he’s going to be hard to contain. He is extremely dangerous and has a knack for making the big play at the right time.
The X Factor
Aside from the obvious bias implied by my previous statement, I’m also going to have to tip my hat to the equipment manufacturers who have created a hockey stick with a modern feel in mind. Due to the increased speed of the game these days, the hockey stick has to work harder than it ever has before. This is especially important for the snipers out there who can use their weapons to their fullest extent. When you have a sniper like Alexander Ovechin out there who can blast away at the goalies, it makes it that much more important for the shooter to have the proper tool. Luckily for them, they also make hockey gloves that fit perfectly over the stick and increase gripping power as well as provide better shock absorption. It’s amazing what equipment can do. It makes a world of difference when you can actually feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing. Makes all the difference in the world.
It’s always nice when a coach trusts his goalie and gives him the freedom to make a key save even when down a goal or even an entire game. It’s going to be interesting to see who between the Flames and the Canucks decides to go first in the next round. Who is going to be the underdog and who is going to be the favorite? I’m going to have to believe that the Flames have the better team and I’m also going to have to believe that the goaltender deserves a lot of the credit for the team’s hot start to the season. There’s no question that the Calgary Flames are a fun team to watch and it will be interesting to see how things turn out this year. All you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Sometimes, it feels like a lot of the other NHL teams are just against us, purely out of jealousy. It’s not like that at all. They’re just jealous that we’ve got this incredible rivalry going on and they want a piece of it. That’s all. It’s funny how things work out. Just keep playing your heart out and enjoy the ride.