Musings on the daily events in politics and sports as well as some local bar stops along the way in LA.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How The Great One ruined the NHL

Well its now May, which means its time for the playoffs to start in the tournament for the greatest trophy in sports... and i'm not talking about the stupid gold ball you get for winning the NBA championship. I'm talking about the huge cup that the winning team gets to have their names engraved into, the one that each player on the winning team gets to spend a day with, the one that has gone to strip clubs and been damaged while being thrown from a roof into a pool while Pantera was playing a free backyard show. The one that amateurs have filed a suit in Canadian court so that not them but anyone, can play for it this year. Yes, I am talking about the Stanley Cup, the greatest sports trophy of all time.
The NHL playoffs are like no other playoffs, the game gets rougher but suddenly there are no fights, every goal is magnified and becomes the equivalent of three goals in the regular season. Yes the NHL playoffs.
Too bad this year they dont exist, and I am here to tell you why. Now the simple answer is it is because the owners got greedy and expanded the sport so much that the talent wasnt there. Or because the New Jersey Devils started the new defensive era- which is as exciting as watching paint dry. But the real answer to why the NHL is no longer being played is because of Wayne Gretzky. Unarguably the greatest hockey player of all time, and arguably the greatest player of anyone in their respective sport of all time.

I grew up in Los Angeles, California. Sunny weather, beautiful women and great beaches. We like outdoor sports here, mainly basketball and baseball. Then in that summer of 88 (or whenever it was) I was introduced to a new sport. The Kings had just traded for Wayne Gretzky, I barely even knew who he was let alone why such a big deal was being made about some hockey player coming to la. So I start watching a few hockey games and I'm blown out of the waters. The skill of this one player was insane. This was the first time I agreed with the overused analogy that "its like an artform out there." What Gretzky was doing on the ice truly was like art. The puck was like an extension of his hand and he could do whatever he wanted with it. He completed perfect passes that nobody would even think of attempting. His teamates were all scoring career highs in goal because all they had to do was put their sticks on the ice and he would use them the way a basketball player uses a backboard. Hockey got so big in la that James Woods joked he recently called the Forum to get tickets to the game and was asked if he wanted one for next months game or the month after that, before Gretzky came to LA he would call the forum and ask what time tonights game starts and they would ask him "what time can you be here?" Nobody cared about hockey in LA before him. The Kings then started spending money on the team and that meant that their minor league team even improved. Their minor league team in phoenix was starting to sell out their games because they were getting good hockey there too. Hockey got so big in LA that we needed another team down here, and Anaheim got a team. Then it got so popoular in phoenix that Winnipeg moved their team down to phoenix. Then the people of Texas saw how popular hockey was in these sunny states that they got Minnesotta to move their team down to Dallas. Minnessotta! the land of 10,000 frozen lakes no longer had a team. Since people were willing to pay top dollar to start new teams, the greedy owners were taking their cash and there were new teams in Tampa bay and Jacksonville. Then Minnesotta wanted a team again and they got an expansion team, all of a sudden there were teams in the small city of Columbus, OH, the random cities of Raliegh, NC and Nashville, TN. Hockey was everywhere all because Gretzky was so good and such a great ambassador of the sport.
Then it all came crashing down.
Gretzky retired at a point where there were so many teams that players didnt have a chance to develop in the minor leagues. Coaches realized they can just teach their big players some easy defense and these undeveloped players wouldnt be able to score. This was horrible for the game. All of a sudden Gretzky was retired, Lemieux was semi retired with his back problems and there were teams everywhere in these small towns and these sunny towns. The players wanted to continue getting paid the top dollar they were getting that resulted from the popularity of the Gretzky era, and we had problems. All of a sudden Carolina was in the Stanley Cup finals, this wasnt good.

It all resulted in a showdown last year with Calgary and Tampa Bay playing for the cup. This was an old school Canadian team thatwitha potential superstar in Jerome Iginla v. a sunny hockey town that barely knew the rules of the game, nor did they care. They only cared about their draft picks in the recent NFL draft at the time. It went down to a game 7 in Tampa with Calgary given an opportunity to win one for the true hockey fans and take the cup back to Canada and away from these fake fans. Well Tampa bay ended up winning that game 2-1 and "coincidentally" the NHL died after that.

And it all happened because Wayne Gretzky was too good for his own sport.



Blogger Arsineh said...

Kris, welcome to the blog world... I'm sure I'll be facinated by the wisdom that comes from your brain.

5:51 PM


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