Premature Exit

Dear J-

Well, if you want a post-mortem, that may have to wait until later tonight, but the hockey season appears to be nearly done for the Red Wings (with my Chiefs bowing out of the first round of the WHL playoffs), down 0-3 to the Sharks. These deficits have been overcome before, but I’m not holding my breath — I’ve been coming to terms with it ever sincce I read the score on Wednesday morning. I’m not going to espouse the tinfoil hat-theories like fellow fans (but I suppose it’s oddly appropriate for Sharks to dive; having playoff games decided in press conferences is despicable but necessary in today’s NHL), but I will say this: these are tired folks — they’ve played as many games as anyone the past two seasons (the Penguins being the other) and as everyone is so fond of saying, they are an old team.

Even though Chris Chelios finally retired after 452 years in the NHL (what, you never saw him play defense against “Rocket” Richard?) that’s only dropped the average age by a fraction; Nicklas Lidstrom, who I remember as a fresh-faced rookie, just turned forty. Yes, the old jokes never get old (“Your team’s so old, they decided to make the colors red and grey”), so let’s think up a few more to throw around as excuses. Yet there’s truth in the adage that age is just a number: attitude dictates ability, and I’m not seeing the same desire out there on the ice. Penguins, yes. Wings, no. Same number of games, different results.

I work with another fan, and in comparing notes, I admitted that I’m almost looking forward to seeing them knocked out; she had told me what a great match Game 7 Habs-Caps turned out to be, helped by her just watching without worry. I suspect that’s why I’m looking forward to the World Cup later this summer — with no real dog in the fight, it’s instructive to watch the spectacle and contest without having an inherent bias. I know how that sounds — “man I wish they weren’t playing four single-elimination games” — but each of those four games would be ones I couldn’t stand to watch anyway; I want to get back to enjoying the sport.

Mike

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2 Responses to “Premature Exit”

  1. Junior Says:

    My condolences on the demise of the Wings this year. You’re right that it’s not always about the chronological age, but you’re also right to point to the mileage on the team’s collective odometer. In the case of the Wings, that mileage is very much a significant factor this year, I think; that team has been to something like six out of the past fourteen Stanley Cup finals. It hasn’t gone out in the first round of the playoffs except in 2006 vs. Edmonton. There are a lot of hard miles that have been put on the chassis of the Wings’ players over those years – playoff hockey games are extremely physically demanding.

    Anyway, much as I continue to hold a grudge against a former Norris Division rival, I know the feeling of emptiness that comes when your team is eliminated all too well.

    I’m looking forward to the World Cup too. Haven’t figured out who I’m going to root for yet. I’ll be interested to watch Man City’s brilliant striker Carlos Tevez, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to cheer for Argentina!

  2. dearJ Says:

    At least it’s not the Penguins again this year. If anything it points to how difficult it is to repeat or at least perform consistently; there are few teams who have very long playoff streaks, and the number keeps dwindling.

    So how about that World Cup huh? As soon as the local paper — which is doing a stellar job with coverage, I must add, in contrast with the hockey coverage — declared this year that the South American teams were the ones to beat, beaten they were, aside from Uruguay. I will point to my curse taking broad effect in that during these knockout rounds, nearly every team I’ve rooted for has lost. But perhaps that’s just a subconscious result of picking subtle underdogs.

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