The fake locker room display at the NHL Store in Midwtown Manhattan, empty — just like real NHL locker rooms as the labor dispute continues.
I was in Midtown Manhattan yesterday and briefly sought refuge from the cold on 6th Avenue in the NHL store and its adjoining Starbucks coffee shop. There were plenty of hockey fans checking out the NHL merchandise, from replica sweaters and goalie masks to pucks and stocking caps. People were posing with a replica of the Stanley Cup.
Even as the labor impasse drones on, I took it as a good sign for hockey that so many fans were streaming into the store to check out the merchandise. It may be the only direct connection to NHL hockey they have this season that’s looking more like a non-season. A couple of sports network satellite trucks were parked in front of the NHL store, evidently waiting to go live with another “no developments” story on the negotiations, which are expected to resume today.
This was my first trip to Midtown in several years and my first visit to the NHL store. I was thinking that instead of having a Starbucks connected with the hockey shop there should be a Tim Horton’s, the Canadian chain with strong ties to north-of-the-border hockey teams.
To my surprise and delight, there now are Tim Horton’s in New York City. I spotted one in Penn Station and another somewhere in Midtown, each having a counter in multi-brand convenience marts. It’s not live hockey, but it’s a step in the right direction.
At dinner in Philadelphia last night, I kept glancing up at one of the big screen TVs showing a rebroadcast of the festivities that surrounded the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. The station was showing a long run of introductions of former players from the teams that would play the “real” game that day in Philly, the Flyers and the New York Rangers.
In short order, I saw Bobby Clarke and Mark Messier come out for interviews, dressed for play in Flyers and Rangers sweaters, respectively. The cameras showed fans of each franchise standing and applauding their heroes of yore, and that’s when the impact of this year’s labor dispute hit me like a skate blade to the shin.
By seeing those former players, each fan was reminded of all the games they’d watched or heard over the years, fathers and mothers telling sons and daughters how they were there at the Spectrum or the Garden when such and such happened. And those sons and daughters will be able to tell their children and grandchildren about how they sat outside on a cold January day back in ’12 to watch the Winter Classic.
But there will be no Winter Classic this season for anyone to remember, and as we near the new year it’s looking like there won’t be any games, period.
I’ll survive a winter without hockey, just as I survived earlier times without baseball or football during labor squabbles. And I will come back to hockey whenever the millionaire players settle their issues with the millionaire owners. I love the game too much not to return.
But as each canceled game comes off the calendar, there are that many fewer fathers and daughters taking in a game together and that many fewer mothers and sons at breakfast the next morning checking the scores.
Hockey won’t lose me — it’s too deeply imprinted in my psyche. But it will lose many fans for the future, and it does so at its own peril.
Just in from Newark: The New Jersey Devils have retired the No. 27 uniform number long worn by defenceman Scott Niedermayer. The honor is well-deserved.
I’m primarily a baseball fan and the overwhelming majority of my posts reflect that. But I’ve long been a hockey fan, and I was never more so than in the years I lived in New Jersey. I moved to Summit in 1999, just as the Devils were about to start their drive to the 2000 Stanley Cup. They won again in 2003, and I was rabidly attentive to the team for the duration.
Niedermayer is the third Devil to have his uniform retired, following fellow blue-liners Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko. As I think back on those great seasons a decade ago, I’m amazed at the talent the Devils had skating in front of goalie Martin Brodeur.
Although I think it’s just plain wrong for the NHL season to stretch nearly to the summer solstice, hockey was never more compelling than when I followed all those long playoff stretches as Niedermayer & Co. drove toward the cup.
Congratulations, Scott Niedermayer. Well played.
Posted in Hockey
Tagged Hockey, NHL
I turned on the car radio this afternoon hoping to catch a baseball game only to find a couple of NBA playoff games. I found that a bit depressing – not because I don’t like the NBA, but because it’s April 16 and these are just the first games of the first round.
The hockey playoffs got started earlier in the week – again, I like the NHL a lot – but they’ll drag on until June, skating parallel with the NBA.
For fans, there should be a couple of golden months each year when the sports overlap. September, say, when the NFL cranks up and the baseball races tighten up. And I’m OK with April sharing the glory with the new baseball season and the hockey and basketball playoffs.
But late May? June? No. That’s time for baseball. And November? Save it for football.
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey
Tagged Baseball, baseball season, MLB, NBA, NBA playoffs, NFL, NHL, NHL playoffs
[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Montreal&iid=8774278″ src=”3/7/4/9/Montreal_Canadiens_Win_6b81.JPG?adImageId=12837698&imageId=8774278″ width=”234″ height=”187″ /]
Why are these men smiling? They’re fans of the Montreal Canadiens, who defeated the Pitsburgh Penguins 5-2 tonight to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in the NHL playoffs. The Habs will play either Philadelphia or Boston, who play tomorrow night.
I haven’t paid much attention to hockey this season, even with the San Jose Sharks nearby. But I have kept an eye from afar on the Canadiens-Penguin series, and I’m equally shocked and fascinated by it. The Canadiens were the No. 8 seed in the east, and the Pens were the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Such upsets aren’t supposed to happen, at least not this deep in the playoffs. But the Canadiens pulled it off, and it’s a fantastic story. The Habs are to hockey what the Yankees are to baseball, and it would be great to see Montreal bring the cup home.
I was fortunate to attend a Canadiens game a few years back in Montreal, a low-scoring affair against the Colorado Avalanche. The game itself wasn’t terribly memorable, but my ill-advised attempt to order French fries in French was. I had about $5 in my pocket and unwittingly managed to ask for two orders of fries instead of one. I had to hustle to find an ATM to get a few more bucks to pay for the food.
I should have ordered poutine, that marvelous combination of French fries, gravy and cheese curds. Given the chance, I’d order some tonight to celebrate with the Habs.
Posted in Baseball, Hockey
Tagged Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, French fries, Hockey, Montreal Canadiens, New York Yankees, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, poutine, San Jose Sharks
[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=hockey&iid=7443635″ src=”0/7/7/f/Fans_enter_for_ac78.JPG?adImageId=8759859&imageId=7443635″ width=”380″ height=”250″ /]
I missed the game, and that’s a shame. The Bruins beat the Flyers 2-1 in the third annual NHL Winter Classic today at Fenway Park in Boston.
It’s difficult to find photos of ballcaps at hockey games, at least among the players. I offer the above photo of a Bruins fan as a reasonable substitute.