Good evening. Tonight’s play has all of the makings of an entertaining way to ring out the old year. On the one hand, we have yesterday’s leading men trying to restore the tarnished luster of their past glories. Chris Clark, a former captain among heroes, unmoored from his past accomplishments, finds himself pushed to the Western Conference where things are wild and woolly. He and his teammates are faced with opposition from the South, where kissing cousins, syncopated music and Moon Pies can inspire a decent Canadian Boy to turn feral.
Enter the competition. They came from Nashville. At the helm was their longtime leader, Coach Trotz, and on the bench was a mix of bloodied but unbowed veterans and shiny new kids fresh off the cheddar boat from Milwaukee and eager to earn a place in the den with the big cats. These were two teams with a history of playing hard, making every shot on goal feel like blunt force trauma and the times when the puck got past Gozer and Zuul at the opposing ends of the rink feel like epic triumphs. It was New Year’s Eve and anticipation was running high. Going from history, a reasonable expectation would be one of a game that would look like a school yard fight.
What we actually got was forty minutes of full contact backgammon. There are some games where the energy is high and it’s easy to miss something important just by blinking. Last night was not one of those times. Raffi Torres’ goal six minutes into first period was the main highlight. Even the officials seemed drowsy, because they were certainly missing a few offsides and icing violations that should have gotten a whistle blast and some quiet time. Aside from some random hits and death glares and fits of chattiness from David Legwand, it looked like this was going to be a 60 minute lope to a single goal shutout for Columbus. It had been noted that Hitchcock had shirts printed up bearing the slogan, “It starts now”. By second intermission, the appropriate response to that bold gesture would have been, “When?”
The answer? Third period. Somewhere the Hockey Gods flipped a switch and the play cranked up to normal speed and then some. And the Hockey Gods were stoked and smiled on the new kids and a beam of light shone down on Nationwide Center as Andreas Thuresson got his first NHL goal. Huzzah! And the Archangel Buzzer sounded and regulation play was no more. Everyone girded for over time and Brother Ward looked at Brother Legwand and said, “You know you want to.” And Bother Legwand nodded and glared at the referee, this time for no apparent reason and with an assist from Brother Ward -because that’s what family is for- he slammed home the final goal and the game was over and there was wailing and teething at Gnash in Ohio while the rejoicing and sharing of celebratory nachos commenced in dens across Middle Tennessee.
So there you have it. Two twenty minute periods of what looked like the teams were playing on separate rinks that were followed by a third one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other stint in regulation time that made everyone wonder if someone had switched channels during second intermission. I would like to say the weirdness ended there, but Pete Weber and Terry Crisp sent us home with their rendition of “Satisfaction”. With that, the weird had officially turned pro. And so I bid you all a happy new year and until next play, good night.