I’m sure if you’re a hockey fan you already know that it’s VERY hard to be a fan these days if you want to watch games on TV. I mean, the NHL decided to show its U.S. games on something called Versus, which I think is shown in eight homes nationwide.
(In fact, I think Fox Soccer Channel gets more viewership. Not that I’m complaining.)
But if you ARE a true non-Snow Belt American hockey fan — let’s face it, you get above a certain latitude line, it’s a lot easier — this kind of struggle is nothing new. It makes you love the game even more.
Quick tangent: if you had a gun to my head and asked what my favorite sports are, it’d probably fall like this:
4. College football
6. College basketball (except in Feb. and March)
7. Pro football
8. Pro basketball (and the NBA’s gaining on the NFL, folks… )
(and depending on the importance of the event, I’ll include figure skating, because that’s Tanya’s No. 1 sport by far. I do get into the Olympics/World Championships type events… so that’s in the mix too.)
So being a fan willing to work for information is nothing new for me.
Anyway, with the NHL playoffs opening up tomorrow night, I decided to get involved.
Problem is, my usual suspects — the Washington Capitals — have missed the postseason by a good bit once again. This isn’t a massive shock — the Caps are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project, centering around the awesome Alexander Ovechkin, and fans know there’ll be some bumps before they regain respectability.
So instead of taking a passive interest, I’ve decided to adopt a team for the postseason. I took a look at all 16 teams, and decided on a couple of ground rules:
1. No easy picks. Taking the Red Wings, for example, is too convenient. Besides, the Wings have enough fans without me hopping on that bandwagon.
2. No Cap rivals. That rules out Pittsburgh (oh so many bad memories of playoffs past), the Islanders (ditto), the Rangers (the home of Jagr, and remember what a disaster that turned out to be for the Caps).
That left Buffalo, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Ottawa in the East, and Calgary, Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas, Vancouver, Nashville and San Jose in the West.
I eliminated New Jersey right away, since they’ve had the Stanley Cup recently, and for the same reason, out went Dallas, Tampa Bay and Calgary. Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver — all worthy candidates — are simply too far away.
That narrowed it to Buffalo, Atlanta, Nashville, Ottawa and Minnesota. Buffalo’s a great story, but their new logo is completely lame. (And honestly, the Sabres could run away and hide with this thing quick and make the playoffs really boring.) I’m happy that Atlanta’s back in the NHL elite, but the Thrashers leave me cold. Same with Minnesota and the Wild.
Now it’s down to Nashville and Ottawa. While the Senators have long been one of my favorite teams to watch, I decided that my team will be the Nashville Predators.
The Predators play in one of the most unlikely hockey cities ever, the home of country music. Yet their fans are incredibly fervent. They have a great story with their team nickname — it isn’t just a “cool-sounding” name, it comes from the discovery of a sabre-toothed tiger skull found in Nashville.
The Preds’ roster is a great mix of great veterans (Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Jason Arnott) and up-and-coming stars (Scott Hartnell, David Legwand). They have two goalies in Chris Mason and Tomas Vokoun, either one of whom could get hot. And they have the first-ever Inuit NHL player, Jordin Tootoo, who is one tough hombre.
Then there’s team captain Kimmo Timonen, who also happens to part-own a team in Finland. I feel better when a team leader actually has his own money on the line.
So I’m going to try and see if I can watch tomorrow night’s Game 1 against the Sharks at a local sports pub (good luck!), or at least listen to it with XM or something.
Let’s go PREDS!!!