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Rocket's Red Glare: A beginner's guide to following and loving the NHL

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • October 26, 2011 - 12:36 PM

Commenter Rocket is known for two things: writing about hockey and picking fake fights with commenter Stu. He has succeeded big-time on both counts this week. Rocket?

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A while back Newbie – who, it should be noted, has been doing some admirable work in the comments lately – suggested that I give a primer for the folks who are new to hockey and looking to learn a little more. Since the NBA will start officially begin missing regular season games early next week, this seems like a particularly apt time to follow through.

Additionally, the Commentron 3000 has obviously been reprogrammed to destroy any comments where I speak the truth about Stu (including his odd eating habits). As such, I must wage my war in these posts. To that end, I offer the primer as a fictional conversation between me and hockey troglodyte Stu.
 
Stu: Hello, Rocket.
 
Rocket: Shut the [redacted] up, Stu.
 
Stu: I don’t know much about hockey.
 
Rocket: Or bathing.
 
Stu: And I like the Internet.
 
 
Stu: Are there any good web sites that might help me get to know the NHL, teams, and the players better?
 
Rocket: (heaves a big sigh) OK, since you stopped picking your nose I’ll answer your question. My go-to website for all things NHL is Puck Daddy. It is regularly updated with lots of news and analysis and opinion about the entire NHL. It does a really good job of spanning the entire league and offering some insight, humor, and interesting discussion. The major sports web sites, such as ESPN and CNNSI, are worth occasionally checking out but I don’t spend a lot of time on them because neither outlet seems all that interested in providing any sort of coverage beyond whatever base minimum is required by the standards of what passes for journalistic integrity nowadays.
 
Of course, the Twin Cities is lucky to have a smart, dedicated, proficient hockey writer and blogger in Michael Russo. If you’re looking for good insight on the local squad, and you’re hoping for a little more of the personality that you get from a blogger as opposed to a straight newspaper writer, you can’t do any better than Russo’s Rants (quick side note, if Michael Rand had this job, the blog would be called “Rand’s Pants Rants” and it would feature a picture of himself wearing nothing but breezers at the top of the page). Another favorite for Wild coverage in Hockey Wilderness. One of my favorite features of this site is that it is good enough to link to the opposing teams’ SBNation pages after a game. In fact, I’m fond of another SBNation page as well. And once you get a bit more familiar with the teams and the players and you’re looking for a more humorous take I would wholeheartedly suggest Down Goes Brown. However, you probably shouldn’t start with DGB before you have some hockey knowledge.
 
Stu: Is there anything that I should know about the local NHL team?
 
Rocket: Well, knowing you, we have to start with the team’s name. They are the Minnesota Wild. They also have some exceptionally amazing jerseys that they only wear on occasion for some reason. You should also prepare to spend a lot of time watching them in their own zone. They allegedly only give up five more shots per game then they take, but it certainly feels worse in the games I’ve watched this year. They are 28th in a 30-team league in shots taken and middle of the pack in shots given up. Their young defensive corps also looks about as competent in their own zone as you do when you talk to a woman. They’re going to really have to get a lot of production out of their big line of Heatley-Koivu-Setoguchi to get anywhere near the playoffs this year.
 
Stu: Sounds like we might be in for a rough year with the Wild. Are there any other teams worth keeping an eye on?
 
Rocket: For years now I have been telling anyone who will listen that the most entertaining team to watch in the NHL is the Washington Capitals. Two years ago, they just had fun skating up and down the ice, not caring about playing defense and happy to win games 7-5 or 6-3. Last year, they tried to shore it up defensively and looked like you trying to put on a sweater. For the last handful of years, they have been seriously disappointing playoff performers. But this year they look like a team on a mission. They are seven-for-seven on the season and just destroyed the other remaining and no longer unbeaten team in the league. There’s nothing quite like a talented, focused group doing what it does best. And luckily, they are a favorite of Versus and NBC, so you should get plenty of chances to watch them.
 
Stu: Versus? Is the NHL still stuck on that channel? That’s so stupid! How is anybody supposed to find that channel? They should have begged ESPN to take them on.
 
Rocket: Are you seriously complaining because the NHL is on a network you haven’t already memorized in your pea brain? Just how lazy are you? You’re complaining about not being able to find a TV channel!? What, is your thumb broken? Are the batteries in your remote dead? Has something rendered you incapable of flipping through channels or consulting a guide? Just how stupidly incompetent do you need to be to be unable to find a television channel? There are plenty of reasons to criticize how the NHL does its business. This isn’t one of them.
 
Stu: Is there a particularly intriguing player this season?
 
Rocket: Yes, lots of them. But if you’re into potential train wrecks you should keep your eye on Roberto Luongo. The netminder for the Vancouver Canucks is a three time Vezina Trophy and one time Hart Trophy finalist and an undeniable talent. He helped Canada win the gold medal in the most recent Olympics and holds NHL records for most saves and shots faced in a single season. He also has developed a reputation for not being able to perform in the clutch and, while very good in the three games the Canucks won in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, was fairly brutal in the four games that they lost. He typically has a slow start to the season and this year has been no exception, which has done nothing to quell the growing chorus of sometimes NSFW voices that want to see him traded or cut or shot or buried alive or whatever. And it certainly didn’t help that he was pulled last night after giving up three goals on fourteen shots to Edmonton. Watching Luongo and the city of Vancouver deal with each other for the rest of this season will be, to put it tamely, intriguing.
 
Stu: That all sounds great, but what if I’m still not sold on hockey. What should I do?
 
Rocket: Go to a game. In the era of hi-def, 50-inch televisions things have gotten better, but it still doesn’t completely ameliorate the fact that hockey, by far, makes the worst translation from the live experience to TV. You’ll never develop a real appreciation or passion for the game unless you see the speed, fluidity, violence, beauty, tenacity, and skill in person. Even if Wild or Gopher tickets are too pricey and/or unavailable do yourself a favor and go to a high school game. You’ll see what I mean right away and you’ll be thankful you took the time and effort.
 
Stu: Well, I’m already thankful. This was a lot of great info for a beginning hockey fan. I appreciate for your insights.
 

Rocket: [Redacted] [redacted] you, Stu.

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