I'm having trouble with my New Year's hockey resolution already. Every year I pick something I'd like to improve about life generally, but I also pick something hockey-related I'd like to do or change. Last year it was to read a list of hockey books I'd always *meant* to read but never got around to actually opening. This year, I decided I'm going to be a more tolerant hockey fan. It's a lot harder than it sounds, at least for me. That's because some things are so stupid, they just drive me crazy. Stupidity is the biggest threat to hockey tolerance, let me tell you.
Sometimes though, if you write it down it doesn't seem as annoying. Seeing it there in black and white makes you realize it's just small stuff. So, here are the ten things currently driving me crazy and wrecking my New Year's hockey resolution:
10. Youppi. I hate Youppi. I hate his giant head, his googly eyes, his orangeness and mostly, the fact he wears a Habs sweater. I know a lot of people see Youppi as a pretty innocuous character who makes kids happy and attends charity events. But I see him as the dumbing-down of the Canadiens; the symbol of their descent into the ordinary. Loser teams and expansion teams need mascots to bring fans in. The Habs should be better than that. The fact that they're not reminds us every time we see the big orange furball that they're just one of the pack now...nothing special left.
9. The delay-of-game penalty. I swear every time someone is called for this stupid penalty I age a year. It's the dumbest penalty in hockey. It drives me crazy and makes me drink and swear when the other team scores on a resulting PP.
8. "Cheer Nation." This thing is so very embarrassing and ridiculous. There was absolutely nothing wrong with "Go Canada Go," or "Let's Go Canada." Inventing a "new cheer" for the Vancouver games to get Pepsi's name embedded in our heads more than it is now is silly. But the cheer they've picked is so mortifying I'm not even going to repeat it here. Suffice it to say VANOC learned absolutely nothing from the Canadiens' Centennial of Marketing Hubris. Rule number one: The more you turn the thing into a marketing circus, the better your chance it will all blow up in your face.
7. Ice girls. If a hockey team needs to have half-naked cheerleaders to attract attention, there should not be a hockey team in that town. I have nothing against half-naked cheerleaders as a general rule, but they belong to sports in which being half naked is a reasonable thing. Who gets half-naked at a hockey rink, unless they've ripped off their jersey in jubilation after their team wins the Cup?
6. Giant video scoreboards. I hate how they show the entire game on the scoreboard and half the crowd at the rink is actually watching the action on TV rather than on the ice. If you want to watch on TV, what's the point of being at the game?
5. Head shots. I can't stand how the NHL is allowing players to be hurt, sometimes with lifelong consequences, because it's dithering on rule changes to make the head off-limits. Someone will be killed. Others will end up suffering brain damage that will come back to shorten their lives in later years. Watching players do it and get away with it even after we've seen players incapacitated is just infuriating.
4. Brian Burke. This guy drives me nuts. He's an arrogant, self-centred, childish tool who's allegedly rebuilding a team while sending its best draft picks to the Bruins. Every time he opens his mouth he sends my blood pressure through the roof because people actually fawn over what he's got to say and inflate his head even more. When he carried the Olympic torch, I hoped he'd trip and set himself on fire.
3. RDS and the French agenda. I love RDS. I watch every single Habs game on there, even when they're on elsewhere in English. But it's infuriating to see the commentators rant about the exclusion of Lacavalier and St.Louis from the Canadian Olympic team. Instead of talking about how great it is that all the goalies are from Quebec, they focussed on how insulted the province is by the rejection of the other two. And what was that special trip to Dallas to do a feature on the recently-traded Steve Begin all about? The guy's a fourth-liner who got picked off of waivers. Sure, he served well in his years as a Hab (when he wasn't hurt or taking costly penalties late in games) but where was the special feature on Saku Koivu when he went to Anaheim? And Benoit Brunet's "Guillaume" love was a bit over the top as well. I understand there's a local bias for local players. But when it's as unbalanced as it is on RDS, it's annoying.
2. People who sell autographs. This is what makes players cynical. When a guy hands them three photos and a jersey to sign while they're driving into practice, there's a perfect expectation that those signatures will end up on ebay. It takes the fun out of communicating with fans for players in some cases, and that's not fair to people who would really cherish that autograph.
1. Scott Gomez' contract. His contract is so outrageously awful, I have a hard time thinking about it without it tainting everything about him. I have to tell myself I know he's not his salary. He's a good player with valuable skills who can make the team better. But it's so hard to look beyond the ridiculous money he's making, which will handicap any forward moves the team might want to make. This is the toughest thing I've got to overcome in my quest to be a more tolerant hockey fan, by far.
Okay. So, there are some of the challenges to my hockey tolerance in black and white. Hmmm. It's not really helping me to see it written down. In fact, it's kind of making me mad. Damn you Youppi! And Burke! And what the hell is Gainey going to do with that Gomez contract when it's time to sign Plekanec?!
Sigh. I think there's a book or two on last year's list I haven't read yet. Tolerance is for bigger hockey fans, I think.