Am I becoming a hockey fan? Lightning strikes!

For months, I’ve been meaning to write a post entitled “Turn me on to hockey.”  It would serve as a plea to NHL fans everywhere to get me to watch their sport.

The document sat untouched in my pending articles folder while my web-dwelling, hockey-loving colleagues routinely ripped me a new one for running a sports website and never discussing the National Hockey League.

But it’s really not my fault.

You see, I was raised in a baseball family.  There was no hockey.  Ever.  Even though I grew up a short subway ride from Madison Square Garden, I rarely attended a Rangers game.  My mother, my father, my uncles, my grandmother.  None of us watched hockey.

Later in life, as I matured (loosely speaking), I began following college and pro football and basketball but still, the NHL never whet my appetite.  I’d mix in golf, tennis, boxing, poker, heck, even soccer but I’d opt for a cooking show before tuning into see a regular season hockey game.

My theory is that hockey is a sport I never played, therefore I never understood.  I played shortstop as a kid so I understand how to properly direct a cut-off man.  I played basketball so I understand the screen and roll.  But icing?  Offsides?  Slashing?  These concepts are foreign to me.  As is the ability to ice skate backwards.  It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the talent it takes to play the game.  I’ve just never been too keen on being punched in the face and there appears to be a fair amount of that going on.

Back in 2004 when the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run, I went to Games One, Five and Seven but was always more interested in the open bar and complimentary oysters on the half shell the St Pete Times Forum’s XO Club had to offer.  Hey, I have my priorities.

The Lightning won it all that year and with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl one year earlier, it was an exciting time in the bay area.  But rough patches lay ahead.  The Lightning failed to follow their 2003-4 campaign with any sustained success.  If they had, perhaps I’d have become more of a hockey fan earlier.

In 2008, they hired Barry Melrose to coach the team in a move that seemed more like a publicity stunt than anything else.  His tenure in Tampa lasted sixteen games.  The Bolts were flirting with becoming the laughing stock of the league.

Then came the summer of 2010.  They appointed Steve Yzerman as their general manager and Guy Boucher their head coach shortly thereafter.  With the Melrose experiment in their rear view mirror, the Lightning were back on track.  They stumbled through the end of the regular season but still made the playoffs as a five seed.

In the first round, down three games to one to the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins, the Lightning caught fire, outscoring Pittsburgh 13-4 and sending the Penguins packing.

I started to watch.

Then the Lightning went to Washington to play Alexander Ovechkin, who I hear is a pretty good hockey player.  They took the first two games IN WASHINGTON, then came back to Tampa to complete the sweep.  A seven-game winning streak.

Okay, I’m cheering.

I used to complain about hockey, saying there wasn’t enough scoring, the typical American response.  Now I’ve learned the importance of valuing every goal.  Hockey is about breaking an opponent’s will.  And that’s what the Lightning have been doing.  The Boston Bruins are next on their hit list with another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals at stake.

So what’s not to like?  They have star power in Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos as well as the hottest goalie in these current playoffs who’s 41 years old and has as much gray in his goatee as I do.

I’m officially a fan!

In this day and age of owners threatening to leave town and take their teams with them if fans don’t play nice, the Lightning are a perfect example of how a sports organization should be run.  For that reason and many others, I’m watching.  And so is all of Tampa Bay.

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42 Replies to “Am I becoming a hockey fan? Lightning strikes!”

  1. Pingback: Am I becoming a hockey fan? Lightning strikes!, NHL | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. There’s hope for you yet! 🙂 You may as well watch a sport where those hits are legal (unlike those LAL sore-loser thugs)
    Score me a comp to the Channelside Club, please and DROP DAT PUCK!

  3. Chris

    What’s happening with the Lightning now considering the fiasco of the team’s previous owners of Oren Koules and Len Barrie shows that there’s nothing better than having people who know their sh_t rather than pompous moronic as_holes who know nothing about the sport either from a business or competitive standpoint .

    Simply look at owner Jeff Vinik , GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher have been able to achieve ? It makes sense when you have people in the top spots who know success and how to attain it. That can’t be said about Koules or anyone associated with him when he owned the Lightning . Koules should stick to what he knows and that’s producing the horror fest crap such as the ” Saw” movies and his now cancelled CBS show ‘Two And A Half Men ‘ ! That’s winning ………………….

    Great to see those Lakers’ players act like the retards they’ve now become and should one say …we knew them to be ‘ ! Remind JW just because a team wears purple and gold it doesn’t necessarily make them a real team !

    Have you had your can of whup ass lately ? Say it ain’t so Phil , say it just ain’t so ?

    Nothing like seeing two aging fighters provide about as much entertainment than seeing two octogenarians trying to indulge in enacting parts of the Karma Sutra . The less said about the Moseley Pacquiao fight the better !

    tophatal …………….

    tophatal ……………

  4. For what it’s worth, here’s my hockey story. I too was never a hockey fan. It was college and pro basketball and college football. That was it. About 25 years ago, I was sitting in a sports bar watching my beloved Celtics on a 25″ over the bar. There were a couple of hockey games on other screens and there was a guy wearing a hockey shirt sitting next to me. I asked him what game he was watching and he pointed to the TV and said Bruins-Rangers. I then asked him about the other game and he told me that it was college hockey. I asked if he liked college hockey and his exact words to me were, “Fuck no, there’s no fighting in college hockey.” That was enough for me to not want to watch hockey ever. It’s sort of like watching NASCAR just for the crashes.

  5. Just took a look at your poll: “Who will win the Heat-Celtics series” and I noticed that there were 2 dufus votes for other. Care to explain the mentality of your readers?

  6. Hockey is an exciting sport, but I don’t like how the league condones if not encourages the cheap shots like the one that took their star Crosby out of the playoffs. I just don’t get it.

  7. Chris

    If you’re in need of a new motor vehicle you can always consult Tressel for an assist . It appears he’d been helping players on the team obtain vehicles (lease or rentals) free of charge from local dealers while they were on the team and this had been something going on for the past few years . How comes you never enrolled at OSU ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!!

    Ah the NBA playoffs they’ve now become as exciting as a political debate ! I hear that Stern is considering speaking with the refs in light of that Lakers’ beatdown by the Mavs ?

    Snake no one ever confessed to the fact that sports’ patrons had to have intelligence . They voice their opinion and that’s simply it .

    tophatal …………..

  8. Al…

    We had another interesting conversation about the state of boxing in our latest podcast. Needless to say, Kev, J-Dub and I were all in agreement that the sport is in shambles.

    I’m ready to get this Bruins series started. It’s going to be a long layoff for both teams.

  9. Snake…

    Good point on the other. Boston and Miami were the only two options.

    In fact, when I posted the poll, I don’t even recall listing a third option.

    When flipped, coins don’t land on their sides, do they?

  10. Aer…

    On that note, these NBA Playoffs have also been getting a little chippy.

    For the past few years, Stern has really come down hard on league violence and in-fighting but this post-season, it seems to be getting away from him a little bit.

    Perhaps they should all put on skates.

  11. Oh Dub….

    How did I know that was coming? And all along I thought you’d be glad I was watching.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m band-wagonning as I never really cared for another team, or the sport in general for that matter.

    I’m just supporting my local Lightning. Is that so wrong? Trust me, I’m not going to say I’ve been one of those long-suffering Lightning fans. I’m just along for the ride.

    Oh, and way to flex those golden pipes yesterday.

  12. I don’t dislike hockey, but I don’t go out of my way to watch it. I did play a little roller hockey when I was growing up, but never got THAT into it. Hopefully the Sharks stay in the playoffs and can finish off their series or I won’t be watching any of it anymore…

  13. Growing up in Florida I never cared much for hockey but I have been interested when the Lightning have been relevant. I was watching the Lightning and the Caps and flipping between that and the Heat and Celts the other night and I gotta say the hockey was way more exciting. Much louder crowd, much faster action and much more suspense. Being a Magic fan I may have felt differently had it been the boys in blue but it was way more fun to watch the hockey. Speaking of the Magic, is it just me or is the entire NBA world thinking Howard is gone?? No chance for Otis to redeem himself? No chance Jameer talks his boy into staying??

  14. Chap…

    That’s my point.

    I never played the sport so I can’t relate. And I think that’s the biggest obstacle the NHL faces.

    Hockey’s done well in the Tampa Bay area. People are following. But trust me when I tell you… nobody here is ice skating.

  15. Seth…

    Just like I was never exposed to cricket or rugby, hockey, as I said, was never around. Never played it, never watched it, so the sport already had two strikes against it in my eyes.

    I guess we can argue whether the NHL did well to expand into the southern US but I’d have to guess the overall exposure was positive.

    Re: the Magic, don’t know what to tell you, brother. You’re right. There’s not a pundit that thinks Howard stays. They’ve already got Bynum in a Magic uniform. Personally, I don’t think that’s a done deal but the franchise better start puckering up if they want Dwight to re-sign.

  16. Be right over to check out your boxing pieces, Al.

    How about Moseley coming out after the fight and saying he didn’t want to take any chances against Pacquiao?

    That’s gotta make all the folks who dropped fifty bones on the fight feel all warm and fuzzy, huh?

  17. Al…

    Some Michigan alum needs to make a spoof commercial with a guy who looks like Tressel, wearing a sweater vest, selling automobiles at a local Columbus car lot.

    I’m pretty sure that would go viral instantaneously.

  18. Chris

    The chance that Mosely will take is to look at himself in the mirror and think that he can call himself a man after that ass whupping !

    Pacquiao on the other hand has $20 million reasons to be happy unfortunately for the schmucks who doled out $49-95 to watch this crap on Showtime PPV , well what’s left to be said other …………… than ‘ told you so ‘ !

    Jim Tressel looking to be a car salesman is really noteworthy . He and Newt Gingrich now have something else in common that they can regale their family and friends with . Newt’s seeking to be the GOP candidate in 2012 and Tressel’s immediate family members now know that they can get 0% financing should they wish to buy any GM model within the greater Cincinnati area as well as the whole state of Ohio .

    tophatal ……………….

  19. Chris

    As long as you don’t entertain the idea that OSU is some paragon of academic excellence because that establishment will now become synonymous with the all forms of fecal matter known to man kind ! AD Gene Smith and university President E Gordon Gee no longer have any credibility whatsoever !

    The Buckeye fans can continue to kiss Tressel’s porcelain ass because much like sh_t has to go down the crapper the same can be said of the Buckeyes’ fans and their athletics’ program .

  20. What did Moseley make for that fight, Al? I’m sure he’ll be crying all the way to the bank.

    It’s J-Dub’s theory that pay-per-view was one of the things that ultimately killed boxing and I’m prone to agree.

    And Tressel, Al? Regardless of what should happen, I agree. He’ll probably stay.

    And come on, you know university presidents at those types of schools bow down to AD and head football coaches.

  21. Chris

    Pacquiao earned upwards of $15 million before the ancillary fees come into play . When it’s all said and done Mosely will walk away with on the north side of anywhere between $5 -$8 million .

    PPV wasn’t the only thing that killed the sport it was the shenanigans of Arum and King as promoters . King has been sued by a litany of his own fighters as well as his rival promoters over the years . And less we forget also that both he and Arum have been investigated by both the Justice Dept and IRS over the past two decades on a multiple of occasions .

    Anyone who tries to defend that comings and goings of the Buckeyes have to be mentally challenged . And the likes of Smith and Gee aren’t much better !

    I see the Mariners’ Milton Bradley is one and done with that organization ? How many teams is that over the course of his career ?

    tophatal ………..

  22. Here’s my take on being a bandwagon fan, City.

    Here’s the thing. I’ve never even been a fan of the SPORT.

    My definition of the bandwagon fan is someone who jumps from winning team to winning team. I haven’t done that here.

    If I ever followed any hockey team, it was the Lightning.

    Call me what you want, I can take it.

    I’m pretty sure the NHL is happy to even have ONE extra fan watching.

  23. Chris

    I don’t see why OSU <b< simply doesn't now carry and cater to the very needs of their student athletes ! . They can have pimps on campus along with their ho’s and for the athletes who happen to singularly minded as to merely liking their own kind as to a sexual preference I’m sure that something can be arranged there as well !

    I hear that CBS / Showtime now wants to go back to the old days of actually televising the main fight cards on broadcast network television. That boat sailed long ago and I don’t think that the likes of King , Arum or De La Hoya will be all that interested .

    tophatal …………..

  24. If there are no NFL games during the month of September as the lockout might still be in full swing will it affect the way you view the NFL ? Bearing in mind in the aftermath of 9/11 the league and MLB rallied around in making sure that games were still scheduled albeit that there were some postponements .

    Just a thought as I just completed a piece concerning that and added my own perspective on the matter . Let me know what you think ?

    Fool’s Gold And Then There Are The Fools Of The NFL …….

    Who Let The Dogs Out ……..

    tophatal ………

  25. Chris

    Goodell says that there will be football in September . In honoring the fallen of 9/11 he</b< and the NFL team owners will reconstitute NFL Europe and have scabs from the other side of the Atlantic come here and play instead .

    I see Tiger’s had another bad day at the office ? Shot 6 over par on the front nine in the first round of The Players Championship and then withdrew from the tournament . I’d be happy shooting 6 over for the first five holes considering my handicap !

    NFL Players are now seeking $ 700 million in damages in terms of lost income because there’ll be no televised NFL in the terms of their suit . And this lockout was meant to be a labor issue ? What am I missing here ?

    Jeanie Buss is said to be pressing Phil into not retiring . Her inducement will be that the Lakers will now pay for his prescription Viagra . No word as of yet whether or not will accept the deal from his erstwhile girlfriend and her father Dr Buss . Wha’ d’ya think ?

    tophatal …………..

  26. Right or wrong, Al, in time, OSU’s latest violations will be swept under the rug.

    And you know this.

    Not that it matters. It’s not like they have any big wins lately to vacate.

  27. Al…

    Tiger’s always been the kid who slams down his toys when he doesn’t get his way. At 35, he still is. Heck, he’s more brat-like than John McEnroe.

    NFL players are suing for damages? This is just getting comical. Why don’t we organize a fans’ lawsuit? Just give us our damn football.

    Amid all the speculation that Doc and Phil will retire, it’s really tjust media talk. Watch as they both return to the sidelines next year. Doc has already said he will. Now it’s Phil’s turn to pony up.

  28. Chris

    I think that Jackson will walk away because of his health issues . Osteoporosis , two deteriorating hips and that’s even after hip replacement surgery , mild bouts of cardio arrhythmia ( irregular heart beat ) plus the fact as much as he says has his kids within close proximity it led to his divorce from his wife because he couldn’t separate work from family life and devote more time to his family . Now that they’re all grown and he has grand kids I think he honestly wants to be a part of their lives . I don’t care how much money a person is being paid ………. your family has to come first no matter what !

    As for River unless Ainge can prove to him that he intends to bolster that Celtics’ roster I can’t see him returning . Besides have you seen his kid Austin Rivers play ? That kid can ball like a ‘mutha” ! A consensus All American and he’s now on his way to Duke

    tophatal …………..

  29. Chris

    The NFL is all about image much as in the same way that the NBA has been under Stern’s tenure. Look at the # of faux-pas’ made by Stern as searched for different demographics in terms of the fans ?

    Tiger has toys so that’s how you refer to the women he’s bedded ? Oh you’re talking about game and clubs ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!!

    You mentioned about the Seahawks being relevant because they knocked off the Saints in the playoffs last season. But in all honesty coming into that wildcard game the Saints weren’t playing that well at all .

    There’s a reason why Vegas puts those odds out there .

    Rays are blowing up big time and making a mockery of the division present . 7-3 in their last ten and 21-9 over their last 30 games . Real impressive ! Kudos to Maddon , his coaching staff but in particular to the team !

    tophatal ……………

  30. OSU’s problems are of their own making but it doesn’t help the system that the NCAA simply acts like a cat that’s scared of its own damn tail . They’ll merely wrap these programs across the knuckles rather than imposing sanctions and fining them monetarily .

    Off the beaten track somewhat have you seen the movie Cadillac Records starring Adrien Brody , Jeffrey Wright , Beyonce’ and Cedric The Entertainer ? If you like Blues’ music and its’ relevance to American music check it out as it tells the creation of Chess Records and the stars signed there such as Muddy Waters , Etta James amongst others and perhaps one the country’s most underrated lyricists in Willie Dixon .

    tophatal ……………………

  31. I agree with you on Jackson’s health, Al.

    I don’t know that he has anything left to prove.

    But I still like all those Knicks rumors.

    If they land Chris Paul, why wouldn’t he come back and give the Knicks a run?

    And I’m kind of disappointed. I thought Rivers’ kid had verbally committed to Florida. Oh well. Coach K lands another.

  32. You’re right on about the Rays, Al.

    I told everyone at the end of last season there was no reason to panic.

    You guys should listen to me more often. Every once in a while, I actually know what I’m talking about.

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