Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Winner take all

And there's winners and there's losers
But they ain't no big deal...
(Pink Houses, John Mellencamp)

Ah, but John, with apologies, it is a big deal, a very big deal.

The Chase for Lord Stanley's Mug comes to an end tonight on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, a trans continental journey that brings the Bruins and the hometown Canucks to the culmination of a trek that started in September at training camp and wound its way through a far too long regular season and three gruelling rounds of playoff hockey.

Mind you this seven game race to the trophy presentation hasn't particularly shone the best light on the sport we all revere, there's been slights and fights and yes even bites.

Injured players have left the ice not destined to return until next September at the earliest, we've seen a suspension and questions as to why not more punishment from the offices of the NHL was not meted out.

Both sides have pointed fingers (sometimes with less than happy consequences), skilled players have been chopped down and punched around, leaving cause to wonder if perhaps Brian Burke wasn't wrong oh so long ago when he wondered aloud as to how Sedin wasn't Swedish for "punch me in the face", after Game six we're still looking in our English/Swedish dictionary cause surely that entry is in there someplace.

There have been cheap shots, hacks, punches, slashes, trash talks and mock walks, all in all, a seven game race to some of the worst of behaviour that the sport can offer.

If you were a parent and you decided to use this series as the template to introduce your child into the world of hockey, well, we suspect that Family Services already has the paperwork prepared to remove your child from the house.

There can't be many parents in the world that would wish some of the nastiness in this series on their children, or even those children of a rival team.

It has just all in all be an ugly series, there's no way to sugar coat that.

These of course are not children, they are men, all have played this sport for years with the understanding that it's a physical, at times violent sport, but at far too many points that aspect has threatened to, if not outright stepped over the line (of course the line seemingly an arbitrary and frequently moving marker up at the NHL head office).

Somewhere in the midst of it all there's been some entertaining hockey, goaltender duels and some implosions (three too many for Canuck fans) breathtaking rushes compete with some of the worst of clutch and grab, though to be honest the breathtaking has been overcome at times from the kind of play that leaves you looking away, fearful of what may come next, a series that has had little cadence other than a drum beat of rising anticipation.

The league can take a good share of the responsibility for the tone of the series, it seemed to get off the path early on, the officiating has been questionable at times, the control of the flow of play on the ice at times abandoned completely.

It points to a chronic problem with the NHL these days of mixed messages, there has been no continuity in the discipline of the series, leaving it seems the players sort it all out amongst themselves, the officials suddenly relegated to just fishing the puck out of the net and dropping it at centre ice whenever the two teams tired of the extra curricular crap.

The league fell down on the job of presenting an atmosphere for a series worthy of a championship, in the end it seems that it's as though Boxing rules have taken over, last man standing wins.

As they say on the NHL commercials, History will be made, we're just not sure what kind of history lesson we've been provided with in this final semester. The final exam if you will, our final glimpse of a series that has run all the emotional ranges, with anger and unchecked rage at times threatening to over take all.

It's been a throwback kind of series to an era of the game many thought was well past, for some it's a celebration of the game's ages old intensity and purpose, for others it's offered up many of the complaints and concerns about the sport that drift back to the seventies.

Perhaps, in closing we'll turn to another great American songsmith, with what could be the defining mission statement of tonight's game 7 showdown.

Down here it's just winners and losers 
and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line
(Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen)

Sums it all up nicely and sometime this evening two teams will straddle opposite sides of that line.

One hopes that by the end of this game seven, the sport isn't the one on the wrong side of that line as well.

As always, a full review of this series and the preview of Game 7 can be found here.

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