Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Pucks and Gloves drop to usher in 2013-14 season

The pre-season games are all now but a memory, the training camps having fulfilled their purpose of bringing together roster names into line combinations, meshing players with coaches, picking up where they left off in the spring, or learning new ways from new instructors.

Tuesday night delivered the launch of the 2013-14 regular season, the 96th one of organized hockey under the NHL banner. And when the night was done, three games would be in the books and yet another debate no doubt was about to start on the place of fighting in the game.

The NHL's new season got underway steeped in tradition, the Toronto Maple Leafs making the trip to Montreal, where Le Club du Hockey Canadien, once again served as the host and guardian of ceremony, providing a pre game celebration of the sport as only they can do in Montreal.

Recreating the famous passing of the torch, Guy Lafleur emerged from the shadow of rink side to bring the lighted flame to the Bell Centre, from there one after another, the Montreal Canadiens took the torch, each introduced to welcoming applause from the crowd, celebrating the return of the winter sport after it's summer time hiatus.

Following the passing of the torch, the Bell Centre was asked to lend their voice to an A Capella version of the national anthem, which without prompting split the English/Francais bridge to the anthem as though Roger Doucet himself were at centre ice, setting the tone for the return of hockey and the celebration of rivalry that a visit of the Leafs always brings.

The game itself proved to be a typical early season match up, a few shaky moments matched with bursts of creativity and skill that offered up much for the home side to cheer on.

Through two periods there were scoring rushes, stellar goal tending and yes physical play, with Colton Orr and George Parros engaging in a scrap, one which as the night moved forward provided some foreshadowing of the scary scene of concern that played out in the third.

After two periods the visitors were in the lead, but the home fans were no doubt still hopeful of a comeback, looking for a strong third from Les Habitants to secure the season debut victory.

All thoughts of hockey however would come to an end just two minutes into the third, when Orr and Parros again became entangled in a hostilities, their second fight of the night and this one ended in the worst of possible circumstances, with Parros taken off the ice on a stretcher, clearly having suffered a concussion.

The actual injury occurring more by accident than pugilism, as Orr was falling to the ice he had a grasp of the sweater of Parros, who promptly lost his balance and was propelled into the ice, face first, knocked out cold with blood splayed across the ice.  Leaving Orr to gesture rapidly to the Habs bench to get to the assistance of the player he had just fought with.

The Bell Centre became hushed for what seemed like a very long time as medical staff from both teams worked on Parros, who at one point tried to get up but clearly couldn't, eventually he was stabilized and taken off the ice, later to hospital for observation.

For a sense of the atmosphere that marked the third period, the Puck Daddy Blog provides a fairly complete review of the events that quieted the Bell Centre

From that sobering moment, the game would continue, though with nowhere near the pace nor emotion, both on the ice and in the stands.

The home side did mount a comeback, coming up short on the scoreboard and spent of emotion, the Leafs gaining the first win of the season. Though the two points clearly did not register with many by game's end, with all from both teams with thoughts towards the state of health of Parros.

Two more games brought the opening night of 2013-14 to an end, the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks starting out their new campaign with a 6-4 victory over the Capitals, the Winnipeg Jets launching a late game comeback to send the Edmonton Oilers back to familiar terrain, that on the losing side of a close 5-4 hockey game.

And yet, while there was much to entertain in all three game of the season debut, it's going to be the injury to Parros that will set the conversation points for the post game reviews.

His departure from the Bell Centre by stretcher was perhaps the result of a freak accident, but one that did stem from the ongoing nature of the physical play escalating to the violence that seems to have marked more than a bit of the pre season run up.

The intrusion of fighting into the celebration of hockey's return, will be the focus point for the next few days, the usual divide on each side of the debate ready again to  make their points.

Some declaring that it's a part of the game that is essential to the sport and others to suggest is long past its time, something that is no longer required in a more enlightened era and a segment of the game that should be abandoned.

Hockey's back, the good, the bad and yes, the ugly and all of it, on display on night number one.

The pomp, ceremony and joy of the opening game of the sports return, overshadowed by a return to the seemingly never ending discussion on the culture of the game and whether it's time to change.

Some of the reviews of the opening night can be found below, not surprisingly, the Parros incident seems to be claiming the bulk of the news cycle from opening night.

National Post--- Leafs, Canadiens fight, fight and play a little hockey
Globe and Mail-- Canadiens' Parros seriously injured in fight
Montreal Gazette-- Habs fall short in season opener
Montreal Gazette-- A Fresh Start - with a poignant pause
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs beat Canadiens to open 96th season
Toronto Sun-- Maple Leafs edge Candiens in season opener
Toronto Sun-- Opening night spectacle in Montreal loses something after Parros injury
USA Today-- NHL enforcer taken to hospital after scary face-first fall to ice
USA Today-- Blackhawks open defines with dramatic win
Chicago Tribune-- Hawks win season opener with 6-4 win over Capitals
Edmonton Journal-- Jets score three unanswered goals to beat host Oilers in season-opener
Edmonton Sun-- Edmonton Oilers blow lead, fall 5-4 to Winnipeg Jets in season-opener
Winnipeg Free Press-- Jets defeat Oilers 5-4 in season opener
Winnipeg Sun-- Jets Dump Oilers 5-4 in season opener

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