With all the work I’ve doing to get this website up and running, I haven’t been able to do much, well, writing.
It’s time for me to jump back into the game, but of course I picked arguably the worst weekend in sports- you know, the one before the Super Bowl- to do so. And with both the NBA and college basketball seasons still in the middle stages, I wasn’t sure where I’d go or what I’d write about.
And then it happened. Through some nifty internet investigation, I found out that the NHL is hosting its All-Star game this weekend. As those old Guinness commercials used to say “brilliant!”
Not only do I actually enjoy watching hockey, but the league makes for some of the easiest comedic fodder since Kevin Federline entered our lives a few years back.
To get the journalistic juices flowing, I figured what better way to start than to keep my first ever running diary of the event in honor of course, of ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons.
Without further adu, the 2009 NHL All-Star Game diary:
6:00 p.m: Welcome to the NHL All-Star game, brought to you live from Montreal in the sports purgatory known as the Versus Network (channel 687 on most cable systems). Make sure to stay tuned following the game for “Big Game Hunting with Red Michaels.”
A few notes and headlines going into the biggest weekend of the season to date. For starters, the NHL’s most recognizable player, Sidney Crosby, will be missing the game because of a knee injury, while reigning league MVP Alex Ovechkin isn’t starting because of fan voting.
Fantastic news for a league with an image problem! All we need is Wayne Gretzky’s wife and her gambling problem, and the NHL’s credibility level will be just about parallel with professional wrestling.
Playing this game without Crosby, and having no Ovechkin in the starting line-up would be like turning on Full House in the mid-90’s only to find an episode with no Danny Tanner, and without an Uncle Jesse cameo until half-way through the show.
When will the NHL learn? Full House never tried to carry an episode with Uncle Joey and Kimmy Gibbler, but hockey expects to have one of its biggest weekends headlined by Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Komisarek?
Add to all that, that the two players selected from the most recognizable franchise in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings (Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom), decided not to show up to the weekends festivities, and we’re off to a flying start.
(It is only journalistically correct of me to note that the NHL implemented a rule this off-season that any player who skips the weekend’s festivities all together will be suspended for their teams first game after the break, meaning that Datsyuk and Lidstrom won’t be playing for the Wings in their upcoming game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. I do like the rule, and it’s a step in the right direction for the NHL).
6:01 p.m: Cue up the corny montage of old Montreal Canadiens highlights, pond hockey in Quebec and the league’s current stars. On a cheesiness scale from 1-10, it’s about a 53.
6:04 p.m: The coverage starts in the East locker room, with a perky 30-something named Chris Simpson interviewing Montreal Canadien Alex Kovalev. Yeh she’s a few years past her prime, but there’s something to this Chris Simpson. I’m excited for this game already.
6:08 p.m: You know, I was only joking about the game being followed by “Big Game Hunting with Red Michaels.” In actuality, it’s being followed by Professional Cage Fighting. I wish I was joking.
6:09 p.m: The opening ceremonies of the show start with a woman playing a violin while being suspended upside down high in the air. Who said the NHL can’t throw a party?
6:11 p.m: The All-Stars all skate onto the ice, accompanied by music so old that my grandmother wouldn’t be caught dead listening to it (if she could hear that is). Unfazed, the players skate on.
6:12 p.m: Some highlights from the player introductions
A. Western Conference coach Todd McLellan looks like a well dressed college philosophy professor. Right down to the goatee that hasn’t looked hip since 1992. All he needs is a briefcase and a turtle neck and I’d be ready to sign up for his class right now.
B. Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle bears a striking resemblance to Dane Cook. Hmm, who knew?
C. Mike Modano is not only still alive, not only still playing in the NHL, but is actually an All-Star. I’m pretty sure he broke into the league during the Eisenhower administration
D. Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings is introduced. After a quick Google search, I find out he’s only 24-years-old. So let’s get this straight, a good looking 24-year-old kid, playing in Los Angeles? I’ll give it until 2012 before he ends up on The Bachelor.
E. Tim Thomas is not only an underachieving, franchise killing forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, but also a goalie for the Boston Bruins. My guess is they’re probably not related.
F. Ryan Getzlaf may be one of the best young talents in hockey, but isn’t 23 a bit young to be going bald?
Time for the national anthems. All joking aside, I’ve always really liked “Oh Canada.” Don’t ask why, I just do. I’m downloading it on iTunes as we speak.
6:26 p.m: Play-by-play guy Mike Emrick caps the opening celebration by proclaiming, “that was awesome,” and proceeding to go on about his 14th rant in just under 20 minutes on what a great host Montreal all has been. There hasn’t been this much annoying flattery in a sporting event since Fox’s fling with Tim Tebow in the BCS National Championship game.
6:31 p.m: Emrick returns, and tells us that according to someone whose name I missed there are three things that are inherently French Canadian: “Language, church and the Montreal Canadiens.” Our color guy, Brian Engblom, mentions that in Montreal, “losing is not an option.” Question: Is there any place that losing is an option? Maybe in Pittsburgh with the Pirates, or Charlotte with the Bobcats, but that’s about it.
6:32 p.m: Back to the game. As we get set for the opening face-off, the cameras pan to Jean-Sebastien Giguere who was voted in as the starting goalie for the Western Conference, despite his less than sparking 12-12-4 record this season. I guess all those “Rock the Vote,” ads he did with Obama really paid off.
6:35 p.m: With the puck dropped, we learn that Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard is miked up for sound. This is the best news yet. Emrick immediately asks him- while he’s on the ice I might add- how he’s doing. He quickly lets out an “I’m alright right now,” before both of his lungs collapse. For those of you who don’t know, Montreal is the New Orleans of Canada, and I’m pretty sure it was a long night on the town for Savard and everyone else in this game last night.
6:36 p.m: It takes a total of one minute and 16 seconds for our first goal, by Keith Tktachuk. If Mike Modano broke into the league during the Eisenhower administration, Tkatchuk started his career about the time FDR was putting together the New Deal. (See here at AT Sports, it’s not all about jokes, but educating our readers as well).
6:36 p.m: Savard goes back to the bench, but forgets to turn off the mike. We hear rumblings about putting some “sauce on those wings.” Neither Emrick nor I can decipher if this is a hockey reference, a food reference, or an exploits at the strip-club last night reference.
6:38 p.m: Savard tells us he’s “a little stiff,” followed by a shot of him sitting on the bench, his face as white as a ghost. I’m a little concerned, and thinking someone needs to get this poor guy a brown paper bag.
6:39 p.m: An “ole, ole, ole, ole,” chant breaks out. For the record, this is now acceptable at World Cup soccer games, tennis matches and on NHL All-Star weekend. For some reason, it still hasn’t caught on in bowling.
6:40 p.m: Wow, back from commercial break Versus gives us a quick re-cap of last night’s Skills Competition in which Ovechkin wears a cowboy hat and uses two sticks to score a goal in the “Breakaway Challenge.” I haven’t been this confused since the television show “The Big Bang Theory,” got approved for a second season.
6:44 p.m: Folks, we have our first mention of Zdeno Chara, who won the “Hardest Shot,” in the Skills Competition. Back when I was in college, I used to write a weekly column on the NHL, and probably my favorite line from that entire year was in reference to Chara. I said at the time,
“Zdeno Chara is still the most intimidating man in hockey, not to mention the most freakish thing to hit professional sports since Bill Cowher's chin - if I can loosely quote Jerry Seinfeld from the famous "Bizarro World" - episode of "Seinfeld", "I don't know whether to shake his hand or chain him to my refrigerator and sell tickets."
I sure am clever sometimes, although I think my grammar needs a little work.
6:45 p.m: We head to our first commercial break with the score tied at 1-1, after an Ovechkin goal evens the score for the East.
6:49 p.m: For the first time this evening we get a look from the “U.S. Navy Goal Cam.” I’m confused as to what’s weirder, that the goal cam is sponsored at all, or that in a game played in Montreal it is sponsored by the U.S. Navy.
6:52 p.m: A weird trend has started to take place, where every time Versus comes back from commercial break they honor an old Canadiens player who is somewhere arbitrarily in the stands. I haven’t decided what to make of this.
6:54 p.m: Back to my man Marc Savard, who gives brilliant in-sight into playing in this game. “I’m exausted,” he grunts. When Emrick follows up with another question, there’s silence. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have lost Savard.
6:59 p.m: After five minutes Savard is back, giving us comic gold in the process. “I wonder if I’ll get another shift this period,” he says, complaining that guys are taking longer shifts than normal. Unfortunately Savard didn’t channel his inner Keyshawn, by following that up with, “Just get me the damn puck,” like I hoped he would.
7:03 p.m: After a commercial break we get an interview with Sidney Crosby. A good, affable, smart young guy. The NHL is going to be just fine with this guy as their spokesman for the next decade.
7:05 p.m: After scoring a goal earlier, Ovechkin adds an assist. There’s no doubt this guy is the best player on the ice, and thinking about he and Crosby (not to mention my homeboy Savard) is actually making me want to watch hockey again.
(Someone get this man an IV)
7:06 p.m: San Jose forward Patrick Marleau makes the score 4-2 toward the end of the first period, as goalie Carey Price makes about as much effort to get in front of the puck as Roger Dorn would to get in front of ground balls in the movie Major League. I’m about ready for Price to pull out his contract and highlight it, if coach Claude Julien gives him a hard time.
7:07 p.m: Time for the U.S. Marine Corps intermission report! More like, “Time for a bathroom break!”
7:17 p.m: After a bite to eat, I return to the couch just in time for a puff piece on someone named Eunice Shriver, who’s aged somewhere between 96 and dead. My first guess is that maybe she was Montreal’s original hockey groupie, although we later learn she does something with the Special Olympics. Good stuff, I guess…
7:23 p.m: Back to Chris Simpson, who’s interviewing Alex Ovechkin. One of my favorite things about sports is that it doesn’t matter the athlete, whether it’s Tiger, LeBron, Jeter or Federer, they all just have an inherent “coolness,” to them. Ovechkin is no different, as he’s gushing about a “sick pass,” he scored on from Savard. He next mentions that “If I get a chance, I hit someone for sure.” With coolness, you’ve either got it or you don’t. And Ovechkin definitely has it.
7:28 p.m: Much to my disappointment, we return from the U.S. Marine Corps intermission report, only to find out that Savard no longer has the mike, as it has been passed to Martin St. Louis. St. Louis looks fresh and eager to get out on the ice, and not nearly as sickly and in need of a liver transplant as Savard did. He then proceeds to cut his interview with Emrick and Engblom short saying, “I gotta go boys.” I already don’t like this guy.
7:29 p.m: St. Louis proceeds to score a goal about 1/10 of a second after he gets on the ice, confirming my thought that he wasn’t out on the town with Savard last night. It’s too bad Ovechkin is on his team, because I’d love to see the big Russian hit him. For sure.
7:30 p.m: St. Louis does it again, assisting on a Zach Parise goal. Nicklas Backstrom is now in goal for the West, although apparently no one told him.
7:33 p.m: Sheldon Souray scores, giving us 3 goals in the first 4 minutes of the period. We’re quickly witnessing both rosters going onto auto-pilot, with everyone short of St. Louis wondering if they can sneak a few more hours out on the town before they catch their flights tonight.
7:36 p.m: Shane Doan assists on another goal. Hey I didn’t know my accountant plays in the NHL.
7:41 p.m: St. Louis hits the post on another shot. I swear if they don’t find drugs in his carry-on at the airport, he may go down as my least favorite athlete of 2009.
7:42 p.m: Evgeni Malkin scores the best goal of the night, a between the legs shot that completely befuddles Backstrom. Someone needs to check Backstrom’s pulse, I’m not sure he’s even alive at this point.
7:43 p.m: Our old friend Chris Simpson interviews Carey Price on the sideline, who mentions he just got off the phone with his mother. The look on her face is priceless, as I don’t think her smile could have been bigger if he told her that he rescued Mike Vick’s pit bulls.
7:47 p.m: We have a score of 7-7, as both goalies are officially in Roger Dorn “I don’t want any bruises tomorrow,” mode.
7:50 p.m: Coming out of commercial, we get our 11th odd montage in French of the night, this one in honor of Dickie Moore. Wait didn’t David Spade play him in a movie like 6 years ago?
7:59 p.m: Ovechkin makes a pass to Savard, and with every ounce of strength he’s got left in his body, he hits a wobbly shot past Backstrom’s head. We need to get this guy some fluids and a hot meal stat. On a related note I’m pretty sure he hasn’t slept in three days.
8:00 p.m: Back to our old friend Martin St. Louis on the bench, who gives us his cliché, “I grew up in Montreal as the world’s biggest Canadiens fan,” speech. I’d say that right now he’s somewhere between Ty Cobb and Terrell Owens on the athlete likeability scale.
8:03 p.m: Quick shot of Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft who got the start at right wing for the West. Kane, who looks like he’s about 11-years-old, gets the nomination for the “Michael Phelps, Most Likely To Do A Post-Game Interview With His Mom,” award.
8:04 p.m: It’s 8-8 as we had to the Verizon Wireless Intermission Report. What the U.S. Marine Corps couldn’t afford both intermission reports? The government really is cutting funds everywhere.
8:12 p.m: We’re almost all the way through our second intermission and still no sign of Gary Bettman. I have to admit, this is probably for best, as the game has gone off without a hitch, and as he’s honestly about as suited to run a lemonade stand as he is the NHL.
8:19 p.m: Back from commercial/my self induced coma and Engblom is in the midst of a conversation with some guy who claims to be the host of some show called Sports Soup, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist. Apparently Engblom likes the guy’s blue shirt, whoever he is.
8:25 p.m: As we start the third period, Alex Kovalev, who’s got two goals already, is named the “Bud Light Difference Maker.” I’m a little disappointed that Savard didn’t win the award, as I’m pretty sure he’s had well over 100 bud lights since he arrived in Montreal Friday afternoon. Finishing in last place for the “Bud Light Difference Maker,”: Nicklas Backstrom.
8:25 p.m: Right away Doan scores his second goal of the game, which reminds me, I have to get him my pay stubs and credit card statements some time this week.
8:27 p.m: A one-timer is stopped by Tim Thomas, who outlets the ball to Al Thornton for an uncontested dunk. Woops, sorry about that, I think my brain just shut off for a minute.
8:43 p.m: The goals keep coming, as with 9 minutes to go, the score is 10-9. Needless to say, the suspense is killing me.
8:44 p.m: We have our first Milan Hejduk reference of the night. Nice of you to join us Milan. Because I’m a dork, and getting a little bored with this game, I wonder the origin of a name like Hejduk. After a quick Google search, I find out he’s from the town of Usti-nad-Labem, Czechoslovakia. I have to tell you, in all my travels, I’ve heard nothing but great things about Usti-nad-Labem.
8:46 p.m: St. Louis scores again. This guy is going to be the MVP. Argg….
8:51 p.m: Kane just scores the go-ahead goal on Thomas, the only goalie who’s actually shown a pulse the entire game. While I’d be disappointed if Thomas goes down as the loser, the idea of Emrick interviewing Kane and his mom has me more than giddy.
8:53 p.m: Jay Bouwmeester scores for the East, tying the game back up at 11. Wait a second, what’s going on, I’m actually really into this.
8:55 p.m: Although I found it a bit premature, Emrick tells us “We hope you enjoyed this.” We sure did Mike, we sure did.
8:56 p.m: After an errant pass by St. Louis, he follows it up by missing a point blank shot. The crowd of one on my couch goes wild. No one has ever rooted against someone so adamantly in an exhibition game that didn’t involve a Cuban baseball team or the U.S.S.R. hockey team than I am right now.
8:57 Ladies and gentlemen, we are headed to our first overtime in an All-Star game since 2000, which Engblom kindly points out was seven years ago.
8:58 p.m: And our overtime is sponsored by Las Vegas. Huh? I guess Salt Lake City just couldn’t come up with the funds this year.
8:59 p.m: Our old friend Chris Simpson is on the East bench interviewing Lecavalier and St. Louis, asking them if they have anything “enough left in the tank,” for overtime. Speaking of tanks, I think I just saw Savard in the background, gripping an oxygen tank.
9:00 p.m: Tim Thomas makes a great save, again proving to the be the only goalie with any vested interest in this game. Between him and Savard, I am officially and unequivocally on the Bruins bandwagon for the remainder of the year, or until Savard ends up in rehab. Whichever happens first.
9:03 p.m: Another great save by Thomas! I’m starting to get the suspicion that he has money on this game, and if the East loses someone named Guy will be meeting Thomas in a Montreal alley tonight.
9:04 p.m: I’m going to channel my best Brent Musberger, and say, “Folks, you’re in for a doozy,” as the overtime ends and we head to a shootout.
9:06 p.m: Chris Simpson gets us a hard hitting interview with Shane Doan, who’s up first in the shootout for the West. Doan’s plan: “I’m just trying to stay on my feet.” Brilliant! Back to you in the booth Mike.
(Move over Erin Andrews, there's a new girl in town)
9:07 p.m: It took us 3 hours and 7 minutes, but we have our first Gary Bettman sighting of the evening. This guy makes Bud Selig’s approval rating look like Barack Obama’s.
9:08 p.m: Lecavalier misses the first shot for the East. Note, Lecavalier is a teammate of St. Louis, which in turn makes him an enemy of mine.
9:08 p.m: Doan misses the first shot for the West, but manages to stay on his feet. Good work Shane, good work.
9:09 p.m: Hometown hero Alex Kovalev makes the shot for the East, following by Engblom telling us that he did it with a stick blade that was 3 ½ inches on the bottom. Yikes, imagine the damage he could have done if it was 4 inches.
9:09 p.m: Rick Nash goes high on Tim Thomas, meaning it’s up to the star of the show, Ovechkin to win the game for the East. He does it, scoring on Roberto Luongo to win the game. The East wins, the East wins!
9:12 p.m: Despite Emrick and Engblom’s best effort to push Tim Thomas for MVP, Kovalev gets the award. The crowd goes wild, as Versus quickly rolls the ending credits before Kovalev gives his acceptance speech in broken English.
9:13 p.m: Emrick thanks the viewing audience for joining him for the game before signing off.
I have to say, after gaining a new favorite player, and drinking partner when I’m in Boston, not to mention a certifiable villain to root against the rest of the season, it’s safe to say, I am officially back into hockey season.
So on behalf of all of us who joined you this evening Mike, thank you!