Patrice Bergeron battles for position with Simon Gagne. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, I can still see Joe DiMaggio, or guys who resemble him. I just have to look a little harder lately.
Sport remains one of our great escapes, despite the grim stories filling newscasts, newspapers and web pages, sometimes relentlessly.
These past several days have felt particularly gray for hockey watchers. Sean Avery disgusts/titillates us with his premeditated burlesque. David Frost is acquitted, then makes waves with a curious website. Former NHL stalwart ‘Pit’ Martin falls through the ice in a tragic and senseless snowmobile accident.
And, of course, the backdrop is the worldwide economic black hole.
Heck, things have been so dark that Peter Laviolette’s firing in Carolina and the electronic ballot-box stuffing in Montreal barely caused a ripple in The Hockey News editorial department.
So how about some good news? If even for half-a-blog? Here are some stories you can latch onto if you’re in need of a little warmth and shelter:
• The Original Six revival. Boston, the shiniest surprise of the young NHL season, has surged to first in the East. Chicago is a terrific feel-good story, a team on the verge of something special. The Rangers have remodelled themselves and are rolling. Detroit is Detroit, still the team to beat until someone does it. Montreal is celebrating a centennial season with typical style and grace and is a legitimate Cup threat. There’s even an air of expectancy in Toronto, if not for this season, then a few down the road.
• Comebacks. I’m talking about in-game, though there are a host of good individual return-to-glory stories, too (see below). More than in recent seasons, teams are showing an ability to overcome third period deficits, providing the one thing we all crave when we watch sports: drama. As our Ryan Kennedy reports in the Dec. 15 edition of The Hockey News, three teams (Pittsburgh, San Jose and Montreal) are better than .500 in games they’ve trailed entering the final period. Last season, Anaheim owned the NHL’s best come-from-behind mark at .407.
• Rookies. There may not be any Crosbys, Malkins or Ovechkins in the group, but there’s an ocean-deep pool of freshmen making impacts. And the Calder goes to? Derick Brassard? Drew Doughty? Kris Versteeg? Mikhail Grabovski? Blake Wheeler? How about Steve Mason? If the Blue Jackets stopper keeps getting starts and maintains his lofty stats (.917 save percentage, 2.18 GAA), he could become the third goalie in 15 years to capture the Calder (Andrew Raycroft and Evgeni Nabokov are the other two).
• World Junior Championship. It’s not that this year’s event in Ottawa is particularly special, it’s that they are special every year. The WJC is the perfect holiday respite, a nugget of innocence at just the right time.
• Individual comebacks. Pick one. Dan Boyle is an integral player on the juggernaut Sharks after missing most of last year with severed wrist tendons. Simon Gagne is flying again in Philadelphia (assuming his exit from Thursday night’s game was something minor) in his return from post-concussion syndrome. Ditto for Patrice Bergeron, a contributor in Boston following his horrific, career-threatening injury. Teppo Numminen is logging nearly 19:00 minutes a game in Buffalo post heart surgery.
Now excuse me while I don my big wool sweater, stoke the fire, grab some eggnog, enjoy some game action and forget about the darker side of sports…at least for a while.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.
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