Posts Tagged ‘Hockey’
The debate on whether or not the goalie should be ‘fair game’ when he leaves his crease was recently rekindled in spectacular fashion when Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic hit Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller during their game on November 12th.
Sports writers’ column-inches, normally intimidatingly large at this time of year, are suddenly frightfully claustrophobic.
It was a relatively common play that developed at about the two-thirds mark of the first period: Lucic and Miller were each racing for the puck, Miller getting there first, swatting it aside. What made this particular play uncommon was the fact that Lucic did not lay up or try to avoid Miller, as is almost always the case. Instead Lucic held his course, braced for impact, and plowed into Miller, sending the goalie cartwheeling, his mask flying.
Miller didn’t play the third period, but stuck around to give NHL fans and wags a rare treat indeed: an honest interview, one entirely devoid of tired platitudes or sports clichés; Miller called Milan Lucic a “Gutless piece of shit.”
During the sleepy days of mid-November hockey, the hit by Lucic and the ensuing lambasting by Miller serve up high-drama indeed. Sports writers’ column-inches, normally intimidatingly large at this time of year, are suddenly frightfully claustrophobic, radio call-in programs have their lines lit up by countless armchair Bettmans and Shanahans, and office coffee kitchens have seen sharp rises in the attendance at daily hockey-talk scrums. The only topic of discussion of course is “Why can’t you hit the goalie?”, the Lucic-Miller Incident serving as nucleation point for the issue that has always been simmering on the back of the hot-stove.
I’ll dip my oar into these muddied waters, I’ll explain why you absolutely cannot allow goalies to be hit.
I’ve often asked the question; I’ve wondered why should goalies be treated any differently from players when outside their crease. But as someone who became a goalie rather late in life, I’ve found a new perspective on the conventional wisdom and arcane mystery that surrounds the hockey goaltender.
And so, with this somewhat unique viewpoint, I’ll dip my oar into these muddied waters, I’ll explain why you absolutely cannot allow goalies to be hit.
I’ve been a bit… preoccupied of late. I’ve been watching the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have been far too consumed with wins, losses, and playoff beard growth to write anything coherent. The playoffs are not quite over, tomorrow we’ll be playing Game 6 of the Finals, but before then, I’d like to share some thoughts.
Roberto Luongo is stealing the Stanley Cup Finals.
Specifically, I’d like to talk about goaltending. As a hockey fan and hockey player who relatively late in life at 29, took up goaltending, I have a rather keen perspective on the game both from the perspective of an average, knowledgeable hockey fan who knows little about goaltending, but also from the perspective of a goalie. Let me tell you, from the new perspective, the game has not been the same.
It is from this perspective that I’ve been watching this years’ playoffs. With this added insight, an insight which few hockey fans ever have a chance to attain, one which I certainly didn’t have until taking up the position, I’ve had to listen to thousands (millions?) of sportswriters and Canucks fans, both casual and die-hard, decry our goaltending from their comfortably ignorant perspectives.
At times it’s as if we are watching two different games, but it’s clear to me that Roberto Luongo is stealing the Stanley Cup Finals.
Someday I’ll write-up an in-depth exposé on the cult of goaltending, an outsider’s view of the quirky and arcane art of what some call ‘the hardest position in sport’. After which I always add ‘to play well’.
For now though, let’s save that for later. Let’s stick with a few high-level goaltending concepts which may seem foreign at first, which you may not even believe, but which are indeed true and absolutely essential in understanding the position.
Once we establish a common level of understanding about goaltending, and if we can all agree on these points, at least for the duration of this post, then we can all look at Luongo’s play during the Canucks’ 2011 Stanley Cup run to date from about the same perspective. I think that will be helpful.
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As the 2010-2011 NHL Regular Season draws to a close, fans of the Vancouver Canucks have a lot to cheer for. Vancouver’s 40th anniversary in the NHL has been a superlative year in most respects, the team smashing club record after club record, winning for the first time the President’s Trophy by finishing as the best team in the league, and perhaps most importantly, being the odds-on favourite to win the Stanley Cup. *knock wood*
For my money though, as much as the on-ice product, this year it has been the on-air product which has provided so much of the entertainment. If the Fred J. Hume Award goes to the unsung Canuck hero, my vote for its fictive off-ice analog goes to those that bring us the games each night, specifically John Shorthouse, John Garrett, and Dan Murphy, the respective play-by-play man, colour commentator, and game host for Sportsnet Pacific, Vancouver’s local sports network.
To be sure, I enjoy watching my team perform well. I’ve delighted in watching the Sedins put the fear of Norse gods into opposing teams, working impossible magic with their unlikeliest of triplets in Alexander Burrows. I’ve been surprised and thrilled watching the amazing talent and boundless guts of Kesler 2.0, the man who went into the Vancouver 2010 Olympics a great talent with an even greater chip on his shoulder, but who walked away a super-hero with a silver medal hanging proudly on tall shoulders. I have loved watching two of the best goalies in the league develop an unlikely friendship, quietly racking up amazing stats, while most of the hockey world looks in the other direction. I’ve enjoyed all the stories of our team, the struggles they’ve faced, and their consistent response: winning.
Yes, I just analogized a hockey game with Aristotelian rhetoric, deal with its aptness, I am Canadian.
Of course, like all Canuck fans, I wish for 16 wins in the post season. That said, seeing the team winning isn’t why I watch the Canucks. If all one cares about is winning, one may as well be a fan of the Yankees. I watch for the drama, the underlying narrative of the team and the players, the feeling of participation in the endeavour.