I hate the Philadelphia Flyers. I never could get past that whole Eric Lindros prima donna B.S. Then again, the fact that his bratty little "I won't play for Quebec" thing ultimately left him Cup-less, and the whole saga with his "mom-ager" dad acting as his agent were good for some laughs.
I hate the New York Rangers... perhaps marginally more than the Flyers. Sorry, that Joe Sakic offer sheet thing in 1997 and ending Gretzky's career without a Playoff spot still grate on my nerves.
For the most part, I didn't expect to give a crap about what was going on in Philadelphia Monday. As I was discussing with Mrs. Martini where we would watch the Gator Bowl and Ohio State, the prospect of local hockey mecca R Bar came to mind. We'd be able to watch the Buckeyes on one of the small screens, and check out the Winter Classic on the big screens with the live audio, and so forth.
With the Buckeyes having faded into the legacy of just the latest of Gene Smith's bad decisions, the Winter Classic was just picking up, and game audio turned over from the Buckeyes to the game right at the stroke of 3 p.m. Even with a scoreless game, fans were treated to a great hockey game with some good, quality chances. Now, R Bar had a handful of unmistakably partisan fans in the house, but the place had some seriously loud moments as the play approached either net.
What I don't recall ever hearing, is Mrs. Martini ever telling me that the Winter Classic is her favorite game of the year. The lady was glued to the screens, especially in the second and third periods.
It doesn't hurt that Cleveland's own (and former Jacket) Mike Rupp was the man of the hour. He cut the lead in half very quickly, after Philly rattled off two goals late in the second period, and then tied up the game early in the third, en route to a 3-2 Rangers win.
How much does Mrs. Martini love the Winter Classic? The second the Rangers went up 3-2, she immediately started cheering for the Flyers to tie it up... for no other reason than to get the game into overtime and/or a shootout.
That first Classic between the Pens and Sabres may have spoiled her.
However, outside of the game, fans got a glimpse of some really cool stuff beyond the ice. The musical performance by The Roots was a lot of fun -- although replacing the title of the song "The Fire" with "The Flyers" took some forgiving (heh heh).
I certainly have been critical of NBC's NHL coverage in the past, but this new TV deal is showing signs that NBC is starting to "get it" now. They're showing the ceremony and making the game into a celebration worthy of the world's greatest sport.
Hell... a handful of ads had a very "Super Bowl Sunday" feel... and this was for a hockey game. How much did FOX and ABC bemoan the lousy ratings they got for hockey before the Lockout?
Anyway, these were the favorites for the two of us...
I don't think I was the only one in the place who was applauding on that Honda ad. But I laughed. Hard.
Still, when you look at these, don't they strike you as something you'll see about four or five weeks from now?
Was everything perfect? Well, no... but you take the bad with the good.
Unfortunately, the American national anthem was a sad example this year. Sadly, this isn't just a hockey phenomenon. Everywhere in pro sports, you find the league decides to use someone who can't just stick with the given melody that was written for the piece. More often than not, an anthem singer uses the Star Spangled Banner as a vehicle to show off her vocal range, completely disregarding whether they're dishonoring the song by stretching it into some unnecessary exercise.
Patti LaBelle joined those ranks this year. It wasn't Roseanne Barr terrible, but it was pretty terrible.
If/when Columbus gets a Winter Classic one of these days, and our own guy Leo Welsh is not singing the National Anthem... well, that's going to be screwed up. I defy any musical artist who happens to be from here to top Leo. Maybe that's just me -- but I don't think it is.
The Blue Jackets may not be the best team in the NHL, but our fair city has fans, people. There were more than a couple CBJ sweaters in the house. These are people who care about the game, even if the home team is not playing.
We love our game... even if there are a handful of people like me could care less about the teams who are playing.
We just can't turn away.
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