going to start off this commentary speaking about attendance around the league
but Iíll save the topic for a rainy day as this week we saw a huge resurgence in
fans showing up at the games. I donít know what it is, whether itís the weather
getting colder, or the awesome deals the marketing teams of all the teams have
put forth. While not every arena is full tilt, itís great to see fans going to
and enjoying a game. Iíve taken advantage of a few of the deals myself, and
even though they donít involve free hot dogs and drinks, they at least make it
event, the premier hockey event of the year, and perhaps even this decade is
about to take place Saturday, November 22, 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta. There
will be more than 60,000 fans in attendance as the Edmonton Oilers will take on
the Montreal Canadiens in a regular season game, and prior to this, alumni from
both teams will take to the ice in a legends old timers game. Weíre talking
living legends like Wayne Gretzky, Guy LaFleur, Yvon Lambert, Benoit Brunet,
Kevin Lowe, Craig Simpson, Grant Fuhr, and many more. Itís all part of
Edmontonís Heritage Classic as they celebrate 25 years of existence in the NHL.
Rumor has it maybe even Mark Messier and Patrick Roy will show up at this one,
and the rumors could turn out to be half right, as Gretzky has all but confirmed
ďThe MooseĒ will be there. If you have to miss one hockey game this year, donít
let it be this one. If you canít be there or canít be in front of your
television, make sure you read your VCRís ownerís manual and learn how to
capture what promises to be a dandy on tape. Iíve already reserved my spot on
have been happening around the clock as work crews of more than 100 people work
on turning Commonwealth Stadium into one gigantic hockey rink. Already there
have been several layers of ice prepared on a huge bed of sand, and by the time
Saturday rolls around it is expected to rival any ice surface in any arena,
complete with the traditional Canadian Loonie ($1 coin) at centre ice. Itís not
easy turning a football field into a hockey venue. Luckily for the 2003 Grey
Cup Champion Edmonton Eskimos, the final game was played in Regina, otherwise
they would have had to learn how to skate (now thereís a pay per view idea).
course, playing a game outdoors is a first for the NHL, but not a first for
hockey. In October of 2001, a world record crowd (for a hockey game) of 74,554
attended a Cold War game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing between the home
Michigan State University and their rivals from the University of Michigan. At
the time it was suggested the NHL adopt this concept for an All-Star or
exhibition game, but I donít think anybody ever imagined they would stage a
meaningful regular season game. Then again, I figure if they can make a hockey
rink on top of an Olympic sized swimming pool in Japan, why not Edmonton on a
football field? Thereís already talk the Detroit Red Wings are planning a
similar event at Ford Field sometime in the future, perhaps as early as next
season. This may just what the game needs to inject some regained interest from
So just whatís involved in staging an event like this? To give you a
visual on how theyíre transforming a football field into a hockey rink, check
out the construction picture gallery at
www.heritagehockeyclassic.com. Youíll be amazed. I know I am (and I canít
vs Montreal Canadiens a la Centre Bell Ė some fan
in the stands holds up a huge sign ďWE WANT JAGRĒ in block letters. Are they
drunk, confused, did they take a wrong turn on Highway 20, or are they just your
average misinformed Habs fan? We all know owner George Gillett has money, but
somehow I donít think he wants to part with the kind of funds needed to bring a
player like Jagr to Montreal. I do know this much, Washington doesnít want him
same night in Denver at the Pepsi Centre, Colorado Avalanche take on the
Minnesota Wild, some dude in a painterís hat is wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins
Mario Lemieux jersey?
matter what game you watch, anywhere, youíre sure to see a Toronto Maple Leafs
jersey somewhere. Maybe itís Mike ďThe Cat In The HatĒ Myers. Hockey fans are
interesting people arenít they?
of the Oilers again, I recently spotted Jason Chimera mingling with family and
friends directly behind me. Unfortunately, before I could get an opportunity to
get his autograph he was off to bigger and better things. Talk about dropping
the ball, or in this case, the puck! You would have thought I of all people
would have been able to recognize a millionaire dressed in spiffy threads.
checking the NHL standings makes you do a double take, you arenít alone. While
elite teams like the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche and
Dallas Stars look for answers, teams like the Boston Bruins, Atlanta Thrashers,
Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers and even the Los Angeles Kings are riding
high. The Avs play has improved of late, but not to the level we all thought
they would, with too many of their wins coming in overtime. I originally was
going to mention Anaheim on the list of teams not meeting expectations, but they
have been one of Novemberís most improved teams. While itís too early to go
into panic mode for the teams who arenít meeting expectations, you have to
wonder how long their respective general managers will tolerate their lackluster
play. What is it they say? When youíre number one, everybody wants to be like
you? Clearly this is the case in todayís NHL.
Jose buy a win on home ice? They could very well become the first team ever to
make the playoffs by virtue of ties. As of this writing they are only two
points out of first in their division, with ten of their points coming from ties
or overtime losses. Further proof as to why a point shouldnít be awarded if you
lose in overtime. Mind you in the Sharksí case this would only cut their point
total by two, but at the end of the season two points could mean the difference
between playing for the Stanley Cup and watching the playoffs on television.
Either we do away totally with the extra overtime point, or we make regulation
wins worth 3 points, overtime wins worth 2 points and ties/overtime losses worth
1 point. One of these days the NHL will listen to me.
interesting fight so far this year Ė Sergei Zholtok of Minnesota chucks the
knuckles with Jarkko Ruutu of Vancouver Ė What was Zholtok thinking?
of the year Ė Alexandre Daigle seems to have found a home in Minnesota. Funny
how he couldnít fit into the same system Jacques Lemaire plays in Ottawa when he
played there, but I think we were looking at a young player with lots of money
and now weíre seeing a player whoís fighting to survive in a competitive
league. Well, good for him is all I say. At least in Ottawa they can take
solace in knowing Daigle wonít be scoring any important playoff overtime goals
against his former team, unless of course they happen to meet in the finals.
it with teams taking exceptions to a good hit along the boards? Iím not talking
about nasty cross checks head first, or bone breaking slashes, but when a good
hit is made in the neutral zone or along the boards, all of a sudden some goon
from the other team wants to start a brawl! News Flash to these players (no
names mentioned to protect the pansies from ridicule): Hockey is a physical
sport, and if you canít come and play with the big boys, take my advice and get
off the ice! I see nothing wrong with sending a message to the other team, and
if exception needs to be taken, play hard and take it to the scoreboard, if you
Adam Oates now putting on an Edmonton uniform, look for Kevin Lowe to pull the
trigger on a trade which will unload Mike Comrie to the highest bidder, sooner
rather than later. Iím not one to start rumors, but my thinking is perhaps John
Muckler in Ottawa could be working on a deal which may send a player like Radek
Bonk packing. Lowe is in a unique situation right now, as he currently has
three rookies playing well: Ty Conklin, Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll. It
would be better for everybody (Comrie especially) if this just gets done.
of Comrie, can somebody please tell me what heís doing on the All-Star ballot?
Not to mention Dany Heatley and Marc Denis? Talk about your pity votes. The
scary thing here is they will all get fan votes, even though two of the three
players arenít playing and the other plays for a team sitting in the basement.
trade which accomplishes nothing: Dallas sends defenseman Stephane Robidas to
Chicago for another defenseman, Jon Klemm.
finally, look for the Kerry Fraser show, coming soon to a hockey rink near you,
and donít count on him doing your home team any power play favors! Iím out of
here for now, enjoy the Heritage Classic, and Iíll talk to you all soon.