As I mentioned in a previous post, Saturday night was my first time seeing the Thrashers in person since the move. It's amazing what a change in logo and scenery can do.
Before I get started with any sort of reflection of how I felt at the game, let me say this: Nashville does hockey right. Frankly, that was my biggest impression from the trip, and the top thing I've taken away from it - they are exactly what the Thrashers should have been had Atlanta had owners who cared and a marketing department who knew what they were doing. I think there were more people in Bridgestone Arena for the Preds' home pre-season opener than there were in the three preseason games the Thrashers had at Philips last year. People are very, very much into this team. The Preds've marketed themselves as part of Nashville, not just a team located in Nashville. "Hockey Tonkin'?" You don't get much better than that. Live country band between periods? Awesome Corporate sponsorship out of the ying yang? Something that was on the wane every single year with the Thrashers. An actual clean, well maintained arena? Bridgestone Arena blows Philips out of the water. It's smaller, and the concourses are tighter, but they've managed to shove more stuff - including actual open concession stands - into that place than Philips attempted to. Also, the TVs are updated to this century. It's the little things, really, that tip you off how much ownership cares about a team, and walking into Bridgestone I was basically smacked in the face with caring.
Warm-ups were really the only part of the game where I felt like my stomach hit the floor. When the guys skated out, it was extremely surreal. It was the same team - with most of the same prospects as we've seen in Atlanta - but they weren't ours anymore. It's hard to explain, but it was very clear that the ties were cut. These players are hockey players who I will always appreciate, follow, and wish success for, but it's not my team anymore.
Seeing them in the Winnipeg Jets jerseys made closure easier. Thrashers fans never got a chance to actually say goodbye and thank you to the team, because so many held out hope that we'd have a chance to see them back in Philips in September. This was a great chance to see them and have the fact that we won't have NHL hockey in Atlanta this year made more evident, and frankly for those of us there, it's what was needed.
Most of the game was spent getting irritated at ownership the more I let the killer atmosphere in Nashville sink in. If you don't think hockey can work in the South, please make it to a Predators game. It works - like a lady we spoke to before the game said, she never thought she'd be a hockey fan, but then she went to a game. All it took was one game, and she was hooked. It takes ownership who cares and who have ties to the community to make sure that those people who are hooked have even more of a reason past the excellence of the sport to attend games. You have to have an emotional investment.
Much like seeing someone who dumped you for the first time afterwards, Thrasher fans who were there last night got a chance to be reminded that an emotional investment had come to an end. We looked back, remembered the good times, and then realized it's time to move on. For a lot of fans, Nashville might be the rebound relationship they were looking for - God knows the Preds went a'courtin' last night. For me, personally, I have the Blues, but I'll always be thankful for having the Thrashers for eleven years.
But the time has come to say goodbye.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Saturday night was my first time seeing the Thrashers in person since the move. It's amazing what a change in logo and scenery can do.
I just don't know what to do.
On Saturday, I'll be making the nearly four hour drive to Bridgestone Arena to see the Winnipeg Jets face off against the Nashville Predators. I'm excited to be going to my first NHL game of the year, but saddened that it isn't at Philips Arena. I'm thrilled to be finally going to an arena to watch a game with fans that I've heard nothing but great stuff about. But I'm at a loss as to how to act - what to feel - who to cheer for.
Do I wear my Thrashers jersey? Do I cheer for the Jets? Do I walk down to warm-ups with a beer in hand, take one look at Zach "Norris" Bogosian in a Winnipeg jersey and get a sinking feeling in my stomach? I don't know. I didn't feel much catching a bit of the Jets/CBJ game yesterday before listening to the STL game yesterday. I was happy to see Jim Slater back out there after a nasty concussion, and perked up when I heard the words "Chris Thorburn." It's automatic, frankly. But they're not on the Thrashers anymore. They're not one of my teams.
They're still players that (for the most part) I care very much about and want to see succeed. They're guys that I've watched for years, always hoping and wanting that they get some sort of attention for how hard they bust their asses. I guess they will now, now that they're under a microscope. Toby Enstrom'll get the Norris nomination he's deserved. Evander Kane and Bryan Little will be part of hockey's young guns, having praise heaped all over them. Maybe Slater'll get noticed finally as one of the best face off guys in the NHL. I don't know. If they do, I'm happy for them as individuals, but frustrated as hell as a Thrashers fan.
I get that playing here recently wasn't exactly attention-getting for players, or even exciting. The arena's attendance was dropping. People were tired of the lack of success. But it hurts to see folks all of a sudden becoming fans of this team that they've never watched - a team that until recently they didn't care about or made fun of because of their geographic location. It frustrates Thrashers fans to see this team adored when we all know what team they are. One that we've loved for years, yes - but one that we know requires a lot of patience and a good deal of beer to work with.
I suppose that the sudden adoration of the players is expected. They're playing in a market that lost a team and who has wanted one back for so long. And honestly, I'm happy for those fans up there. Everyone should be able to enjoy hockey regardless of where you are in North America - and that belief makes me happy for Winnipeggers and extremely disappointed for Atlantans. We could have gotten it to work here, but ownership and such strangled the team.
It's a shame that fans here were marginalized by the NHL, and then basically ignored (not spoken badly of, mind you) by the players after the sale. And that's the problem. Do I heckle Andrew Ladd who said that the team would have rather've played on the road sometimes? Do I let my multifacited frustration with Chris Mason show? I do understand how excited these guys are to be playing in Canada and that it's been Mason's lifelong dream to play for a Canadian team. I get that it must not've been fun for Ladd to have played in front of dwindling crowds as last season went on - but I'm frustrated with Mason getting pumped up to get out of Atlanta before the sale even happened. As happy as I was to hear Ladd say that he never felt the ownership cared much, is it ok that I was furious at his "we'd rather play on the road" comments? I guess he didn't notice how things rolled in Chicago - a reason that Dustin Byfuglien's generally kept his mouth shut about crowd sizes here.
How material is all of that in how I feel about tonight? Do I let myself have fun? Do I let myself get angry at the loss of a team that I cared so much about?
Or do I just go down to the glass during warm-ups on the Jets' side, and finally - mercifully - say goodbye?
Everyone hates pink jerseys for any sport. You're a woman. You probably have boobs, right? Maybe are shorter than guys? Less muscular with a bit more fluff? Lack something that men have? All of these things should be more than enough to advertise that you are a member of the (generally) fairer sex. Why in the world do you have to swath your self in a shiny, sparkly abomination that desecrates the team's logo? You don't walk across a logo on the floor of a locker room, so why in the hell would it be pink?
Thankfully, the NFL's taking a step in the right direction by making their clothes wearable. Apparently they're minimizing the amount of pink and/or bedazzled shit that they're putting in their team stores - good. You can be girlie without looking like Pepto. You can be girlie without looking like a slightly more subdued version of Liberace. All you really need is a woman's cut T-shirt or jersey that looks like the guys'. Why is that so hard?
Sure, some women want to look cute when frequenting sporting events, so they dress up stuff with earrings or a purse or a cute pair of jeans or whatever the heck they want to. You can do that without making the jerseys ugly. Just make it - and this might blow your mind - the guys' jersey, only smaller.
Why the NHL doesn't get this, I don't know. Like the NFL, hockey has a large contingent of female fans who aren't there for the sole purpose of looking cute and picking up that hot guy or star player. We go to watch the game, get entertained, and follow the sport. I, personally, prefer to do so not wearing pink. I own one piece of pink clothing - a ladies version of the Cardinals' 2006 World Series cap. I have worn it twice, because when I ordered it, the photo didn't clearly indicate that it had pink trim. It looked like a better fitting version of the guy's cap. My reaction when I opened the box that it came it? I wanted to light it on fire.
As featured on Puck Daddy: NO. Just... never. That jersey needs to be eliminated.
You will never, ever see me wearing a pink jersey, nor one of those blue and black weird ladies' jerseys. Actually, you'll never see me wear a ladies' jersey either, because if I'm purchasing a hockey jersey, it's a real one. I have three Blues jerseys and six Thrashers ones at home, and they're all guys'. Heck, one's goalie cut for extra hoodie wearing comfortableness. That, and a pair of jeans, and I'm fine for a game. I prefer utility over fashion when it comes to my sports, and honestly, most of my friends and the women I know do too.
Girls know there's a time and place to dress it up and break out the Alyssa Milano wear (which is cute, but also isn't really made in a large variety of sizes), and when it's fine to dress comfortably. If it's 20 degrees outside and you're getting ready to head to the arena, are you going to wear the cute, super thin top and really tight jeans, or comfortable jeans, tennis shoes, and a hoodie with a jersey over it? Sometimes, practicality supersedes fashion. I think the NFL's finally getting wind of this. The NHL needs to too.
EDIT: A friend of mine got the NHL catalogue today and pointed out that no, the NHL isn't heading in the direction of fixing things and yes, things can get worse. Behold - snowflakes:
A little too close to Mr. Darcy's horribly bad Christmas sweaters, don't you think?
Mr. Darcy might be able to spring Bridget Jones from a Vietnamese prison, but even he can't defend that jersey.
Dear Current and Hopefully Soon Future Owners of the Blues:
"Don't Stop Believin'" is a fine song. I'm not one of those pretentious jerkwads who thinks that because Journey sold more than 58 copies of their albums and get played on non-college radio stations that they automatically suck and you should hate them. Journey made some pretty good songs, and "Don't Stop Believin'" is basically their signature tune. Not their best, necessarily, but the one where in an association game you say "Journey" and your counterpart immediately comes back with "Don't Stop Believin'".
But regardless of the actual merits of the song, or its appropriateness as an anthem for a team that wants to pride itself on never quitting, it's still a horrible choice for the simple fact that it is regularly played at Joe Louis Arena, to the hearty approval of Red Wings fans. Nothing associated with the Red Wings should EVER, NEVEREVEREVER, be used by the Blues as a marketing gimmick. It'd be as if the Cardinals had a promotion where you could win the chance to come sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Busch Stadium with Al Hrabosky during the seventh-inning stretch. As hilarious as that sounds in conecpt, and might even actually be in execution, you STILL CAN'T DO IT, because it's a hated rival's gimmick.
But I don't want to just bitch, because even though bitching can be therapeutic, it is unhelpful. And I'm here to help you, St. Louis Blues Marketing Team. Here are Eight Songs That Are Better Marketing Tools Than That One, And Have Nothing To Do With the Red Wings:
If there's one thing I've learned after years of being a Blues fan, predicting standings is like playing roulette: you're standing there, yelling "black! Black!" and the damn ball flies off of the wheel, hitting some poor old woman playing slots. Nothing ever winds up the way that it should. I predicted St. Louis finishing 3rd and in the playoffs last season; where they ended up was more than slightly different than where I wanted.
I'm a pragmitist. I know that they won't finish 1st in the Central Division - I'm not an idiot and I am more than aware that Detroit's roster, system, and coaches are probably going to wander off with yet another banner come April. So, what order am I guessing here? Let's see...
5) Columbus Blue Jackets
Ok, I know they got big names in Jeff Carter and James Wizsomethingoranother in the off season, and their offense is usually pretty solid. Defensivlely, though, they were terrible last season and might not be much better now. They were 26th in the league in goals allowed per game, and 22nd in their PK's effectiveness. Who'se the most important penalty killer/last line of defense? Steve Mason? And there we go.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Shot in the dark here, but Corey Crawford not having a proven backup and half of the team being under the age of six isn't going to bode well for the 'Hawks. God willing Jonathan Toews doesn't get confused and take out Marcus Kruger on accident. Coach Q'll make the best out of an iffy situation, but I don't know if it'll be enough to keep the momentum going for the Blackhawks.
3. St. Louis Blues
I'm rational, reasonable, and expect a rash of injuries and AHL call-ups for 20 or more games a pop. Also, I think Halak bounces back and Petro continues to be the sort of defenseman that we all know he is.
2. Nashville Predators
You don't have to be a master in online casino strategy to know that Barry Trotz is one hell of a coach. He can get water out of a stone, blood out of a turnip, and he can get 23 goals out of Sergei Kostitsyn.
1. Detroit Red Wings
I might be a Blues fan, but I'm not an idiot.
This is going to come across oddly considering I'm a woman, but I honestly disagree with EA Sports putting the option for a female Be a Pro player into NHL12. Sure, it was awesome of them to listen to frustrated letters from a little girl who couldn't fully enjoy the glory of kicking her brother's ass at a sports game. Is it necessary, though? Probably not.
I've been playing video games since 1987, which is when I got my Nintendo. Not once did I wish that I could have a little pixelated girl in Ice Hockey to break up the Fat-Thin-Medium-Medium combo. Frankly, it'd just wind up being Thin with boobs and pigtails, so in retrospect I'm very glad that they decided to leave that option out. The only girl in Nintendo history who was actually bad-ass and who didn't look all cutsey/get captured/wear a terrible pink dress and float was Samus from Metroid, and having her in there wasn't a rallying cry to Gloria Steinhem. It was more of a "yeah, she's a chick, no biggie" moment.
That's where Metroid's character got legendary status, right there. The game didn't fawn all over the fact that Samus was a woman - she just was. No fanfair. Hell, you had to beat the world's hardest NES game to figure it out. And you know what? The fact that the storyline of the game didn't trumpet the fact that the main character was a woman is what made the game revolutionary.
Only when we accept gender roles, race, sexual orientation, and other biologically determined things as un-changable and ok do we get race of sexism, racism, and everything else in society that's wrong. Making a big to-do over someone because "oh, it's great that a black guy plays hockey!" or "oh my GOSH, women play video games so they HAVE to be represented in every single game ever!" cheapens things. It draws attention to the very problem that so many want to make a topic of no discussion. Sexism exists because people pay overt attention to what men do and what women do, and how different they are - and a lot of times how those differences are wrong.
Listen, there'll never be a female player in the NHL, and that's okay. Men are larger and stronger than women - a woman'd get killed out there on the ice, not because of ability, but because of sheer physical differences. While it might be all feel good to include the option to make a woman for the women who play NHL12, it's unrealistic and unnecessary. I have managed to make a pro that's a guy, and I've lived. Anastasia Beaverhausen became Andrew, and I'm perfectly fine with that. It'd be stupid to make he a she, and expect her to have the same stats and abilities that player has. He's a power forward in the vein David Backes. I highly doubt it's do-able for a woman to do the same thing in real life. EA Sports is all about realism, and adding women to NHL12 just isn't realistic.
Add womens' leagues, or womens' teams for international play. That'd be awesome, and would add a whole new level of gameplay that's realistic and has basis in actual life. But to have feminism - or at least inclusiveness - trump what's real does the game a disservice.
And by the way, this promo shot is unfortunate. Maybe the women in the game COULD hold court with Backes. I mean, I wouldn't argue with Inga the pissed off German curling champion, would you?
I will break you.
Prospect tournaments are starting, and I'm pretty sure that everyone had a reaction similar to "WHOOPEE!"
Ok, mine was "oh, thank God, there's live hockey on my TV - I haven't watched the Blues take a hundred penalties and lose live since April!"
To each fanbase goes their own reactions, I guess. But, to celebrate the return of actual puck, let's have some actual puck-shaped whoopie pies. Sadly, regular hockey pucks don't come with nummy marshmellow filling. If they did, could you imagine how much people'd fight for them when they get shot into the stands. More than usual, I'm sure. They'd also hurt significantly less.
David Backes has been named the 20th captain in St. Louis Blues history. I think that the decision was based upon this and this alone:
Well, ok, his leadership skills on and off the ice have something to do with it too, I'm sure. Congrats, David!
I don't like turning tragedies into rallying cries. I'm absolutely torn up, as we all are, about the loss of 43 people aboard the flight that was carrying Lokomotiv to their first game of the season. It hurts the hockey world - and it should upset people in general, regardless of if they're fans or not - to see 43 people die in a heartbeat.
The only thing I can say is that my thoughts and prayers are with Lokomotiv, their families, and their friends.
Former Thrashers assistant coach Brad McCrimmon and former St. Louis Blue Pavol Demitra were on board. It's been confirmed that both men were among those killed.
Rest in peace. This offseason's been a terrible one for hockey and its fans, and I'm pretty sure that everyone agrees that we'd love to see it end. It's a shame that we can't push rewind and change the past, because these past four months could never have happened and I'd be ok.