NO NHL Hockey or other sports for the immediate future and I’m in therapy

Marc Elliott

Former NorthStar Bobby Smith goes  against Mike Vernon in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final
Former NorthStar Bobby Smith goes against Mike Vernon in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final

ENDION… Well, sons-a-biscuits, yumpin’ yiminy! No, no, no, I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m gonna be ok… Eleven days at this point with no hockey and I can only admit that it’s fairly strange to be at this point in the calendar year and to not be following every level of hockey that I can normally find. The College playoffs would be well underway, youth hockey State Championships would be in full swing. International competitions would be going or about to be. The European leagues would be in operation, the KHL, and my favorite of all, the most excellent, best league in the world, my NHL. Since last week the IIHF has gone ahead and cancelled the Men’s World Championships in May. They were to be held in Switzerland this year. Fine Swiss chocolate, excellent coffees, fondue and hockey. Does the IIHF have any idea what they are asking their fan base to forego? The KHL finally decided to postpone the conclusion of their Gagarin Cup  tournament until April 10th. 

Yes, I know, I’m talking crazy. But I’m GOING crazy. This wasn’t some wean you off of your hockey addiction kind of a deal. There isn't a hockey addicts “gum” you can chew every time you get the urge to see some live high level puck action of some sort. Can you imagine driving past an arena with an empty parking lot with one of your closest puck buddies and the guy starts to go into “hockey shock” and you are left to fumble around to get a stick of “hock-a-rette” gum out to satisfy his craving until you are accidentally driving past another rink and the process kicks in again? Eddy is on the front seat starting to fold up like an accordion! He has a glazed look in his eyes, he’s attempting speech of some sort, he’s looking cold and clammy and you are left to try to force the saving antidote into his mouth, which is now clamped shut like a snapping turtle at sundown, and oh man... EDDY! Stay with me! Come on, Chew-the-GUM! 

Actually though friends, we are dealing with a deadly virus. In spite of my humorization of the lack of hockey at this point in time, the Coronavirus is a serious matter that cannot possibly be ignored nor minimized. As of this evening there are 380k confirmed cases worldwide resulting in over 16k fatalities. In the USA there are over 46k cases with 600 plus deaths. In Minnesota there have been 235 confirmations and one casualty. Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s brother Ron was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has passed away as a result. He had been diagnosed with cancer in the recent past and had a compromised immune system. He was a resident of Tennessee. My personal wish to see some hockey has been tempered by the thought that a temporary loss of hockey viewing is absolutely nothing compared to what others are going through. Besides the illness itself and the path of misery it’s leaving in its wake, millions are suffering a loss of livelihood and income and for many Americans it is turning their lives upside down. It’s economic devastation will be felt long after the virus goes away. 

When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the suspension of play a couple of weeks back my immediate thoughts turned to those who depend on league games in order to make a living. There are team and arena employees, and many others in the vicinity of the arenas that are dependent on games being held to feed their families and pay their bills. Some teams, whose leagues are active at this time of year moved immediately to establish financial help for those who have been drastically affected by the shutdowns. Others were slow to act, and a couple of others yet, sadly within the NHL, had to be poked and prodded to establish funds to help those people out. The last NHL owner/team to finally get on board with the effort is a club that I have long not been a fan of. I find that team owner's foot dragging on the issue to be contemptible to say the least. I won’t name them but they have a player who is in lots of donut commercials. 

So, I’m kind of hanging out at home, doing a lot of reading, watching some TV if there is anything of interest, a little bit of cooking and mostly hoping that the human race will somehow be spared from the full onslaught that this matter could place upon us. I wish desperately that some sort of normalcy could return, not so much for myself, but for the many that this is having a drastic impact upon. We have all been through some personal tragedy of one sort or another and I believe if we all pull together and do what is needed to halt the spread of this terrible virus we could lessen the impact from this and even halt the incredibly bad global devastation that could occur. We don’t have a choice… 

TODAY I VIEWED a Stanley Cup Final replay on the NHL Network from 1989. It involved the Calgary Flames vs. the Montreal Canadiens. It was Game 6 of the series and in a hard fought game it would turn out that Calgary, leading the series 3-2, would win and become the first team to ever defeat the Habs and win the Cup on Montreal ice. This was a rematch of the 1986 Final which the Habs won in a 4-1 decisive series victory. I remember the series well as a former hockey acquaintance from Elk River was close friends with a Flames player who was a star player and DII National Champion at Bemidji State after having played all through the Elks system as a youth and high school player. Big Joel Otto was a force to be reckoned with when he was stationed in front of the net. 

Speaking of that, I watched with great interest as there was a lot of goalie play and contact in this particular game. My first thought was that I was definitely viewing a tilt from another era considering the goaltender protection rules in place in today's game. But that was nowhere to be seen back then. The only time there was a penalty relative to goalie contact would actually swing this contest to the Flames favor. In the middle of the 3rd the Habs Russ Courtnall would run Flame goalie Mike Vernon behind the net. He was assessed a boarding minor and Calgary took their lead to 3-1 on a Doug Gilmour tally 16 seconds later. The Habs got one back, but Calgary would add an ENG late for a 4-2F and hoisted the Cup in the Forum. If you enjoy “old time hockey”, I believe this game would have left you with a big smile… PEACE