Hockey is my religion and as I once again watch it's holy services being held on the arena ice altars of the NHL after a extended exile in the wilderness I'm finding that my religion and it's most fervent followers have been rejuvenated... reborn.
At last, the National Hockey League is back. This is the NHL we remember fondly: The goals, the big hits, the arena rocking.See, people are being converted and even some of the harshest critics of the sports controversial leader are now singing his praises to the high heavens... well, sort of.
What happened Saturday night at Mellon Arena was hockey at its finest. Yes, hockey the way it was supposed to be played.
"It's exciting," Lemieux said after the game. "It's great for the game, it's exciting for the fans. They don't want to see 1-0 games."
Truth be told, hockey had been missing for a lot longer than the NHL's 300-plus day lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Even for a diehard fan, the NHL had become difficult to watch in the last decade with its soccer-like scores, the clutching and grabbing and the New Jersey Devils' dreaded neutral zone trap. It was a lousy product. But, if this game was any indication of what the "new" NHL is going to be like, I'm buying it.
Often referred to in these pages as a cross between Lord Voldemort, Darth Sidius and Viktor Tikhonov, the diminutive NHL commissioner finally did something that could well keep him out of the villains' hall of fame.
Little Man Gary came up big.
The looong stormy period where the faith of many was challenged by the trials and tribulations of the Dead Puck Era and the year of Great Darkness is over and the true believers are now witnessing the coming of a glorious new day.
"The game looks much nicer now," Montreal Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev said last night. "The refs can't keep up because the game is going so fast. It's fun to watch."
The fast and furious, you should know, wasn't just contained to the Air Canada last night. In Pittsburgh, the Boston Bruins stormed back from a 6-4 deficit in the third to win 7-6 in overtime on Glen Murray's goal, his fourth point of a night that featured Sidney Crosby's first goal to go with two assists.
When was the last time you read that kind of story line out of an NHL game?
Well, it also happened in St. Louis, where the San Jose Sharks trailed 5-3 entering the third period and fought back to win by the same 7-6 score on Jonathan Cheechoo's goal with less than two minutes left.
Are we having fun yet?
You bet we are and nowhere is that joy being felt more deeply, passionately and dare I say spiritually than in Hockeys' Holy Land.
Senators winger Bryan Smolinski an American talks about playing in this religions homeland.
"Coming to Canada to play hockey is like coming into a new religion," he said. "You don't realize it until you're in its grasp."I'm really going to have to make a pilgrimage to Hockeys' Homeland some day and visit the sacred sites. Maybe go have my picture taken with it's Holy Grail. <<< That picture I love on a couple different levels.
"The birth of babies were missed because the Leafs or the Habs were playing.
"The kids on my street were coming up to me and telling me, 'That was a goal you scored the other night in Toronto.' They want to know what Wade Redden and Dany Heatley are like. For a hockey player, this is Nirvana."
So on this traditional day of worship remember to give thanks, praise God and pass the....... puck.
"For sports fans who want to know why they're so committed, this book may provide an answer... an exhilarating exercise full of uncanny insights into the motives and metaphysics of sports and seventh-inning stretches of legend and nostalgia."
Another big night in the NHL last night with lots of interesting stuff happening, Crosby's first goal, Gretzky's first win, couple of 13 goal games, a couple of OT games and a couple of Shootouts. Here's the RECAPS.
(all emphasis mine)