Five Minutes in the Sin Bin
Welcome to the annual PFC sports report, an event in which a webzine run by a bunch of artsy filmmakers, actors, musicians, and fashion experts discusses sweaty, muscular men for reasons other than the usual ones.
The truth is, we don’t know all that much about sports, so here’s a general summary: Basketball playoffs are happening right now, baseball is just getting revved up, and football players are still recovering from last season’s regularly scheduled brain damage. If you want to know about polo, ask Tuttle.
We can talk hockey, however, the world’s second fastest sport after auto racing and the only sport that gives its players a whopping five minutes in the penalty box for bare-knuckle punching an opponent in the face. Try doing that in basketball and see what happens.
PFC has an excellent track record when it comes to hockey predictions, by the way. Two years ago we said that the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (the best player on Earth) is a jerk no one likes, and we’re still right. Last year, we kinda sorta hinted that the Los Angeles Kings had the makings of a champion if everything fell together at the right time and, voilà, they won the Stanley Cup a few months later.
Now that the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us (they commence on Tuesday), it’s time for us to highlight the most compelling storylines going into the tournament and for us to think about how we can later claim these were somehow predictions that came true. You don’t have to give a rat’s behind about sports to get wrapped up in this drama. Think of it as 42 without the historical significance, slo-mo base running, and big Hollywood music score.
The Eastern Conference
Bring It Home, Jerome – 35-year-old sniper Jerome Iginla has played his entire long career with one team, the Calgary Flames, and has scored 530 goals… good for #32 on the all-time NHL scoring list. Too bad the Flames have mostly sucked all that time, because poor Jerome has only sniffed a championship once and came up short. That could change this year, though, since he was at long last traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins to play alongside the aforementioned Sidney Crosby. I pretty much despise the Penguins because they are so abundantly talented and, as usual, among the favorites to win it all. If they do, I’ll turn off my TV in disgust while still being happy that Iginla finally gets to see his name inscribed on the cup.
Hockey Player, Heal Thy Heel – Ottawa Senators’ defenseman Erik Karlsson was one of the fastest skating, hardest shooting, best passing players in the NHL… until February 13th of this year when Matt Cooke of the Penguins (those bastards again!) “accidentally” stepped on his ankle during a game and nearly severed Karlsson’s Achilles tendon. If you know what an Achilles tendon does, know that you can’t walk without one, much less skate. It was a career-threatening injury for the 22-year-old star who was written off for this season and maybe part of the next. The Senators were going to be toast without their best player.
If I believed in miracles, I’d trot that word out. Astoundingly, Karlsson rejoined the team this week, a mere two and half months after the incident, and is skating like he never missed a minute. As of this writing, the Sens are positioned to play the Penguins in the first round. That thing you smell is revenge.
The Western Conference
Dead Presidents – The Chicago Blackhawks lost all of seven games in regulation time this season. That’s pretty stinking good, given that the average number of losses per team this season is about 20. They were pretty handily the best team in the league and won what is called The President’s Trophy, which annually goes to the winningest team during the regular season. Great! Might as well hand them the Stanley Cup now, right?
Not really. In the past 25 years, the President’s Trophy winner has gone on to win the Stanley Cup only six times. Ask the guys on the Hawks’ roster if they’d rather have some meaningless regular-season prize or have their names engraved on the oldest, most storied trophy in the history of sports. I think they have a good shot at beating the jinx, but the 15 other teams in the tournament might have something to say about that.
Puck, Stick, and Two Smoking Players – One time, at band summer camp, they held a charity auction and one of the items was a box of Hershey bars. This camp was deep in the Catskills and many miles from a store, and they only served whole-grain, healthy food. I swear those camp counselors must have bid half their seasonal paycheck to get that stupid box of chocolate.
Out-of-control bidding happens in sports too. Witness the Minnesota Wild, who outbid the rest of the league for the services of free-agent forward Zach Parise and free-agent defensemen Ryan Suter to the combined tune of $196,000,000. That is not a typo. That is 196 million bucks for two players. Two players who are not, by a long shot, the best players in their respective positions. Still, Minnesota – long a mediocre team that was often good enough to squeak into the playoffs but not good enough to win anything – figured that signing two high-end players would be the bold move that finally earns them that elusive championship.
Guess what? Minnesota just squeaked into the playoffs, once again, with two days left in the season and aren’t appreciably better than they were before signing Parise and Suter. Anything can happen in the post season, though, so let’s see if these two guys can become the superheroes they are being paid to be. My spidey sense says no.