Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Avs Defeat Predators, Hope Presents Itself

The sun is shining. The birds are singing. I just had french toast for breakfast.

Life is good.

Oh, the Avs are four games over .500 and are 2-0 since losing Paul Stastny for 6-8 weeks.

Life is great.

To be honest, I missed the first two periods of the game; thus, I missed four Avalanche goals. I was shocked to see that two of them were by Cody McLeod, but I wasn't surprised at all to learn that Tyler Arnason still had no points as the #1 center.

That's ok. The Avs basically kicked Nashville in the nuts.

Not only did a fighter (McLeod) score, but also a rookie (Stewart), struggling sophomore (Jones), and an underrated-overrated defenseman (Liles). Ouch, that's gotta hurt Pekka Rinne.

Peter Budaj continued his solid play with 26 saves, with his only blemish coming in a 15-shot second period.

The highlight of the game was McLeod's sidestepping of Jordan Tootoo which resulted in Tootoo's entire body winding up in the Colorado bench. When McLeod was asked about it after the game, his toothless grin said it all.

McLeod is quickly becoming a prime candidate to fill the spot at the top of the site (currently taken by Sakic) after Super Joe retires. I have been considering several re-designs and Stastny, Laperriere, Hejduk, Liles, and Smyth have all entered my thought process. Add McLeod to that list.

Minutes

Who is the #1 center? Looking at the time-on-ice, I'm not sure.

PLAYER-EV TOI
Arnason: 9:48
Hensick: 10:55
Guite: 13:11

Guite's elevated time is probably due to the fact that this was a throwaway game after the second, but Arnason played two fewer minutes than both Hejduk and Smyth.

We'll have to wait until a 2-1 or 3-2 game occurs to look at this situation in closer depth because time-on-ice is skewed when the game has been won with 15 minutes to go.

Avalanche Fantasy Impact Player
Which Av had the greatest fantasy impact?

Marek Svatos
2A, 2P, 1PPP, +3, 2PIM, 2SHOTS

Next Up

The Avs will take on the Phoenix Coyotes on New Year's Eve. A quick look at the standings tells you that Colorado has a huge opportunity to enter 2009 riding high.

Colorado (36 GP) currently sits in seventh with the same amount of points as Phoenix (37 GP). A win for the Avalanche will put them just one point behind Anaheim for the sixth spot and two points behind the Canucks for the fifth spot. Furthermore, it will put them four points ahead of Edmonton in the ninth spot. Come on boys, get two points.

Can anyone feel that? I think it's hope.

Eh, maybe not. We've seen this before. Optimism can be ugly.

Video Fix

Cody McLeod's hit...or lack thereof it:

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Why Tonight is the Biggest Game of the Season

I know, I say it all the time. In fact, everyone says it all the time.

"This is a huge game"
"This is a must-win"
"This is the biggest game of the season"

But I'm serious. Tonight, against Nashville, the Avs will play the biggest game of their season - at least until the next one.

After beating Detroit for the second time on Saturday Night, the Avs should be riding some serious momentum. Without arguably the two best players, Colorado defeated the defending champs 4-3 in a thrilling OT.

Ruslan Salei, Ryan Smyth, and John-Michael Liles got the goals, which all happen to come in the first period and on the powerplay.

Things went south when Detroit scored three unanswered in the second to tie the game at three, but in untypical Avalanche form, the teams played to a draw in the third.

That brought the game to a shootout where Wojtek Wolski and Peter Budaj did the rest. Bada bing, bada boom, Avs win.

That doesn't mean crap if they don't win tonight.

In all likelihood, Peter Budaj will get the start after making 41 saves in regulation, and if he suddenly lets in 5 tonight, no one will care how good he was against Detroit.

And sure, the Avs powerplay was an impressive 3-6. But if they go 0-7 tonight, we'll be calling for Granato's head in the morning.

True, Ruslan Salei scored a goal. But when he misses a check or a chance to score tonight, Avalanche fans will want a Salei-Skoula trade to take place. (Ok, we won't be that desperate)

Tonight is the biggest game of the season.

Until the next one.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Proof the Avs Will Never Turn the Corner

The last three games have been like watching a near car accident. Those are the times when you're sitting at a red light and you see some moron almost hit some other moron. Both cars screech and someone honks their horn and you realize that you've almost seen an accident.

I feel like I'm watching the exact same thing every time I watch an Avs game.

First, the Avs, with Andrew Raycroft in net, take out the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout that consisted of Mike Smith have a tantrum over what appears to be a ridiculous call. Did he throw his stick? No. Was Milan Hejduk affected by the stick falling to the ice? Probably not. Was he rewarded the goal? Yes. Did Andrew Raycroft showboat at the end? Yes. Should he have? OH YES.

That was awesome. It was a fun game. I was psyched.

Then, the Avs went to Florida and put Peter Budaj in net. He's the #1, right? The Avs came out slow and allowed a team that is best known for throwing rats on the ice (if you were playing the drinking game and the key word was "rats," I doubt you saw the end) to walk all over them. They were shut out. Goose egged. Zeroed. They lost 3-0 and Avalanche fans were too bored to even cringe.

It was dreadful. It was an awful game. I was saddened.

Finally, the Avs played Phoenix last night. Raycroft, the outcast from Toronto, was in goal. The Avs were up 4-2 in the third period, but of course, they couldn't hold on. Soon it was 4-3, then with under a mintue to go, it was 4-4. Of course, in OT, Brett Clark had to score a goal to redeem himself (he had taken the penalty that lead to Shane Doan's tying goal) and possibly stifle any trade talk that may have been taking place for the time being. The Avs were lucky to get the win.

It was interesting. It was an exciting game. I fell asleep and missed the last five minutes. Woops.

The point is, the Avs aren't going to turn the corner this season. It will continue to be the roller coaster ride. There is no #1 goalie. It has turned in to a 2a and 2b situation.

Paul Stastny is out. The Avs are without a first and second line center. This means that our 2a and 2b goalies will be forced to act like Patrick Roy in his prime. This team won't be scoring many goals.

Happy Holidays everyone.
Enjoy the happiness while it lasts.

[/cynical post]

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Tales From Philly: Lappy vs Little Girl

When the AHL's Hershey Bears called themselves Colorado's affiliates, there was always a good turn out in Philadelphia when the Avs came to town. Recently, the amount of Avs fans have been dwindling. While I did see a few fans rooting for the good guys, it was considerably less than before. It didn't stop me from observing and taking note of some interesting stories.

Ian Laperriere Scares a Little Girl

I walked down to the glass to watch the Avs warm up and I ended up having to make room for a group of five to six little kids in Flyers jerseys trying to press their faces up against the glass. Their parents were a little further up telling them to bang on the glass and try to get the attention of some of the players. Laperriere ended up planting himself right in front of me - his back to the glass - and seemed to be taking a break from the warmups. Noticing the one of the kids, a little girl who was eagerly watching the ice, Lappy, without looking up, tapped his stick against the glass a few times to try and get her attention. It took him two more tries to finally get her to look at him. I don't know what happened, but she must have gotten a look at his nose. The girl ended up letting out a slight whimper and backed off the glass immediately. Laperriere proceeded to act like he was the one who was scared and imitated her with a big smile on his face.

Laperriere continued warming up but the girl was no longer banging on the glass. I hope it wasn't her first hockey game. She might never be back.

Old Flyers Fan Guy Ignores Kid

Two rows in front of me (the seats right on the glass) was another kid (probably around 15-16) decked out in a rarely-seen Rob Blake jersey. Near the end of the game, a puck was shot into the safety netting and somehow made it down into the stands. The people in the row next to uswere all scrambling to find the puck but the Avalanche fan saw it first and proceeded to walk over, pick the puck up from the floor, and gave the puck directly to the man who was sitting in the seat.

Maybe I have a misplaced sense of morality, but isn't it usually a sort of custom when you're clearly a middle-aged hockey fan to give the puck to a kid? Apparently not because this guy didn't even say thank you. Another fan sitting a few rows back yelled, "give the puck back to that kid!" The man ignored him and decided to roll his eyes and started taunting Budaj. The kid, while not too upset, seemed kind of incredulouus at the whole situation.

This sparks a debate. Would you have given that puck back to the person who got it for you?

Refusing a Colorado Fan Service

It was the beginning of the second intermission and I decided to some water ice for what was a 4-2 game heading into the third period. I walked around a little bit until I found the guy selling the ice and was about to buy some when...

"HEY, you can't sell it to him."

I laughed. I'd already endured a crowd of boos while walking into the stadium. But it didn't end there.

The Flyers fan who yelled actually walked up to us (the guy selling and myself) and decided to try and get the vendor to refuse my service. The vendor, of course, didn't listen and gave me my water ice. As I was walking away, I was treated to the original lines of "Avalanche suck" and "Go back to Colorado." Because I'm not from Colorado, going back is, in fact, impossible.

My "Peter Forsberg" Jersey

Maybe it's because Peter Forsberg is so well-known or maybe it's because Adam Foote isn't. Whatever it is, I can't figure it out.

"Why don't you take off that Forsberg jersey?"
"Forsberg sucks."
"Hey, nice Forsberg jersey."
"I thought Forsberg was #21, not #52."
"Forsberg can't help you tonight."

I was wearing an Adam Foote jersey. Maybe the people who made the above comments (and that's just a small sampling from over the years) believe that Avalanche fans only like Forsberg, but not Hejduk, Foote, and every other Av who happens to have the #2 on their jersey.

I'm not exactly sure why the first guy wanted me to take off my jersey. I don't want to find out.
And I told the fourth fan he was correct. Peter Forsberg is #21. Very nicely done.


There you go. The Tales From Philly, 2008 edition. I've had better in the past but because this blog was not around, they have not been recorded. If I let you down in anyway, feel free to throw something at me. It wouldn't be the first time.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tales from Philly: Lappy Scares Little Girls

Make sure you check back tomorrow for this post. You might find funny the various oddities that occurred at the Flyers-Avs game on Thursday.

Highlights Include:

-Lappy scaring a little girl

-An old guy refusing to give a puck to a little Avs fan

-A man trying to stop a vendor from selling me food

-Comments about my "Forsberg" jersey, which turned out to be a Foote jersey

At least one of them should be interesting...I think.

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Two Things I Learned From The Flyers Game (+ Tampa Tonight)

After see the Avs live on Tuesday night (I was sitting very close, on the side that Scott Hannan scored on himself) I can tell you a few things I now know.

1. The Avs have absolutely no idea who is in front of the net and have no ability to clear that person away. (Already knew it)

2. The Avs can not clear the puck and usually just turn it over in the middle of the blueline. (Already knew it)

They were tired. It was the night after playing the Wings. I get it.

But they better beat Tampa tonight or the roof is coming off this place.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Attendence: Avs vs Flyers - My Personal Stanley Cup

I haven't missed an Avs-Flyers game in Philadelphia since 1997. In that time, I've see Peter Forsberg win the game in OT, Alex Tanguay do the same, Claude Lemieux lead a four-goal comeback and subsequently lose it in OT.

Tonight, the Avs must help me save face in a town that can tear you apart if you dare put on the opposition's colors in-stadium. That's what I'll be doing. Adam Foote - third jersey. Represent.

Game time. I'm psyched. No live blog because my phone is terrible. Pictures - possibly. Will be taken, might not be uploaded.

Excitement.

Lets go Avs.

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AVS BEAT WINGS!!!! The World Has Begun Again

Avs Defeat Wings.

I've been waiting awhile to hear those three words. It was beautiful.

Arnason to Wolski.
Stastny wrist shot.
Leopold penalty shot.
Raycroft save, and save AGAIN!

Unbelievable. And I know it's only one win, but it's the kind of win that makes a .500 team seem like it can make a run to get themselves in prime playoff position.

I'm happy. The butterflies are singing. And I'm going to the game tonight, ftw.

Three Stars

1. Jordan Leopold (Game-winning penalty shot)
2. Andrew Raycroft (Took the usual Avs-Wings game and reversed it)
3. Paul Stastny (For coming alive and stepping up)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Avs-Wings: Scared?

On Versus - oh crap.
National TV - sort of.
Andrew Raycroft in net - lord help us.


I'll be at the Avs-Flyers game tomorrow so I can't promise that I'll be blogging about this one right away.

Make sure you look for me though. I have seats next to the spot where the zamboni comes out and they're pretty low. Maybe I'll hold up one of those catchy signs - probably not.

Avs-Wings
7 PM
Versus

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Avs Blow One vs Chicago [Guess what? Doesn't matter]

Look, I'm all about racking up points. You do what you need to do to at least get the "loser's point" and then you take it from there.

When you're up 3-2 with ten minutes to go, you have to win that game. This goes double when your top line did nothing to get you there and you're relying on Ian Laperriere and Chris Stewart for your goals.

But the Avs blew it. Rather, Peter Budaj let in soft goals and Brett Clark forgot how to play defense. But really, they blew it. I'm not going to waste time talking about it. There's no point.

It doesn't matter.

No, really, it doesn't matter.

Detroit is playing Colorado on Monday. If the Avs lose, well, then this team isn't winning the Stanley Cup anyway. If they win, or at least register 20+ shots, then there is a new reason to hope that this team will get it together and do something special this season.

It's all about Monday.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Foote Playing Tonight, Tjarnqvist Benched

Adam Foote has returned, Daniel Tjarnqvist has been benched, and Joe Sakic is still out three months due to a loss in a fight with a snow blower.

A snow blower.

Anyway, I wish the Avs could find room for Tjarnqvist. He played really well and was even the savior for the team in a couple of the games.

Dater suggests that Brett Clark may be traded soon and Tjarnqvist's solid play helped alleviate a lot of my fears about the defensive depth heading into the season.

If Brett Clark were to be traded, a second or third line center would be much appreciated. The Avs aren't (and most definitely shouldn't) throwing in the towel on this season and currently sit within striking distance of a playoff spot.

Actually, a win tonight would technically tie them for the 7th/8th spot with the Wild and Predators.

Not bad for a team with Andrew Raycroft serving as backup.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. The Avs need to shut down Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Havlat tonight.

Lets get this ball game started.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feel Good Win Followed By Bad News

After a fantastic effort against Vancouver to get the shootout win and a "feel good" victory against the LA Kings, the Avs and their fans were treated to some bad news yesterday

First, the games.

I'm a big proponent (at least early in the season) of getting points any way you can get them. If that means your 7th defenseman scoring in the final three minutes and then having to go to the shootout with a division rival, so be it. Getting into OT in all of these close games will make a difference when the Avs are in the hunt for the Playoffs down the stretch.

However, I like the kind of games against the Kings better. A game in which John Zeiler got what was coming to him for taking out Adam Foote, a game that saw Cody McLeod get two goals, adn a game that saw Peter Budaj continue his solid play. Yes, I like 6-1 wins much more than 3-2 shootout victories. I must be the only one.

What I don't like is injuries. And that's what we have here. No, not just any injury, an injury to Joe Sakic.

A snow blower.

Really? A snow blower? I use a snow blower every winter. I've yet to do anything to jeoporadize the rest of my hockey career.

Anyway, he's now out for three months so not only will I not be able to see him next Tuesday when I attend the Flyers-Avs game, but he'll also probably be out when I see the Rangers-Avs game on February 28th.

Oh well. My new wish is for the Avs to be still fighting for the playoffs at that point.

They're playing a lot better. Defensively, things still need to run a little smoother. The penalty kill has been dreadful and I wish the power play would go out there with some sense of purpose, but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with what I'm watching.

Next game is tomorrow night at 9 PM ET against good ol' Coach Q and the Blackhawks.

If there were ever a game for so many players to be motivated (Arnason, Wolski, here's looking at you) then this has to be it.

Also, congratulations to Chris Stewart for his first career NHL goal. It was a beauty.

Video Fix

Fast forward to 2:32 to check out Chris Stewart's first career NHL goal!

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

An Average Last Two

Avs-Preds Game Recap [3-2 L]
Avs-Stars Game Recap [2-1 SOL]
Credit = Mile High Hockey

Why am I not doing my own recaps for these two games? A couple of reasons:

1. I'm tired and irritated.

2. If the team won't give a 60-minute effort, why should I bother summing up their mediocrity?

The few bright spots on this team have been Peter Budaj (still not on his bandwagon), Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, and Paul Stastny. Other than that, all Avalanche fans have had lately are crappy power plays, awful penalty killing, and lackluster third periods.

The Avs were lucky to get a point last night against the Stars. If Svatos hadn't scored to tie the game at one with 55 seconds to play, then this post would be a lot angrier - and probably a lot more incoherent.

I hate losing. It's just how I am. Even if it's not me losing. If it's the team I root for, my properties in Monopoly, or even the lottery, I simply hate being the loser.

I hope the Avs hate losing, too. Because when they play Vancouver tomorrow night at 8 PM ET, a game which would put the Avs five points fivbehind the Nucks for the division lead, they better come out with a fury. I want the win. No Luongo, no excuses. It's time for the Avs to start playing with some passion.


Oh one more thing, Chris Stewart played his first NHL game last night. Sadly, he was on the ice just enough to require a sip of water when he got to the bench. They should have done the kid a favor and told him to bring a seat warmer or something.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Groundhog Saw His Shadow...

...and has decided that it's Joe Sakic's fate to miss six more weeks of the season.

Now, this causes me some stress.

I'm going to two Avalanche games this season. The first one is in about two weeks when the Avs come to town to face the Flyers. I have been to every Avs-Flyers game in Philadelphia since '97 and I'm saddened that I won't be able to see Sakic one last time in Philadelphia.

The second game is February 28th against the Rangers. That will be my last chance to see Sakic live. I just hope that he's healthy for that game.

Despite the injury, the Avs still have a chance. They're offense has been better the last couple of games and all this means is that the top players (Stastny, Hejduk, Svatos, Wolski, Smyth) need to consistently play well in each and every game.

Ah well. We'll see what happens.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Avs Survive in 6-5 win @ Minnesota

Peter Budaj was terrible and the penalty killing was atrocious but the Avs offense gave Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom a new career high for goals against and managed to skate out of Minnesota with a 6-5 regulation victory.

With Joe Sakic on the IR, the young players on this team will need to step up in the coming weeks. They certainly did last night.

After falling behind 1-0, the Avs came storming back with two straight goals from Marek Svatos and David Jones.

Jones has been much better in the past few games and finally appears to be playing the physical game he needs to play in order to be successful.

Falling behind 3-2, the Avs answered the call once again. Goals by Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, TJ Hensick (first of the season), and Stastny again gave the Avs a commanding 6-2 lead. The Wild managed to put another one past Budaj, however, to make it a two-goal game heading into the third.

Through two periods, the shots favored the Avs 26-12, Backstrom had been pulled, Laperriere had two assists, and Stastny had a three point night going. Sounds good, right?

Uh-oh. For the second consecutive game, the Avs almost blew a three-goal lead.

When Brent Burns drove hard to to the netand (at least I thought so) interfered with Peter Budaj in order to score, the stage was set for a thrilling last six minutes. Basically, as you've already heard/read, the Avs managed to hold on, but not without some close calls along the way.

Overall, a solid effort on the offensive end and we're lucky that Budaj didn't cost us the two points.

The Ugly

In a great hockey game, it's tough to be negative. However, the Avs allowed the Wild to go 3/4 on the power play. I don't care if they have to build a human shield in front of the net. That can't happen.

Tyler Arnason was the only minus player for the Avs. That stat is probably the most overrated stat in the books and it's worth noting that Arnason has been decent in the past few games. He's still making stupid turnovers and I'd like to see him score on something other than an empty net.

Brett Clark blocks shots. Cool.

James Mirtle put together a very interesting post examining just how much shot blocking matters in the NHL. He states,
My theory is that this means that teams that (a) spend more time penalty killing, (b) spend more time in their own end, and (c) simply lack the speed and/or finesse to defend in other manners all rely more on blocking shots. If you're a puck possession team like Detroit or Washington, are you lying down in front of shots or stick checking? Is there a relationship there? Does speed and positioning trump the block?
This guy has been a weak link this season. With Foote on the IR, not is not the best time to be thinking about trades, but I have to wonder what will happen when Foote eventually returns to the lineup and the Avs are interested in giving Cumiskey and Tjarnqvist more playing time.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Paul Stastny (Two goals, three points, lead all Avs in ice time)
2. Milan Hejduk (Three points)
3. TJ Hensick (First goal of the season came from a turnover he helped create)

Next Up

The Avs take on the Nashville Predators at 8 PM ET on Thursday. Can we expect another high scoring affair?

Video Fix

The first 2009 Winter Classic commercial from the NHL:

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Teaching a Mother Hockey

It's Happy Hockey Talk Day and because I'm all for happiness, and I'm especially fond of hockey, I will be a willing participant.

When I started watching hockey in the 90s, it quickly became apparent that this wonderful game on ice would only be so much fun if I were watching alone. However, if I could find somebody to watch with me, well, the joy would be endless. (If I sound like I'm trying to pull adjectives out of nowhere then mission accomplished.)

My dad was never a huge sports fan and I knew that he was busy anyway. Instead, I turned to my mom. Here she was, a native of Philadelphia who wasn't a big sports fan, but she was certainly more open to it. I'm not sure exactly how it started, but pretty soon, I was reading The Hockey News along with several other weekly/monthly hockey publications. With the help of the publications and my local newspaper, I gradually began the process of transforming my mom into a hockey fanatic.

We started easy - a quiz.

"Who is leading the league in goals?"
Jaromir Jagr
"And what team does he play for?"
Pittsburgh
"The Pittsburgh what?"
Penguins!

And on it went. Acting like a little drill sergeant, I made sure that mom knew the league's leading scorers each and every week and that she also knew what teams they played for and what position they played. When I felt as though she had made enough progress, we entered a more advanced realm of the game - the rules.

I won't take the time to express how difficult it was to explain offsides or why players weren't allowed to simply pick up the puck and toss it into the net, but I'm sure you can imagine. Of course, by having my mom watch countless Flyers games and highlights on NHL2Night, it was clear that the transformation was almost complete.

Pretty soon, my mom was willing to take me to a couple of games a year, watch games on TV,(and tune in to watch the boys on NHL2Night afterwards) and even read The Hockey News after I was through.

She developed her own favorites, independent of my own. Contrary to my hatred for the Flyers, my mom grew up in Philadelphia and naturally rooted for them. Knowing my love for the Avs, she also became interested in the team Colorado and pretty soon, became a bigger Avs fan than Flyers fan. Her favorite players included some of the most prominent players of the 90s. Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya, and Joe Sakic were always very high on her list. She loved watching Grant Fuhr and eventually detested Scott Stevens after he had his final say on Lindros's career. She booed when the Wings won in 2002 and again when the Devils won in 2003.

Then the lockout hit.

Now with the prominent players of the 90s fading into obscurity and a new cast of young talent taking over the game, it appears as though I'll need to get back to square one if I want my mom to return to her once "hockey fanatical" status. She can still name you the goaltender of the Devils and the top defenseman on the Wings, but ask her who Sean Avery is or who the Capitals goaltender is and you might be getting answers of "who cares?" and "Olaf Kolzig." (On the Sean Avery question, "who cares?" might actually work in the place of "moron.")

It doesn't matter. When I scream at the TV during the playoffs or when I'm up until 2 AM watching a double OT thriller, my mom understands. She knows what hockey is, how exciting it can be, and that there is nothing more special than a Game 7 in the NHL. It doesn't matter that Jagr has moved on to some league in Russia and Eric Lindros is no longer getting crushed along the boards. She became a hockey fan. And once you're a hockey fan, you're always a hockey fan.

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