Sunday, May 15, 2005

CANADA LOSES AT WORLDS; HOCKEY SEASON OFFICIALLY A FLOP

Well, Canada was beaten 3-0 by the Czechs in Vienna today. We are the Champions, not.

So all these hockey fans who were all worked up about the World Championships can go back in a cave now, because the hockey season is still over. I never got into the World Championships this year, even though it had all these big NHL stars for a change. It's like following the club hockey in Europe with these players. The reaction is "big deal, they're in Europe, they aren't here." Same with this.

And now that Canada's lost, hockey fans here are back to feeling cheated again. They thought they'd at least get something out of the cancellation of the season, like all the NHLers going to Europe to pound these chump foreign countries and return the title to Canada again. Instead the fans got Rick Nash and Joe Thornton scoring a lot of goals. That was about it.

Still, there were a lot of good games. As I say international hockey is where it's at for excitement generally. But this is really a tournament for the European fans, and this whole hockey season has been a European season. So it's justice that the Czechs won the whole darn thing.

Here in Canada, there's very little left in the way of activity. Toronto, as I mentioned before, is totally dead for hockey, but the Toronto Rock won the National Lacrosse League title again, 19 to 13 over Arizona the other day. So that's five titles in seven years for the Rock, and now the winter sports season really is over here because the Toronto Rock was pretty much the official replacement for the Leafs to a lot of fans here. Lacrosse is basically hockey with feet.

There isn't much else going on in the rest of Canada. In Vancouver and Montreal they have USL soccer teams to cheer for, and the Northern League baseball season is starting pretty soon. Things are pretty dead.

About the only pro hockey fans who are happy in Canada these days are the ones in Winnipeg. Yes, Winnipeg, the Hockey Capital of Canada, where the Manitoba Moose are still alive and kicking in the AHL playoffs. They toppled the Rochester Americans in Round Two and now face Chicago for the right to go to the Cup finals. This has to be the longest playoff run a team from Winnipeg has had since the WHA days in the 70s, because the Winnipeg Jets did absolutely nothing in the playoffs the entire time they were in the NHL. Those white towels those fans waved in the playoffs never did a thing for them, Edmonton always beat them.

I'll tell you right now, the fans there were really miserable when they lost their NHL team to Phoenix, but that city has ended up with the last laugh this year. They still have live pro hockey, unlike everywhere else in Canada. They are truly enjoying this hockey season and saying "up yours, NHL."

And don't worry about Phoenix, they have Steve Nash so I don't think they miss the Coyotes, either. Heard they named Wayne Gretzky head coach, but really, his team isn't playing so who really cares.

Another great place for hockey fans is London, Ontario. For those of you alumni of the U. of Western Ontario out there tuning in who remember the place, the London Knights had the greatest season in their history this season. They won just about every game they played during the regular season and last night beat Ottawa 6-2 to win the OHL title for the very first time. Their next action will be in the Memorial Cup, with the tournament to be played entirely at the John Labatt Centre in London. Ottawa will be there along with the Kelowna Rockets and Rimouski Oceanic (SIDNEY CROSBY! SIDNEY CROSBY!!! AAAAAHHHH!!!!!)

It's great the Knights finally won a championship. When I lived in London the Knights were the worst team ever, they lost just about every game and set all kinds of dubious records. And they played in an old barn, the London Ice House in the south end of town. But they also cleaned house the years I was there and they were able to turn things around pretty quickly. Now they play in a terrific arena and are the class of the league. Great job by the Knights and an inspiring story for any franchise that has a really bad losing season, you can win again.

All I have to say is that it has been a strange year, with no playoff hockey on the tube and only sporadic matchups in international hockey and junior hockey going on. It's strange that I haven't missed the NHL more than I have. Maybe it's because I've found other things to follow.

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