| Filling the void proves
Complimentary game a nice gesture, but not
11/10/04 - by Mike Lee
attended Tuesday night's "wet your hockey whistle" AHL affair at HP Pavilion
between the Cleveland Barons and the Edmonton Road Runners in an attempt
satiate some of my hockey hunger pangs. I left (early) feeling like I had
wasted an evening on something that I knew wouldn't satisfy my need for flying
bodies, hip checks and wicked slap shots. No offense to the Sharks or the
Barons, but minor league hockey is just that. Minor league.
can be commended for throwing a bone to their season ticket holders. After all,
they spent over $100,000 flying both teams out to California, prepping the Tank
for hockey and sending out free tickets to several thousand people. I
appreciate the gesture, but in the end, I realized that there really is no
substitute for NHL caliber hockey. The AHL isn't even a close second.
The pace is slower, the hits are less ferocious, and the skill level is a
couple of notches below what we've come to expect in NHL cities. Don't get me
wrong, the AHL product can be entertaining. There were moments of suspense from
time to time. Take the five-minute power play the Barons flubbed on at the
start of the 3rd period. Lot's of chances to score, just no delivery.
What struck me the most was the level at which each player played the game.
Here you had former first round pick Marcel Goc logging lot's of ice time, but
he was doing little to generate any energy on the ice. This is a guy who was
supposed to be competing for a potential roster spot at the NHL level last
September. With the departure of Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci and Todd
Harvey, there was going to be plenty of opportunity for Goc to make the Sharks
Then you had Road Runners goaltender Tyler Moss, who
looked like Patrick Roy on his best day, stopping everything the Barons threw
at him. The baby Sharks did little to challenge Moss, but nothing was going to
get past this guy regardless.
Add a handful of experimental rules and
things felt more like an exhibition game. The AHL is experimenting with things
like no touch icing, a reduced neutral zone, and a no puck handling zone for
goaltenders in an effort to increase scoring. The experiments are being tested
at the behest of the NHL, which will consider them after the AHL's findings are
compiled. Do the math and you have exhibition, experimentation and no
enthusiasm. Get the picture?
The 11,784 fans that turned out tried to
make it as festive an evening as possible, but the mood was in stark contrast
to the electricity that pulsed through the Tank last Spring when San Jose made
its run to the Western Conference Finals. Pretty depressing given the state of
the NHL today. With little light on the horizon, it was hard to get in that
frame of mind for a minor league game, complimentary or not.
minutes remaining in regulation, I packed up and headed for the exits, hoping
that I'd never have to attend an AHL game in order to make up for the void
created by the greedy fraternity that is the NHL.
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