| A tale of two games
Differing expectations between coasts
11/18/05 - by Ken Smyth
In four days I saw NHL games
in two cities: Boston and San Jose. For fans in one it's the best of times, in
the other it's the worst of times, yet the teams aren't that much different in
the standings. (note: stealing from Dickens shows good taste and low ethics,
both very important virtues for anybody planning a career in Silicon Valley or
attending Harvard Business School.)
The fans who watched the Bruins kick the Penguins around 6-3 in Boston were
generally very happy that the NHL was back, and pretty confident their team
would prevail. Here in San Jose, the Sharks beat Nashville in an overtime
thriller. While a win is a win, we were squirming a bit as yet another backup
goalie for the other team stood on his head out there.
So what's the deal? Take a look at the scores, and take a look at the ceiling.
Boston is making the games exciting to watch. Sixty-four goals scored and a
lot of penalty minutes in seventeen games mean that even their losses are
colorful. Boston also has tradition. The Bruins again play in a building
called "the Garden" ("Banknorth Garden", following another corporate coupling-
bankers hookup and break-up like prairie dogs with a Viagra stash) and the
messy clutter of Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers hanging from the
rafters helps remind everyone that their team can win it all, some of the time.
The Sharks are playing tight games, winning a lot of them but losing too.
Those two Pacific division banners are nice but awfully lonely. It doesn't
help that the biggest problem on the Sharks right now- not scoring goals- is
one of their traditions.
As for injuries, it's the time in the season that every team can point to a few
starters who are hobbled. Losing two goaltenders could've hurt, but Nolan
Schaefer came up from Cleveland and did a great job. Keeping goals out is not
the problem. Scoring is. With Scott Thornton hurt and sitting, there is a
big hole at left wing. Nils Ekman becomes invisible more shifts than a
cocktail waitress dating the casino manager, and Marco Sturm can't play sixty
minutes, or even thirty, and be effective.
History tells us that any October the Sharks' stagger out of on one skate and
with less than thirteen stitches is a good one. A .500 start is an improvement
over most years for this team. We all know that Bay Area fans get pessimistic
any time our teams don't completely dominate the opposition, but relax a bit.
Time is there and things could be worse. Notice the extra patrols on the
Golden Gate Bridge after 49ers games to prevent fans from doing something crazy
on the way home? Even with all than protection, the quarterbacks now detour
through Oakland to be safe.
Road Trip- Boston
A few words about seeing a game in Boston- do it! The Banknorth Garden
(renamed when Toronto Dominion bought out Fleet) is easy to find: it's that big
ugly heap of cement that looks like airport parking where the old Garden used
to be, and it's on top of a main commuter rail station. Don't worry about
finding the place. Two marks of a true city are honest scalpers and taxi
drivers who know their town- Boston has both.
We got a pair of seats in the corner on the lower bowl about halfway up for
face value. They were comfortable and with good sight lines. Great views of
Mario Lemieux doing his thing just like he did in the old days, though a little
slower, and Sidney Crosby proving he's for real. If the Penguins can hold onto
him and fame doesn't go to his head (or his waist, Mr. Falloon) he'll be a top
forward- fast, smooth, and with an accurate shot. Other than Lemieux and
Crosby, though; the Penguins are a lot like some Sharks teams of the recent
past- one good line, a lot of veterans who are past serving on a top team and a
lot of young players who probably will never see it.
The Bruins are still the Bruins- score some goals and hope they can get a lead
and then beat the opposition into submission. A few things that looked very
non-Original Six: people coming and going anytime they wanted from the seats
and blonde "Ice Girls" who skated out and held the trash pails for the snow
shovel guys during breaks.
After the game, you're in the neighborhood of the old Garden and there's lots
of pubs and clubs along Canal and Friend Streets to hang out with some new best
friends. Or, walk a few blocks to the North End for some good Italian food,
not far from Paul Revere's house; though hanging lamps in the Church is a lot
harder with the 21st century security system now in place. The Improv Asylum is
right there on Hanover Street, if you need something to laugh at other than the
Contact Ken at Kenin210@eudoramail.com
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