Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stanley Cup Final and beyond...

So, while I've been away a lot has happened. The Blackhawks won another Stanley Cup with a stunning come-from-behind victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, scoring 2 goals in the last minute to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I was surprised. Not only had I picked the Bruins to win it in 6, after the first 3 games it looked like they were right on track to do exactly that. But Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane suddenly sprang to life and led the Hawks to the promised land. It was really interesting to have the final 4 teams in the playoffs represent the last 4 Stanley Cup winners. That had never happened before. History has been made.

Some of you may have been wondering why in my last blog I referred to the Stanley Cup Final (singular) as opposed to Stanley Cup Finals (plural, indicating more than one). I often see and hear people refer to the Stanley Cup Finals. But the term Stanley Cup Final refers to the series. There is only one series. There are 4-7 games in that series, but each game is just part of the Stanley Cup Final, not a final unto itself. It seems like a minor point, but only because it is a minor point. But since the NHL in all its infinite wisdom has deemed their championship series the Stanley Cup Final (as shown in the logo to the left), I choose to use their preferred nomenclature. I don't care if the NBA does choose to refer to their championship series as The Finals. Basically, I don't care what the NBA does at all.

Now, on to why I put quotation marks around "Original 6" when referring to the pre-expansion NHL. The reason is simple. When the NHL was formed in 1917 (No, I wasn't there) the league consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Arenas (who would go on to become the St. Patricks and later the Maple Leafs), and the Montreal Wanderers. So, the term "Original 6" is a misnomer. There were only 4 teams in the inaugural NHL (and the Wanderers dropped out mid-season after a fire destroyed their arena). The league remained in flux, adding and dropping teams, for their first 50 years. The NHL didn't have a team in the United States until 1924, when it added the expansion Boston Bruins (along with the Montreal Maroons). This was also the first season in which the NHL consisted of 6 teams. The New York Rangers weren't even the first NHL team in New York when they joined in 1926 along with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Cougars (who would go on to become the Detroit Falcons and later the Red Wings). The New York Americans predated them by a year (but only lasted until 1942). The 1926-27 season was the first in which all 6 of the "Original 6" teams played in the NHL (2 of them still using different names from today). And there were a total of 10 teams in the NHL that year. But teams would come and go, and some would change names, up until the outbreak of World War 2. After the 1941-42 season the Brooklyn Americans ceased operations, leaving the "Original 6" teams as we know them. They would remain as such for a quarter of a century, until the 1967 expansion doubled the size of the league.

I've always had a fondness for the '67 expansion teams. I think it has something to do with my having been born in 1967, so essentially I'm the same age as all of those teams (which, I know, is kind of depressing). With the Los Angeles Kings finally notching a cup win last year, there remains only one of those expansion teams that has yet to win the Stanley Cup, the St. Louis Blues (One other, the California Seals/Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons, merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978, so technically both franchises won as the Dallas Stars in 1999). And, since the Bruins won it in 2011, there now remains only one "Original 6" franchise which hasn't won a cup in my lifetime, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who last won it in 1967, about 6 months before I was born). This means that I'm basically as old as the '67 expansion teams AND the Leafs Stanley Cup drought. I think that may explain why I've always been fascinated by the history of Hockey, specifically as it relates to the pre- versus post-expansion NHL.

So, to keep busy and earn a little cash I worked once again at the Bobcats Elite Prospects camp. My old coach from the ECHL Phoenix Roadrunners, Ron Filion, has held this camp the last 2 summers in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's an invitation-only camp, and includes players from Ron's Bobcats AAA hockey program and other select players from around the western US. I worked the camp last summer and had a blast, so I was happy to be asked back this year. It was a ton of work, but well worth it. It was cool to see a lot of the same faces back from last season and see how they've progressed since last year. In addition, it was a chance to meet a whole new bunch of kids. It's a great camp, with a lot of very good instructors. I got to reunite with one of my old players and coaches, Pat Dunn. Dunner played for the Tucson Gila Monsters when I worked there and was my coach during my first season with the New Mexico Scorpions. I hadn't seen him in about 10 years. He hasn't changed a bit. He's now the General Manager of the Corpus Christi Icerays junior team in the NAHL.

Now, as the summer comes to an end, the calendar turns to hockey season. With SPHL players reporting for training camp today, all of the professional leagues have begun their seasons. For the first time in 19 years, I will not be working a professional hockey training camp. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that. I mean, obviously I'm going to miss it. It feels weird sitting at home watching hockey on TV and not being around the locker room. It feels weird to read about the comings and going of the various training camps without being a part of it myself. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.

On the other hand, I'm kind of enjoying being a Phoenician again. Over the last couple of years I've come to realize how much I've missed my hometown, and now it feels good to be home. Instead of looking for hockey jobs, I'm now looking for a regular, real-life job. It promises to be an interesting transition, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm still hoping that this will be a temporary situation, and that I'll find my way back into hockey, if not in the same capacity. But for now I'm ready for a new challenge.

But then...that's just me.