As of this writing, the Red Wings have locked up a playoff spot. They could finish anywhere from 5th to 8th place-- and none of these are really to be preferred to the others in the first round, since none of their potential opponents are more or less threatening than the others. They've all got dangers and advantages that work out pretty evenly. The Western Conference is even tighter than usual this year. Battle is imminent.
The Wings have two regular season games remaining-- Columbus tonight and Chicago on Sunday. Columbus is not a playoff team this year and have nothing to play for tonight except pride and giving their fans a good send-off for the summer. (Neither of which should be underestimated, but I don't expect a compelling game out of it.) Chicago is a playoff team and could in fact be Detroit's first round opponent. That would mean as many as eight straight games against the Blackhawks-- groan. Nothing against the 'Hawks in particular, but that's an awful lot of games against the same guys right in a row. I expect they'll go somewhat easy on each other on Sunday. Everyone's going to be trying to avoid injury, plus they may well be trying to maneuver their spots in the standings so as NOT to play each other in Round One.
So what's a fan to do while counting down the days until the playoffs, aka The Real Season, when I can bring you a new collection of LOLHockeys? Let's poke gentle fun at the fans instead! I bring you, "The Five People You'll Meet At Hockey Games." (With no apologies to Mitch Albom for ripping off his title, because it falls under free use/parody/satire. Neener.)
1. Captain Obvious: This is a subset of the Armchair Coach. A regular Armchair Coach will sit at home or up in the stands and tell the team what they should do (or alternatively, tell their buddies later what the team should have done). Captain Obvious isn't quite so smart. Rather than saying something the team could have done which might have made an actual difference, such as, "If they wanted to score quickly they should have put Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same line," as Armchair Coaches might, Captain Obvious will say something more, well, obvious. Things like, "Shoot it!" to a guy who is already in the act of shooting the puck.
Real life example: "Man, they're down by one and there's only a minute left! They gotta score fast if they want to go to overtime!" Srsly? Thank you for that insightful commentary. Without it I might never have known that you have to tie the game before the end of regulation in order to go to overtime.
2. Captain Oblivious: This, like Captain Obvious, is a subset of the Armchair Coach. Captain Oblivious, however, will tell the players to do something which is impossible according to the laws of physics, such as saying, "Shoot it!" to a guy who is deep in his own zone, protecting the puck from three opponents as he helps kill off a 5-on-3 penalty. It kind of makes you wonder what game this person is actually watching, because their verbal diarrhea has nothing whatsoever to do with what's happening on the ice. I totally understand if they haven't caught on to the nuances of the game yet-- we were all there at one point-- but couldn't they at least pay attention to the physical properties of what they're seeing?
Real life example: "Hey, what happened?" Um, they just scored. That's why the red light is on, the goal horn is blowing, and everyone is standing up cheering.
I have a football example, too. There's this elderly woman who attends University of Toledo football games. She yells loudly and obnoxiously on every play--things like, "We need a sack!" and "Defense! Where are you?!?" when Toledo has the ball. She wears Toledo colors, but she so consistently yells against what the Rockets are trying to do that I think she may secretly be a Bowling Green Falcons fan. Anyway, suffice it to say that Captain Oblivious is not solely a hockey phenomenon.
3. The Drunk: Joe Louis Arena has a wide selection of alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Beer, mixed drinks, wine-- if you can drink it, you can buy it, pretty much. However, it's not exactly cheap! A beer costs $8.00 (or was it $7.50? Not a beer drinker here.), and mixed drinks cost more. Typically, someone will buy one or maybe two drinks for the game. However, there's always some people who manage to get completely shit-faced. Are they bringing in hidden flasks? Are they total lightweights? Or are they really paying that much to get that drunk? And how do they get back down the (steep, uneven) arena stairs after the game? It boggles, it does.
Real life example: It was apparently a group of guys celebrating their buddy's 21st birthday party. What none of them knew was that large amounts of beer would give the birthday boy gas. Really nasty gas. The guy next to me said he was surprised the stench didn't crack the ice, and I don't envy the drunk dude's friends who had to try to get his stinky self back down to ground level without falling down the stairs.
4. The Old-Timer: This is the guy (I have yet to encounter a female specimen, though they probably do exist) who complains that today's players are wusses, visors and helmets have ruined the game, and European players are all figure skaters. I could list example after example of European players demonstrating toughness, but I won't. I WILL, however, point out that the guys complaining are AT THE GAME. They PAID MONEY to get in. Why bother if they hate the modern game so much? They're like Statler and Waldorf, with none of the awesome.
"Why do we always come here?
I guess we'll never know.
It's like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show."
Real life example: Don Cherry. Enough said. (In fairness, even he seems to be backing off on the anti-European stuff, and he did push very vocally for the NHL to enact its new ban on deliberate hits to the head.)
5. The Business Opportunist: Some companies own season tickets in the lower bowl or rent out suites for occasional games. Sometimes the tickets are given as rewards to employees (and these are usually indistinguishable from regular game-goers), but other times they're used to impress potential clients or partners. Hey, they paid for the tickets, so they can bring whomever they want to the game, but it seems odd to see people in suits trying to maintain their dignity when they're surrounded by the sea of screaming fans in red and white. And who can conduct business in such a loud place anyway?
Real life example: The company my ex-husband was working for, way back in 2003, was being wooed by some vendor who bought a suite for a game. Employees and spouses/significant others were invited along. Blatant but legal bribery? Yep. Were we going to turn down the chance to see the game from a luxury suite? Hell, no. Plus, while the executive types were schmoozing, the rest of us got to witness Brett Hull score his 700th career goal. It was a classic Brett Hull one-timer off a perfect set up pass from Pavel Datsyuk, and Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks never had a chance to stop it. And IT WAS AWESOME.