Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Growing up in Sudbury in the seventies was some pretty crazy shit when I really sit back and think about it. The longest coldest winters and we spent most of them outside, one of the reasons being that there wasn't anything to do inside. We had three channels - CBC, CTV and 'the French channel' which was good for nothing but the odd flash of a bare breast late at night.
Which made its existence entirely worthwhile for me.
It was sometime in the late 70s that cable came to Sudbury and with it the big three American networks and Global and then soon after that we got TSN and Much Music and now we have some sort of damn box and we get hundreds of channels and HD and I can watch actual porn for free anytime after midnight.
If I so chose.
But back then it was CBC and CTV and The Sudbury Star and waking up in the morning to Cummy Burton on CKSO telling us how the Wolves did and what had happened in the NHL the night before. The NFL was a distant rumour, baseball was the Reds, the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Expos and the NBA didn't even exist for us kids at all. I probably didn't see an NBA game on TV until I was well into my teens.
As for the NHL well this was before territorial rights and all that BS so we got the Leafs and the Habs on Saturday nights. Most of my friends were Hab fans and we got more Montreal games then Leaf games. I did see Sittler score his ten points though and we saw enough of the Leafs that I was pretty familiar with them.
But I was a Hawks' fan. So I'd see them maybe a half dozen times a year, give or take, when they were on HNIC. Other then that it was scanning the paper for the boxscores, my collection of hockey cards and the odd copy of the Hockey News. My favourite player growing up was Stan Mikita and I would bet that I saw him play no more then a couple of dozen times before he retired, if that. All I knew about him was what I read and I knew he was brilliant, one of the greats, tough and skilled and smart most of all, a real hockey player, a guy who did every single thing well.
But I have seen Zach Stortini play far more times then I ever saw Mikita play.
That's the way it was though, even then. I may as well have been my Dad growing up in Franz, his favourite hockey player Max Bentley, his favourite ball player Stan Musial. He may as well have been on the moon. He would have listened to Foster Hewitt and maybe, maybe he caught the Cardinals on the radio. But all he knew was what he read. He never saw either play.
Now the Sudbury Wolves, they were real. We could go down to the old Memorial arena on Elgin and catch Duguay and Schutt and Farrish and Caryle and Hector Marini and Bobby Russell. I could still picture Russell thirty years later but could not remember his name until I used the Net to look up the roster and found his picture, just as I remembered. And he ended up an Oiler, imagine that!
The Wolves were real, a terrific team when I was a kid, losing to the Marlies in overtime in G7 of the OHL championship, John Anderson with the winner. Joe Bowen called the games, just a skinny kid then, and we could knew what the players did, caught them on the radio, read about them in the paper, saw them live.
That was as close as it got to hype in those days.
Today you can watch every game your team plays if you are so inclined. If you go to the right newstand you can purchase the paper from their town but there's no need really because you can read it on the internet, along with the league and club websites and the independent websites and blogs. If I can't catch a game on TV I can watch it on my computer. Its a never ending barrage really and I'm part of it, just some guy who is an Oilers' fan who likes to write about them. I'm one of many and while some of it is crap, a ton of it is really good stuff and so you can find out what Andrew Cogliano's shooting percentage is, read about the type of opposition Oilers' prospects face and how they fare, learn about things called Corsi numbers and Desjardins and how they demonstrate a player's worth, discuss Oilers' prospects from ten years ago and how the team's procurement then compares to today, read a detailed description of what Liam Reddox brings to the table and why we should pay attention to him and talk Oilers hockey with folks from Alberta and BC and Newfoundland and Winnipeg and Ottawa and England and Thailand and everywhere else in the world.
And that is the tip of the iceberg.
No wonder that an "oldtimer" like Riversq groans when he sees comments the other night about how a teenager's hockey sense has improved or gotten poorer over the course of a two week tournament. He laments the crazy wave that seems to have caught a lot of Oiler fans, up and down from game to game, hell, from shift to shift.
I agree with him but I can also see where the mentality has arisen from. Pierre Maguire screams that Jordan Eberle is going to be a huge scorer in the NHL for years, that throwing the puck at the net is magical, magical Taveres, he whispers as his goo drips down his thigh, that this or that guy is a MONSTER. Even the CBC has been infected with commentators and clowns (of course some might say they started it with Cherry but I actually remember when he was more like Howie Meeker, a teacher, then what he is now) who cannot talk in a complete sentence or pronounce players' names, guys like Stock and Crawford. Its dumbing down and its incumbent on the fan to filter out the crap, to employ critical thought.
I remember when Lowe really put this team over a barrel a couple of summers ago and it made me mental how many fans said "I trust Lowe, he won six Cups" or "My team, love it or leave it" or words to that effect. Drove me crazy.
And so fans call for Hemsky to be traded (read a lot of that last year) because he had reached his ceiling, say that guys like Penner, Gagner, Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Smid have already peaked after a year or two in the league when common sense says that experience will make them better players.
Shawn Horcoff at 28 was a way better player then Shawn Horcoff at 22. Pisani too. Ryan Smyth. Jason Smith. I think its safe to say that Sheldon Souray is an improved player this year even over last year and here is a guy in his thirties. That's a little more unusual but it can happen.
Its pretty simple stuff.
But the hype machine looks for the sizzle and ignores the steak. A guy like Pouliot is no Parise (we know we know) but he is discounted as a player at all before he even hits 24 years old. Back in the day there were plenty of good players who barely had a look at the same age. Development took time.
I remember being excited as a kid because HNIC had an intermission feature called Showdown. It was a skills competition tournament between players from all over the league. Fun stuff and the first round matchup one Saturday featured Mikita and some guy ten years younger, I can't recall who, but nobody great, Eric Vail or Rick Kehoe or someone like that.
And my hero lost, just like that. Wasn't even close.
I was a kid and I was disappointed for a second but of course I knew that Mikita was one of the greatest players who ever lived (he was still quite good at this time, he would have been 36 or so) and losing a skills competition meant nothing at all. And of course this is how it was treated on the show as well. Ask LT about Stan Mikita. Hell, ask me. I could talk about the guy for days. One of the absolute greatest ever. Nowadays something as silly as that would be hyped to death and analyzed for days afterwards.
There wasn't any noise to cut through back then though. Three channel universe and only two were English.
The other was Breastish, if I recall.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:52 PM