Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Its Been A Long Time Running Its Well Worth The Wait

Gord Downie is the man.

I've seen the Hip in concert four times. They put on a great show, driving growling guitars and Downie of course, in turn mumbling, then roaring, meandering around Canadiana, obscure and not so obscure references to Tom Thompson and the Kingston Pen and cordouroy roads, drifting off onto tangents, thoughtful and then mental, screaming about Bobby Orr and bears and Cape Spear. the crowd entranced by this everyman as he wanders about the stage.

Part of the appeal of the Hip and of Downie in particular, I think, is that they are regular guys. Part of their fame lies in their failed sorties into the States and many Canadian expats have the shared experience of seeing this great Canadian band, perhaps the greatest Canadian band, playing in a bar in front of a few dozen people, usually all Canadians stunned at their good fortune to be living in a town where the Hip have come to play. I have a friend who saw them in California nearly twenty years ago, he has pictures of them in an empty club and after the show he hung out with them at the bar, drinking beer and shooting the shit.

I've seen Downie out and about a couple of times. The first time I ran into him was one of those first warm days, you know the ones, hot and sunny, out of nowhere after months of grey aching cold, the days when the patios overflow with sunstarved Canadians, faces turned to the sky, beer poured down throats. One such day after work a few years back I dropped by the Dora Keogh, one of Toronto's best pubs, copper covered tables and fine pints of Guinness. As I fired back one pint and then started on another I noticed your man leaning against the bar. He had obviously been enjoying the sunshine most of the day, likely with a some beers in his backyard, his face was red and shining, his eyes squinting drunkenly in the darkness of the bar. More than anything I noticed that he has massive hands. Just absolutely huge.

It was a year or so later my uncle and aunt were staying with us, visiting from Fernie. One night we ordered Indian from our local joint, the best around, one of those little hole in the wall places where the food is both cheap and outstanding. We've never had better except maybe, maybe, when we were in London and stumbled into a place in Soho. Cost an arm and a leg though.

So my uncle and I headed down to pick up our order and as we sat at a table and waited (we always have to wait when we go to this place, its well worth it though, you can't rush art) a fellow rode up on a bike and came in to get his food. It was Downie. I pointed this out to my uncle, who was quite impressed with the fact that the laconic man sitting a few feet from us was the frontman for a band so famous that even he, in his sixties, knew who they were.

That's the thing about Downie. A regular dude with that spark of genius and charisma. he knwos a good pub and great Indian plus he's a Canadian icon.


When it comes to the Hip we all know their standards but like all great bands there's depth to their work. After their first album where other than the first few songs its mostly throwaway you can go album by album and from the first song to the last you can find something in each one. And so it is in the song Long Time Running. from which I found the title of this post. Just a little song buried deep in an old album and its just fantastic.

Its been a long time running indeed for the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. The Canucks' history has been a mediocre one, forty years of mostly nothing punctuated with laughable uniforms, bad trades and the Bertuzzi/Moore disaster. Forty years with little to show for it. What did Tyler Dellow once say? Oilers have five, Flames have one and Canucks just don't matter. Something like that. It was true but it may not be for much longer.

The Bruins have a long rich history but much like the Philadelphia Flyers its been a while for them. Since 1967 only Montreal has been to the Finals more than the Bruins but since 1972 its been a long list of good clubs that have fallen just short of the summit.

So we have an Original Six club and a Canadian club and so for the fourth year in a row we have a glamour matchup. Its nice to see. For a while there it seemed that in hockey, baseball and American football it was an annual matchup of obscure clubs where nobody cared. In hockey we had matchups like Dallas and New Jersey or my favourite of all time, Jersey and Anaheim. Baseball had a stretch where the World Series was either won by the Yankees (spits although those Yankee clubs were more likeable than the bunch from the last decade), Florida or Arizona. And football saw carpetbaggers like the St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowls.

I'm old school as you know. If I had my druthers every league would fold a third of their clubs. Having teams where people don't care, where there is no history of the game, where the club is on life support year after year ... well I don't get it. And I understand the diehard fans of these clubs in trouble and I feel for them but honestly if you are going to have a team that is marginal in terms of its revenues I would say that having it in Winnipeg or Quebec City makes far more sense than having it in Atlanta or Phoenix. Harsh? Maybe so. But if the league is going to pour tens of millions of dollars into franchises it just makes sense to pour that money into clubs where more than ten thousand people care about whether the team lives or dies. And yes I know its about American TV blah blah blah. They've been shooting for that brass ring since 1967 and its gone nowhere. The NHL is a smalltime league run by smalltimers. Play to your strengths and start by folding as many Bettman franchises as you need to.

For me the return of a franchise in Winnipeg is absolutely wonderful news. Les Nordiques next please.


Before I actually talk about the final I want to touch on something that is really shitty and that is the fact that barring a miracle the Oilers are a million years away. Management is betting on a Chicago or Pittsburgh turnaround while the cynics amongst us point to the Islanders or soon to be deceased Thrashers as a greater probability based on management's lack of acumen. But there is a third possibility of course and that is the Canucks' model (you may also call this the Sharks or Sens' model). For Vancouver it has been over a decade since they drafted the Sedins and there were quite a few steps back before they got to where they are today, which is still four wins short of taking it all. Looking at the Canucks' roster and that of the Oilers one can only get a sinking feeling. Only Gilbert and Whitney could crack the Canucks' defence corps. Amongst the forwards Hemsky could play in their top six and Horcoff would be their third or fourth centre and Taylor Hall could probably find a spot on the roster somewhere but even Eberle and Paajarvi would likely be plying their trade in the minors, which is no slight against those two kids really, they are better players than Tanner Glass for example but they are not primetime NHLers just quite yet.

And that's about it. Gagner and Cogliano would not make that roster. No Smid or Foster or Vandermeer and none of the fourth liners. And the goaltending? Oh my God.

Are there kids coming? There sure are and we already know that there are some dandies. But holy fuck do the Oilers ever have a long way to go.


As for the final well remember when I was talking about those awful matchups of a decade ago? Well the last few years have seen a renaissance and its wonderful. In baseball we have seen celebrations for long suffering fans of the Red Sox and the Giants and the White Sox and the Phillies. In football Super Bowls have gone to flagship franchises in Green Bay and Pittsburgh and Boston (again!) and to the club from New Orleans. And in the NHL we have seen the Wings and Penguins and last year the club from Chicago take it all after nearly a half century of frustration. And so this year it will be just under or just over forty years of waiting washed away. Its going to be an explosion of joy and its probably going to be on the west coast.

One never knows. I figured the Flyers to be heavily overmatched last spring and they could have won that series. Bob MacKenzie was hearkening back to 1995 when everyone figured the Wings would roll right over the Devils and instead were swept and it was shortly thereafter that the Flyers were expected to pound Detroit and were swept themselves. Every series takes on its own life and can turn on a bounce here, a flip of the coin there. Maybe Boston will match up really well with Vancouver, maybe their style will throw a wrench in it. I don't see it but we won't know until they hit the ice.

I look at the rosters and I see a sawoff in goal and two clubs that have terrific depth up front. Last game the Bruins started with Peverley on the fourth line for Chrissakes. They are deep but so are the Canucks and if Malholtra can play and be effective then that's a real boost for Vancouver. The difference is on the back end. I suspect that we will see Chara and Seidenberg take on the Sedins (likely fronted by Bergeron) and that may be a matchup the Bruins can win, meaning they might shut the twins down. Then of course they will roll the dice and hope that their remaining units can win the day. But the Canucks are so deep on the back end that a Bruins' team that has issues scoring may really struggle and unless Kesler is really hurt I think he can run roughshod over Krejci if that's the matchup. He's a guy who sawed off Toews after all.

I wouldn't write off the Bruins and I think they could win this thing but unless Thomas really gets on a roll I think the Canucks' forwards just destroy the second and third pairs of D on Boston.

Vancouver in six.


Swabbubba said...

I am pumped for this match up. Don't care who wins but for sheer tradition I am pulling for the Bruins. Hell I guess it would be more the Dropkick Murphys being a fan of Bruins. Got Bobby Orr, Lucic and Thornton in the video Going out in Style.
It will be about the goal tending so it is on this round. Bobby Lou has not been awe inspiring.. Neither has Thomas... so it is their time to carry the mail.
The Oilers who do they pick cause this is where u separate yourself in the rebuilds. Teams waste a pick cause the get dazzled and gor something they don't actually need... we need size, D or top six centre

I hope the series is well reffed and teams both play well. May the best team win... not the best 5 on 3 PP

Ribs said...

I'm taking the Bruins but admittedly it's only because I would hate to see Vancouver win it. The Canucks definitely look like the better team.

All I've been hearing about this match up is how awesome the Canucks powerplay has been and no one seems to think about Boston beating the all mighty powerplay that the Lightning possess. It's the reason I think Boston has a real chance at this.

That and the Vancouver Choke. They've been fighting it off pretty well so far but there is every chance that they will succumb once again to the dark choke hold of fate.

PDO said...

Ravens fan chiming in that the charm city is where Johnny Unitas played and it's a little unfair to toss them in with the NJD of the world :)

PDO said...

Oh, and would it kill the hockey gods to NOT give Vancouver a bounce for once? Christ.

Hopefully the Hamhuis injury is serious and a few more of them come and can even this out a bit.

Go Brooons.

Black Dog said...

Swabb and Ribs - oh I think the Bruis have a chance, still do after last night but really its a slim chance. Thomas was brilliant - if he is any less they will lose - and I don't see him standing on his head every game. And the Bruins barely generated any offence.

Just one game but I think Vancouver is going to do it.

Sorry PDO ;)

A Ravens' fan. Oh dear.

That's a little personal for me. I liked the Baltimore Colts. When Irsay moved them, well, that was unforgivable to me.

Ravens are not the Devils but they should be the Colts.

spOILer said...

So far your 2nd & 3rd line prediction looks right. *spits*

PDO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PDO said...

They sure should be...

But I like that they don't whisper a word about the history of the Cleveland Browns (other than having Ozzie Newsome as GM, I suppose, but he's one of the best in the business; not the Ravens fault he was a Browns great :), whereas the Colts routinely have "retro uniforms" where they toss on the old Baltimore jerseys and the fans get all excited like they were all cheering for the Colts back then...

It's pretty disgusting to watch to be honest.

Hope there's football this year, because they're the only team I cheer for that is at all decent and the window is about to close on Ray Lewis, who I'd love to see in there again, and Ed Reed only has a couple seasons left and is criminally underrated.

Reed, Mason, Birk, Cundiff, Heap, Johnson all represent an older generation who have paid their dues and deserve a ring... and the young core is full of character guys like Oher (Mr. Blindside), Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and now Torey Smith can be tossed into that group as well. Add in some performing vets in Ngata (another quality person), Suggs (the only real asshole on the team; but even then a lot of it is just show), Boldin, Yanda and Grubbs and it's a very, very good team that has a chance to be great. If Kindle can get healthy and Jimmy Smith comes in as good as advertised that D might be back to 2000 form too...

Anyway, back to the reality of the Dys becoming even more like the Colts (full of themselves and full of douchebags with one ring to back it up) and the Oilers being 3+ years from the playoffs... sigh...

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic, but what is your normal drinkin beer? I'm not talkin winters or so on, I mean the classic old faithful which you go to. I've been tryin to find mine of late. I've been leanin to sleemans cream or dead frog lager. Although those 8 pack Canadian and kokanee also frequent the fridge.
As for hockey, lovin the atmosphere in van right now. It's like the olympic party all over again. Every game is a wild street party and I'm Darin to dream that this will finally be the year.
- Billy -

Black Dog said...

Billy - if I'm out and there's local micros I drink those, if not then I drink Guinness.

At home I have one of those old giant beer fridges, I keep it full of a lot of different varieties, again a lot of local or regional stuff along with standards like Guinness, Sam Adams (lately) and a few Keiths although Jenn likes those so I usually leave them be.

Black Dog said...

PDO - this is true regarding the Ravens although the whole Browns' thing is a pisser to for me but as you know I'm old and grumpy ;)

As for the Ravens themselves I don't know a lot about them except they always seem to be in the mix and that D is terrific. They remind me of the eighties/early nineties Bears. Play football old school. And I was happy when they won because Dilfer was QB in Tampa when we were there and he wa a guy I liked to cheer for, not a great QB but he took more heat than he deserved as well.

Anonymous said...

I go to the micro stuff regular, it's kinda hit and miss though. Not such a huge fan of guiness though, it's a time and place type of brew. Although had some nice black and tans at an Irish pub a while back.

RiversQ said...

Re: Moving teams.

I think Bettman's got it totally wrong. History tells us teams have to move every once in awhile. I think you have to stand your ground when history and the market are in place. Minnesota never should have left. Baltimore and Cleveland never should have moved in the NFL. It makes no sense to dig in on Phoenix and Atlanta when they have no history of success on or off the ice. Unfortunately the same was probably true when the Jets and Nords left.

Black Dog said...

Riv - I guess the question would be what constitutes the history and market being in place. The Colts and Browns should have never been allowed to move, they could have expanded to Indy for example. Those are pretty easy ones though, we're talking about two storied franchises.

What separates the North Stars from the Jets and Nords though? Other than a dozen years of being its not like Minnesota the First ever had much success on the ice either. I don't think they should have ever moved though.

Problem with the Jets and Nords was ownership. If you have a guy like Thomsen or Katz in charge you can weather any dips in the dollar. Buddy can write a cheque to cover the losses. Same as Blsckberry guy. If there had been such a guy back in the 90s for the Jets they would have never left.

The next decade or so should be interesting. We've had fires in Nashville, Phoenix and Atlanta. Who's next? Florida, Columbus, Dallas? It could get messy.