Dec 302011

“Tazer, you’d better score next game I go to.”

Early morning, April 4
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride – U2

They say the most segregated hour during the week in America is at 10 am on a Sunday morning. Although there have been signs of change, birds of a feather still tend to flock together. Fortunately, the church I attend actually has a good cross section of various races. Through my involvement in Children’s Church, I happened to meet and befriend a lady by the name of Laverne. Laverne and her husband, Kevin, had a bunch of us over for a barbecue one day in their back yard. It was there that I chanced to meet Laverne’s friend Lamont. Let’s just say Lamont had more Fred Sanford in him than his namesake.

Lamont and I started talking and after a while he asked me, “I met this guy Murphy the other day that looks a lot like you. Do you know any Murphy’s?” I couldn’t resist the opening and said, “Lamont, you know us Irish guys all look alike!” What happened next completely through me for a loop, that left my belly cramping with laughter. Lamont started shrieking, “No, no, no! You’ve taken everything else from us. You can’t take that too! That’s all we have left.” You had to see his facial expressions as he went over the list of injustices blacks have faced. Then Lamont would beg me not to take that one last shred of dignity away. Laverne just rolled her eyes.

This memory made me think, however.  As any Hawk fan knows, when Corey Crawford developed some chinks in the armor, Ray Emery magnificently plugged what seemed to be a suddenly gaping hole in the Blackhawk’s fortunes. Therein lays the dilemma. Hockey appeared to be the one last bastion where the white athlete could excel. In a “reverse Lamont” moment, Razor appears to be on the cutting edge of yet another gradual takeover of a sport by the black athlete. Think of Emery as the modern day Jackie Robinson. “C’mon Lamont, you’ve taken track, baseball and football from us. You can’t take hockey too!”

I read the Wikipedia account of Ray Emery; I’d highly recommend it to any Blackhawk fan. I don’t think many of us know much about the feisty side of Sugar Ray-a name bestowed upon him for his love of boxing. This is a guy who clearly loves playing hockey. The surgery required to heal his vascular necrosis, (this disease put an end to Bo Jackson’s career), involved removing 13 centimeters from his fibula and grafting onto his femur. So go a little easy on the guy if you think his lateral movement is suspect. The good thing is, Razor’s play has seemed to light a fire under Crawford. Corey has strung together three solid games in a row, creating a pleasant conundrum for Coach Q. Crow has definitely started to resemble that kid who almost upset the favored Canucks last April in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if you hear the Q-meister humming the Stevie Wonder song “Ebony or Ivory…” in the next few days.

Our albino rat, Dave Bolland, increasingly has become a pestilence for our adversaries lately. As one blogger put it, “He’s in full rat mode.” His line has made a huge difference in the outcome of several contests. We all know The Rat can be offensive, but in addition to tormenting the other team’s top players, his line has been steadily appearing on the score sheet. As most of you know, I’m not the most knowledgeable hockey fan. I admit to mumbling “Shoot!” on Hossa’s power play goal against Columbus, about 10 seconds before Bolland threaded the needle on a perfect pass to dat Horsa guy. Davey also worked a perfect give and go with the good looking Swede on the team, Viktor Stalberg. (in Hjalmarsson’s defense, leading the team in blocked shots has somewhat disfigured him.)

Stalberg, who’s current position could best be categorized as a mercenary, has come out with guns a blazing lately. Viktor has at one time or another played on all four lines this year. Whatever line he’s played for, you tend to see a mad dash up the ice, and panicked looks on the faces of furiously back peddling d-men. Sam Fels, perhaps, described him best; “He tends to keep the defensemen on their heels.” Coach Q noted, “He’s showing more patience with the puck and awareness.” He’s also learned to stop quickly, giving himself more time to make sagacious decisions. (Bet you’d never thought you’d see the word sagacious mentioned in a sentence with Stalberg!)

In my estimation, Viktor’s mind has seldom been able to keep up with his legs. There appears to have been a metamorphosis that took place though. Viktor has become a dangerous player for us. He has 22 points with almost no power play time. It put a smile on my face to see about three Stalberg jersey’s at the Kings game. In a nice jester after being named #1 star against the Blue Jackets, Viktor applauded the fans when he took the ice. He does need to work on eye contact though when being interviewed by Sarah Kustok, however.

When our season ticket consortium divided tickets up this year, the Dec. 28th Kings game was high on my list. Despite struggling early on, the Kings are 6-1-1 in their last seven games. Expect the Richads/Kopitar team in black to be all present and accounted for when the playoffs roll around. The game on Wednesday was a highly entertaining affair, with each team firing 38 shots. Both Quick and Crawford were often times spectacular between the pipes. Adam Fels made mention of Quick’s use of his legs. He almost looked like an octopus at times. Although I would agree with Toews assessment of Quick’s miserly ways; “you’d have to say he had a horseshoe, you know where, on a few of those plays.”

Toews found himself very busy, logging over 24 minutes in the game, close to 9 minutes in the first period. Toews was tremendous at the dot again going 14-6, winning many crucial faceoff’s in the furious comeback attempt in the third period. Despite some callers on the post-game show complaining about the production from our first line, Toews had 4 shots on goal and Kaner, three. In addition, Kaner took three wide open shots from about 20 feet away that missed the pipe by 3 or 4 inches. Shooting the puck into Quick’s 6 hole, (his intestines), certainly wasn’t going to work. If the hard wristers had hit the 12” by 4” space Quick left open in his upper left hand corner, the lamp would have been lit.

I thought Leddy and Hjalmarsson both had strong games despite being on the ice for both of the Kings tallies. On the first goal, Crawford appeared to be a little slow covering up the rebound. Coach Q thought he was interfered with on that goal. On the second goal, as I watched Stoll bang away three times at the puck I thought, “Where’s our right side d-man. The replay clearly showed Justin Williams getting away with a slew foot, upending Leddy on the despicable play.

Leddy continues to evolve into one of the best puck moving machines I’ve ever seen wearing the Indian Head. His mad dash up the right side led to a golden opportunity for Patrick Sharp, a slapper from about 35 feet out in the slot in our furious assault in the third period. If there was a positive to take away from the loss on Wednesday, it’s once again we can tend to dominate in the third period when we need to. 18 shots on goal, many of them dangerous opportunities, somewhat mollified the disappointing loss.

Which leads me to a very tough decision on future games we attend, one that could impact the outcome of future contests. A decision that involves Taylor’s dream. I took my daughter to the game last night and she clearly was having nothing to do with my moral victory speech after the highly entertaining third period assault. Taylor has been to two games this year and has seen the Hawks tally a grand total of one goal. That can get exceedingly frustrating. In addition, the Hawks record when she went to games last year was no better. Last year, you could probably blame it on the team. That excuse doesn’t seem to hold much water this year. Now I’m not intimating Taylor’s presence is jinxing the Hawks, but…

When my son Greg gets to go, the Hawks have generally trounced the opponent. The Fels brothers have noted this tendency and are demanding that action be taken. “Look Rich, we understand you love your daughter, but this is getting serious.” You can almost see Adam shaking his head when he see’s Taylor marching up to row 11. “Oh no, not her again.” In their minds the answer is simple; Greg comes – Hawks win, Taylor comes – well you get the picture. I fear if word gets out, she’ll be booed as she makes her way to our seats.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, we don’t have tickets to Fridays big game with the loathsome Wings. In reality, who sits in our seats probably has zero impact on the outcome of the game. However we will be monitoring the situation. Taylor may be required to borrow Jonathan Quick’s lucky horse shoe in future contests.

Rich Lindbloom

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