I was just rereading a draft of a blog post that never made it to the site, and I realized there was something I hadn’t seen in the NHL in the last month or so. Something that you could expect on a game by game basis from some teams, something that seemed to characterize the post-lockout NHL more than the Gary Bettman definition of parity:
I don’t think we have seen the kind of I-don’t-give-a-damn apathy on the ice since the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs. And that isn’t to pick on the Caps unduly. They didn’t give a damn come the second round, except in spurts. But throughout the regular season, you saw it all the time, all over the league. Teams would quit before they even started. One or two players would skate their asses off while they rest of the team was coasting.
There is an overwhelming sense of apathy from the players on the ice these days. Teams who don’t buy into systems, won’t listen to coaches, and flat-out stop trying. The effort level on a one goal game can confound the fan. You even hear it from the announcers, and read it in the papers. You hear it from the players after the game, if they are being honest.
And yet, time and again, games get tied up or won in the last-minute of play. Teams get edged out by one goal. An offside determines a game. Teams miss the playoffs by one point. One lousy shootout, or one dump in. One guy in front of the net. Will beating skill. And yet, you hear about the lack of effort. Only playing two periods. Not ready to skate. Not ready to play.
I want to blame the salary cap, and guaranteed contracts (even though I think both of these things are needed in the NHL). I want to blame the long season. I want to blame no trade and no movement clauses. I want to blame injuries. I think it’s all those things, and more.
But then you get to the Finals. You watch two teams play who genuinely have a shot at raising the Cup. Both teams are good enough. They’re within spitting distance of victory. Four wins. They’ve done that before, and they can do it again. They play together, and they play for each other. They buy into the system. They work hard for sixty minutes, and then they work harder. Apathy? What’s that? It doesn’t exist now. That is for teams that aren’t in the Finals. They never had a shot.
Take a look at that pretty trophy. It’s the Rocket Richard Trophy, at the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you’ve never seen it, let me tell you that you are missing out. It is beautiful, and I could have spent as much time with it as I did the Stanley Cup. On the side panels is an inscription. Can you make out what it says?
“never give up”
In the spirit of “never give up,” I want you to look at this post from Mike Mitchell, an artist. If you want something bad enough, never give up. Keep plugging away. That’s part of why I’m doing this challenge.
Also, this is the very first post I’ve ever done with text wrapped around an image. See? Something new under the sun. You can teach an old dog new tricks.