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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Too Cold for Hockey?, shop.nhl, and Death to the Shootout!

As I again attempt to put off Christmas shopping, I thought I'd throw down a few random hockey nuggets to ponder...

TOO COLD FOR HOCKEY?...A buddy of mine up in Chicago sent me a text message this morning, saying that the temperature was -6(F), with a wind chill of -33(F). I seem to recall reading somewhere, once upon a time, that the optimal ice temperature for skating is 19 degrees (F). If it's too cold, skate blades won't be able to cut/melt the ice, making skating extremely difficult. Naturally, this caused me to wonder about the skating conditions at Wrigley Field, and whether or not the ability to HEAT the ice exists. If not, and if it's that cold on 1 January, well...will the Blackhawks and Red Wings play broomball instead?

WHAT GIVES, SHOP.NHL?...I don't know about y'all (yes, I'm a Native Texan, and we say "y'all" down here), but I've done some of my Christmas shopping on shop.nhl.com, and I've noticed that several items - and not just the Winter Classic t-shirts - just don't stay in stock. For example, I was going to get a Dion Phaneuf t-shirt for Tex Jr., but it hasn't been in stock for over a week (not in adult sizes, anyway). Then, I was going to get him a Patrick Kane Winter Classic t-shirt, but that item has appeared in stock and disappeared again within hours, and was only available in just one or two sizes. My question is this: Is this due to A) Difficulty getting stock from suppliers, or B) Consumer demand far beyond the NHL's wildest expectations? As a fan, I hope the answer is (B).

HOT HOCKEY OPINION #1...At this time, I'd like to join the growing chorus of hockey bloggers calling for an untimely end to the Shootout. I liken shootouts to a newly-opened tub of Betty Crocker cake frosting (use your imagination, and pick the flavor of your choice). You stick a spoon in there, shovel it into your pie hole, and it's everything you hoped it would be...so you go back for another spoonful. Again, delicious...so you go for a third. Now, you're starting to realize that it's, well, really rich and sweet. Another spoonful, and you're wishing you had some cake to go with it. If you're foolish enough to go for a fifth spoonful, you begin to wish for some Saltines, or maybe a big hunk o' beef jerky...and so on, until you realize that the frosting is just too rich, too sweet, and lacking in substance. So it is with the Shootout, which was exciting and fun the first couple of seasons. On the surface, the Shootout would seem to be the perfect ending to a game, as it contains three key ingredients to exciting hockey: The Breakaway, The Goal, and/or The Great Save. The truth is, however, that we're deciding games played by opposing TEAMS with an INDIVIDUAL skills competition. It's just plain wrong, and in Year Four of the NHL Shootout, I find myself queasy and longing for a good, old-fashioned TIE. And don't even get me started on the fact that my fantasy league won't give me points for a shutout when my goalie loses, 1-0, in a Shootout...I'll save that rant for another day.

TOMORROW: HOT HOCKEY OPINION #2, in which I explain to the NHL the best way to put butts in seats, generate excitement and sell the game to The Unenlightened Masses.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis

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