TERRE HAUTE —
If Jenny had known, she probably wouldn’t have bought that TV.
But four or five years ago, my Fathers Day present — for those unfamiliar with Amey family traditions, the Fathers Day one is “let’s get something we all really want and pretend it’s a gift for Dad” — was a 42-inch Vizio. It’s been used even more than the cell phone I never would have bought for myself, or the TomTom that disappeared since Jenny’s smartphone arrived.
And it came with high-def.
I’m not going to insult you by telling you how great high-def is, because to do so would be to imply that you are even farther behind the technological curve than I am. I’m guessing, however, that not all of you have yet discovered what it does for hockey.
This is, to be blunt, a hockey wasteland. After growing up with Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, I discovered that coming here for college booted my fandom into dormancy for the most part, except for the occasional telecasts of the Stanley Cup Finals (still remember, with chagrin, Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard; had a brief flirtation with Bobby Clarke and the Broad Street Bullies; and got in a little trouble for being unable to turn off Game 1 of the 1994 Cup finals when it went into overtime — because it was our honeymoon, and because it was only the Canucks and Rangers, which even I admit is pretty inexcusable).
Once I flipped channels to hockey in high-def, however, it all came rushing back, and I wanted to see everybody play.
Jenny has since purchased a second Vizio.
I don’t live and die with the Blackhawks anymore — the Bill Wirtz-Bob Pulford era, when all their players were chosen for “character” instead of skill (think Hanson brothers without the foil), was a buzzkill — but I do enjoy watching them lately because they have the most speed and skill of any team in the league.
I like to watch teams fly around. I root for regular-season overtime games, because then it’s sudden-death four-on-four hockey for five minutes (or less), meaning there’s more room to fly around. I like the Western Conference better than the Eastern Conference, because more of the western teams … you can probably guess.
But here’s the thing. While there are some fly-around players that I really like (Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, etc.) and while my favorite player might be Red Wings magician Pavel Datsyuk, I also really like some players who are good at keeping other players from flying around: Luca Sbisa of the Ducks, for example, or my favorite and most descriptive name, Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild (whose job is to get in the way — clutter — and knock skaters on their butt).
My favorite team is probably the Predators, who are magnificently coached by Barry Trotz but who certainly don’t fly around, and I also like other small-market teams like the Lightning and the Oilers and the Jets. All my beloved underdogs are about to bow out, however, unless the Jets can overtake the Rangers for a final playoff spot.
And since the first round of the NHL playoffs is right up there with the first weekend of March Madness for me, a few observations:
Team I wish I’d seen — The Carolina Hurricanes brought in a bunch of skilled players this year and got off to a great start, so I was counting on the playoffs to overcome the small-market prejudice that kept them off much television (yes, I’ve seen the Rangers quite a bit). Then goalie Cam Ward got hurt and they went in the tank.
Team I’m looking forward to seeing — The Ottawa Senators are not only in a small market but they’re in Canada, and NBC Sports Network isn’t. If they last long enough — and defenseman Erik Karlsson, last year’s breakout star, may soon be back from injury — maybe I can figure out what they’re doing right.
Team I’m looking forward to seeing, Part 2 — The Islanders are stuck on Long Island, so calling them New York still doesn’t mean much exposure. Want to get a read on the skills of John Tavares, and the physical play of Matt Martin.
Team I kind of enjoy that better not win the Cup — The Wild can be an entertaining team, but it’s also the team that spent $98 million each on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (good players, but not exactly immortal) even though the league claimed it had money problems and locked out 40 percent of its (my) season.
Team due to have a good playoff run — The Washington Capitals have Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green and a tradition of playoff underachievement. Maybe this is the year they’ll play well.
Team due, Part 2 — If history is an indicator, the San Jose Sharks are the least likely of whatever 16 teams are still alive next week to be carrying the Cup in a couple of months.
Cup final — Thanks to the aforementioned lockout, this will be the only time all season that the Western Division plays the Eastern Division. It would only be appropriate, then, that the team that flies around the best should meet the team that’s best at mucking things up and making the game unattractive.
That former team is the Blackhawks, who I’ve noticed too many times this season have an annoying habit of dominating play on the ice more decisively than they do on the scoreboard. Best equipped to take advantage of that situation are (and I’d be happy to be a jinx here) the Bruins, who I see stealing Game 7 in Chicago.
• That other league — I’m aware that NBA playoffs also are happening and I’ll be perusing every boxscore like I do all season. Some of the players might even actually be trying now.
But I know that many NBA players will play 40 minutes in a lot of their playoff games and I know a lot of hockey players aren’t on the ice more than 40 seconds at a time because they are going so hard. So I plan to watch the exact same amount of NBA playoff games that I watched during the regular season.
Hint: It’s a round number.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by email at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter.