Saturday, October 4, 2003

Yeah, I skipped a week. So sue me. I've got a presentation in Palm Springs in one week, and I'm making no headway in polishing up the code.
To the left is Edina. Dear, sweet Edina. Edina who craps in the bedroom in the middle of the night.

I hauled myself out of bed early for Julian's first league game. It's important to be as quiet as possible when you get up at 5:30 AM, because you don't want to wake up the rest of the house. So I tiptoed into the bathroom to rinse, and landed barefoot in a beagle pile. Thanks, Edina. Really appreciate it. Dummy.

The game itself was notable for the first appearance of Loudmouth Dad, who had two kids playing for the opposition. He started the day by climbing on the glass and yelling at the ref that our goalie was suspiciously kicking the net out of position. He then turned to one of us and explained that it just seemed strange that every time the goalie had pressure, the net moved. So she said that the goalie was her son, and that he doesn't do that, and Loudmouth backtracked to say that it only SEEMED like he was. Gotcha.

After he was told to stop hanging on the glass and bothering the refs, he paced up and down for much of the game, his piercing voice shouting encouragement in that way that said "if your team loses, you're going to be finding another ride home." Their team went up 2-0, but only had ten skaters so they got tired at the end. As the Rebels tied the game, Loudmouth went out to the rink lobby for a refreshingly illegal Marlboro. He then came back sans ski cap, and started standing with our group of parents again. Until one of us looked at him and said "What are you doing back here?" The Rebels pulled the game out, 3-2, and we were relieved to find that he hadn't put a telephone pole through any of our windshields.

Lo and behold, I found an ad in Newsday for the night's exhibition game (Isles vs. Devils) and a promise of cheap seats available through, Ticketmaster, or at the box office. I tried, but no luck. They told me that the game was not currently on sale. So I called Ticketmaster. They gave me a helpful nugget - I would be on hold for about six minutes. 27 minutes later, a human picked up. And then put me back on hold before I could say no. It turned out that the ad was lying - to get tickets you had to go to the box office. However, they would be kind enough to let me try six free issues of Sports Illustrated, which .

Walkup traffic at the game was brisk, and after a 15 second wait I was able to procure seats in section 102, row F. I finally got my wish - to see the Isles beat the Devils at least once in person before I croak. They actually looked really good. The power play wasn't pathetic. DiPietro made some acrobatic saves (and his expected saves had that nice hard thud sound of puck on stick, the one you never got with Osgood). Most interestingly, the feeling of complete suffocation that you'd experience against the Devils in the past just wasn't there. I don't know how much of that was the Devils playing poorly and how much was a patient attack of the NZT, but it worked. They scored five goals and looked good doing it. Instead of dumping it in from the red line and chasing in vain as Brodeur started a rush the other direction, the Isles regularly got the puck in, kept it in, and had someone in front of the net to create 1-on-1 situations that ended up in goals.

The other interesting sign was that their new coach, Sy Sperling, really rolled lines instead of playing favorites. Cairns was out there in all situations, and he handled himself well. He might actually become more than just a hard-hitting sixth option. During a 3-on-5 situation in the third, Bergenheim was out there as the sole forward. I actually have hopes for this team again. Meanwhile, I've realized that Shawn Bates's penalty shot against Toronto, the greatest single sports moment I've ever seen live, ended up retarding the team's growth last year as he was given far too much responsibility. It looks like things are back in balance this year.

And, I must add, it seems like common sense, but if you've never been to a hockey game close-up, do it this year. It's incredible how hockey can be three completely different games. Watching it on TV is nothing like being at the arena. And sitting near the top of the arena is nothing like watching it only a few rows back. You can see what the players are saying to each other, all the jostling and shots behind the play, the little head nods telling other players to move in a particular direction, all the chatter with refs, and even see them laughing with each other. In the first period, Janne Niinimaa was backing up when one of the Devils unleashed a slapshot at him. As he wound up, you could see Niinimaa bracing for the puck's likely impact on his shins, and his face screwed up to look like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man during his last moments. It's a whole lot of fun.

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