Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Handshake Line - WCSF 2009: Detroit

If you missed Ducks/Wings Game 7, you missed a good one. I'd recount my memories of it, but there isn't enough scotch in the world to make typing that out bearable. What is bearable (for me, at least) is The Handshake Line.

Anaheim Calling is as much about why Daniel and I are different as it is about us both being Ducks fans. One key difference going into The Handshake Line is this: Daniel freely admits that his self-worth is tied up in the Ducks' winning and losing. Mine will never be. Perhaps that makes me a bad fan, not as fully invested as the rest of the Ducks' fan base. I just can't bring myself to think of hockey as the Ducks taking the ice to validate me as an individual.

My view of The Handshake Line is that it represents two sides accepting the outcome of the game. The most important disagreement is happening on the ice. The name-calling, gloating, etc. are exterior to that, and exterior to the game of hockey as a whole. You shake to acknowledge each other's efforts. And I would like to do that here.

So, Daniel, what, beyond "Good Luck," are the things you'd like to say to the players and personnel of the Red Wings franchise, as well as their fans?

As Arthur has attested to, I had a lot of reservations about writing this edition of The Handshake Line. Not just because I hate the Red Wings, but because I've had to listen to 7 games of commentary that have generally been disrespectful towards my team. As a sports fan from the West Coast, I'm used to being forgotten about, but this series has pretty much been an exercise in how the Red Wings "can't do anything wrong," and the Ducks "can't do anything right." I'm not saying the Red Wings didn't beat us. You make your own breaks, and the Wings worked for that goal. They deserve to go on. I'm just saying I'd like it if people would remember that Anaheim battled, and they deserve the respect of people who appreciate good hockey. I didn't write that to be a bitter hockey fan, rather I did it to admit my own character flaws and admit that, at times, even I take the game too personally, or as Arthur put it, I almost became Chris Chelios and that is unacceptable for anyone who is a hockey fan. If you don't get that reference, then you should research Chelios' handshake habits. Having said all that, I now start my handshake list:

[To Babcock]
As anyone who pays attention to any sport can tell you, talent is not enough. You stayed one step ahead, and mixed your lines so effectively that there was almost no keeping up. It wasn't just Anaheim mistakes, it was your ability to switch up lines and have those guys mesh well enough to force those turnovers. You have a mastery of your team and you know how to use your talent. Bowman might have some competition for his ring count.

[To Darren Helm]
Props to a kid who has more career playoff games than regular season games. You scored a big goal in a big game 7, and you're a testament to your organization's ability to produce a never ending stream of quality talent.

[To Nicklas Lidstrom]
Is there a better guy in the league at holding the blue line than you? I don't think you make a lot of amazing plays, and that is what makes you so amazing. You have this way of being exactly where you need to be. Personally, I think you are the hockey equivalent of Nightcrawler. There's really nothing else to say about a guy, who does nothing but make sure his team has an opportunity to win. You are the closest thing in the NHL to a security blanket.

[To Pavel Datsyuk]
In my humble opinion, the Hart trophy is all yours. For Ovechkin or Malkin to be effective, they have to score. You, on the other hand, supply enough pressure and play enough great defense that it doesn't matter if you score because the rest of the team follows your lead. Despite the fact that we kept you off the score sheet, you still wore down the defense and your play led to opportunities for your teammates. That's what a Hart winner does.

[To Johan Franzen]
You really do look like a mule, but hockey players aren't supposed to be pretty. More importantly, I'm pretty sure you have more career playoff goals than regular season goals. All you do is charge fearlessly to the net and make sure the puck goes in. That's old school hockey. I think you are just like Chris Pronger, the only people who like you are your teammates and your fans, because everyone else in the league hates playing you.

[To Marian Hossa]
Way to keep pressing on. The Detroit media was ready to skewer you after the Ducks went up 2-1 and all you did was have a monster Game 4 that gave your team enough momentum to put itself in a position to keep winning. If you don't break out in Game 4, your team might not be going to the Western Conference Finals.

[To Chris Osgood]
Everyone said you were the Achilles Heel, but you came up with some big saves. Maybe you weren't spectacular, but you did enough to win, and at this time of year, the only thing that counts is winning. You stood tall when your team needed you the most, and as you've shown before, you are more than capable of backstopping this team to another Cup.

[To the fans]
Good luck.

[To IAmJoe]
It was good working with you. Good luck blogging the next round. I hope you get your own blog up and running soon. You post good stuff.

[To Chris Chelios]
Anyone seen Chris Chelios?

[To Mike Babcock]
I never doubted you after the Edmonoton series three years ago. I couldn't doubt you now. You acquiesced, and made one change after the opening shift of Game 4. Good call.

[To Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary]
I was never afraid of Hossa or Datsyuk, not for a second. I was always afraid of the two of you. You proved me right.

[To Nicklas Lidstrom]
I remember being sad to hear rumors that you were talking about retiring in 1999, snubbed yet again for the Norris Trophy. Way to spend a decade making us all regret overlooking you. You set the tone in this series, and that's really all a captain needs to do with a good team.

[To Niklas Kronwall]
Good luck and good hits. Oh, and try to stay on your skates in the next series. Those guys are fast. You might come out on the wrong end of one of those Randy Savage Flying Elbows.

[To Jonathan Ericsson]
Even the best of the best have to fight for a roster spot on the Red Wings. So, I hope you know how much of a compliment it is when I tell you that you're the future of this team's defensive corps.

[To Darren Helm]
You were barely old enough to drink the champagne out of the Cup (in the US) when you lifted it, but I can tell you have the requisite heart to savor this success. Don't lose that, and don't let anyone take it from you.

[To Kris Draper]
A decade removed from The Grind Line, and it's still headline news that you're sidelined in a series. That's gotta warm a 37 year-old man's heart.

[To Chris Osgood]
Consistency is a young man's game. It's all about timing. Keep proving that.


Unknown said...

I love your ability to hate the Red Wings but still make a true hockey fan want to read your blog. I am a Red Wings fan but moreso a hockey fan. Great posts, and don't worry, most of Detroit remembers how hard the ducks played. Even if we hate Pronger/Niedermayer and Perry.

Anonymous said...

Wow, hats off to an incredibly classy post. I'm the rarest of breeds: born and bred in Anaheim, but have been a die-hard Wings fan since about age 14 (I got into hockey with the Kings first and then Yzerman became my favorite player; this all happened pre-Ducks). As you can imagine, I've gotten a lot of grief from both sides. I cannot say that I respect the tactics of the Ducks players (except for Selanne, Hiller and Giguere). But I respect their hockey talent and you as a fan. Keep up the good work.