Right as we were getting on the plane from Dallas to SFO on Saturday night, the wife and I were graciously offered free tickets from our friend’s work to tonight’s San Jose Sharks game. Um, yes please. Is there a better phrase in the English language than “work tickets”? They never suck. They’re always in an awesome section with a great view, because the big corporate guys want to impress their clients with money they should be spending on employees and equipment.
Plus, they’re also the cool season tickets with a photo of one of the players, not one of those lame generic tickets you get from a Ticketmaster outlet, or (even worse) when you print tickets online and you have to carry some stupid piece of paper around. Now what kind of ticket is that? I can’t save that in my shoebox, I’ll just think it was some bill and throw it away later, especially after it’s been crumbled up in my pocket for six hours.
The Sharks face the Chicago Blackhawks, which to a guy like me who watched a good deal of playoff hockey but almost none this season sounds like a tremendous rematch between last year’s Western Conference finalists (when the Blackhawks swept the Sharks before winning their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
However, after spending the last two months planning for a wedding, focusing on the Giants when it comes to this blog for obvious reasons, getting married and then spending two weeks watching nothing but the surf and HBO Plus in a hotel room, early regular season NHL wasn’t really a priority. Sorry. As a result, I didn’t realize the Sharks are 11th in the Western Conference, with Chicago in 7th.
Que the music: Dun Dun Dunnnnnnn!!!
Just kidding, it really means very little, and not just because the NHL regular season has less to do with playoff success than in any other North American professional league. Just ask the Washington Capitals.
(Side note: I know this is breaking new ground in the same way complaining about the BCS is, but the NHL really has 30 teams? They really need teams in Atlanta, Carolina AND Nashville? Florida needs two teams? L.A. and Anaheim both need teams? Actually, considering the Islanders are 2nd-to-last in attendance and are the worst team in the league, does N.Y. need two teams? Isn’t the NHL not becoming a 24-team league one of the most obvious blunders in pro sports right now?)
The Sharks are 9-6-4, and they’re only 1 point out of the playoffs and 6 points behind Conference-leading Detroit. They’re pretty decent at home (6-3-2) and average on the road (3-3-2). Their goal differential is +3. They’re an average team right now, but they’ve been a dominant regular season team for years and haven’t made the Stanley Cup Finals yet. Maybe they can finish 7th in the Conference and get there, like Philly did last year.
So anyway, I’m going into this totally blind. I know Chicago’s 2010 postseason goaltender extraordinaire Antti Niemi went to the Sharks, and he’s totally sucked. 2nd-to-last in save percentage (.878), 3rd-to-last in Goals Against (3.91), and a record of 2-4-1. However, we probably won’t see Niemi tonight, as Antero Niittymaki (another Finnish goalie) is in the top half of all goalies this year in both categories. I also read that the Sharks’ offense has been pretty stagnant so far, which is why they’re coming off a 3-0 loss to Columbus (another city that probably shouldn’t have a team).
UPDATE: Niemi is going to face his former team tonight. Hmmmm….
OK, enough of the stuff you could have found out yourself doing five minutes of internet research. If you can’t tell, I’m trying to research things myself before attending the second NHL game of my life, six years after the first one (a forgettable 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers). While that experience didn’t convince me to spend the money and the time to drive down to San Jose and attend another game until tonight (and that’s only because our friend Chad’s WORK TICKETS), I remember even that boring-ass game being a blast to watch.
The rink looks smaller in person, you see fights behind the play that you don’t catch on TV, and there’s so much great white-people music going on. AC-DC for days. Even Iron Maiden if you’re lucky. I’m guessing there will be a fair amount of Godsmack tonight, which is tolerable. As long as the Arena DJ doesn’t dip into his Nickelback collection, we’ll be OK.
What I remember most about my one and only live hockey game was how I felt like I was transported to a different era, when John Candy and Rick Moranis ruled the theaters and being Canadian was really cool. And I love Canada! How could you not? Montreal is like Paris without the attitude, and Toronto is like a cool East Coast city, only much cleaner. Vancouver’s supposed to be cool, although I’ve only spent 12 hours there so I can’t really judge. And the forests in Canada are so beautiful and pristine that being there makes me feel like my upbringing in Humboldt County made me a yuppie before I even moved to San Francisco. And after getting back from Mexico a little less than a week ago, it’s cool that my fiance and I will get to see the Great White North in our own backyard.
I’m rooting for the Sharks tonight, but in truth I’m looking to dive headfirst into hockey but never wanted to do it when the Sharks were really good and breezing past 100 points in the regular season with ease. That is some lame bandwagoning. It would be like living in Fort Worth and becoming a Dallas Mavericks fan last season. No, I want to like the mediocre Sharks squad that somehow destroys every team in the playoffs after grabbing the 8th spot. Now that’s some sweet bandwagoning, right there.