Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hockey Memories

Roch Carrier as a young boy, wearing his shameful Maple Leafs sweater.

There is something forever about professional sports. They keep adding new teams; but you can generally ignore them. They start doing sissy things like wearing helmets. But even so, to watch a sports competition is to return somehow to your childhood. Like Christmas morning, or old Three Stooges shorts.

For me, of course, a Canadian, hockey is prime. The sound of a skate cutting ice; the red light behind the goal; the organ playing. I was recently reminiscing. What else can you do when you're bedridden? I started handing out imaginary trophies left and right, in the NHL tradition. But not to players. That would be boring. They'd all go to Wayne Gretzky. Besides, it's been done. To teams, on the PR front, rather than for feats on the ice.

Howie Morenz

Most iconic team: no debate here. It's like Wayne Gretzky. Montreal Canadiens, of course. Other teams have a certain storied history—Toronto, Detroit, Edmonton, Boston, NY Islanders—but no one else comes close. They may be in the same league, but they're not in the same league. The Canadiens are Harvard; and there is no Yale. They are Oxford; and there is no Cambridge. They are Eaton's, and there is no Simpson's. Actually, there's no Eaton's any more either.

Ottawa Silver Seven, 1905

Best logo: Chicago Blackhawks. An amazing work of art; it never gets old. Colourful, yet not garish. Not simple, yet not complex. Of course, they will probably soon be forced to retire it, because it shows an Indian head. Among other logos, the new Winnipeg Jets' symbol seems really classy to me. The St. Louis Blues logo is simple, but strong. New Jersey's is pretty cool. Buffalo's is elegant. 

Chicago logo.
Of the original six, the worst logo was always New York Rangers. It is really no logo at all. Can't afford a designer? More recently, Calgary Flames is pretty weak. The flame motif worked well with the letter “A” for Atlanta, but looks juvenile with “C.” Carolina Hurricanes is worst among newer teams. It looks like something from a cheap 1950s paperback cover when they could only afford two colours of ink. Pittsburgh Penguins' strikes me as embarrassing to have showing on your chest. Granted, Anaheim Ducks' logo also looks cartoonish, but that is okay, because it is intentional. I don't like the Ottawa Senators' logo. Too generic. Are they sponsored by Roman Meal? 

Gretzky as a Ranger.
The logo is not too bad, but Edmonton Oilers should take some sort of prize for the ugliest uniform. Really. It's not Hallowe'en. Vancouver Canucks used to rule this category, and Edmonton used to have a rather nice uniform. But then, they used to win hockey games. How can you take yourself seriously, dressed like a pumpkin?

My trophy for the best team name goes to Buffalo Sabres. That captures something. Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils are also pretty cool. They make rich references to local history and legend, instead of just naming another sports team after another mangy animal.

Worst team name: Columbus Blue Jackets. Is that a name, or just a description of the uniform? Of course, if the latter, it is wrong. Hockey teams do not wear “jackets.” I've also never liked “Edmonton Oilers.” Profoundly unoriginal, since they are predated by the Houston Oilers of the NFL. Anyway, whats an “oiler”? An Italian teenager getting ready for a date?

Most lamented team: Montreal Maroons. New York and LA. have multiple teams. Toronto and Montreal could certainly support them too. Could be great rivalries. In the old days, Montreal Maroons were the Anglo Montreal team, and the Canadiens were the French. Sadly, that tribe is mostly gone, and they would probably lack a sufficient fan base. But they would be my team, anyway. 

Nels Stewart, Montreal Maroons

I lamented the Minnesota North Stars' move, too. It was a great team name, and an obvious hockey market. Now, of course, they have been replaced in the Twin Cities by the Wild. The market is again served, but it is still an inferior team name. Quebec Nordiques were also a massive loss, for the sake of the rivalry with Montreal. I hope they are revived in the next expansion. Quebec was part of the NHL from the beginning. I also miss the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in operation? Who knew?

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