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How to Ruin Hockey for Yourself: Part 1 – Really *WATCH* It


Here’s the first part of a many-part series that will explain how you can make sure to suck the joy right out of hockey season (and the off-season!). Make sure you are the smartest person on the internet when it comes to this sport, because it will get you a ton of money and success. And, failing that, you can learn to shrug off wisdom in favor of the most important thing ever: being right. Also a motorcycle. When the weight of being a complete curmudgeon causes your shoulders to permanently slump in to your chest, you’ll know that you’ve achieved your goal.

1 – Learn How to Really *WATCH* the Game

I used to think I watched hockey. Boy was I wrong. Roughly four times a week, some kind soul on Twitter will inform me that I, “clearly do not watch hockey.”

You can see how this might be confusing, right? I mean, I turn the game on, there are some guys floating on frozen water with knives on their feet, hacking away at a lump of coal from Venus or whatever, and every now and then they start throwing punches. Every fiber of my being tells me that that is hockey.

Pictured: Hockey?

But according to the wise sages among Buffalo Sabres fans, simply looking at the game means you’re missing something. There’s another level, something of Matrix-code or Inception-like proportions. There’s a game within a game, or behind the game. Or maybe two games being played on top of each other by inter-dimensional cross-bred gods using the human brain as a node or conduit through which to shape the galaxy, with some crazy physics happening in the middle, like that three-dimensional chess in Star Trek.

Wait. Aren't all chess boards three-dimensional?

Pictured: Hockey?
Wait. Aren’t all chess boards three-dimensional?

Either way, helpful souls keep informing me that I’m doing it wrong. You have to look deeper than the game that’s on television, or even going to a game live. Don’t use your foolish eyes to watch hockey. The game on the screen isn’t the real game, so watching it won’t give you any real information. Duh. Use your foolish heart…or your Crown Chakra, if children aren’t present. So the next step down the rabbit hole is to immerse yourself in the numbers of the game. There’s a site out there for every and any stat you could ever think of. Mathematics lives on a higher plane of reality (according to Plato, and look how that worked out for him) and it gives us a blow-by-blow of who has been more effective in what categories of the sport.

  • The National Hockey League’s official website provides a ranking of each players statistics on a season-by-season basis. This allows me to make informed statements such as “Drew Stafford was 100th in the league in 2011-12 with 50 points.” That’s a factual statement. That cannot be argued.
  • Yahoo! is horrible at delivering quality news, but Yahoo! Sports has excellent statistical tracking, even if their use of exclamation points bothers me. I don’t shout every time I visit the site. Nobody does. Regardless, they provide useful numbers such as Situational Stats, which allows me to say with confidence, “Drew Stafford failed to score a point in 8 separate arenas (and 11 games) in 2011-12.” This helps my case that Drew Stafford is overrated, but there are plenty of pesky numbers there that can still refute the case, so we’ll hold off on drawing conclusions.
  • Capgeek provides not only the detailed salaries of players, including their hit on the team salary cap, but also such useful tools as the Bargain Hunter, which can break down how many dollars a player earns per point, goal, hit, blocked shot…whatever statistic you want. So when I say, “Drew Stafford earned $1,000,000 for every game winning goal he scored in 2011-12,” you know it’s true. It’s not Leino-levels of bad, but it’s true.
  • How about fighting? You’re in luck, young bright-eyed hockey fan. HockeyFights keeps a record of how many fights a player has been in, including a voting base for who won those fights. So when I make the statement, “Drew Stafford has been in 4 regular season fights ever, and has won one of them (plus, psst…it was against R.J. “Heavyweight Record of 1-4-3” Umberger),” it’s all right there. Black and white fact.

There are more. There are a lot more. At any given point, 4 out of 5 dentists claim that there is a blogger for every single hockey team running a custom report through a compu-analyzer that can spit out numbers that prove their point. Empirical evidence be damned, the art here is to throw out numbers that make the guy I’m talking about look good in any way! I can’t stand that Drew Stafford guy because of his smug, one-sided smirk. So I’m going to ignore any good statistics I find, compile all the ones I think tarnish him, and make a bold statement:

Based on the herpa derp I bolded above, Drew Stafford is a bad investment for this team and should be traded for a Tim Horton’s gift card.

Wow! So I’m watching hockey f’reals now, right? Wrong! Hockey isn’t numbers, man. It’s not what the numbers tell you. It’s about grit and determination and leadership and grizzledness and beard growing and it’s clear that I still don’t watch hockey. And I mean W-A-T-C-H hockey.

Pictured: Is it hockey yet?
You get used to it. I don’t even see the statistics. All I see is blonde, brunette, reasons why Leino sucks…

Wait, grit? What the hell is grit? I’ve looked on all of those sites, and nowhere did I see “grit”! Since moving to the South 3 years ago, I’ve become familiar with what grits are (hint: they’re only good when mixed with an equal amount of butter) but what is grit in sports? Is it hitting? Or is it, like, hitting while growing a beard at the same time? Is it hitting somebody and brushing up against them and not using moisturizer so your skin is like sandpaper? Is that grit?

The truth is, grit is a complete mystery to the modern man. We know where it comes from, but we don’t actually know what it is…much like magnets. All of our technology and research into this “grit” phenomenon has only produced a map that shows where grit can be found in the world:

Red is grit.
Green is no grit.
The purple circle indicates a “grit black hole”.

Everyone that has told me that I don’t _”W.-A.-T.-C.-H.”_ hockey has made it clear. Grit’s either a “you got it or you don’t” thingamabobby. Maybe some day we’ll be able to put our disagreements over politics, economy, and religion aside and concentrate on finding out what makes a hockey player “gritty”. Then we’ll fight over getting that guy on our team.

It was a noble effort. But I’m still not watching hockey.

So now what we need to do is go down another level. Get under the ice. Get into the eyes of the players. Follow them on Twitter to get a feel for their everyday lives, so that we can berate them for wasting their time doing crap like “cleaning their kitchen” or “going to a funeral” instead of knuckling down and training for hockey! Make sure we remind them, every damn day, that they don’t earn the money they make. That if we made a fraction of what they made, we would try harder than they’ve ever known. After all, they sure as hell didn’t get where they are by trying. Ever.

We need to place ourselves in the very soul of every blue collar, chapped hands, runny nose worker who spends 16 hours a day laying down the ice, using a sledge hammer, and pulling on worn leather straps for no good reason so that we can feel that white hot burning intensity that makes us absolutely hate these millionaires that we tune in to watch every night. After all, for all I know I’ve bought natural gas services through Terry Pegula (it’s not like anyone can track what they purchase) which means I’ve given that Thomas Vanek bastard some minuscule percentage of his salary. So when I yell “SHOOT!” he better damn well listen because he’s buying things on my dollar!

BUT, we also need to look down from above, in order to get the grand scope of things. That’s right. You’ve got to be below and above at the same time. Are you starting to see why this is difficult? Being an armchair general manager is a heavy weight to bear, especially since nobody will ever listen to a single suggestion you ever make. Ever. (see #DoSomethingDarcy)

I’m sure there’s something very Nietzschean to be taken from that, and that’s very fitting since he believed that Mathematics lives on a lower plane of existence than reality (and look how that worked out for him). Screw numbers. Forget grit. You should be running the damn show because you can at least see the forest for the trees or think outside the box or [insert cliche here]. For instance, examine these facts:

  • Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff have never won a Stanley Cup. Ever. Lindy is 52 years old and Darcy is 54, which means they’ve had 106 years to get it done.
  • Thomas Vanek is lazy.
  • I have never, not once, seen Steve Ott score a goal as a Sabre.
  • I have never, not once, seen Ryan Miller score a goal as a Sabre.
  • I have never, not once, seen Tyler Myers work the concessions at intermission. Whatsamatter Mister Millionaire, you tired?

All this and more. Think about it! Why do you think we see the seating chart from high above, like Zeus looking down from Olympus? They want you to feel empowered! They want you to feel indignant! By Jove, they want you to feel a burning, seething loathing for all the privileged kids that are sucking your money away and never winning a single championship ever, so that you can dredge up stats that you can skew and bend the very Mathematics to your will!

Do you hate it yet!? Do you hate them yet!? Are you ready to unleash a torrent of rage against this team, vowing that you will not rest until you’ve convinced every single person that [player you hate] is the worst thing ever and that [someone gritty…probably Shane Doan?] is what this team needs!? ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? NO!?!?

Good. Now you’re watching hockey, you angry, bitter person.

Pictured: Hockey?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. brian jones permalink
    08/10/12 7:42 AM

    Dan…thank you for this post!
    I personally HATE the number crunching dweebs who smugly total up Player X’s Corsi-Fenwick ,-DaVinci Code- Fibonacci sequence stats and run them through the Mayan Calendar to tell us how many neutral zone faceoff wins better than any Western Conference 4th line role player he is, in any road game in the 4 weeks before the Trade Deadline…zzzzzzzzz.
    Usually the answer is given in gallons-per-minute as well.
    AND if our 88.082 strides per shift centerman isnt performing well…wait for it…’he has an affordable cap hit’…double aaargh!

    Thanks for the fresh air!

    • Dan permalink*
      08/10/12 9:22 AM

      Glad you enjoyed. Honestly, I love the numbers, and I love going through the stats and finding out who has the best history in which situations. But there are two things I try very hard to remember when doing that, and these practices keep the game enjoyable for me:

      1 – Stats are *history,* not a raw measure of talent. While history can indicate what a player may do again, it never ever means they *will* do it again. Brad Boyes was a 40 goal guy once, and Tim Thomas was a lowly backup goaltender. Past seasons can show us tendencies and give us some bearing on a direction that guys are headed, but it’s just a track record. It’s the past. Stats we see are over with already.

      2 – Nobody will ever listen to me unless I am, for some ungodly reason, hired by the Sabres (or other hockey team). I can put all the time and effort I want into giving a great argument for ditching Drew Stafford and trading for Valtteri Filppula, and it’s important for me to realize that _NOBODY_FUCKING_CARES. It’s actually liberating in a way.

  2. brian jones permalink
    08/10/12 7:43 AM

    ps…where in the South did you move?
    I am in Boone NC in the Blue Ridge Mtns…since ’01.

    • Dan permalink*
      08/10/12 9:18 AM

      Charlottesville VA since ’09. There is an ice rink and a league, so I guess that makes it a good town.

  3. 08/10/12 10:01 AM

    Thanks for this – it’s an awesome read!

  4. brendan permalink
    08/10/12 1:19 PM

    Great read, love that you made Vogl part of it! He’s the most negative guy ever.

  5. Fake Darcy permalink
    08/11/12 4:36 PM

    Can I get a copy of the grit map?

    • Dan permalink*
      08/13/12 11:11 AM

      When you start drafting guys from Manitoba instead of Latvia, maybe.


  1. How to Ruin Hockey for Yourself: Part 2 – Follow the Lockout « Black & Blue & Gold

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