The Death of Hockey

The changes in the game that are turning it to slush

But hockey fans should look on the bright side. At least Fox's glowing puck is dead.

Maybe the perception that hockey has gotten really dismal is fueled by the condition of our local teams. In fact, you could argue that the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils represent the current sad state of hockey in microcosm.

Consider: the Rangers are 6-9-7 as we write this, in last place in whatever the hell the old Patrick Division is being called these days. They have Wayne Gretzky, still fabulous at age 37 and in his 21st year as a pro— a bit too reluctant to shoot, perhaps, but nevertheless distributing impossibly creative passes to teammates who always, always, miss the puck entirely, bumble it away with hands of cement, or fire it wide, high, weakly, or not at all. Alas, the Rangers are old, boring, and populated by far too many nondescript types who, in any other era, would be playing in the Central Hockey League. They represent all that is wrong with the NHL today.

On the Island, a once-proud organization plays before a sea of empty seats.
Stephen Lipuma
On the Island, a once-proud organization plays before a sea of empty seats.

No, the Islanders represent all that is wrong with hockey today. Their owners have thrown an absurd, months-long tantrum over the lease for the "antiquated" 26-year-old Nassau Coliseum, and now the club that once won four straight Stanley Cups with perhaps the greatest lineup ever assembled, plays before vast seas of empty seats. Before long, they, too, may be headed for some horrible new destination. Jacksonville? San Antonio? Utah?

Actually, it's the Devils that represent all that is wrong with hockey today. If a fan were to remember that the Devils exist and glance at the standings, he or she would find that they are in first place with a healthy 13-7-1 record, are among the league leaders in defense— and are among the least productive on the attack. This exciting team has found success by scoring a whopping 2.45 goals per game. As so many Garden Staters know intuitively anyway, boredom, tedium, and, um, tedium are a winning formula in New Jersey.

Well, gotta run. Tampa Bay vs. San Jose is on the TV. Don't want to miss that one.

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