The last time the NHL played a game in London, England was in 1993, when the Rangers swept the Maple Leafs in two exhibition games at the Wembley Arena. The 14-year gap between those games and the regular season contests the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will play this weekend at The O2 Arena was a blessing in disguise for hockey fans: "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" came out in 1997, so the inevitable presence of noted puckhead Mike Myers trotting out his well-worn "Yeah Baby!" schtick to promote these games was successfully avoided. (As were an unending parade of double entendres involving high-sticking, I imagine.)
With that, we begin our look at what the media and blogosphere are saying about this landmark hockey event, which will be broadcast in the U.S. on HDNet, the network that recently made headlines for being so obscure that it drove its most notable employee, Dan Rather, litigiously insane.
Speaking of insane, here's a thought from Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker about how this trip to London could cause the Ducks to miss the playoffs:
The point is that the Ducks would have been far better equipped to do this last year. There are too many complications this time around. We all remember them as this destructive hockey machine, because that's how they looked in Game 5 of the Finals, but in truth the Ducks only clinched home ice on the next-to-last day of the regular season and finished only six points ahead of seventh-place Minnesota, with the same number of victories.If any member of the Anaheim Ducks uses two games in London -- in October -- as an excuse for missing the postseason in April, he should turn in his stick, take his skates and sign up to play the Ashley Tisdale role in "High School Musical on Ice." The Ducks could use the cap room.
Carolina won the Cup in 2006 and didn't make the 2007 playoffs. More ominously, the White Sox won the '05 World Series and lost only one postseason game in doing it. This year, with many of the same players, they're 24 1/2 games out of first place. Not much has to go wrong to scatter a season. The Ducks, a franchise originally based on a marketer's fantasy, should have remembered that all their decisions should be based on whether they help win hockey games.
NHL.com, meanwhile, has dispatched senior writer Shawn P. Roarke to London for coverage and hi-jinks, where he found some similarities between hockey hardware and British crown jewels. NHL.com blogger and Kuklas Korner czar Paul Kukla, meanwhile, offered a beginner's course for British hockey newbies:
Fighting is part of the game. Heck, some of the players who were involved in a fight just might be seen with each other sharing a "pint" after the game. It is part of the game, always will be, and the fans watching the game on TV back in North America, will be drawn off their couch. That is the way it is and the way we want it to be.Orland Kurtenblog, the irreverent blog of the Vancouver Province, also offers an educational experience: A short quiz about English culture. Sample prose: "10. Canadians love to put maple syrup on their pancakes. The English love to put ________ on their ________. "
(An aside: How great is it that mainstream newspaper blogging has gotten to the point where a Gary Bettman interview with the Canadian Press is presented with the headline "Bettman Speaks, Says Dumb Stuff" and features a photo of The Count from "Sesame Street?")
Finally, the amazing Joe Pelletier, Hockey History Blogger, presents a brief history of NHL games played overseas and offers some interesting thoughts about the European expansion Bettman floated this week:
NHL expansion into Europe, for all of its logistical nightmares, is exciting and makes some sense. And while we're closer now than we ever have been, I've been reading and hearing about European based NHL teams "in the not so distant future" since the late 1960s. 40 years later and nothing is close.Head back here Thursday for Part Deux of Puckingham Palace, in which I interview a 21-year-old lifelong resident of the U.K. that somehow fell for the NHL and will be seeing his first live game at the O2 this weekend.
I really hope the day does come, and in my lifetime. To do it they'd probably have to drastically alter the NHL as we know it, as Vancouver to Moscow home and home series' would suck.
But when they do finally venture across the Atlantic, I hope they can somehow incorporate the legendary teams that have existed for years. I'm not sure how European fans would feel, and I doubt logistics would allow for it, but I think it would be awesome if CSKA Moscow, HC Davos, Jokerit, and Modo were part of the National Hockey League.