Thursday, December 21, 2006

Secret pleasure: Gretzky in a huff

Edmonton Oilers 3
Phoenix "Awooo" 2

Back in town, back in business.

I've been in Browntown less than 24 hours, but getting back into the Edmonton thing is as easy as a hand slipping into a warm, moist hockey glove.

Lodging with the family certainly cramps my high-falutin style, especially since my parents' house instantly makes me feel like a 16 year-old, but damn if that isn't a full fridge full of nog, truffles and beer. As an added bonus, nothing balms a Toronto Oilers fan's diaspora like watching the Oilers in Edmonton with fellow members of my tribe.

I caught tonight's game at Motoraunt, a burger-joint-in-a-RV up by Fort Road over in the stabby part of town (if you down their 2 lb burger, and the next one's free). If if wasn't for the oxytocin rush of high grade beef and a late game-winning Petr Sykora goal, I may well have had a spazz in a snowbank over another game ruined by horrendous calls from the referees. Fast whistles, mystery whistles and phantom calls almost cost the Oilers the match, but the Oil finally ran into a team with a Powerplay that's as bad as ours (or, going 1 for 8, bad enough for us to win). Still, as homerish as it sounds on a homer weblog, the refs really seem to stick it in the Oiler fans craw this year. The calls were bad enough that I started to wonder if Wayne Gretzky's pal Rick Tocchet slipped a cool $50 under the ref's locker room game door before the game.

Any team that turns Zbynek Michalek into a Dickenisan work donkey (28-30 minutes a night!?) should be a team that the Oilers beat. But like Columbus, St. Louis or Chicago, Phoenix is the kind of team that we become generous with, often bestowing some unheralded rookie goaltender his first shutout or perhaps rewarding some Dennis Seidenberg-esque player with his first goal in 87 games. Nothing is taken for granted.

Of course, Oil fans know they're team is better, on paper and throughout most of the game -- as indicated by numerous scoring chances and shots off of the posts -- but sometimes even the most air-tight experiment fails to prove the hypothesis, as our better players fail to distinguish themselves from their slightly less good opponents (parity being what it is, even with a team that has Jeremy Roenick in the lineup).

Tonight, thankfully, this was not the case. Ales Hemsky, an Edmontonian Oiler until at least 2012, pretty much lifted the Oilers from the middling muck, making it safe for a fan to feel haughty again. Jarret Stoll and Petr Sykora too, along with that diabetic Punky Brewster sidekick, Toby Petersen.
But man, nothing beats Hemsky's talent. The Oilers have had pretty good teams for the last decade, but much of the individual players rested somewhere in the middle of the talent bell curve, maybe with the Doug Weights, Ryan Smyths and Curtis Josephs nudging towards the higher end (Chris Pronger? I'm just gonna keep ignoring him). Hemsky may be -4 on a given night, but he instantly makes the team better in a way Shawn Horcoff or Ethan Moreau are incapable of doing. Sykora? We bought him for his shot, and on this one night he was worth every penny.

A tip of the 32 ounce burger to the Oilers!


joninabox said...

What the hell, Jeremy Roenick was playing last night? On further inspection of the NHL stat sheet, he played a whopping 5:12 and was still -1. Hahahahaha, I eagerly await his next ill-tempered rant blaming the media for his piss-poor performance.

mike w said...

See if NHL fans were truly cynical or stupid, they'd be voting for Jeremy Roenick to go to the All Star Game.

MikeP said...

mike w - good idea.

*runs off to vote for JR*

MikeP said...


Stupid like a fox, or smart like a brick?

(Maybe just drunk like a Sleeman.)

You get to decide.

PB said...

The officiating was terrible last night - Chris Rooney is a horrible official. I always wonder exactly what game he watches when he is on the ice. It's much different from the one I see on television.

Since Jovo is out and Matt Jones is still green, Michalek got the minutes.

I would like to see the Coyotes that are on paper play in real has happened, but not often enough...