I was originally going to write about Nationwide Arena tonight, but as I tuned into Hockey Night in Canada, I was chagrined to learn that it was Doug Gilmour night at the ACC. Well, that’s a lie. I didn’t learn that the Killer was being honoured tonight, I had heard about it, but it had slipped my mind. Otherwise, I would have watched the Stars in HD instead. And that has nothing to do with personal reasons either. Quite simply, pre-game ceremonies are the worst thing ever.
There was a time in my life where tickets to the Leafs’ home opener was a coveted thing. I was a stupid child, as so many children are, and thought that those few extra minutes of ceremonial drivel were well worth the struggle of acquiring the tickets. As I grew up so, too, did the ceremonies. They became glitzier, more elaborate, and much, much longer. However, as I matured, I began to notice the negative effects these gimmicks had on the game.
Pre-game ceremonies suck the life right out of the building. A couple specific games stand out in my mind. Five years ago, both Gary Roberts and Tom Fitzgerald celebrated their 1000th NHL game on the SAME night (January 13th, 2004). That was a long night. The Leafs were playing the Flames, and seeing as Roberts is a former Flame, the Calgary organization also felt the need to honour him in their own way, thereby delaying the puck drop even more. The game was slow and the crowd was completely hushed. Not that quietness is an uncommon trait in the Toronto fan caricature, but on this night the Air Canada Centre was unseasonably silent. At one point, I heard a guy ask, “Why is everyone so quiet?” The strange thing about this was that he was sitting on the other side of the ice. It was THAT quiet! My date that night was completely ruined!
It’s not just the fans that are emotionally drained by this sentimental, Precious Moments-esque vomit, the energy and competitive edge seems to be lacking from team play as well. I suppose it’s hard to feel animosity toward your opponents after having your heart strings pulled by the crafty Game Ops department. Plus, chances are there are some childhood fans on the opposing squad that are buying right into the special presentation video synchronized to the likes of Barbera Streisand.
Another notable is Tie Domi’s 1000th pre-game spectacular on March 3rd, 2006. The Leafs organization is now a couple years older, plus they had that entire Lock Out season to do nothing BUT brainstorm new ways to put on a show. This was the LONGEST pre-game ceremony I have EVER seen. It began like any other milestone presentation: a couple announcements, a video montage, and the presentation of a keepsake commemorating Domi’s 1000th game. But there was one horrific difference – they gave him a mic! And he talked, and talked, and talked, and talked, and talked, and talked, and talked some more. He said things like, “I consider you all my friends,” which sparked much sarcasm around the rink that night. Apparently, Domi is a bit of an a-hole and won’t sign anything that isn’t NHLPA approved. Anyway, I don’t know how long his “speech” went on for exactly, but it felt like years.
Of course, in the cases of these 1000th game milestone nights, I was lucky to be at the rink instead of watching from home. Had I been home I would have had to endure both the ceremony AND sappy TV spots like only CBC knows how to do. I was not so lucky tonight. I sat through a lot of painful crud like tours of Dougie’s house in Kingston, and his cottage, and his new office as Head Coach of the Kingston Frontenacs – fuuuun. However, I couldn’t flip the channel. I was glued to the screen by some strange sensation that can only be described as a giddy dry heave.
MLSE proved once again to be on a never-ending quest to improve their ceremonies, as tonight there was another first. Not only did they give Gilmour a mic, they also dressed up every single one of the players in his #93 captain’s jersey. I’m not sure what effect this ceremony had on the quality of the game (I was too busy putting my aunt’s kids to bed), but I saw many a starry-eyed Maple Leafs staring up at the jumbotron reminiscing on their pee wee happy days where they considered Dougie their hero – awwww. Last I saw, it was 3-1 Leafs over Pens going into the third. Unfortunately, then the St. Louis/Philly game came on…and it was in HD…so you know…priorities.
In other news, Curtis Joseph is still a DILF! That is all.