Kadner: I’ve got no hockey knowledge to hawk
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2013 10:50PM
Columnist Phil Kadner says that as a "fake" hockey fan, he's not sure why a player can slam another into the boards and not have a penalty called against him. | AP photo
Updated: July 22, 2013 6:45PM
There’s nothing dumber than a sports fan who doesn’t have a clue.
That’s me, the reborn Chicago Blackhawks guy.
Hey, I stay up on the latest gossip. I listened to all the sports radio talk-show guys debate whether MaryAnne Hossa was soft when Hossa refused to play a few nights ago, although I did think it odd no one mentioned professional hockey had broken the gender barrier.
And I felt bad for Hawks captain Jonathan Toes, who was having problems scoring in the playoffs.
Despite my attempts to remain current on all things Blackhawks, I feel shame and guilt.
I know I am a fake fan.
I never played hockey and never followed it closely enough to understand the nuances of the game.
When I was growing up in Chicago, Blackhawks home games were always blacked out on TV.
Bill Wirtz, the owner, figured fans wouldn’t pay to see his team if they could watch the games for free at home.
That’s probably a big part of the reason I never understood hockey as well as I do baseball, football or basketball.
Baseball is the only one of those I played in an organized league. The others were sandlot adventures, pickup games played on school playgrounds, parks and Chicago streets.
Whenever I hear some football announcer claim an NFL wide receiver made a “sensational catch,” I think of Richie Evoy flying through the air, parallel to the ground, hands outstretched and skidding across the blacktop to bring in a pass on Kolin Avenue.
He came up bloody, but with the football. And he didn’t get paid a dime.
When it comes to being tough on the gridiron, I also think of my buddy Wayne Petersen running face-first into a tree as he evaded a tackler in a neighborhood park.
While none of these things gives a person a true understanding of what it’s like to perform in a professional sports arena, it does give you a little bit of insider knowledge about the game.
When it comes to hockey, I have no empathy with the players, no personal understanding of the strategy.
As a baseball fan, it drives me crazy when fake fans show up at the park when the White Sox are hot.
They stand on their feet and scream (Scream!) every time a routine fly ball is hit.
“Just watch the outfielder react,” I tell them, if you want to know if a batted ball has a chance at being a home run.
If the score of a game is nothing-to-nothing in the eighth inning, the know-nothings complain about how bored they are.
“Did you notice a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter?” I might ask.
There’s no use explaining baseball to people who are just there to eat hot dogs, drink beer and shout whatever words appear on the Jumbotron.
And then there are all the fans sitting at home who just repeat whatever a TV sports analyst says about a game 10 minutes after he says it.
“The Spurs need to push the ball in transition against the Magic,” such a TV fan will say.
Brilliant. The guy on TV just said those very same words.
“Oh, I didn’t hear him.”
Well, that’s now me with the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
My only frame of reference, the old Blackhawk teams of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall, is completely outdated.
Heck, goalies didn’t even wear masks back then.
Can you believe it? Men stood in front of a goal as other men slapped hockey pucks in the direction of their face at speeds of 90 mph.
No wonder Hall used to vomit between periods of every game.
The strategy of hockey has changed dramatically since that time, with defenders constantly throwing themselves on the ice to block shots before they even reach the goalie, giant humans standing in front of the net to obstruct the vision of the goalie and just about every player flashing abilities that used to be seen only in figure skating rinks at the Olympics.
While I can appreciate all that, I really understand nothing about the game.
That’s true of football and basketball to some extent, as well.
The entire thing about why fouls or penalties are called and when baffles me.
A guy can deliberately throw an elbow into the face of an opponent in basketball as he grabs a rebound and there’s no foul called.
But then another guy lightly taps a fellow on the wrist as he shoots the basketball and there’s a whistle.
In football, doesn’t every offensive lineman hold on every play?
Is the only point of that rule to allow football officials to make money from gamblers by impacting the point spreads on games?
In hockey, a player who sees an opponent skating after a puck can hit him from behind and smash him into the boards.
A player skating with the puck may be hit from the front by an opponent skating at full speed into him.
And five or six players can whack at each other’s feet, ankles and knees with hockey sticks while fighting for a puck against the boards.
But if a player tries to gracefully steal a puck away from another player with his stick and just happens to hook the opponent around the foot, tripping him by accident ...
Still, I cheer and jeer like a madman during these Blackhawk games.
I don’t know why Boston players keep showing up in front of the Hawks goal with no defender around them.
Nor do I understand why so often Hawks players pass the puck behind their own net when the only other player around seems to be an opponent.
All that really matters is that it is mid-June, the baseball teams stink, Derrick Rose is nowhere in sight, and football is still a long way off.
It may be nearing 90 degrees outside, but it’s hockey season in my house.
I’m just glad I don’t have to pretend to understand soccer.