9 October 2011

NHL Premiere 2011 in Stockholm

My usual précis (French word, meaning "list compiled by lazy writer unable, unwlling to construct paragraphs") of the NHL's latest Europansy expedition, following on from my attendance at games in Stockholm in 2009 and Prague last year.  This year, a team I'm actually bothered about!

New York Rangers 2-3 (OT) Los Angeles Kings, 7 October 2011
  • What is Swedish for "Far too many Crosby jerseys?"
  • In contrast to the policies put in place by the draconian concourse police in Prague, again I am actually free to enter the lower bowl during warmups without creating a major security crisis.
  • Unlike last time in Stockholm, there is no game night presentation to speak of and no sign of the internationally acclaimed Bullet or Backyard Babies to provide live music pre-game, presumably victims of the European financial crisis. A scheduling clash with his Unicef humanitarian endeavours in a foreign land again robs us of an appearance from Scandic beats colossus, Basshunter.
  • An wholly unreasonable 100kr once more secures me (suckers me?) a match(es) programme, once more almost entirely in Swedish, bar what will stay unread forewords from the charasmatic Messrs Bettman and Fehr.
  • Despite the language barrier, I'm fully on board with the sentiments of the Canadiens' season preview:
  • For the player introductions, large crowd reactions for Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Erixon and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen on the Rangers side, only really anything for former SEL player, Anže Kopitar for the Kings.
  • Notionally a Kings home game in the record books, but despite the presence of the team mascot, the Rangers' P.A. announcer and a significant disparity in fans make it sound otherwise. There are even a couple of half-hearted airings of the "Potvin sucks" chant.
  • Among the crowd and featured on the big screen at various points: Mats Sundin (similar ovation to two years ago), Markus Näslund (similar strangely disinterested expression as two years ago), Ulf "Reason why Potvin sucks" Nilsson, Kent Nilsson, Anders Hedberg and Mattias Norström.
  • As far as the game goes...the Kings dominate the first period completely but the Rangers somehow escape at 1-1, mostly thanks to Lundqvist.  Kopitar, the best skater all game, scores off a Callahan giveaway ending up with roughly 27 Rangers face down on the ice, our glorious leader tying it up from a bad angle.
  • Marián Gáborík shovels one home in the third at the end of a great shift by Brad Richards, earning him an assist and already the title of most successful UFA signing in franchise history.
  • As is customary, NHL Commissioner of Respect and V.P. of Public Sobriety, Mike Richards scores against the Rangers to tie it up late, mostly thanks to Michael Del Zotto failing to tie him up late.
  • Ryan McDonagh takes a slightly careless offensive zone penalty in OT, with more than a little help from a world class dive from Willie Mitchell, whose leg functionality is somehow directly and completely related to the muscles in his left shoulder.  Jack Johnson scores the winner, Brandon Dubinsky and his obliterated stick express mild consternation at the referee's penalty call.  Meh.
 New York Rangers 1-2 (SO) Anaheim Ducks, 8 October 2011
  • A more visible and audible block of Ducks fans in attendance than was seen from the Kings contingent, but still a heavily blue colour to the crowd.
  • Clear from the player introductions that even Swedes like Teemu Selanne.
  • After the Zambonis exit prior to the start and the teams line up for the anthems, from above, the wide expanse of gleaming white surface reflecting the house lights is always an impressive sight. Then Ryan Getzlaf puts his helmet back on and we're ready to go.
  • As well as some of the ex-players we saw yesterday, we see former Ranger Jan Erixon (father of current Ranger Tim Erixon, who is son of former Ranger, Jan Erixon), the bloke out of Roxette, who earns a surprisingly enthusiastic response, and the Swedish soccerball squadron, apparently fresh off a rivalry match-up against Findusland in the EuroSoccerPansy play-in tournament.
  • I'm sat a mere three rows behind the Swedish TV announcers, including Calle Johansson (Washington Capitals fans: Google "Calle Johansson").
  • As advertised, the Ducks top line of Andrew Cogliano, Andrew Gordon and veteran Devante Smith-Pelly prove tough to stop, Cogliano opening the scoring off a well-Emingerneered rush.
  • Getzlaf and Gáborík manage to upset each other off the play for some reason. One benefit of the relatively benign atmosphere in the arena is the unexpected ability to hear from the second tier Getzlaf call Gáborík a "pizza shed" (I think) across the benches.
  • Not much at all to note from a pretty useless game - nice to hear a couple of awesome Lundqvist saves elicit a big crowd response, but probably a sign that the game is going the wrong way.
  • Brad Richards saves a point late in the third after a quiet game, before opting to leave the puck at center ice for his SO attempt.  The Ducks win in sudden death thanks to Bobby Ryan majorly whiffing on the puck, the change up beating Lundqvist.