Hockey Monkey

Sorry for the lack of posting, but my beloved New York Islanders made the decision very late in the season to play like a hockey team that actually wanted to win. And so, for the last week or so, I have devoted more time than advisable invested in the greatest annual sports spectacle--the NHL playoffs.

As this year's March Madness proved, that whole tournament can drag when everything follows form. And the pro basketball playoffs don't do much for me either. Football playoffs are enjoyable enough, but the lack of a series takes out a lot of the excitement. And I love baseball, but there will always be too much time-dragging in the postseason to inspire true fanaticism. Hockey, with its promise of seemingly endless, edge-of-your-seat, sudden death overtimes and rugged desperation, has always been the sport most likely to deliver at season's end. So, even with the Islanders' hopes of beating the #1 seed Buffalo Sabres very slim, I plunked down the $68 for a halfway decent seat at the Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 of the series.

True, football is the only sport other than hockey where I have witnessed a playoff game in person (and that was when I was, I think, 9), but I can't imagine that anything can beat a full Nassau Coliseum shouting and waving rally towels as the Islanders take the ice for a playoff game. Of course, because they're the Islanders, they took that energy, wrapped it all up, and wound up losing by a goal because their power play is laughably bad, Alexei Yashin is the slowest, most useless Russian in Long Island since Nikolai Volkoff (OK, he was technically born in Croatia, but I can't pass up a WWF reference) walked down the aisle at Nassau Coliseum, and, sure, the referees made some bad calls (note to refs: offensive zone penalties should only be called with under two minutes left in a playoff game if someone is murdered, and certainly not when someone trips over his own skate). But that comes with the territory of being an Islanders fan, or at least one with a memory of the disastrous 1990s, with its Fishsticks jersey, inept and occasionally criminal front-office management (see Spano, John), and the horrible, wasted first-round draft picks (Dave Chyzowski, Scott Scissons, and, the crowning achievement, Brett Lindros [51 games, 7 points, 3 concussions]). When you've suffered through all that, you expect the worst, and you rationalize that just making the playoffs is cause for rejoicing. Of course, winning a series before I die would be nice.

Still, even when the Isles don't win, being in the middle of an exciting NHL playoff game and wading through the drunk, mentally unhinged Islanders fans in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot after the game is an experience that cannot be topped. Last night's adventure saw a group of Sabres fans screaming "White trash!" at the Isles fans, which elicited a screeching response from a young lass who ended her tirade with a few words that would have also led to Imus's dismissal; a ten-year-old holding back his mother (grandmother?) from attacking a group of Sabres fans as she shouted, "Wheah's ya f**kin' bannuhs? Wheah's ya f**kin' bannuhs?"; and a car almost lose its undercarriage as it tried to ascend over a median in an attempt to take a shortcut out of the parking lot. Hockey fans are easily the most entertaining people in the world.

With the Isles now down 2-1 and the Rangers looking like they'll advance easily to Round 2 (and, God help us all, maybe beyond), it may not be long before the playoffs lose some of their allure for me this year. But at least I got to see a game. You gotta take those when you can as an Isles fan. And, hey, at least I got to see this five years ago:

Greatest live sports moment of my life. And that's why I will always perk up when the Isles make the playoffs. Hopefully they can make some more good memories this year. I could use the $68 I would save by not going to another playoff game, but I don't need the abuse from Rangers fans. No one needs that.

Let's go Islanders.

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