Preamble: First, I’m not supposed to have emotional attachments, since the team that imprinted upon me in childhood, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were bridesmaided out of the 8th playoff spot by the New York Islanders.
But it’s just not that simple. See, of the teams that are left, many of them have a disagreeable je ne sais quoi about them, and it makes it hard to be impartial because they are, for reasons you can’t express, bothering you.
The Devils, for example. I like Martin Brodeur, sort of. I don’t exactly hate anyone else on the team. They’re gritty, and they play that maddeningly frustrating defensive playoff hockey (chip up boards, muck about in neutral zone, dump it in, bang bodies, get possession, score once a half hour). Lots of beards and black eyes and guys with working-class names like Madden and Pandolfo and Gomez. But can I root for them? No.
I’d root for the Sabres, since I used to watch them slog around at the Aud when I was an acned young lad, but Lindy Ruff is always kind of churlish or bitching about refereeing, and they’re sort of favorites now, what with the #1 seed and all. Given NYC vs. Buffalo, one has to root for the rust belt, but it all feels like some New York State intramural final, with Eliot Spitzer waiting around to award plaques at the banquet.
In the west there are two bona-fide plucky underdogs, the Sharks and the Canucks; only the Canucks just got bounced by the Ducks, and the Sharks, though tied 2-2 in their series with the D’Wings, are showing ominous signs of being outplayed (going 31-41 on the draw, being outshot 49-27, that sort of thing).
My good friend is a Ducks fan, since DisneyConglomerateCorpIncWorldwide franchised an expansion team way back when and named it after a comedy with Emilio Estevez, then rebranded the team, removing the absurd adjective “Mighty” from the team name, leaving the only slightly less absurd Anaheim Ducks. (Anahiem averages 13 inches of rain a year. Oregon is duck country, since Eugene gets 51 inches a year. If the team were called the Anaheim Water-Guzzling Rodents, I might buy merchandise.)
But my friend’s dad had season tickets, and the two of them paid their dues, going to games and forming 2/18,000ths of a loyal fan base. (Only if you looked through the glass at game 5 of a conference semifinal, you’d see a remarkable number of empty seats.)
But where was I? Ah, I dunno. I’m just waiting for some team to do something that’s actually exciting … but again, there I go with the emotions.