It’s been two years since the Stanley Cup playoffs were in full swing, and it’s great having hockey back. For all the hockey naysayers out there, I would ask them to watch any playoff game and not feel the excitement. Of all the four major sports, the NHL has the greatest jump in intensity from the regular season to the playoffs.
This year, my beloved Sharks went on a great late-season run to finish fifth in the western conference and drew Nashville in the first round. After listening to San Jose lose its opening game last Friday, I decided to show my support my growing a playoff beard.
For those unfamiliar with one of the greater traditions in sports, a playoff beard is basically NHL players not shaving for as long as their team is alive in the playoffs. These guys are usually very superstitious by nature and want any edge they can get. So being the idiot that I am, I decided to support the Sharks by not shaving until they are eliminated.
The reaction has been mixed. A few people on my team at work like my feeble attempt at a beard (either that or they were just being nice). One funny exception is my boss. She hadn’t seen me since I started it last week, and stopped by my cube yesterday. The first thing she said was, “Are you all right? You look terrible!” I admit it looked kind of ratty at first, so I shaved my neck to clean it up a little. I think it still looks awful, but the Sharks are 3-0 since I started.
Photo: Gotta support the team (click at your own risk for a close-up)
As the NHL regular season is nearly over, it seems to me that the media has already decided that Jaromir Jagr will win the Hart Trophy as the MVP. This amuses me, since he might not lead the league in scoring when all is said and done. Jagr is a great player and has turned his career around after being awful in Washington, but he has the fortune of being one of the few transcendent stars the NHL has left.
The scoring total will probably go to Joe Thornton, who has been a huge asset since San Jose acquired him from Boston earlier this year. At the time, I wasn’t sure that giving up on up-and-comers like Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart was the way to go, but there is no denying Thornton’s positive affect on the team. Most notably, Jonathan Cheechoo has been the beneficiary of playing with Thornton and leads the league in goals with 54 (two more than Jagr, by the way), and has scored five hat-tricks this season. Although, it doesn’t help Thornton or Cheechoo that they play on the same team and therefore steal votes from each other.
So Jagr will win the award because he plays in New York on one of the original six teams and enjoys the favorable east coast bias. San Jose still is seen as one of the early expansion teams in the ’90s that led the NHL down the over-expansion path. I think that’s unfair, since the most recent round of expansion (Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota and Columbus) was the breaking point when the NHL should have considered moving teams as opposed to creating new ones.
Deep down, the NHL has to hope that Jagr somehow reclaims the scoring and goal titles, and the league wants to hitch its wagon to an established star, and all the hockey purists will cringe to see a warm-weather team have the NHL’s leading point- and goal-scorer.Photo: Cheechoo has been busy this season
The apartment search
With a full-time job secured, I’ve begun an apartment search. After living in student apartments for the last two years, it’s time to move up in the world. So I’ve started to look for places outside “the student ghetto,” as those not affiliated with the university love to call it. But outside of being off-campus, I’m really not that picky. I just want something that’s nice and in a decent location. A bonus would be having a gym on site, as well as laundry and free parking, but those would be perks. The one deal-breaker is a dishwasher. My campus apartment didn’t have one, and I swore that I don’t want to do dishes by hand again any time soon.I’ve got a few front-runners, but I haven’t done any on-site visits yet; those will probably start next week. I don’t have a timetable, but I would like to have one picked out by the end of the month, because U-M’s winter term ends at the same time and I’m banking on some apartments opening up.