Friday, January 7, 2011

So you've become a hockey fan: Gary Bettman's post-Winter Classic FAQ

If you're a terrible commissioner and you
know it, karate chop an invisible midget.
After months of anticipation, the 2011 outdoor Winter Classic has come and gone. Thanks in part to HBO's behind-the-scenes 24/7 Penguins/Capitals documentary, this year's version of the NHL's showcase event was a big win for the league -- the most watched regular season game in the United States in over 30 years.

Great. So what now? How does the NHL capitalize on that success?

It won't surprise fans to learn that Gary Bettman has a plan. While I can't reveal my sources, I've come into possession of a top secret memo that Bettman recently sent to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

Well Bill, the Winter Classic looks like it was an unqualified success. The ratings were fantastic, the fans had a great time, and the HBO 24/7 series was a huge hit. I think it's safe to assume that we'll be seeing a massive influx of new fans any day now.

To help our new fans understand the NHL, I took the liberty of putting together a list of frequently asked questions. Please give it a once over, and then have a copy mailed to every household in the United States. Overnight delivery. Thanks.

Commissioner Bettman, I really enjoyed the Winter Classic and 24/7, and am now considering becoming an NHL fan. However, I find the sport very confusing and I'm having trouble figuring out what's going on.
You and me both! But don't worry, it's easy enough to figure out if you sit through a few games, I'm told. And just to make it as simple as possible, I'll be glad to walk you through any questions you may have.

First things first: Are there other NHL teams besides the Penguins and Capitals?

Wait, really?
OK, sure, in the strictest technical sense there are other teams in the league. In addition to the Penguins and Capitals, there are also the Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Blackhawks and… um… the Lakers. Look, it really doesn't matter. Just pay attention to the Penguins and Capitals and everyone will be happy.

Cool, so both those teams will have long playoff runs?
You know what, maybe just focus on the Penguins.

OK, so I'm watching my first post-Classic hockey game. What are the key differences I should be looking for?
Well, for one thing the game is indoors. The coaches aren't dressed like characters from an Archie comic. And there's a good chance that there's only a few hundred people in the stands. Other than that, though, it's pretty much the same.

Wait, did you say the game is indoors? Because it looks like it's raining even harder than it was at the Classic.
You must be watching a Devils home game. Those are the fans' tears.

Why is the puck sliding all around in this game instead of bouncing around randomly like a ping pong ball?
That's what happens when the games are played on a substance called "ice", instead of a slushy mess. It can make the game pretty boring, since the puck always goes where the players are trying to make it go. But don't worry, by the time the playoffs get here everything will be back to how you're used to.

I enjoyed the Winter Classic, but why was it played at night? I much prefer watching sports in the afternoon.
I know, right? Never fear, the Winter Classic was only played at night because of last-minute weather concerns. Rest assured that every other NBC game you ever see will take place in the afternoon.

Awesome! Even when it starts getting hot and all my neighbours are outside barbecuing and having fun?
Especially when it starts getting hot and all your neighbours are outside barbecuing and having fun!

One thing I didn't appreciate about 24/7 was all the swearing. Will I have to put up with that during every NHL game?
No. HBO aired uncensored clips of players and coaches, but those are never included in typical NHL broadcasts. You won't have to worry about being assaulted by a stream of increasingly frantic f-bombs during a regular game, unless you happen to be sitting next to a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

Toronto? There are teams in Canada?
Next question!

OK Gary, bottom line: I'm a busy sports fan and I have to be pretty selective with what I watch. Why should I become an NHL fan? What can your league offer me that other sports can't?
We play the most beautiful game ever created. No sport has ever combined speed, strength, grace and brutality the way hockey does. Our players are the toughest in the world, we have a rich history, and we compete for the greatest trophy in all of sports.

Um… Did I mention we got Stan Lee to draw a bunch of ridiculous superhero characters for all the teams?

I'm in!
Welcome aboard!


  1. "You know what, maybe just focus on the Penguins."
    Even as a Caps fan, that made me laugh. Jerk. :)

    PS Your photos and captions are always awesome, but this one was super-duper-extra awesome!

  2. The caption for the pic is wrong. That's a "judo chop".

    Go LAKERS... er LEAFS... GO!

  3. characters from an Archie comic ... YES! :)

  4. Next question! And the blast on those atrocious superheros.... you have one upped yourself again DGB.

  5. Well played, fatal flaw though:
    "Toronto? There are teams in Canada?"

    You're giving us 'mericans too much credit that we know Toronto isn't a mythical place and is actually in Canada. I had to wiki it myself.

  6. "One thing I didn't appreciate about 24/7 was all the swearing. Will I have to put up with that during every NHL game?"

  7. The ice on the Rideau Canal was better than the Winter Classic

  8. Hilarious and scarily close to the truth.

  9. I wished coaches dressed like they were from Archie comics all the time.

  10. "Toronto? There are teams in Canada?
    Next question!"

    Yep that's Bettman alright!

  11. "Cool, so both those teams will have long playoff runs?
    You know what, maybe just focus on the Penguins." - LMAO!

    ~ cheers...

  12. Oh, Scott, your tears are so yummy.

  13. Perfection, as usual, except I imagine Bettman only has one answer for what the NHL can offer fans that other sports can't: Crosby.

    I can't see Bettman being as poetic about hockey as you depicted him in the response.

  14. Yeah, just focus on the Pens, and Gary will be happy. - Gary Bettman.

  15. Hey, who took off my ultimate fighting/poker/eating contest/watching paint dry on Versus and replaced it with the NHL?

  16. Dude, you consistently are providing great comedy and excellent insight. I've recently started following the NHL and you have been a large part of that. I hope the NHL is giving you a %. (haha)