It’s fast and furious, and thanks to last year’s electrifying playoffs, as well as lethal new stars and venomous rivalries, today’s game is stone-cold awesome.
1. KICK-ASS FIGHTING
Hockey fights are brutal, bare-knuckle, often bloody battles that can last as long as a round of boxing—and involve as much skill. We asked New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, one of the league’s most intimidating players, how to take those tactics from the ice to the streets. His number one tip: “Make sure you get the first two punches in.” If that fails, refer to the instructions below.
The Jersey Grab
“If you grab the other guy’s shirt, it keeps him at a distance and he loses a lot of power in his punch because he’s trying to throw over your arm. I like to grab at the collar, right underneath his neck, and then I just swing away.”
“The way you hit in ice hockey translates directly from boxing—everything comes from your hips through your torso. Once you get a good crank on your upper body, you’ve got the most powerful punch.”
2. BARRY FREAKIN' MELROSE!
The only thing more impressive than the ESPN analyst’s knowledge of the game is his fantastic hair.
Why are people tuning in to hockey more than ever?
I think it comes down to rule changes that the NHL adopted a few years ago. By eliminating interference, they turned hockey into a skating game.It’s faster than ever, and you’re seeing more goals scored than ever.
What do you say to critics of fighting?
Fighting has been a part of hockey since day one. If you play the sport properly, you’re gonna make other people mad. And it’s as exciting as hell.
Why do so many players have mullets?
It’s a look of speed, power, and aggression—a warrior haircut. Who had the mullet in the playoffs? Patrick Kane. Who scored the winning goal in the finals? Kane. I rest my case.
3. CRAZY SUPERFANS
Bob Gertenrich hasn’t skipped a Blackhawks home game in 44 years. The Green Men in Vancouver wear full-body spandex suits to every game and taunt opposing players. And in D.C. there’s 35-year-old William Stilwell, a.k.a. Goat, a man so damn loud the Caps made him a Jumbotron fixture to amp up the crowd.
What happens to you at Caps games?
It's like an alter ego. As soon as I take my seat, there’s a massive adrenaline boost. I got a little upset once and broke the railing next to my seat.
How loud are you?
Last year a reporter asked about me, and Brooks [Laich] said, “Oh, yeah, we can hear that guy on the bench.
Have you always been loud?
I grew up watching Redskins games with my dad, and the joke in the neighborhood was that no one needed TV—they could just open their windows and tell how the game was going.
4. WINTER WONDERLANDS
The annual Winter Classic, where venues like Fenway get whitewashed for hockey, is a must-freeze-your-ass-off event. This year heated Eastern Conference rivals Pittsburgh and Washington face off before 65,000 at Heinz Field.
5. FAN PARTICIPATION
Fans chucking crap onto the ice is one of hockey’s great traditions, whether it’s to celebrate a hat trick, to inspire a team to a playoff win, or just to empty your pockets. The go-to item in Detroit is the octopus, first tossed in 1952 to symbolize the eight wins the Red Wings needed to capture the Stanley Cup. But refs have had to clean up weirder tokens, from rubber rattlesnakes to slabs of raw beef to a real three-foot-long leopard shark. Here, our suggestions for this season:
New Jersey Devils: Pinkie rings
Pittsburgh Penguins: Unwanted Ben Roethlisberger jerseys
Vancouver Canucks: Thank-you cards addressed to individual players
Los Angeles Kings: That screenplay you’ve been working on
7. TERRIFYING SPEED
118 mph of the hardest slap shot, courtesy of Bobby Hull.
8. BETTER TRIBUTES
Michael Jordan got a statue. Babe Ruth got a candy bar. Big deal. Last July, 22-year-old Chicago Blackhawks captain and playoffs MVP Jonathan Toews had a one-and-a-half-square-mile lake named for him in his native Canadian province of Manitoba. Take that, eh?
9. AMERICA'S TAKING OVER
Though 24 of the NHL’s 30 teams reside in the U.S., hockey is often seen as something Canucks play while we’re watching football. But not anymore. At the 2010 World Junior Championships, Team U.S.A. knocked off Canada for gold. Then we came to within a pubic hair of Olympic gold, pushing Canada to OT in the final game. But the most recent sign that times are changing? The 2010 draft, in which a record 11 Americans were taken in the first round—and not just from hotbeds like Minnesota and Michigan. Two first-rounders hailed from the frozen tundra of...Southern California.
10. AWESOME NAMES
This year’s draft class is packed with guys who sound more like Bond villains than real-life ice jocks. Can you tell the 007 killers from the puck hounds?
1. Nino Niederreiter
2. Hugo Drax
3. Francisco Scaramanga
4. Brock Beukeboom
5. Tuukka Rask
6. Max Zorin
7. Zenon Konopka
8. Byron Bitz
9. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
10. Aris Kristatos
Hockey player: 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9.
Bond villain: 2, 3, 6, 10
11. GRUESOME INJURIES
When hockey players get hurt, it’s a quick stitch on the bench—maybe—and they’re back on the ice. Unless they have their carotid artery slashed from a skate to the neck, which happened to Panther Richard Zednick in ’08 and Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk in ’89. YouTube it, if you dare.
12. SUDDEN DEATH
It’s the best do-or-die situation in sports. No coin toss, no chance for rebuttal. In playoff hockey, score a goal, game’s over. Don’t and it just keeps going for as long as it takes. Suck on that, football.
13. PLAYOFF BEARDS!
14. TOUGH SUPERSTITIONS
Plenty of athletes have pregame rituals: Joba Chamberlain eats a PB&J; Brian Dawkins talks to a football—but compared to hockey players’ routines, those quirks seem pretty wussy.
Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin: Has sex.
Penguins C Sidney Crosby: Refuses to talk to his mother, because every time he has, he’s been injured that game.
Blackhawks LW Andrew Ladd: Boxes the team’s equipment manager.
Blackhawks D Brian Campbell: Pays guys to watch his stick because “I don’t like the knob being touched before a game.” Just the shaft, ladies.
15. IT KICKS EVERY OTHER HOCKEY'S ASS
Get a load of the other hockeys that have injected sports with a huge dose of lame.
<table border="3" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="12"><tbody><tr><td></td> <td><strong>ICE HOCKEY</strong></td> <td><strong>ROLLER HOCKEY</strong></td> <td><strong>FIELD HOCKEY</strong></td> <td><strong>UNDERWATER HOCKEY</strong></td> <td><strong>WINNER</strong></td></tr></tbody> <tbody><tr><td><strong>GAME</strong></td> <td>Two teams of six stick-armed dudes compete to slap a puck in a goal.</td> <td>Two teams of five guys roller disco while chasing a ball.</td> <td>A bunch of sexually confused girls whack each other's shins.</td> <td>Players push a puck around a pool floor. Yes, people really do this.</td> <td><strong>Ice hockey</strong></td></tr></tbody> <tbody><tr><td><strong>PLAYING SURFACE</strong></td> <td>Um, ice</td> <td>Blacktop</td> <td>Grass or turf</td> <td>A freaking pool!</td> <td><strong>Underwater hockey</strong></td></tr> <tr><td><strong>LEGENDARY PLAYER</strong></td> <td>The Great One</td> <td>The Dorky One</td> <td>The One Who Got a Scholarship</td> <td>The Little Mermaid</td> <td><strong>Ice hockey</strong></td></tr> <tr><td><strong>COMMON INJURIES</strong></td> <td>Broken teeth, broken noses, broken everything</td> <td>Shattered masculinity</td> <td>Strained patience (also a common spectator injury)</td> <td>Crotch rot</td> <td><strong>Ice hockey</strong></td></tr> <tr><td><strong>TOOLS</strong></td> <td>Pads, face masks, brass balls</td> <td>Shoes on wheels</td> <td>A weird flat-sided stick shaped like a J; shin guards</td> <td>Snorkel and a banana hammock</td> <td><strong>Ice hockey</strong></td></tr> <tr><td><strong>ASSOCIATED VEHICLES</strong></td> <td>Zamboni</td> <td>Jalopy</td> <td>All-girls Catholic school bus</td> <td>Raft with drink holder</td> <td><strong>Field hockey</strong></td></tr></tbody></table>
16. SCARY MASKS
Goalies’ custom paint jobs give a whole new meaning to the term “game face.”
Jason plus Frankenstein equals horrifying.
Gilles Gratton (see above)
Fangs for the saves.
You’re gonna need a bigger puck.
A dog clearly trained by Michael Vick.
17. NO TEETH REQUIRED
Almost every hockey player has had a tooth knocked out. And then there’s Duncan Keith. In Game 4 of last year’s Western Conference finals, the Blackhawks defenseman fielded a shot with his grill—and lost 10 grinders.
Take us through the moment you got hit.
Right away I knew my whole mouth was mangled. I could feel it was empty. I just tried to get back to the bench, and I remember looking at one of the guys, asking him how it looked, and he gave me a look like his eyes were bugging out of his head.
Did you find any teeth?
I coughed up a big chunk of tooth from the back of my mouth,but I didn’t bother trying to pick it up. I don’t know what happened to any of the teeth. I think the Zamboni got them all.
You were back in the game 10 minutes later. Put in a mouth guard?
No, there were no teeth to protect.
How much work have you had done since?
After the game I was in the dentist’s chair for three hours. They were shaving the sharp parts down. After the season it was seven hours straight. They took the remaining roots out and gave me temporary teeth—four on top and six on the bottom.
What’s worse—taking a puck to the face or going to the dentist?
I think getting hit in the mouth is easier.
18. PUCK BUNNIES
Carrie Underwood: Married to Senators’ Mike Fisher.
Elisha Cuthbert: Dating Maple Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf.
Noureen Dewulf: Dating Sabres’ Ryan Miller.
Hilary Duff: Married to Penguins’ Mike Comrie
Willa Ford: Married to Red Wings’ Mike Modano
19. DISCO TRACKS!
If you’ve never heard Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur’s 1979 disco album, Lafleur!, on which he gives hockey tips over Saturday Night Fever beats, find it online now.
20. ICY RIVALRIES
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby—a Terminator-like prodigy—and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin—a flashy showboat—are the two biggest superstars in the NHL. Bonus? They don’t seem to like each other very much. Fans are salivating over their clash in this year’s Winter Classic, so we tried to get Sid the Kid talkin’ smack. Your move, Ovie.
How much has Alex egged on your rivalry?
I don’t think it’s him at all. I think both of our teams have pride, and both have a lot of younger guys who’ve grown up together. I think it goes beyond me and him.
You guys have played on all-star teams together. Do you get along then?
No. I mean, there’s a respect there, but it’s difficult. When you’re talking to someone you compete that hard against, there’s a barrier.
What do you think of him as a player?
He’s dynamic—big, fast, and his shot is very dangerous. He’s capable of scoring from anywhere and making things out of nothing.
What are his weaknesses?
We’re just different. That’s the bottom line.
After you got at each other in a game in ’09, he said you “talk too much.” What do you think he meant by that?
I don’t know. The games are intense—that’s hockey. But I’m sure he’s not going to apologize, and I’m not going to, either.
Did you feel satisfied kicking Russia’s ass in the Olympics?
Well, yeah, that’s a huge rivalry. But it didn’t have anything to do with Alex playing for Russia. There was no extra incentive there.
Have any parting words you want us to pass on to Alex if we talk to him?
No, but I guarantee he will. I’ll just see him on the ice.