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Monday, September 13, 2004

Only Wayne Gretzky Seems To Be Excited

And perhaps it's because he still loves to compete, doesn't want to or can't lace 'em up competitively anymore, and that's all well and good, but does anyone else really care about hockey's world cup? Excuse me, hockey's "World Cup". But clearly not, the World Cup. After all, there's only one of those, and no one will confuse hockey's summerfest with real (as opposed to American) football's extravaganza that halts commerce in whole countries every four years.

That's why the headline of Martin Brodeur's readiness for the final game doesn't excite anyone. Except perhaps Martin Brodeur, a few Finnish forwards who want to snipe at an all-time great, and perhaps the people who will be in the arena. Okay, and maybe the families of the players and certain hockey-mad Canadians and Finns.

But the rest of the world?

This event is a snooze.

The rest of the sporting world that can really help pay the freight to support this tournament, read, Americans? Fuggedaboutit, they're watching, in no particular order, the baseball pennant races and the start of the NFL season. And for those in the more genteel set, who actually sometimes do count ice hockey among the preppy sports because it's played at boarding schools, they're waiting for some smashmouth golf courtesy of the Ryder Cup, waiting for spouses of the U.S. lineup to pump up the players with the best pre-game rituals this side of Ray Lewis's sideline routines before your average Ravens' game. Waiting to shout cruel, elementary schoolyard names at the European players from the gallery, all in the name of patriotism. Or, they could be watching college football or even the World Series of Poker (not to be confused, of course, with the World Series).

But they're certainly not waiting for this game.

Or, for that matter, the upcoming NHL season (and, as I write this while watching the opening number before ABC's "Monday Night Football", doesn't Hank Williams, Jr. look like the former WWF wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage? See, it's just hard to focus on professional ice hockey for, say, more than 10 minutes in the summertime). Because, if they want to wait for the upcoming NHL season, they might have to wait until the ice melts. Reports in today's papers indicate that the NHL and its players' association are far apart, and that the season might not start on time. Big surprise there.

So, if you're a true hockey fan, you should drop what you're doing and watch this game, because it may be the last one you watch for a while.

Of course, if Canada wins, you can look forward to the obligatory shots of Wayne Gretzky acting like a little boy on Christmas Day, celebrating the victory.

And then, like the rest of us, you'll wonder when, and perhaps if, professional hockey will return in the United States.

And then, like some of them, you'll decide whether you really care.

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