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Editor's Corner

Week 7: Time to get brutal

Seven weeks in and I’m starting to feel the pressure to pick a team!
Some of the Grassroots crew hit me up last weekend.

Them: “Have you picked a team yet?”
Me: “No, I haven’t.”
Them: “What? It’s not that hard.”

It is that hard!

I’m coming in cold. I’m an outsider looking in. I don’t have any connections with a city, no history with the NHL or team, my family aren’t hockey fanatics, I don’t have any reasons to pick one team over another.

And because I want to make sure I pick the right team for me I have to look at all 30! Well, 31 including Las Vegas. I am very tempted to just pick the Golden Knights – support a franchise from the start. I would get a kick out of saying I was a fan of theirs from the very start.
I won’t do that – though, it’s not out contention – but again, it’s very tempting.
So, this week I watched a few highlight reels and a documentary.

On Wednesday (Aussie time) I caught the Blackhawks-Rangers game (well, the extended highlights clip – but it’s a combination of all the best parts so it is basically watching the whole game), Sharks v Leafs, Florida and Minnesota, Oilers and Blue Jackets and Anaheim-Dallas.





Florida verse Minnesota

Straight up, I’m ruling these teams out of contention.
I haven’t cut any teams yet and it is time to get brutal. For my first cull I am scrapping Florida and the Wild off of my team contention list.
Why? Because I hate their uniforms. And I found their game boring. Mainly the uniform thing.
The Wild’s uniform was by far the worst thing I have ever seen. Green and red. And alongside Florida, whose uniform is red and white, the players all looked like Christmas baubles skating around.
I can’t get on board with skating Christmas ornaments. So. Ciao Florida and Minnesota.

Blackhawks verse New York Rangers

These teams were pretty evenly matched. It was a game of saves. That’s basically what the highlights reel was – saves.
This was the first time I’ve watched these two teams in action, and I can what the hype is about. They’re both strong, confident and skilled teams. On both sides the players work well together, take their opportunities and just look classy.
If you can recall, when I set out on this little adventure I said class is something I admired in a team. These two both have it, so, I’m going to have to keep them on the list a little longer and have a harder look at each.

Sharks verse Leafs

Grassroots co-host Mat Lindsay is a Leafs fan (as those who read our newsletter each week would know). Mat asked me last weekend whether I had ruled the Leafs out. I hadn’t at the time.
After this game… I’m kind of thinking about it. The Leafs don’t have an X-Factor (that I can see at the moment).

They’re hanging on my NHL list by a thread.

I do enjoy the Sharks – their theming, character and style of play. I like that they skate out of a giant shark head and that their fans wear shark heads on their… heads. They have Brett Burns whom I enjoy a lot. He’s a funny, hairy, character.

Oilers verse Blue Jackets

I watched this one with Grassroots producer Michael. Going in, he picked the Oilers for the win. The Blue Jackets won. A surprising result, I am told.
I kind of feel that the Blue Jackets will become my B-team; the other team I follow behind the one I pick to completely give my support to. There’s no hard or fast reason why I think this. Honestly, it’s just a feeling. I just have a tiny soft spot for them at the moment.
I plan to watch another Oilers game, to further see them in action.
Both are still on the list.

Anaheim verse Dallas

Neither of these teams are doing it for me either.
If there was any team that I should love, it is Anaheim. The closest connection to NHL I had before coming into this was my love for the movie The Mighty Ducks.
The Mighty Ducks was how I fell in love with the Newcastle North Stars (AIHL). Sort of. I had watched all three films countless times growing up. When I was at university and saw that the North Stars were looking for media volunteers my actual thinking – I am not kidding – was “why not? I like The Mighty Ducks”. Seven years later I’m still on the North Stars’ media team.
What I just described, that tenuous link you base a relationship off, I don’t have with a NHL team. Which is why this is hard.
Considering Ducks was how I found AIHL, you would think it stood to reason that Anaheim would be my NHL choice. Not so. I kind of just don’t care about them.
I’m cutting Dallas from the list. Anaheim can stay for a little longer. They play good hockey, though I am still searching for an X-Factor.


The Score

At the end of this week I’ve cut Florida, Minnesota and Dallas from the list of contenders and Leafs and Anaheim are hanging on by a thread.
Now that’s what you call progress.
Who is leading the race?

The Montreal Canadiens.

Yep. It’s the Habs that are doing it for me right now.

This was further cemented by the documentary I watched this week: The Road to the Winter Classic.
I watched season five, which followed The Habs and rivals Boston Bruins into the 2016 Winter Classic. As you can see in my photo, I watched the final episode (and I am actually writing this blog post) while on a flight to Victoria. Call me dedicated.
Spoiler alert: the Habs crushed Boston in the 2016 Winter Classic.

Why am I falling for the Canadiens?

The Habs have history – I’m not just talking Stanley Cup wins, but in the NHL – the team is so talented (I am so blown away by Carey Price) and has such a positive and confident attitude. I also enjoy that I have been swept up by the Canadian ice hockey culture when watching the games and the Winter Classic docco.
When the Habs play a home game, the city of Montreal is so quiet because everyone goes to the game. Any Habs home game I watch I can actually sense the passionate fans. I get swept up in the atmosphere and I am not even there! That’s what I have been searching for! And the Habs are delivering.

I also love that they have a little old lady who plays the organ at home games, something that she has done for most of her life (found that out in the docco). She is so dedicated and passionate about her team, her role on game day….

It’s hard not to get swept up into that.

Ellie-Marie Watts is a journalist for Grassroots Sports, Newcastle Northstars (AIHL team) and Fairfax Media. She has a passion for sport, in particular grassroots sports such as ice hockey, gridiron and roller derby, and telling stories about athletes, overcoming adversity and triumph. Through Grassroots Sports Ellie hopes to help promote the emerging sports she loves into the forefront of the Australian public’s mind, chart their rise, take a few photos (another passion of hers) and tell the stories of the people who made it happen.




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