I don't generally recognize naming rights sponsorships. [Bank of some sort] Garden in Boston will always be [Bank of some sort] Garden before I call it by the Corporation of the Month just because someone thinks everything we hold dear is for sale. These stadium names, they change with economic whim and mean nothing to fans, so why bother? That's what my little mind brought to you by Right Guard thinks, anyway.
But everything about the Hockeyville concept and experience makes me think Kraft is really facilitating a good thing here, even if it might fall under what PR folks call "strategic philanthropy." Enough of a good thing to call it Kraft Hockeyville rather than [Carbohydrate purveyor] Hockeyville. Terrace, B.C., and the kid-filled 1,100 or so lucky enough to be in the arena were buzzing. Beaming. It had the hot chocolate and frozen pond feel you associate with pure, unblemished hockey. Decent enough game (for preseason), excellent weekend. Cheers to everyone who made it happen. Look for BCISLEMAN to have pictures and thoughts from his experience at practice yesterday and watching the game in the park with many fellow Terrace residents.
As for the game, a 2-1 loss, it was difficult to even imagine what to look for, considering the lineups.I was looking forward to seeing Sean Bentivoglio and Dustin Kohn, but they weren't terribly noticeable -- Bentivoglio in part because he was on the Nate Thompson/Tim Jackman checking line. Nathan Lawson was fun to see, and he looked solid.
Beyond those, it was a special teams-filled night, so the power play unit with Bailey/Comeau/Tambellini plus Hillen and MacDonald -- and even Sutton -- got a lot of time, while the penalty killers got a whole lot of time. Jon Sim, with a pretty acute-angle roofed backhand on Andrew Raycroft in the 2nd, continued his steady march back out of Scott Gordon's doghouse.
And the fights -- my god, the fights. Early in the 2nd period, they seemed to make the game come alive. There was Jeremy "The Fourth" Reich and Tim Jackman and Andy Sutton(!) ... and even Blake Comeau came close to blows with Nolan Baumgartner. It seemed the Canucks' Rick Rypien was ready to take on everyone -- and if the guy they call "The Ripper" ever asks, he can have my lunch money any day.
At the other end, KHL refugee Sergei Shirokov potted a couple of power play goals and staked his claim for the reported lone open spot in the Canucks lineup. And we saw the much-hyped, Luongo-blocked goaltending prospect Cory Schneider, who performed as billed, shutting the Isles out in his half.
In the end, it was a joy just to be watching hockey again and hearing the banter in various online channels, including our game thread here. The close camera angle in the small arena took some getting used to, but that ended up feeling like a great novelty after a while -- like NHLers playing in a high school atmosphere (albeit with a decidedly higher pitch to the crowd's cheering).
Understandably, we're not going to write up every preseason game. I think there are only two or three more that will be watchable. So while in-season game wrap-ups will be much more detailed, this one's just a general impression:
Decent night. Great event. Three cheers for hockey.