NHL training camps have kicked off. In anticipation of the season, we have been warming up our emotional engines to conjure all the irrational excitement, hatred and other strongly worded feelings that accompany an eight-month devotion to watching men making billions playing a game.
This is part of a quick game of considering our rivals, with love (er, envy), and hate.
Hate: Dion Phaneuf is probably a super nice guy. He looks like the kind of guy who tells lame jokes that you can't help but laugh at, who lets his friends' kids ride his back like a horse and who is always giving people a lift home no matter how far out of his way they're going.
On the ice, we know Phaneuf is a dangerous wild animal, a kind of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on skates who will stop at nothing until you and your entire city is stomped into dust. He has no remorse, no insight and no off button.
Phaneuf has a history of trying to damage Islanders going back to his Calgary days. He tagged Kyle Okposo in a preseason game in 2009. He tried to install John Tavares' head into the boards at the Air Canada Centre. Even poor Justin DiBenedetto got smacked upside the head a few years ago by the Maple Leafs captain.
He's one of the easiest players in the conference to hate and the thought of the Islanders playing against him fills me with a level of anger I don't have towards 99% of the rest of the league. I choose to assume he's a nice guy off the ice is because if he lives life like he plays hockey, he should be classified as a menace to society.
Envy: Whenever I check out Sportsnet's or TSN's websites I'm reminded that, in Canada, sports broadcasting means hockey broadcasting.
Turning on any of the big U.S. sports outlets - ESPN, Fox Sports 1, WFAN in New York, even the NHL's own broadcast partner NBC - means hearing about college sports, baseball, basketball, football (if you're lucky), NASCAR, golf, mixed martial arts and probably a ton of gossipy pablum you don't care about. Anything but hockey.
This makes me very envious of my Canadian friends who get to hear NHL discussion all the time. Unfortunately, most of the hockey-focused shows are based in Toronto, which means they waste the majority of their time talking about the Leafs, who have done absolutely nothing to warrant that amount of discourse.
If the Leafs played in any other city, they'd be just another mediocre team with a decades long championship drought. They would be the Detroit Lions in the Super Bowl era, the Chicago White Sox pre-2005 or the Cubs post-the Woodrow Wilson administration.
Instead, they are the singular sun around which the entire NHL solar system revolves, which means an unending assault of hot garbage like this and this and this. Anyone that follows interview transcriber @Hope_Smoke on Twitter no doubt marvels at the daily, sometimes hourly insanity that helps twist every Leafs move into any literally justification the team and their enablers need.
I wish hockey had a more prominent place in the New York/New Jersey sports landscape. But if Toronto is any indication, maybe we're better off the way we are.
And you? Which (current) foliage do you hate most, and which one do you think is an alright guy?This has got to be easier than most of the other teams in this division.