For the past two months, as indicated by my (attempted) playoff beard, I have been fully absorbed with the New York Rangers post-season run, something that has now become, thankfully, an annual occurrence. For years the Rangers franchise (and fanbase) suffered through a post-1994 Stanley Cup Championship hangover, hurling gobs of money at player after overpriced-player, the vast majority of which were either too old or too injured or too ill-suited for Broadway (see: Bure, Pavel; Lindros, Eric; Fleury, Theo; Gomez, Scott; et al). However, this syndrome ended, oddly enough, with the lockout of 2004 and the strong play of another imported superstar, Jaromir Jagr, who bucked the trend and helped turn the Rangers into a perennial playoff team. A decade later the Rangers have established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in the NHL and arguably the most successful in New York (take that, the Liberty!), and, now, they’re about to appear in their first final since that ’94 dream run But before we look too far ahead to Game 1 in Los Angeles tomorrow evening (8pm EST, 5pm Pacific, sometime in between in the midwest), let us quickly look back at that legendary 1994 squad, the team of destiny that exorcised the demons of 1940 and firmly established the likes of Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Adam Graves, Stephane Matteau and even back-up goalie Glenn Healy as immortals, and elevated captain Mark Messiah to legitimate god status. But it’s not any of those champions we want to talk about today; no, right now we’re focused on that young dynamo out of Togliatti, Russia, the one with the fast feet and the quick hands, the one with the broken English and who broke through defenses. That, of course, being Alexei Kovalev. Long before current Rangers defenseman and Minnesota native Ryan McDonagh announced himself as a force on the Rangers blueline for many, many years to come, Kovalev was the premier #27 in a Rangers sweater. His speed, stick-handling and clutch scoring made the right-wing a quick fan favorite at Madison Square Garden, and in only his sophomore year in the NHL he was playing big minutes and scoring big goals. But it wasn’t just his explosive skating, triple dekes and dangerous wrist shot that endeared himself to the Garden faithful. It was also, his big, bright, goofy personality. More specifically, it was his troll. Yes, throughout the ’94 playoffs Kovalev kept a lucky troll doll at his locker. And when the Rangers won the cup, breaking the curse of 1940, the troll was there, sharing in the celebration. What Kovalev might have lacked in English proficiency, he surely made up for with youthful exuberance. With his electric play and a genuine enthusiasm that transcended any language, Kovalev made an indelible mark on that ’94 cup run and on our childhood. And so it was no surprise that his appearance at last week’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 at MSG sent the crowed into a mid-game frenzy, showing that if you win in NY, you’re a hero for life. He might be twenty years older, his baby face morphed into the aged countenance of a grizzled hockey veteran, his English no longer just barely comprehensible, but sporting that iconic hat (and surprisingly nondescript official t-shirt), Kovalev is as beloved as he was twenty-years ago, a champion not for a year but for eternity. Now just imagine the reaction had he brought the troll.
Tag Archives: Al Trautwig
We’ve recently returned from a week-long sojourn to a tropical paradise, and thus were unable to commit the 10-12 hours a day we hoped watching the NBC Networks Olympic coverage of events like water polo, handball, indoor volleyball, ping-pong (sorry, table tennis), field hockey and trap shooting. We were, however, able to catch part of NBC’s prime time telecasts, the carefully cultivated, perfectly orchestrated alchemy of prestigious events of which the Americans just happen to win the majority. And if you think watching NBC’s tape delay broadcasts here in America is tough, try doing it twenty miles (or was it kilometers?) from Venezuela.
Upset about the admittedly completely unnecessary and pedantic Mary Carillo explains London segments? Fine. But better than coverage not starting til 9pm EST and then finding the telecast constantly interrupted by an unknown Aruban man in a desolate, sad locker room set, serving as something of a local Bob Costas amid open lockers and prop gym bags. Even worse is that these interstitials preempted the commercials. The Olympics is the Super Bowl of commercials. Normally we’d prefer to fast-forward right through all of them, but if we had our choice of watching a random guy pontificate about Michael Phelps in Papiamento or watching every single McDonald’s commercial, we’d choose the latter. At least the second option gives us a the chance for a sports celebrity cameo, or a catchy jingle, or, God willing, a new Happy Meal Toy. Or we could just use that time to visit the bathroom or get a snack, but, instead, while Aruban Bob Costas chats with the small island’s foremost track and field expert, we flip over to Lifetime to see if Forrest Gump is still on, not sure how long this detour from London is going to last (which, we admit, is a very specific experience, so we apologize if this particular situation does not apply to you).
Okay, so we’re exaggerating here. It really wasn’t that bad. But neither is watching the main events on tape delay here in the contiguous US of A, despite all the caustic vitriol spat at NBC over its delayed gratification approach to the games. What the people who level all the criticism at NBC for withholding the most interesting (to Americans) events til after 8pm (and, really, til 11pm) don’t seem to consider, or put much stock in to, is that most Americans (save for those who are currently employed and spend most of their day
watching Razon Ramon documentaries producing high quality journalism and insightful media criticism), aren’t home at 2pm to watch the entirety of the Tween Women’s Uneven Bars final. That doesn’t mean that NBC couldn’t cling to journalistic integrity, demonstrate a responsibility to delivering unfiltered, untainted Olympics coverage, and air the whole event live. But then what? Rebroadcast it again later? In its entirety? Or in repeats is it permissible to edit the events down? And does NBC, even with its seemingly infinite cadre of cable channels, have the airtime to show the same competition twice? On the other hand, if they air everything in real-time, what does NBC show in prime-time? Grimm repeats? Rock Center: Live from Westminster Abbey? Start the Tonight Show three hours early? No. Make no mistake, NBC has not spent billions of dollars securing the rights to the Olympics to present sports in the most comprehensive, informative, honest and fan-friendly way. They’re in it for the same reason ESPN is (despite what its acronym might imply), to make gobs and boatloads and gobloads of money. Let’s not forget that.
And let’s not hold that against them. For NBC, the Olympics is a two-week-long special edition of America’s Got Talent (Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin) and The Biggest Loser (Mckayla Maroney, any country other than the USA). It’s the marketing push Whitney really needed. And to suggest that NBC has some responsibility to the American citizen not to present the most popular events in the most melodramatic, heavily-edited, Al Trautwig-hosted, Cinderella-story way is silly, and, really, hypocritical. Yank all 10pm dramas in favor of Jay Leno, shame on NBC. Expect NBC not to value Olympic ratings above all else, shame on you.