Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals 2009, Game 7

Last Wednesday, I drove up to San Francisco after work to catch game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens at Giodarno Bros pub in North Beach, which is a meeting place for many former residents of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh lost, which means they won't repeat as Stanley Cup champions this year. Montreal had a hot goalie, Jaroslav Halak, and, as they say back in the old country, the puck just bounced their way.

The game was essentially over after the first period when it was 3-0 for Montreal. Montreal scored again early in the second, and then Pittsburgh scored twice to make it 4-2 going into the third. Had Pittsburgh scored early in the third, it would have been a really exciting game ending, but Montreal scored to make it 5-2 and then played safely to avoid giving Pittsburgh and chance to capitalize on mistakes.

It was a pretty sad affair seeing latecomers arriving with their Penguins jerseys, expecting to see their team winning, and then seeing their jaws drop when they read the score, Montreal 5 Pittsburgh 2. Last year, Mireya and I watched game 7 of the finals between Pittsburgh and Detroit at the same pub. That was a much happier occasion. Here's what I wrote about that game last year.

San Francisco, June 12, 2009: Mireya and I drove to San Francisco to watch game 7 of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. Being from Canada, we both follow hockey throughout the year and, unlike most Americans we know, we continue watching the playoffs even after our team has been eliminated.This year, our team, the Vancouver Canucks had lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, who then lost to Detroit, who were playing Pittsburgh in the finals.

So, why go all the way up to San Francisco to watch a hockey game? First, no cable TV at home: we have a TV for DVDs and Wii, but we went cold turkey on the cable in 2000 when we moved down from Vancouver. Second, while there are many places in the South Bay that we could have watched the game, there is a pub in North Beach, Giordano Brothers, that caters to people from Pittsburgh. Folks, there is nothing like watching a game with a partisan crowd and this was THE place to be in the Bay Area to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I had discovered Giordano Brothers last year when searching for somewhere to watch the hockey game after a day in San Francisco. While most bars in North Beach had baseball on TV, Giordano Brothers had every one of their 6 TV’s tuned to the hockey game, Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia. It was then that I learned this was a gathering spot for people to watch sports featuring teams from Pittsburgh.

Detroit had beaten Pittsburgh the year before, and this was the first rematch of the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers beat the New York Islanders in 1984 after having lost to New York the year before. This year’s Pittburgh Penguins featured two superstars, the Russian, Evgeni Malkin and the Canadian, Sidney Crosby, who also was the NHL’s overall number one draft pick of 2005. Detroit’s team had a balanced roster of seasoned veterans including defenseman, Nicklas Lidstrom and goalie, Chris Osgood. Both teams were equally capable of winning, the only possible difference would have been the game’s location.

Over the first six games of the playoffs, the series was tied 3-3 with each team having won all their games at home. Game 7 was to be played in Detroit. No North American pro sports team had won game 7 of a final playoff series on the road since the 1979 Pittsburg Pirates won baseball’s World Series. Therefore, the odds appeared to be in Detroit’s favor.

The North Beach Garage, has “fortunes” painted on every parking stall. This was my fortune that evening.

Putting my fortune to work, “If you parked a white truck close to a high school grad party, would anyone notice?”

Another test: “are there many businesses that have been adversely affected by the rise of PC’s and MAC’s?”

The scene of the evening’s events.

Not too busy an hour before game time.

The Crosby brothers were there, Bing and Bob...

Actually, these are Sidney Crosby fans. Bing and Bob Crosby were well-known singers from the 1930s and 40s.

Just curious. Do you know who Bing Crosby was? He was as big as or bigger than Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen were in their day. Hard to compare to a contemporary star because today, the Internet provides so much access to media that the audience for popular music is much more fractured than it was in Bing Crosby's time, the 1930s-1950s. Back then, everyone saw the same movies and vaudeville shows. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen were at their peaks, most people watched the same TV shows or listened to the same music on the radio. Not saying that the old days were better, I'm just saying that the concept of a star was much different then than it is now.

The reason I bring this up is that before I'd heard of Sidney Crosby playing for Canada at the 2004 World Junior Hockey Tournament, the only famous Crosby's I knew were Bing and Bob from way back then. I'm sure most of the people in the bar who are 40 or younger that day would not have heard of Bing or Bob. It's like as if the biggest star in a given sport today was a Sinatra or Ellington and most of the fans had never heard of Frank Sinatra or Duke Ellington.

Bing Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" is reported by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the biggest selling music single of all time. Estimated at 100 million copies sold since Bing first recorded it in 1942. (Wikipedia)

Giordano Bros’ features this all-in-one sandwich that comes with french fries and coleslaw inside the sandwich. There are several choice of meat, Mireya chose salami.

In the spirit of the hockey game, Mireya visciously slashed my hand with her french fry as I reached for the sandwich.

There were also buckets of beer on ice for sale. I ordered single beers myself as I planned to drive home later that evening.

The usual “best laid plans” scenario: we got there early to get great seats only to have our views of the TV partially blocked by latecomers.

No problem seeing the TV during the intermissions (ads), however.

There were many standing outside looking in from the street.

While some were just hanging out, enjoying the warm evening.

Others, had come for a more specific purpose.

The game had just ended and I was snapping random photos of the cheering crowd. Just as I point my camera towards the bar, one of the waiters started spraying the audience with champagne. My shutter opened and closed at just the right fraction of a second when the champagne spray came my direction. All of those little spots of white are drops of champagne reflecting my flash. I don’t think I could have staged a better image.

At the end, of the game, Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup and the place erupted into pandemonium.

Max Talbot of Pittsburgh scored 2 goals in the second period, and it was 2-0 until late in the third period when Jonathan Ericsson scored for Detroit with 6:07 left to play. During the final 6 minutes, Detroit hit the crossbar once and almost scored in the final seconds. Those final 6 minutes and the celebration afterwards were worth the drive up to San Francisco.

Well, that was last year. This year, the Vancouver Canucks are out again, and again, they lost to Chicago. However, the San Jose Sharks are still in the hunt for the Cup and will be playing Chicago this coming week. I won't have to go far to find a partisan San Jose crowd for those games. Go Sharks!

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

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