June 12, 2013

Direct Kick: Loving this year’s Stanley Cup

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I’m as happy as a tornado in a trailer park. Why you ask? Because my two favorite hockey teams will be playing for the Stanley Cup when the Boston Bruins battle the Chicago Blackhawks in a match-up of Original Six teams.

Ironically, despite being two of the original six teams in the National Hockey League, this will be the first time they have met for Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the first time since 1978 that the Bruins and Blackhawks have met at any time during the playoffs. That season, Boston swept Chicago in four games in the quarterfinals.

So no matter which team wins, I’ll be pleased as punch. The Bruins of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson, Gerry Cheevers, Johnny Bucyk and Wayne Cashman are what got me interested in hockey. Of course, the likes of Bobby Hull, Dennis Hull, Stan Mikita, Keith Magnuson and Tony Esposito also bring back fond memories of the Blackhawks of that same time period. Now those names have been replaced by names such as of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Patrice Bergeron, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuck and Tuukka Rask.

So, as Natalie Imbruglia sang, I’m torn.

Watching these two battle will take me back to the days of my youth, to a more carefree time when days were long and my attention span short. Back in those days, hardly any player (Mikita being the exception) wore a helmet, and the goalies wore actual goalie masks like the one Jason wore in those Friday the 13th movies. In fact, when I first started watching the NHL goalies had only been wearing masks for a few years! Can you imagine playing hockey without a goalie mask on? Crazy.

This will also be a match up of two of the last three Stanley Cup winners. During Boston’s 86 year history the Bruins have made the playoffs 66 times, including 29 consecutive years from 1968 to 1996. Chicago made the playoffs for 28 straight years from 1970 through 1989. Boston has won six Stanley Cups, while Chicago has won four.

I think this will be an outstanding series that will go the full seven games with Boston winning, 4-3. But if Chicago wins I’ll be just as happy.

• When the United States beat Germany 4-3 recently in men’s soccer, I said that win (over a depleted German roster, missing 15 of its regular players) would mean nothing if the U.S. didn’t beat Jamaica last Friday night in World Cup qualifying.

And they did just that, thanks to a goal in stoppage time by Brad Evans that lifted the U.S. to a 2-1 win in Jamaica which helped solidify the Americans’ chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Jozy Altidore is finally starting to show signs of being a true striker on the international level with goals against both Germany and Jamaica. These two wins came after a dismal performance in a 4-2 loss to Belgium just days earlier.

The U.S. have two tough qualifiers coming up with Panama Tuesday night and Honduras next week. Wins over both would be nice, but 1-1 wouldn’t be so bad, either. The good thing is both games are here in the United States.

• Staying with soccer, it’s been a good time to be a F.C. Bayern Munich fan (which I am) as they recently won the treble, the first German side to do so and only the seventh European side.

What is the treble, you ask? Well, it’s when a team wins three trophies in a single season. For Bayern, it was its league title, Champions League title, and domestic cup title. Bayern did just that as it ran away with the Bundesliga crown, beat Borussia Dortmund to capture the UEFA Champions League, then beat  VfB Stuttgart to win the DFB-Pokal trophy. In fact, Bayern also won the quadruple this season by winning those three and the DFL Supercup, thus becoming only the second team to ever accomplish this.

You can bet those fans in Munich started Oktoberfest a few months early following the win over Stuttgart.

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