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The puck stops here

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 9/23/20

Professional sports are back with covid modifications. Baseball teams are only playing 60 games with various rule changes. Basketball also has a limited schedule and all players are housed in a …

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The puck stops here

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Professional sports are back with covid modifications. Baseball teams are only playing 60 games with various rule changes. Basketball also has a limited schedule and all players are housed in a sequestered area of Disney World far removed from their families and Mickey Mouse.

The National Football League is playing a full schedule but eliminated all preseason games. Mostly all sports have eliminated any fans from attending, replacing them with cardboard cutouts and piped in crowd noise. Hockey started with a limited schedule and seemingly quickly morphed into the post season run for the Stanley Cup.

Since I first donned my Minute Man Cleaners Little League uniform, I have been an avid sports fan. In my youth before I had adult responsibilities, I spent many hours glued to the television watching sports.

Television coverage of sporting events has improved at warp speed. Hockey broadcasts used to be in black and white with one camera seemingly placed in the last row of the arena. Staring at the grainy images on the screen it was nearly impossible to see what was happening on the ice.

As you watched what you assumed were players skating back and forth, you relied on the fast-talking announcer to let you know what was happening. “Howe takes the puck races to the blue line, passes to Adams who is checked by Stapleton who drops it for Esposito. Esposito passes to Orr who shoots and scores beating the goalie Gump Worsley on the short side.” You got caught up in the announcer's excitement even though you could have been watching the test pattern that used to pop up when networks ended their broadcasting for the day. You read that correctly. Television networks stopped broadcasting around 1 am every day and did so by playing the national anthem followed by an image of a circular pattern that remained on the screen until programming resumed the next morning.

Televising sports these days is well…a whole new ballgame. Multiple cameras in every direction capture every piece of the action. If you missed something important the first time because you were on your cell phone ordering chicken wings and pizza, do not worry. Instant replay, stop action and multiple camera angles show you the action as if you were on the field.

Hockey has undergone another transformation. Gone are the days when players were primarily from Canada with a few Americans in the mix. The rumor was that boys in Canada learned how to ice skate before they learned how to walk.

The nationality of professional hockey players expanded sometime after the United States team beat Russia in the semifinals of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. Millions watched the game including hockey players from Europe and Russia who were surprised to learn that there was a professional hockey league in North America.

Tired of playing for rubles, drachmas and schillings they packed up their skates and pucks and headed to the National Hockey League to earn some American cash.

Soon hockey broadcasters, describing the action seen from multiple camera angles, were sounding like interpreters at the United Nations. “Ovechkin takes the puck races to the blue line, passes to Federov who is checked by Larioniv who drops it for Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk passes to Yashin who shoots and scores beating the goalie Nikolai Khabibulin on the short side.”

Hockey teams score by getting the puck past the goalie and into the net. The goalie armed with a wide hockey stick and an oversized glove is tasked with somehow stopping the puck traveling towards him at 100 miles per hour. As the slap shot is released, opposing players poke and jab at him looking to block his vision or deflect the puck into the net. His team's fortunes are determined by his expertise in preventing the puck from entering the goal.

Here is a foolproof way to ensure winning the Stanley Cup. The answer resides somewhere in Japan. There is a sumo wrestler named Yamamotoyama Ryuta. Thought to be the heaviest Japanese person ever at 584 pounds, Yamamotoyama has retired from sumo wrestling and seemingly is available for another profession. It is inconceivable that he has ever laced up a pair of ice skates. But it does not matter. Ice skates are not necessary for him to be a hockey legend.

Wearing thick goalie pads, helmet and gloves he would be a force to be reckoned with in the goal crease. Yama, as legions of hockey fans will soon call him, simple walks to the goal, gets on his side with his massive back facing the rink and squeezes himself between the goal posts completely filling the space.

Once in place he can do anything he wants to kill time until the 3 periods comprising a game are over. He can watch a movie on his iPad, call friends on his cell phone or even eat dinner as the opposing team tries in vain to get the puck past his girth. Once the game is over his teammates can pull him out of the goal as they all celebrate another win in their undefeated season.

Once his hockey career is over, maybe Yama could use his fame to make millions by opening a chain of restaurants called “Stuffed.”

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