Peter King’s Western Conference Preview

Can I fill that thing with a latte? Gahhhhh…LONDON — As I exited the press box of England’s historic O2 Arena, I took a deep breath. I had just witnessed a landmark event that will forever change the landscape of the National Hockey League. The World Champion Anaheim Ducks had dethroned the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 in a game I will forever remember because I was there at that game. And as I took off my shoes and socks to write this very column at Buckingham Palace (I am excellent friends with the Queen of England, we often ride Amtrak together), it occurred to me. Because of Gary Bettman’s foresight to put to Pacific Division rivals in Jolly Old England –

Soon all of Europe will be playing this strange, new game called “hockey.” Mark my words.

I know some of you may find it strange that I, Peter King, the senior football writer for a little publication you may know called Sports Illustrated, am writing the Western Conference Preview for MYFO, since 1) I know nothing about hockey, 2) am not getting paid, and 3) none of the bastards here are remotely famous enough to namedrop in my MMQB weekly column, but I wanted to show you how much I love the sport of kings. (Ed. note: actual sport of kings: horse racing.) And since there isn’t a single hockey writer with some promise of a discernible writing style outside ESPN’s John Buccigross, I figured I’d have a go.

The Fine Fifteen

1. Anaheim (1-1-1). After their convincing win over the Kings, these ducks are playing unstoppable hockey. With games in the next week against aging Columbus and a very young Pittsburgh team, Chris Pronger and company are well on their way to an impressive 80-1-1 season.

2. Los Angeles (1-1). By choosing to start their season early, they’re already a game up in the win column over rivals San Jose, Dallas, and Phoenix. GM Dean Lombardi is showing he’s quite the expert at scheduling chess.

3. Colorado (1-0). Rumor has it that MYFO Avs writer Baba Oje is somewhat of a Brett Favre fan. Mr. Oje, we must do lunch, and discuss Brett’s finer points. (Okay, I kid. All of Brett’s points are fine. *drool*.)

4. Detroit (1-0). The other day I caught an episode of a new NBC fall sitcom called “Scrubs.” (Big ups to NBC!) One character, played by the Oscar-winning thespian John C. McGinley, was wearing the threads of Motown’s Chris Chelios. Said to myself, this guy is the Stevie Yof snarky Bill Lawrence-written medical comedies. 

5. Minnesota (0-0). My vast hockey knowledge tells me that it’s time for Marian Gaborik to become the elite leader wing he was born to be. (I so did NOT plagiarize this from my 2003-2004 preview.)

6. St. Louis (0-0). You’ve just got to love a guy like Keith Tkachuk. What a player. Met him once while stalking his childhood home in Melrose, Massachusetts — a real class act. Told myself from that point forward, “Draft this guy on every fantasy team you’ve got.”

7. Vancouver (0-0). Their biggest off-season acquisition, a new uniform overhaul, now features an old-school blue and green combo of hues, with the word “Vancouver”emblazoned across the front. Hey guys, that’s crazy! We already knew where you were from!

8. San Jose (0-0). Do you know the way to San Jose, Jonathan Cheechoo? Let’s hope so. Dang, is that fun to say! Cheechoo. Chee-choo. Cheeeee-chooooo.

9. Chicago (0-0). Rest in peace, Bill Wirtz. Rest in peace.

10. Dallas (0-1). Father my children, Tony Romo. Father my children.

11. Cheese Fries (0-0). Easily the most under-rated NHL arena food. I’m not even kidding. Would I kid about something like this? No, I would not. I’m a respected journalist.

12. Phoenix Coyotes (0-0). Maybe it’s time to lace them up and take matters into your own hands, Wayne Gretzky.

13. Calgary Flames (0-0). New head coach Mike Keenan stands behind the bench of the Flames, the eighth-such bench he has stood behind. How is this man not the most celebrated head coach in the history of the National Hockey League? What’s that? I couldn’t hear you. I have Mike Keenan’s 93-94 Stanley Cup lodged in my ears. Umm, ear.

14. Nashville Predators (0-0). I’m tired of sportswriters throughout North America overlooking the Hall of Fame candidacy of Preds’ defense-man Shea Weber. He’s the Art Monk of the NHL. He should have been in years ago. Here are some misrepresented statistics to prove my point. First, let’s start by looking at – ooh, cheese fries!!!

15. Edmonton Oilers (0-0). It’s going to be a long year, Oilers fans. Keep dreaming about what life would have been like had you never left Houston.

Quote of the Week I

“I’m more than a bird; I’ m more than a plane. More than some pretty face beside a train. It’s not easy to be me.” — my SI.com colleague, John Ondrasik in his major radio hit “Superman.” Did you know his band, Five for Fighting, is named after a hockey term? Brilliant work, John.

Quote of the Week II

“Soon all of Europe will be playing this strange, new game called “hockey.” Mark my words.” — Me, earlier in this ridiculously long column.

MVP Watch

1. Mike Cammalleri, Kings – On pace for a 123 goal season. Hard to argue when numbers don’t lie.

2. Barry Melrose, ESPN – Snappiest dressier in the sport today.

3. D.J. King, Blues – If this fine young man can make the squad, maybe I can convince Mary Beth to move to St. Louis. I can see it now. They fall in love over a mochacchino, get married, and she won’t even have to change her last name. That way, she’ll never be able to escape the fact that she’s the daughter of the most annoying writer in sports today. Huzzah!

Factoid of the Week That May Only Interest Me

Last week, popular sports blog Deadspin conducted its annual NHL preview by outsourcing it to Off Wing Opinion’s Eric McErlain. While well-written and poignant, E-Mc Squared linked to every hockey blog on the planet except for this one. Was it something we said?

Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week

On the flight over here to London, the in-flight movie was the Michael Bay-directed “Transformers.” I’ll tell you what, folks, that movie was way more than meets the eye. You see what I did there? I used the tagline of a movie I just saw as my official review, even though my reading audience saw it months ago. Ha! If I ever have to take the red-eye to Heathrow again, I’m totally flying in a Transformer. First round pick? Optimus Prime.

One Thing I Think I Think

1. I should probably stick to football.

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3 Comments

  1. Brilliant! Simply Brilliant!

  2. Coffeenerdness

    At Mellon Arena, they serve Starbucks in the Igloo Clubs, but it’s the usual Aramark swill in the press box. You need to get on top of that, Mario Lemieux.

  3. Who I Like On Monday Night, And I Don’t Mean Gary Bettman

    My daughter, Mary Beth, called me the other day and said “DAAAD! Stop mentioning me in your fucking columns! Do you have any idea how many creeps that brings out? Oh, and take the Senators, with the points.”


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