“Oooooh, we’re halfway there, ooooHHHH livin’ on a prayer”. If you’ve been paying attention this season, not only did you read that in the voice of Bon Jovi, but you also pictured Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner singing it.
We are at the halfway point of this season and into the sixth edition of the Hocktionary; so we are going to ensure that your hockey vocabulary keeps up with the development of the aging season.
All-Star Game — remember your high school talent show that your principle loved but everyone else hated? Ya, this is the NHL version of that. Once per season, right in the middle, an All-Star game is held where all of the best players in the league (and sometimes average guys who fans vote in as a gag) gather for an overly elaborate, meaningless game. This game has no bearing on the season and, because nobody wants to risk injury for something meaningless- nothing happens. There is a skills competition the day before that is a bit interesting- pitting some of the best players head-on in events like fastest skater, shooting accuracy etc. Gary Bettman loves this stupid event because it’s the closest thing he gets to the big showiness of the NFL and NBA that he yearns for; I’d be willing to bet that every year he dresses up in an all-star jersey and high heels and dances around his room to Nickelback.
Trade Deadline — Trades are part of every sport; it helps teams try to ensure that they have the best group of players possible for their attempts to make the playoffs and their subsequent playoff runs. Near the end of the season, however, there is a date whereby all trades have to be done- trade deadline day. This is close to the end of the season but not right at the end- this way there is actually a bit of a gamble- what if someone gets injured or has an ill-timed slump? Once the playoffs are set, so are the teams- the post-season is all based on regular season performance, who you play against is based on your point total and the players who got the team there are the ones to play for the championship. This way, once a team is assured a spot in the playoffs, the management doesn’t get rid of all of the current players and load up on superstars (this is also impossible now due to the salary cap, which is coming up later). Also, the playoffs are a tournament; you go in with the team you’ve chosen, you’ve placed your bets and can’t alter the terms of that bet while the ball is rolling. The trade deadline is the NHL calling ‘no more bets’ before the playoff ball is tossed.
Clinch — This is when a player squeezes his glute muscles during a hit to ensure that he does not suffer from a much dreaded butt-concussion. Actually this is why a team secures a spot in the playoffs by earning enough points that they mathematically cannot finish below eights place in their conference.
Spoiler — The opposite of a clinch (not the first one…this doesn’t meaning relaxing your bum muscles…oh my). This is when a team is eliminated from possibly making the playoffs before the regular season has officially ended. The team doesn’t stand to really gain anything from a win in so much that it will not help their playoff hopes, but it can affect playoff prospects of any opposing teams. When a team that won’t be in the playoffs wins against a team who is higher in the standings, they could potentially spoil the hopes of that better team for the playoffs by stealing the points earned for a win.
Salary Cap — The main result of the 2004-2005 lockout aka the Dark Ages, This lost season is as welcome in a hockey conversation as a scorpion in one’s pants. This is the maximum amount of money a team is allowed to spend on player salaries for a season. This is meant to even the playing field for all teams and to avoid an MLB Yankees type situation whereby the richest team(s) can simply just buy all of the best players every year. This is a highly contentious topic with hockey fans; some believing that this is a great equalizer for the league, others seeing it as BS red tape and handicaps teams that succeed. As an editorial rant- I’d be happier if they had a ticket price cap more than a salary cap….freakin MLSE prices are abhorrent.
Harold Ballard — If Gary Bettman is a demon spawn then Harold Ballard is the devil himself. His middle name was likely actually Satan and it would surprise nobody if it were discovered that he ate babies. Ballard became a part owner of the Leafs in 1961 and was appointed as executive VP. Ballard never seemed to care for hockey but only for money; he fought with the players, slandering them in the media, forcing trades and making Toronto awful to play for. Ballard was accused of using his position to launder money and was charged with tax evasion in 1969, but was not forced to sell his shares in the team. He later became the sole owner of the Leafs but the money laundering never went away- he was charged with using money from the team to renovate his many houses. He micromanaged the team, despite being useless and ignorant about hockey and he was generally despised by all. His most famous feud may be with Dave Keon whom he vehemently slandered in the press, despite Keon being a superstar who was key to the team at the time. The feud with Keon led to Keon not wanting to have anything to do with the team after his departure until recent years, even though Ballard has been dead since 1990. Ballard could get his own article, and there are many of him….but to keep it simple- Harold Ballard is to hockey what Donald Trump is to politics.
Now, my dear pupils, since we’re halfway through the season, this means that we will be having a mid-term exam on all of the words in the Hocktionary to date to show how much you’ve learned. Luckily, since I gave up on a teaching career years ago, the exam will be to watch hockey!