Vegas Strong

The Play by Play

The Knights are Golden

Las Vegas’ first ever professional sports team has given the city something to rally around, starting the season 3-0. On the road for its first two game, and behind both times, the Golden Knights, led by James Neal’s game winning goals, have had the most improbable of starts. And yet, their season has quickly become something “more than hockey,” to players and fans. It’s been amazing to watch the outpouring of love and support expressed by teams and players following the horrific events of October 1st. The National Hockey League released a video called “Vegas Strong” and in the season opener, the Anaheim Ducks chose to line up behind the Knights rather than across from them, showing that they’ve got their backs. Even NFL players are getting involved, with DeMarco Murray donating $50,000 to help the victims. Yesterday, the Knights brought hockey home, for their first game in Vegas, ending in a 5-2 victory. It proved an emotional and uplifting experience, culminated in 58 seconds of silence recognizing the 58 individuals who died in the tragedy.

Unfortunate Injuries

Five weeks into the NFL season and the injuries start adding up. While inevitably players get hurt, teams that happen to lose their star players face the greatest uphill battle. Not only did the Houston Texans lose Sunday night’s game to the Chiefs, they also lost JJ Watt, their outstanding defensive tackle, for the season. Assisted off the field  during the first quarter, Watt suffered a fractured tibial plateau, bringing his play to an abrupt, and not so unfamiliar, halt. And if the Giants’ 0-5 start wasn’t painful enough, they bid farewell to Odell Beckham Jr, the one-hand catch master himself. While Beckham had struggled with an injured finger it pales in comparison to his now fractured left ankle. Not one to shy away from emotion, with some very creative end zone celebrations, his pain and frustration were quite apparent. But a post-surgery visit from Drake certainly didn’t hurt… 

No Goal for You

For the first time since 1986, the US Men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup. The 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, combined with a win by both Honduras and Panama, denied the United States an automatic entrance into the 2018 tournament. T&T had lost its last nine games leading experts and fans alike to assume an easy draw (tie), if not outright victory, for the US. However Trinidad & Tobago had extra incentive to win, having been eliminated by the United States back in 1989. In case you need a bit of perspective as to how long it’s been since the USMNT missed the cut…..It’s going to be a long four years until they have another shot at the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

The Faces and Facts

Josh Reddick: A right fielder (RF) for the Houston Astros. As is typical following a series victory (the Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox to move on to the ALCS), the team celebrated with ski goggles and champagne. What proved atypical was Reddick’s American flag speedo. Certainly a fashion statement.

Nathan Walker: The first Australian to play in the National Hockey League. Ever. The 23 year old left winger even managed to score a goal, which warranted a phone call from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. And it would appear Walker actually said the word “butt” while chatting. G’Day Nate.

TJ Brown: Anthem protesting made its way into the NHL when TJ Brown raised his fist before Saturday’s game. Unlike the other three professional leagues, and something you might not initially notice, the NHL is made up of predominately white athletes. And while the number of black players has increased recently, only 86 black men have played in the league over the course of  its existence. It will be curious to see how these protests continue to manifest throughout the season.

The Midweek Rundown

While there are certainly more football rules and structures to deconstruct, with the start of hockey, I figured a basic overview would prove helpful.

Positions and Jobs: There are three general positions on the ice- and 6 players playing at a time.

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  • Goalie: Keeps the puck out of the net and arguably the most important and difficult job on the ice.
  • Defensemen: There are two defensemen, one playing on the right-hand side of the ice and one on the left. While some defensemen also pose a threat offensively (can shoot the puck), the main job of a defenseman is to block shots and stop the other team from scoring.
  • Forwards: There are three forwards, each of which has its own specific name:
    • Right Wing/Left Wing: As the primary goal scorers, these players must have a strong and accurate shot and also play well against the boards in the offensive zone
    • Center: Hockey’s equivalent of a quarterback. The center excels at passing, winning face-offs, and covering a great deal of ice, playing in both the offensive and defensive zones.

The Ice  and All Those Lines:

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  • Lines: There are three main lines on a hockey rink. The center red line divides the rink in half. The blue lines (there are two) are 25 feet from this center line, on either side. The red lines near the end of the ice are called the goal lines. For a goal to count, it must cross this line inside the net. There are rules about who can cross which line and how far past a certain line the puck can travel untouched by another player.
  • Zones: These lines divides the ice into zones. A team’s defensive zone is from the end of the ice (where your goalie stands) to the first blue line. Between the two blue lines (including the center red line) is the neutral zone. And the remaining distance from the second blue line to the goal you are trying to score on is referred to as the offensive zone. 
  • Circles/Dots: You will also see small dots around the ice- 2 in the defensive, 2 in the offensive, and 5 in the neutral zone. These are the face-off locations. When play is stopped and needs to be restarted, each team’s center approaches the dot, with the remaining players around them (only the two involved in the face-off are allowed inside the circles). The referee drops the puck and the two players battle it out for possession. The face-off dot used depends on why and where the play was stopped.

The Upcoming

Wednesday Night Rivalry (Hockey): The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Washington Capitals for this week’s rivalry game. The Pens boast Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, a trio that has brought two recent Stanley Cup victories. Yet the Capitals claim Alexander Ovechkin, consistently one of the highest scorers in the league (and wedding dancer extraordinaire). This year proves no exception, as Ovechkin scored seven, that’s right seven, goals in his first two games. Two hat tricks (when one player scores 3 goals in a game) in the first two games of a season hasn’t been done in over 100 years. Bodes well for the Capitals and a challenge for Murray (the Penguins’ goalie). Puck drops at 7:30pm EST.

ALDS Game 5: The New York Yankees have forced a Game 5 against the Cleveland Indians following a 7-3 victory Monday night. Heading back to Cleveland might give the Indians a slight advantage. However they just lost two games in a row so momentum is in New York’s favor. If you tune in, keep your eyes open for the Yankees’ now-notorious “thumbs down”  celebration. Aaron Judge has sported it on a shirt. The entire Yankee dugout and fans alike throw it out when, ironically, something good happens. And it is all thanks to a suspender wearing fan. First pitch is tonight, Wednesday, October 11th at 8:08 (yes, that’s right) pm EST.

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