08:37:59 pm on
Thursday 20 Jul 2017

NHL Playoffs as Theatre
Bob Stark


"Theatre is a series of insurmountable obstacles
on the road to imminent disaster."
Tom Stoppard, Playwright
 

I would suggest that the same might go for the Stanley Cup play-offs. It is theatre after-all, replete with a mixture of tragedy and comedy. There's the pre-event music before the curtain rises, that is, the dropping of the puck and the game begins. For insight into the style of Vaudeville, watch at least one home game of the Boston Bruins; tuxedo and bow-tie adorned Rene Rancourt mangles the Star Spangled Banner, after which he does his little hand-sign shtick, pumping his fists, to rally the cast of players and the people crammed into the cheap seats in the nose bleed section.


NHL Playoffs offer theatre for all tastes.

For Greek theatre scholars, there is always a Greek Chorus. "Boo! Get off the ice you bum! Go back to referee school!" and such refrains. Such chants don't always emanate from the audience aka the fans who don the uniform of their home team, with the name of a favourite actor qua player on the back. The theatre looms on the city landscape like an UFO from Close Encounters of a Third Kind, which the earthlings enter enmasse, as a zoned-out cult of run-down Zamboni zombies, having paid a month's salary for a ticket, while their kids go shoeless, only to watch their heroes get thrown off stage before intermission. Heck, some audience members get so incensed that when their favourite actor gives a particularly embarrassing performance they don't throw tomatoes but riot in the streets, burning effigies of the director and producer.

For Shakespeare fans, some low-life amateur summer stock actor will cold cock one of the marquee actors, and with the fallen famous man flailing away on-the-ice, another goon fresh out of clown school or prison will come to the rescue of his troubled teammate, demanding a "pound of flesh.” Once the concussed superstar recovers consciousness, he'll start citing Cicero, "Why do you insist the universe is not a conscious intelligence when it gives birth to conscious intelligences,” then stumble to the dressing room spouting about strutting a stage, signifying nothing, or speak in tongues like he's been to an island and enchanted by Prospero.

Keep your eyes peeled, on the back-up goalies parked at the end of the bench, that is, 'waiting in the wings', whispering, "To be or not to be that is the question,” somewhat secretly, hoping someone on the opposing army impales the starter.

Meanwhile, the producer, the director and the playwright sit in suite seats, praying their creation doesn't flop and close on Saturday night. There are always a few intriguing plotlines. My favourite plot involves the San Jose Sharks.

This is actually the Myth of Sisyphus, as year after year, despite numerous failures, they keep pushing that huge rock up a hill only to get close to the top before falling back to the bottom of the slagheap. This year, the troupe's former director, Todd McLellan, returns to 'he Shark Tank, like a vanquished Banquo showing up for dinner at the castle inhabited by Macbeth.

The Calgary Flames head to Anaheim having not won any laurels there since God created the original hat trick, the father, son and holy spook. Pass that boulder. This is lying on a couch scenario material. "Is this a dagger I see before me?" Never mind sending in the clowns, unless they're sports psychologists.

Nashville has never made it out of the second round. This year they get Chicago as their first round dance partner. Somewhere there isn't a God. Conjure Tiny Tim singing, "I Fall to Pieces.” Even Owen Bradley won't solve this mix.

Meet The Court Jesters, The Washington Capitals, led by "The Great Eight,” one of the great thespians of his generation. Eight ball in the side-pocket is more like it. Scratching, year after year, the Danny Kaye team can never figure out which mug carries the brew, which is true.

The Maple Leafs, from Toronto, haven't tasted the champagne and had a closing night party since I don’t know when. Was there champagne back in the middle ages; ah, yes, Centennial year, that was 1967. Since then, the hockey gods have abandoned them and they’re 'Waiting for Godot.”

Hmmm. the plot thickens. This year is the 150th anniversary of Canada, give or take a few thousand years "before contact.” Imagine, a team called the Senators, the hockey guys from Ottawa, not the slime balls on Parliament Hill, winning Lord Stanley's silverware! Not even Tom Stoppard could write this Theatre of the Absurd script! Many plays have surprise endings. Go Sens!

Ya love spectacles! Move to Columbus, where they fire the cannon every time the Blue Jackets emote a bon mot. Pure American; kinda Trumpian in an Imperial Toga costume. Oh yeah, and there's the director Johnny 'Mount St. Helen's' Tortorella, a volcanic eruption looking for a place to happen. He is known to pick a fight with the coach of the opposing team. The guy has more complexes than Oedipus.


Who beats whom.

Well, that was a few enticements to get ya into the loges. Now, my opening night previews.

The East

The Montreal Canadians should prevail over the New York Rangers. New York is shaky on defence due to injuries and King Henrik has been more like a wandering Lear on the moors between the pipes, though better of late. Their highly skilled forward soldiers have not scored much down the stretch. Then again, they've known for some time that they'd finish in 7th Place, got bored but may now be ready to rejoin the dance. Home theatre for Habs is a plus and after a bit of a tumble, they've looked very good for the most part since Claude Julien took over and they made some cast changes. Price will have to be the difference, as usual. The goalies for Montreal and New York will be run through; Kreider vs Gallagher! I give a slight edge to Habs, in 7 Acts.

Toronto, the most surprising entry this year at the Spring Festival has had several vets having career performances. JVR, Kadri come to mind. Those rookies fresh out of Method Acting training don't seem intimidated by the bright Broadway lights. Their Achilles’ Heel is their defence and here come the Washington Capitals, whose only drawback is their ill-fated history, as well as that of President Trophy winners. This won't be a one-night disaster; I say Washington in Six Acts. Go Raptors!

Under pressure, Columbus lost seven of eighht battles down the stretch. Half the audience left at intermission, which is not encouraging. Even with injuries, the Penguins finished with a rousing closing number. Alas, no Letang, others hurting on the Defence, but too much star power at centre stage. Bobo in nets for the Jackets must juggle while standing on his head for the Jackets to get the largest applause. I doubt the Pens will win an Obie this year, but Pens get out of first round; Probably quickly. A short play, leave 'em laughing! Pens in 4 Acts.

Two teams changed directors in mid-rehearsal! If the Habs got a lift with Claude's arrival how 'bout the Bruins under Cassidy! This is a good Bruins team. It that looks more dangerous and more motivated than they did most of the year. Chara is not likely to tire in the first act. Bergeron can win just about any face-off in key situations. Brad the Cad, "a tale told by an idiot,” but can act and score a ton. Drew Stafford was a great addition. Ottawa will have to be on their ballet toes. They'll need Burr and Stalberg and others to go to the net and keep the Bees honest on the boards. Obviously, Bobby Ryan has to perform and the PP has to get the job done. Methot doesn't look like he'll be on the stage, at least early; huge loss, HUGE, as Bernie Sanders would say. If Senators can stay out of the box, this play ends in 6 Acts.

West

Nashville. Alas poor Horatio, another broken guitar string. They do play well against the Chicago Blackhawks but c'mon man, no way. Toews, Kane and Keith. End of story. Chicago in 5 Acts.

The hardest play to review may be Blues versus Wild. Minnesota has stunk of late. They keep forgetting their lines. Blues have their pacing down. They'll miss Shattenkirk and even Backes from last year's performance, but if Allen is consistent in his timing in goal, they'll have a good run; perhaps a long one. Held over! Blues in 7 Acts.

Anaheim did what they did last year. Stuck in the rural weeds, way off Broadway, then brought the house down when they hit 42nd Street. I would love nothing more than a surprise ending here, which could happen only if Calgary out-performs them in one of the first two acts in Anaheim. Otherwise, this could be over early. Like violence? This one could get ugly even before the curtain rises. These players hate each other. Get out the swords; Montagues and the Capulets! There will be blood. I'm afraid it'll be Ducks left standing o'er the fallen corpses, after 5 or 6 Acts.

San Jose will likely be missing Jumbo Joe and Logan Couture has a broken jaw; if mucous be the foot of lub ....” Edmonton has Laurence Olivier; that is, Connor McDavid. Seriously, the dude is a marvel to watch all over the stage. Edmonton, l thought, were still a year away from life under the big tent, mostly cause of a rather nondescript chorus line corps...but Adam Larson has been good, Chris Russell as well. Talbot versus Jones is a wash in nets. Oilers have got two good dance lines to match SJ. The play may sag for the Oilers however once ya get to third and fourth chorus lines, and there's the experience factor of the Sharks - no stage fright. But the long-starved theatre goers in Alberta's northland will be rocking the house. Edmonton in an 'upset' in 7 Acts.

As the actors say before hitting the boards - "Merde.”

"Theatre is a series of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."

Playwright, Tom Stoppard

 

I would suggest that the same might go for the Stanley Cup play-offs. It is theatre after-all, replete with a mixture of tragedy and comedy. There's the pre-event music before the curtain rises, that is, the dropping of the puck and the game begins. For insight into the style of Vaudeville, watch at least one home game of the Boston Bruins; tuxedo and bow-tie adorned Rene Rancourt mangles the Star Spangled Banner, after which he does his little hand-sign shtick, pumping his fists, to rally the cast of players and the people crammed into the cheap seats in the nose bleed section.

  • NHL Playoffs offer theatre for all tastes.

For Greek theatre scholars, there is always a Greek Chorus. "Boo! Get off the ice you bum! Go back to referee school!" and such refrains. Such chants don't always emanate from the audience aka the fans who don the uniform of their home team, with the name of a favourite actor qua player on the back. The theatre looms on the city landscape like an UFO from Close Encounters of a Third Kind, which the earthlings enter enmasse, as a zoned-out cult of run-down Zamboni zombies, having paid a month's salary for a ticket, while their kids go shoeless, only to watch their heroes get thrown off stage before intermission. Heck, some audience members get so incensed that when their favourite actor gives a particularly embarrassing performance they don't throw tomatoes but riot in the streets, burning effigies of the director and producer.

For Shakespeare fans, some low-life amateur summer stock actor will cold cock one of the marquee actors, and with the fallen famous man flailing away on-the-ice, another goon fresh out of clown school or prison will come to the rescue of his troubled teammate, demanding a "pound of flesh.” Once the concussed superstar recovers consciousness, he'll start citing Cicero, "Why do you insist the universe is not a conscious intelligence when it gives birth to conscious intelligences,” then stumble to the dressing room spouting about strutting a stage, signifying nothing, or speak in tongues like he's been to an island and enchanted by Prospero.

Keep your eyes peeled, on the back-up goalies parked at the end of the bench, that is, 'waiting in the wings', whispering, "To be or not to be that is the question,” somewhat secretly, hoping someone on the opposing army impales the starter.

Meanwhile, the producer, the director and the playwright sit in suite seats, praying their creation doesn't flop and close on Saturday night. There are always a few intriguing plotlines. My favourite plot involves the San Jose Sharks.

This is actually the Myth of Sisyphus, as year after year, despite numerous failures, they keep pushing that huge rock up a hill only to get close to the top before falling back to the bottom of the slagheap. This year, the troupe's former director, Todd McLellan, returns to 'he Shark Tank, like a vanquished Banquo showing up for dinner at the castle inhabited by Macbeth.

The Calgary Flames head to Anaheim having not won any laurels there since God created the original hat trick, the father, son and holy spook. Pass that boulder. This is lying on a couch scenario material. "Is this a dagger I see before me?" Never mind sending in the clowns, unless they're sports psychologists.

Nashville has never made it out of the second round. This year they get Chicago as their first round dance partner. Somewhere there isn't a God. Conjure Tiny Tim singing, "I Fall to Pieces.” Even Owen Bradley won't solve this mix.

Meet The Court Jesters, The Washington Capitals, led by "The Great Eight,” one of the great thespians of his generation. Eight ball in the side-pocket is more like it. Scratching, year after year, the Danny Kaye team can never figure out which mug carries the brew, which is true.

The Maple Leafs, from Toronto, haven't tasted the champagne and had a closing night party since I don’t know when. Was there champagne back in the middle ages; ah, yes, Centennial year, that was 1967. Since then, the hockey gods have abandoned them and they’re 'Waiting for Godot.”

Hmmm. the plot thickens. This year is the 150th anniversary of Canada, give or take a few thousand years "before contact.” Imagine, a team called the Senators, the hockey guys from Ottawa, not the slime balls on Parliament Hill, winning Lord Stanley's silverware! Not even Tom Stoppard could write this Theatre of the Absurd script! Many plays have surprise endings. Go Sens!

Ya love spectacles! Move to Columbus, where they fire the cannon every time the Blue Jackets emote a bon mot. Pure American; kinda Trumpian in an Imperial Toga costume. Oh yeah, and there's the director Johnny 'Mount St. Helen's' Tortorella, a volcanic eruption looking for a place to happen. He is known to pick a fight with the coach of the opposing team. The guy has more complexes than Oedipus.

à

Well, that was a few enticements to get ya into the loges. Now, my opening night previews.

The East

The Montreal Canadians should prevail over the New York Rangers. New York is shaky on defence due to injuries and King Henrik has been more like a wandering Lear on the moors between the pipes, though better of late. Their highly skilled forward soldiers have not scored much down the stretch. Then again, they've known for some time that they'd finish in 7th Place, got bored but may now be ready to rejoin the dance. Home theatre for Habs is a plus and after a bit of a tumble, they've looked very good for the most part since Claude Julien took over and they made some cast changes. Price will have to be the difference, as usual. The goalies for Montreal and New York will be run through; Kreider vs Gallagher! I give a slight edge to Habs, in 7 Acts.

Toronto, the most surprising entry this year at the Spring Festival has had several vets having career performances. JVR, Kadri come to mind. Those rookies fresh out of Method Acting training don't seem intimidated by the bright Broadway lights. Their Achilles’ Heel is their defence and here come the Washington Capitals, whose only drawback is their ill-fated history, as well as that of President Trophy winners. This won't be a one-night disaster; I say Washington in Six Acts. Go Raptors!

Under pressure, Columbus lost seven of eighht battles down the stretch. Half the audience left at intermission, which is not encouraging. Even with injuries, the Penguins finished with a rousing closing number. Alas, no Letang, others hurting on the Defence, but too much star power at centre stage. Bobo in nets for the Jackets must juggle while standing on his head for the Jackets to get the largest applause. I doubt the Pens will win an Obie this year, but Pens get out of first round; Probably quickly. A short play, leave 'em laughing! Pens in 4 Acts.

Two teams changed directors in mid-rehearsal! If the Habs got a lift with Claude's arrival how 'bout the Bruins under Cassidy! This is a good Bruins team. It that looks more dangerous and more motivated than they did most of the year. Chara is not likely to tire in the first act. Bergeron can win just about any face-off in key situations. Brad the Cad, "a tale told by an idiot,” but can act and score a ton. Drew Stafford was a great addition. Ottawa will have to be on their ballet toes. They'll need Burr and Stalberg and others to go to the net and keep the Bees honest on the boards. Obviously, Bobby Ryan has to perform and the PP has to get the job done. Methot doesn't look like he'll be on the stage, at least early; huge loss, HUGE, as Bernie Sanders would say. If Senators can stay out of the box, this play ends in 6 Acts.

West

Nashville. Alas poor Horatio, another broken guitar string. They do play well against the Chicago Blackhawks but c'mon man, no way. Toews, Kane and Keith. End of story. Chicago in 5 Acts.

The hardest play to review may be Blues versus Wild. Minnesota has stunk of late. They keep forgetting their lines. Blues have their pacing down. They'll miss Shattenkirk and even Backes from last year's performance, but if Allen is consistent in his timing in goal, they'll have a good run; perhaps a long one. Held over! Blues in 7 Acts.

Anaheim did what they did last year. Stuck in the rural weeds, way off Broadway, then brought the house down when they hit 42nd Street. I would love nothing more than a surprise ending here, which could happen only if Calgary out-performs them in one of the first two acts in Anaheim. Otherwise, this could be over early. Like violence? This one could get ugly even before the curtain rises. These players hate each other. Get out the swords; Montagues and the Capulets! There will be blood. I'm afraid it'll be Ducks left standing o'er the fallen corpses, after 5 or 6 Acts.

San Jose will likely be missing Jumbo Joe and Logan Couture has a broken jaw; if mucous be the foot of lub ....” Edmonton has Laurence Olivier; that is, Connor McDavid. Seriously, the dude is a marvel to watch all over the stage. Edmonton, l thought, were still a year away from life under the big tent, mostly cause of a rather nondescript chorus line corps...but Adam Larson has been good, Chris Russell as well. Talbot versus Jones is a wash in nets. Oilers have got two good dance lines to match SJ. The play may sag for the Oilers however once ya get to third and fourth chorus lines, and there's the experience factor of the Sharks - no stage fright. But the long-starved theatre goers in Alberta's northland will be rocking the house. Edmonton in an 'upset' in 7 Acts.

As the actors say before hitting the boards - "Merde.”

 

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

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