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September 17, 2008 | Filed in: AHL, Cap Attack, da b'ars

Turns out I learned today in a fit of self-Googling that The NHL Arena decided earlier this summer I was less knowledgeable than the people that do Do the Thrashers Have Large Talons?

It’s nice to know that in a competition I didn’t enter, I didn’t know about and in which I’m paired against someone following an NHL team, I can lose.

N’aw, I’m not really bitter, it just seems like such a ludicrous thing to do, pitting two completely unrelated blogs against one another. What was the criteria, “Hockey Blogs that Start With T?” “Hockey Blogs That Have Two Words Beginning With T in the Titles?” “Hockey Blogs That Occasionally Mention Colby Armstrong?” Come on. I do have to give them credit however, for not jumping all over the fact that I was an unabashedly female blogger. In some places, you can get shot for that. (But really, doing a blog-off… in JULY? Who writes their best stuff in July?)

Anyway, now that that’s out of my system….

I love preseason games. I love preseason games almost as much as I love watching players at practice, which is almost as much as I love the entire AHL level of play. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some overblown sense of schadenfreude that keeps me watching (although, okay, sometimes it is, like when Alexander Semin gets angry with people talking in the stands and then eats it on the ice in front of them).

Really, I love watching superhuman athletes as humans. And practices, preseason games and the minor leagues are where you can still see some of that humanity come out. Practices are some of the best places to watch people be goofy, to see people try things that maybe they DON’T have perfect yet, and to take that chance on falling down just to see if they can do it this time.

Preseason games, hell, nobody knows who they’re playing with. It’s like an overblown pickup game. “Ah, Crosby… I’ll uh…. I’ll give you Goligoski and…. uh…… Staal. Go play the Flyers.” And because nobody has a clue what’s really going on, they’re just starting to find a rhythm by the end of the game. You get to see the flow happening, and it’s loose and fast and kind of fun when it starts to really get ripping in some places. Of course, then you have your little rookie guys who’ve somehow made it into the preseason games and they come out all starry-eyed and grinning, but damn, on some level they’ve made the big team, even if all they get to do is make a bad pass to the biggest guy out there. They’ve played on NHL ice for an NHL team, and that’s the dream.

And y’ know, it’s that same level of fallibility that makes the AHL so much fun to me. You never quite know when you’re gonna get gutted as a team because of injuries higher up. You never quite know who’s coming up the pipe, or who’s coming down the other way. You have guys with something to lose trying to prove themselves every night, but you don’t have that level of dazzling perfection and the tarnish is what makes it fun. Steve Pinizzotto may come out and completely miss whoever it was he was trying to kill against the boards, but damned if he didn’t try.

Preseason with the Bears. Sunday September 28. 5 PM. All guts, no glory, big fun.

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