One year ago, I was a disconsolate hockey fan. I wrote about The Grinches Who Stole Hockey. There were no National Hockey League (NHL) games taking place. There was no Winter Classic to look forward to. There were only millionaires and billionaires trying to figure out how to reasonably add another zero to their bank accounts.
Thankfully the labor dispute was soon settled in early 2013 and the NHL resumed for an abbreviated season. And what a season it turned out to be. It was all capped off with an improbable Stanley Cup Game 6 victory for the Chicago Blackhawks.
I am back watching NHL hockey. There is a certain luster missing. And I still feel wronged. But I do believe it’s time to start celebrating the magic of the game once again. And where better than the sport’s modern annual tradition – the Winter Classic.
So much of Christmas is about reveling in the magic of the holiday. No Christmas story, song or poem echoes the magical feeling of Christmas to me like that of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (often referred to as ‘Twas the Night before Christmas). Therefore, I have put my twist on the famous poem in celebration of hockey’s magic and the excitement of the upcoming Winter Classic.
‘TWAS THE DAY OF THE WINTER CLASSIC
'Twas the day of the Winter Classic, when all through the Big House,
the bleachers were stirring as I sat with my spouse.
The boards were erected on the field with such care,
in hopes that the Leafs and Wings soon would be there.
Each fan was nestled all snug in their seat,
privileged to witness such a rare hockey treat.
And my wife in her Wings jersey, and I in my Leafs hat,
had just settled in for the afternoon’s spat.
When out on the ice there arose such a noise,
we sprang from our seats to cheer on our boys.
Shaking our hands on a friendly little bet,
the puck was dropped, the players were set.
My Leafs pushed the play under some new-fallen snow.
The Buds came out firing with plenty of flow.
Phaneuf with the blast; JVR with the tip.
Before the crowd knew, it’s Toronto one-zip.
I couldn’t help but engage in a celebratory dance.
My wife less than impressed with my little prance.
The Leafs looked hungry, fast and strong,
I hoped that goal two would next come along.
Babcock juggled the lines for the Red Wings’ next shift,
looking for something to give them a lift.
When, who on the Wings bench should appear,
but a legendary D-man leading the fans in cheer.
Detroit woke up becoming so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Captain Nick.
More rapid than Fedorov, his former teammates came,
They joined in the roar and he shouted their names:
"Now Stevie! Now Chelly!
Now, Ossie and Dominator!
On, Slava! On, Shanny!
On, Maltby and Draper!
To the top of the stadium!
Spread the word to the crowd!
The Wings will come back!
The franchise will stand proud!"
Datsyuk can skate as quickly as a hurricane’s eye,
when he meets the Leafs’ D, the puck goes awry.
But Alfie scoops it up with a headful of steam,
snaps it top shelf to notch one for his team.
The Big House erupted in deafening bedlam,
as the home team captured all the momentum.
All the Wings supporters knew just what to do,
they cheered louder and harder for goal number two.
My wife had thrown her hands up in the air,
but swiftly sat herself down in the chair.
All the joy would quickly subside,
after all, the score had only been tied.
Both teams pressed a little more urgent,
and, suddenly, the Leafs were resurgent.
The Red Wings pushed Toronto right back,
they simply had answers for every attack,
And then, in a reprieve, I heard the buzzer sound.
Regulation had ended, neither team had made ground.
It was off to overtime both teams would go,
amid the cool air and light dusting of snow.
Before OT started, the Jumbotron would show,
all the Wings legends lined up in a row.
They wished good tidings to Detroit’s new idols,
Nicklas reminded fans of all of their titles.
Lidstrom, you see, was dressed in Wings’ red and white
just like Santa’s colors every Christmas night.
A Stanley Cup ring slid on a finger,
championship memories that will forever linger.
It’s time for Old Nick to pass on the Wings’ torch,
leave for another the opposition to scorch.
Could Franzen or Zetterberg be the big star?
Or would the Leafs claim glory in the overtime spar?
Kessel and Kadri would jump on the puck quick,
much to the chagrin of Old Captain Nick.
They did all they could to turn on the red light,
But Howard kept shutting the door quite tight.
I looked at my wife with a smile upon face,
confident of winning the wager we’d placed.
But the moment I did, the Leafs were caught down low,
Up the ice, a two-on-one was starting to grow.
Pavel and Henrik raced into the zone,
as poor Morgan Reilly was left all alone.
Next thing you knew, Kronwall jumped in the play,
fired a shot, and ended the Leafs’ day.
Niklas Kronwall, the hero. His face was so merry!
First star of the game for the goal he did bury.
Was this the new Niklas that Wings fans had sought?
Stars earn their stripes; honor just can’t be taught.
This isn’t how the game played out in my dreams,
I sunk in my seat beneath all the screams.
A wink of my wife’s eye and a smirk on her face,
I knew at the moment, I was put in my place.
We spoke very few words as we drove to the house,
My wife didn’t gloat; she was quiet as a mouse.
The Red Wings had won; the Maple Leafs had lost.
We had wagered but never determined a cost.
But I heard her exclaim, as our house came into sight,
"In case you forgot, your Leafs lost. And you’re making me dinner tonight!"
Happy Holidays to everyone!
Bob Sullivan writes periodically for SportingCharts.com and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.
'Twas the day of the Winter Classic is based on the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” written by Clement Clarke Moore.