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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The East Cup Chronicles: Rocky Mountain High

Empire Sports Marketing Office, downtown Toronto, 8:25 AM, December 27, 2012

“One of these days,” grumbled Jasmine Bryar, kicking a recalcitrant coffee machine at her office, “this darn machine is going to work properly.” Bryar then furiously mashed the buttons, hoping her coffee would spew out...which it did, except that now it flowed endlessly into her cup, spilling onto the floor.

“It's okay,” said her friend, Pete Moyer, a stocky man with a full beard and glasses who was the office building's janitor, “I've got it.” Moyer dutifully took out his mop and cleaned the offending stain off the floor, cheerfully.

“I wasn't going to leave it for you,” said Bryar apologetically.
“It's no big deal,” replied Moyer with a big smile. “If it weren't for spills, I wouldn't have a job.”
“Good point.”
“Do you have a case of the Mondays?”
Bryar smiled. “Who doesn't? I know it’s not technically a Monday but it’s the day after Boxing Day so it feels like a Monday…the break goes by too quickly.”
“At least you don't have to be in at 6 or pick up paper out of the urinals.”
“Some days, I just might like least you don't take your job home with you like I do.”
“You say that now...and you'd probably like it for ten minutes. Then you actually have to do the'll be wanting to go back to your old one quick.”
“Good point...especially considering the office in the back.”
“Your cushy office job sounds a lot more appealing now, doesn't it?”
Bryar smiled and nodded in agreement.

Penguins-Rockies, Denver, CO, December 27, 2012, 35 seconds left, 3rd Period, 3-2 Penguins

Kurt Sauer felt it. His Colorado Rockies, despite being winless like the hapless Pittsburgh Penguins, had been battling hard the whole game. Aside from spotting the Pens a 2-0 lead after just five minutes of play, the Rockies carried the play, and when it came time for one last rush at the Penguin net, the Rockies were sure that they were going to tie things.

Sauer started the rush by dumping the puck in as soon as he crossed the centre line, and, as soon as the Rockies coralled the puck behind the Penguin net, the defenceman assumed his position at the point. He watched the play, intently, hoping to get the opportunity to blast the puck into the Penguin net. Though time was not a friend of Colorado's, Sauer skated atop the blueline, patiently waiting for his chance. Then, after a mad scramble in front of the net, the puck squirted free right to Sauer, who put his head down and blasted away. The Penguin goalie didn't stand a chance with so many bodies in front of him, as the puck whizzed by into the net with five seconds left. The Rockies celebrated, joyously, until they saw referee Don Koharski vehemently wave off the goal.

“Don,” asked Sauer, the Rockie captain, “what's going on?” Koharski skated silently by, ushering Rockie star Jesper Mattson to the penalty box. A few seconds later, the scoreboard would show Mattson getting a penalty for elbowing, with the entire Rockie bench letting out a collective groan.

What had happened was Mattson and Penguin forward Petr Taticek were tangled up in front of the net as Sauer blasted his shot. During the brawl, Mattson had indeed elbowed Taticek, sending him back forcefully into his own goalpost. The force of the impact had knocked Taticek unconscious, leaving him motionless on the ice. Taticek, though, wasn't noticed until after play had stopped (except by Koharski), leaving the Rockies bemused until they saw a replay.

The penalty call meant the ensuing faceoff was deep with the Rockies' zone. The Penguins, realizing it would be impossible for the Rockies to realistically corral the puck and score, pulled their goalie for an extra shooter, giving them six to Colorado's four (the Rockies being forced to put their goalie back in for the faceoff). Pittsburgh nearly executed their plan to perfection, winning the faceoff and blasting the shot on goal, but it whizzed harmlessly by the Rocky net, though it allowed the final seconds to tick off for their first victory of the season, meaning Colorado was now in dead last at 0-19.

The Hogtown Corral, Yonge & Eglinton, Toronto

“Kind of wish there was another East Cup game on other than that stupid Pittsburgh-Colorado game,” grumbled Bryar, seated at a booth with Moyer.
“Snap snowfalls can do that,” replied Moyer, referring to the blizzard that forced the postponement of the contest to tonight. “At least we’ve got the Florida Gators and Buffalo Bills to keep us entertained,” Moyer continued, referring to the football game the two of them were watching.
“I’m only watching that because it’s the only thing that’s on that is remotely interesting. Surprised these two aren’t playing on New Year’s Day.”
“You forgot…football decided to stop playing games on New Year’s Day, since the Winter Classic was crushing them in the ratings.”
“Right…I forgot about that…and my Islanders are playing.”
“Yes, yes, versus the Rangers…I know…one of these days the Leafs will play in the game.”
“Just like how you keep on saying the Leafs will one day win the Cup.”
Moyer smiled and shrugged, used to hearing that snide remark from Bryar. “This is going to be the year…just you watch.”
Bryar sarcastically rolled her eyes. “Sure...”

After a Bills timeout late in the third quarter, an update from the Electronic Arts Sports Network interrupted the game.

“Great game in The Swamp tonight,” boomed anchor Stuart Scott authoritatively, “but we’ve got to take you away from this clash of the heavyweights to bring you this update from the East Cup.”
“I guess the game’s finished,” cracked Bryar, uninterested in the result.
“The Penguins defeated the Rockies today for their first victory of the season,” continued Scott, “but that wasn’t the story tonight, as odd as that sounds.” The TV then cut to footage of the game. “Scary moment at the end where Colorado’s Jesper Mattson, in a scramble in front of the net, gives a love tap right…there…to Pittsburgh’s Petr Taticek’s kisser, knocking him out cold. As you can see, Colorado would have tied the score had Jesper decided not to be a jester and do that, but the goal is immediately waved off.” The TV cut away from the game and returned the camera to Scott, who continued. “We’re told that Taticek is responsive at the hospital and may not actually miss any game time, but Mattson is still going to meet with league commissioner Robert Browning tomorrow over the incident.”
“Check out Mattson’s reaction,” said co-anchor Jamie Campbell. “As soon as he’s marshalled to the penalty box, he feigns obliviousness and says ‘who? Me?’ Yes, it’s you…don’t even try to hide it.”
“Ugly, ugly, ugly,” sighed Scott in agreement. “That’s all I got to say.”

Bryar looked away from the TV and gave Moyer a look of shock at what she just saw.

“Did I see what I just saw?” said Bryar.
“Yes you did,” said Moyer, equally shocked at the image.
“I never thought a Colorado-Pittsburgh game could be noteworthy but we’ve got what may be the news story of the year.”
“Ahead of the Islander flag flap?”
“Well, equal to it…anyway, he’s gone for at least six games.”
“How do you figure?”
“You’ve got an incident that caused an injury…that’s one game right there. Then, since it’s a premeditated violent attack, that’s an additional five games. Browning may even tack on some more games at his discretion…in other words, Mattson probably won’t be playing much of Colorado’s interleague contests.”
“I disagree. I agree the attack was vicious and likely Mattson meant to elbow Taticek, but I’m not sure Mattson meant to hit him that hard. Besides, Mattson did get a penalty for the play…I believe officially he was tossed from the game…I think that’s enough of a penalty.”
“Come on now, Pete…how could Mattson not know that Taticek was right next to the goalpost? The players are masters at making things ‘look’ like an accident.”
“That’s what makes a lot of these plays tough to judge…but…you never see Mattson take a peak and see who’s behind him…he probably just felt somebody there and responded the only way that he could- by nudging him away. Unfortunately, his nudge resulted in a devastating injury…I know that when I’m playing and I’m in a mad scramble like that I’m pushing guys out of my way in any way that I can…I don’t always know who’s around me…adrenaline tends to cut away from your spatial awareness.”
“Yeah that’s all true, but Mattson really laid into him…that’s a bit more than just a ‘get out of my way shove.’ ”
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how the league responds.”
“I guess so.”

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