"Shooting From Angles Not Covered By Any Other Blogs"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

With a Time Machine and a Therapist—May Rangers Have Run Ruff-Shot Over Sabres

The following morsel - reshaped, recooked and reflavored by the imagination and slightly warped mind of The Hockey Humorist – was inspired by an original idea of the esteemed Hockey Rabbi.

It’s mid-August in the dead of summer with NHL activity nearly frozen still. At this time of the year hockey fans have two choices: either look ahead to next season at what might be, or look back to last season at what might have been. For the moment I propose that Ranger fans do the latter…

FLASHBACK! Madison Square Garden—May 1, 2007 at 9:44 PM. It was the most pivotal time of the entire roller coaster season—smack in the middle of an excruciatingly exciting, see-saw playoff series between the Rangers and Sabres. In dramatic fashion the Rangers had just evened up the series at 2 games a piece, when a controversial no-goal decision in the waning seconds allowed the Rangers to cling to victory by the “skin of their crease”.

Following game 4, Sabres head coach, Lindy Ruff, looked lost, and the answers he was searching for were not coming easily. How had his Presidents’ Trophy winning team dropped two straight games to a team who hadn’t beaten his squad all year long? Why was his offense, who could seemingly score at will during the regular season, having so much trouble lighting the lamp against the Blueshirts? What were the Rangers doing defensively to slow down his team’s warp-speed skating skills?

If the Sabres swords were silenced for good over the next two games, how would he ever be able to show his face in the city of Buffalo again—especially when the Sabre fans considered the 2007 Stanley Cup to be their entitlement? And finally, what could he possibly do to turn the tide when his ship and the series seemed to be sailing off into the sunset without the Sabres onboard?

Trying to put his best face forward, Ruff’s spoke optimistically—but he wasn’t fooling anyone. Ruff, who even later admitted the Rangers had “scared them to death”, was clearly a man in trouble that needed professional help.

It was at this fork on the road to the Stanley Cup, when the super-series met the super-natural. As Ruff exited the Garden, he was greeted by some eerily familiar music and two cabbies—one of whom bore a striking resemblance to the late Rod Serling, while the other was … NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman?

Bettman, trying to lure Ruff into his cab, attempted the best Yellow Medallion Taxicab driver impersonation he could muster up—but like most of Bettman’s endeavors to raise revenues (even one as simple as collecting taxi fare), all he did was screw it up. So given the choice between riding with a live, incompetent commissioner or a dead, neurotic writer/director, Lindy made the same choice that any sane hockey fan, player, or coach would have made—Ruff rode with Rod.

As this strange pair drove into the night, Serling began to explain to Ruff that many of the characters in his classic sci-fi/fantasy TV series faced similar dilemmas to the one that Ruff was now facing. And just when they were at the crossroads in their respective lives, these characters would unlock their proverbial doors “with the key of imagination”. Often, they would find their way and their answers by experiencing new places, new cultures and new ways of thinking.

Serling told him that now, through the dimensions of space, time, mind, and hockey blogs, Ruff will be rewarded with this kind of life changing (and possibly series changing) opportunity. As Serling stepped on the gas, the car and its two passengers were transported through some type of worm-hole in the space-time continuum. Once he saw the signpost up ahead, Ruff knew he had cleared Manhattan and had just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.

Serling dropped Ruff off in front of a synagogue, whose location could have been any city in the country. It was here that he was met by none other than our own Hockey Rabbi. Lindy’s first impressions of him were quite positive, as the Hockey Rabbi seemed to have a calming influence on the ruffled and riled Ruff.

As the two men walked towards the Hockey Rabbi’s office, Ruff couldn’t help but notice how those around him seemed at peace with their culture and their lives. Although he had no idea how far he was from Madison Square Garden, Lindy’s mind seemed to be a million miles away from the turmoil he had left behind.

Once in the Hockey Rabbi’s office, Ruff (noticeably more comfortable) laid across the sofa with his feet up on its side. He began pouring out all of his troubles to the Hockey Rabbi. He spoke about how his seemingly invincible team was proving to be very vulnerable, and that he was having trouble handling the burden that came with the fans and media having such high expectations for the Sabres.

The Hockey Rabbi responded with a quote from the Talmud (one of Judaism’s holiest works): “The burden is equal to the horse's strength”.

Ruff said that the strategies which had worked all season long were no longer working. He kept asking himself whether he should make changes or stay with the system that had been so successful. The Hockey Rabbi countered with the Yiddish saying: “Better ask ten times than go astray once”.

Then Lindy confided in the Hockey Rabbi by sharing his biggest fear of all—self doubts about his ability as a coach and whether he had what it took to overcome such adversity. Turning back to the Talmud, the Hockey Rabbi said, “Doubt cannot override a certainty”.

As the Hockey Rabbi addressed each of Ruff’s issues, Lindy’s spirits soared while his confidence climbed. Just as Serling had suggested, this previously unfamiliar culture and way of thought gave Ruff the fresh perspective that he needed. Empowered by his new found wisdom, Lindy was all smiles now as he noshed on a knish (snacked on a potato pancake).

By the end of the session, he was in Olam Haba (Heaven—sort of). The therapeutic breakthrough led the two men to perform an extremely vigorous, celebratory “Hava Nageela” type dance in the middle of the Hockey Rabbi’s office.

During the dance, Ruff’s athleticism became apparent as his powerful legs kicked over racks of books, the Hockey Rabbi’s souvenir hockey pucks, the knish and its dish, and everything else that got in the way of Lucky Lindy’s size 12 shoes. Ruff gave the Hockey Rabbi such naches (fatherly pride) for all that he had achieved in such a short time.

The next day, after traveling (with Serling) back through the worm-hole and meeting up with his team in Buffalo, the rejuvenated Ruff knew exactly what to do. The first order of business was to have the Sabre players replace their hockey helmets with Sabre-themed yarmulkes (skullcaps or beanies), which left the team scratching their heads—and not because of itchy material.

The next course of action was to change the menu at the HSBC arena for game 5. All beer was replaced by varieties of Manischewitz wine. All ice-cream was served in a Cohn. Popcorn was replaced by grebenes, French fries replaced by potato latkes, etc. As far as hot dogs were concerned—no problem. But Ruff made sure that the HSBC management and their purveyors answered to a “higher authority”, and only kosher hot dogs would be placed in their challah (Jewish bread) buns.

Just before the opening face-off for game 5, everything was looking rozewe (rosy) for Ruff. That is until Lindy received some really Ruff news from a Sabre team official— the Hockey Rabbi wasn’t a real Rabbi at all. In fact, he’s an attorney who is of all things: A RANGER FAN!

Apparently Sabre surveillance tapes (of game 4 at MSG) showed the Hockey Rabbi in the seats behind the Ranger bench, wearing a Jaromir Jagr jersey and passing out business cards—thus “spilling the beans” on this buttinski (a derogatory Slovak slang word for attorney).

Ruff was shocked, utterly panicked and once again lost. Lindy proceeded to botch every conceivable coaching maneuver and strategy over the next two games. Among other things, he continuously mismatched line combinations, repeatedly received bench minors for too many men on the ice, and was frequently overheard calling all his players either Scheider, Halpern, or Cammalleri—the last names of the only Jewish hockey players in the NHL.

At the end of this fiasco with the Sabres being humiliated and eliminated in 6 games, Ruff’s mind (along with the Sabres patience for his blunders) finally snapped—leading to a complete mental breakdown.

All kinds of thoughts started racing through Ruff’s head, such as: Did Serling set me up? Was I just the butt-end of a posthumous, surreal Serling reality show? Instead, should I have boarded with Bettman? What am I thinking—how could anyone rely on Bettman? I must be crazy for even considering it! What’s happening to me? How could the season have collapsed so suddenly?...

At the press conference that followed game 6, Ruff was in no condition to speak to the media. He was, however, sitting within earshot of the press conference under a doctor’s supervision. Dehydrated and hungry, the doctor had given Ruff a bowl of chicken soup. Why chicken soup? Well, for one “it couldn’t hurt”—and besides Ruff was not in the frame of mind to realize the cultural significance of his meal.

On the podium, Buffalo GM, Darcy Regier, addressed the media and told them that Ruff was suffering from a rare condition called Neuro-Hockrabitis. Regier tried to ease the concerns of the media, team and fans by reassuring everyone that the Sabres were sending Ruff to the best clinic in the world for this rare condition. This would take Ruff’s mind completely away from the past week’s events. After the media naturally asked where the clinic was, Regier innocently answered, “Jerusalem”.

Immediately as Ruff overheard the location of his impending medical treatment and convalescence, the entire week’s nightmare replayed through his head. As the image of Serling entered his thoughts, that eerie music started playing again and just as quickly as he had entered it, Lindy abruptly exited The Twilight Zone…

BACK TO REALITY - As you obviously know, Lindy Ruff never saw the Hockey Rabbi on that fateful day in early May. Instead he gathered himself, regrouped his team and led them to a 6 game victory in the series over the gallant, but overmatched Rangers. However, as is often the case in dreams, there was a “kernel of truth” in the fantasy we just experienced.

It turns out that the Hockey Rabbi does offer his services to those people (who after living through the Rangers-Sabres playoff series) are in most in need of it. Who might that be? Why the Ranger fans of course.

The Hockey Rabbi would be happy to provide a personal consultation with any Ranger fan…for $400 per hour. What!!! $400 per hour??? Remember, I told you that he was an attorney, not a therapist nor a real rabbi. In fact, I understand that a group of Ranger fans are paying the Hockey Rabbi quite handsomely to file a lawsuit on behalf of Henrik Lundquist (against his teammates) for lack of support in game 6.

Naturally this might invoke from you the usual series of lawyer jokes, such as the “Lawyers take everything joke” - A reporter outside of a courtroom asked a defendant clad only in a barrel: "Oh, I see your attorney lost the case!" The defendant answered, "No, we won." ­­­Or perhaps you prefer—Question: What's the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? Answer: A bad lawyer can let a case drag out for several years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer. And so forth and so on…

But never one to allow himself to be holding the short end of the hockey stick, the Hockey Rabbi’s response would probably be: "Zolst farliren aleh tseyner achitz eynm, un dos zol dir vey ton". What does that mean? Never mind, but I can assure you, he just got even!

However, before you jump to conclusions about the Hockey Rabbi, you should know that he is quite generous in many ways. For openers, he asked nothing in return for giving me the original idea that was twistingly morphed into this post (thus earning him the post’s primary assist).

Also, if you go to http://www.hockeyrabbi.typepad.com/, he will treat you 24 hours a day (365 days a year—except on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays) to wisdom, insight and commentary about the New York Rangers and the rest of the league—AT NO CHARGE!

A Metziah! (Such a Deal!)

For the Record: There is no lawsuit being filed by The Hockey Rabbi against the Rangers players or organization. He is a real estate attorney, who charges reasonable fees for his services. The non-translated insult at the end of the post is a real Yiddish insult that roughly translates as: "May you lose all your teeth but one, and may that one ache.” Also, it is unknown whether Lindy Ruff actual wears size 12 shoes.

Finally, I want to clarify that in the dream sequence of my story, Lindy Ruff’s fictional character was portrayed as embracing the Jewish culture. Ruff’s character freaked out because once he discovered that The Hockey Rabbi was a Ranger fan, he realized that he had been mentored by someone who was rooting against his team. The character’s reaction was not intended to be a display of anti-Semitism.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Keep 'em coming. Everyone tries to find a way to grow the sport, but these blogs are what seperate hockey fans from the rest.

The Hockey Humorist said...


Comments like yours are what keep me motivated to "Keep 'em coming".

Also, your appreciation for intelligent, witty humor is what separates you from many other hockey fans.

The Dark Ranger said...

Lots of Hockey Humor in last night's game!!!!!!!!