26th January: Sunday Overtime – Three on Three

Yes, I am actually posting a Sunday Overtime on Sunday but, as the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed, I didn’t post at all last week. I gave myself a bye week, albeit unintentionally. Do you ever have those days or weekends or weeks when you are just not able? Yeah, that was me last week. But, much like half of the NHL, I return this week refreshed.

(Featured image from Manchester Storm’s Twitter account)

01. You Can Play

Last week, I wrote about the NHL’s rather tepid approach to pride nights, mitigated somewhat by Marc Borowiecki being a genuinely good ally. This week, I’m straying far from the NHL to the EIHL. For those of you who don’t follow British professional ice hockey, the EIHL is the Elite Ice Hockey League.

This weekend is the league’s inaugural You Can Play/Pride weekend and it has been a delight. Most teams have enthusiastically participated, with many sporting specially commissioned pride jerseys, which players wear during games. I don’t actually own a Belfast Giants jersey so I was delighted to get the opportunity to order one. Aside from rainbow colours, the words ‘In the Land of the Giants, Everyone is Equal’ and ‘Game for all, game for anyone’ are emblazoned on the jerseys.

The most significant, and touching, moment of the weekend, however, was this:

Zach Sullivan, of Manchester Storm, came out as bisexual. Already having the support of family, friends and teammates, he has nevertheless demonstrated incredible bravery in coming out publicly. His team (coincidentally, Quench contributor Hils’ local team) has been exemplary in their support of him and in their commitment to Pride weekend.

It is incredibly difficult not to look at this weekend in the UK and Northern Ireland (the latter of which is not the most progressive territory when it comes to LGBTQ* rights) and compare it with the NHL. It makes the half-hearted use of pride tape and the generic ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ evenings seem rather paltry.

For now, though, let’s celebrate what the EIHL has done, and let’s add our support and thanks to Zach Sullivan, for showing that if you can play, you can play.

02. A Swing and A Miss

Because I missed last week’s update, I feel entirely justified in reminding us all of what happened when the Boston Bruins faced the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout.

Ah, Brad. While some of his responses to the mockery were a little crass, I do have to hand it to him for this self-deprecating tweet.

While I am by no means a Brad Marchand fan, he’ll always have a little respect from me for his intolerance of homophobia. While his on-ice behaviour is often borderline, to say the least, he’s a good man off the ice and, ultimately, that’s the most important thing. (Bruins fans, feel free not to remind me of this next time I’m complaining about him on Twitter.)

03. Hey Now, You’re an All-Star

The first All-Star game I paid any attention to was the 2015 game in Columbus. The highlights, of course, were Alexander Ovechkin lobbying to be drafted last so he could win a car.

Of course, it subsequently emerged that he wanted the car so he could donate it to the Washington Ice Dogs hockey program.

The other highlight from 2015, for me, was Jonathan Toews. No. Seriously. That’s it, that’s the tweet.

In 2016, the big drama was when John Scott was voted in by the fans. That this was controversial needs no explanation but the weekend ended up being incredibly heart-warming. From Pavelski and Burns adopting their former teammate as an honorary Shark for the weekend to the fans overrunning the MVP vote to ensure that Scott won, I genuinely enjoyed the human aspect of the weekend, which is something that’s largely lacking.

Since then, I can’t say that I’ve been particularly awed by the All-Star Game. I enjoyed seeing Crosby and Ovechkin play together in 2017 and they genuinely seemed to enjoy playing together, too. In 2019, the NHL invited some of the best female hockey players to participate, except not participate, and maybe they learned something from that because this year, finally, female players took centre stage.

There was a two-period three-on-three game between Canadian and American women’s teams and it was a genuine delight to see some great names out there. Of course, if you’ve been following women’s hockey at all, you’ll know that there are some divisions with what the future should look like. (If you’ve been following women’s hockey, I hope you know that you can watch NWHL games live, and for free, on Twitch.)

Returning to the 2020 NHL All-star Game, though … were we that engaged with it? In previous years, I’ve stayed up for it but I didn’t bother this year. We know it’s a gimmick, but it’s become less entertaining. Personally, I’d love to see a return to players drafting their own teams. Maybe a buddy system could be instituted, and every all star player could bring a teammate along. Certainly, the best female players should be included even more. Wouldn’t it be great to see other nationalities represented? A mini World Cup, with mixed teams.

+1. And now to the shoot-out

I gather that David Pastrnak was named All Star MVP but I humbly nominate an alternative, who’s a good friend of Pasta, and who also wears 88.

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