Loose Change: Free agent fans

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All right Leaf fans, give it up. You too Panthers and Kings fans. Even you upstart Thrasher-backers, it's over. Sure, there's still that mathematical chance for some of you, but face the facts, you're not going to the big dance. Stay at home, turn up the music real loud and cry into your pillow. Stephen Hawking just phoned. Even he says it's over.

Of course, it doesn't mean your hockey watching is over for the year. It's just that you'll have to start cheering for someone else. We have quite a few nice choices and the selection is fairly nice.

For those of you who like exciting hockey, we have the Ottawa Senators. You may remember us from the embarrassingly futile runs through the early 90s. Back then our Zamboni only had to flood one half of the ice between periods and those savings have been passed onto you. Since then we've added some grit, made our captain cut his hair, and sent Patrick Lalime to a team more reflective of his ability. Sure our regular goalie's kind of squirrelly, but when he's on you'll be willing to forgive his diva behavior and that milk crate on his head. Yes indeed folks, the Cup might be back in Ontario by spring's end. It's just that FedEx doesn't deliver west of Kingston*. The Senators welcome you!

*not a guarantee, we're Ottawa after all.

If consistency is more to liking, may I suggest the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit has a proud tradition of winning hockey and has numerous Stanley Cup championships to prove it. Sure, most of them had a guy named Bowman in the mix but we're consistently competitive at the very least. Come watch Stevie Y make one last run at the Cup. Come watch Chris Chelios before his debut on The World Shuffleboard Tour. And we're still completely 100 per cent Cheadle's-free.

You like upstarts? Then the Carolina Hurricanes might just be what you're looking for. You may remember us sucking major octopus in 2002. Well, things have changed a lot since then. We're fast, talented and we don't smell like motor oil anymore. We have one of the brightest young talents in the game in Eric Staal and who doesn't love the Gerber baby in goal? Admittedly our playoff track record is not great. OK, fairly modest. Well, actually, pretty dismal, but we're really excited about this spring since we've added Doug Weight, who won a Cup inÂ…Look, it's not about yesterday, it's about now. We welcome true hockey fans to the Hurricane family. Perhaps you could help explain to us about this offside thingÂ…

For good bang for your buck, you can't go wrong with the Dallas Stars. Sure we've actually only won one Stanley Cup in our history, but every year feels like another one's coming. We still have Modano and Zubov, but now have more Finns than a Tuna Boat. We have the shootout nailed should it ever get that far (you never know) and our goaltending is playoff-savvy (theoretically speaking). And, next to the Cowboys, the Mavs, the Rangers, FC Dallas and the Arlington Drum and Bugle Corps we're the hottest ticket in Dallas.

Don't be fooled by 2004, the Calgary Flames are for real. We're not a one hit wonder. We were this (a replay official with a pair) close to winning it all that year and are gearing up for another extended playoff run. We've addressed our scoring deficiency by adding Tony Amonte, Daymond Langkow and Jamie Lundmark which might not seem like a lot, but keep in mind, the farther the Flames go, the more the beer flows, the warmer the weather gets, the hotter the Red Mile becomes. Are you with me? Go Flames!

For pure nostalgia, the Tampa Bay Lightning is your choice. We're the defending champs and are anticipating anotherÂ…no really, we're the incumbents. Check the stats. I'm serious. OK, I'll check again, but I'm sure I read it right.

The old guard is represented by the Philadelphia Flyers. 1975 seems like yesterday and if Blue Cross kicks in those bonuses, we'll be the team to beat.

The Nashville Predators are The Little Engine That Could. Follow us to the Cup. We're out to prove you can win with Hobbits and we promise to convince Shania to sing the national anthem in a tank top and Garth Brooks not to.

For the frugal fan, the New York Rangers are for you. Built around value, we've assembled a team that's hockey's equivalent to a Kia. We're so confident in our affordable qualities that, if you're not completely satisfied with our product we'll send you a Czech. We have lots.

And to take penny-pinching to a new level, we present the Buffalo Sabres. You could buy this team at a yard sale and still get change back for a dollar. There are five good reasons to be a Sabres' fan: (1) we're fast (2) we're young (3) we're talented (4) we're energetic (5) we're from Buffalo. OK, four reasons.

If you disregard talent and consistency and you're one of those who believe in a higher power, try the Montreal Canadiens. It is God's favorite team after all, although he apparently hasn't been watching intensely since 1993.

Like Gilligan's Island had the Professor, Mary Anne and that anemic midget Pedro, the NHL has its filler cast made up of New Jersey, Colorado, Anaheim, Edmonton, Vancouver and San Jose. Why choose one of these? Because you'll at least get four more games out of them than that sorry sad sack crew you've been wasting your time on all year. And, they're deductible.

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Tuesday and Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at charlieteljeur@hotmail.com


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