DKM Hockey Podcast

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hang your heads in shame Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets made headlines for the first time in six months that didn’t involve them sucking with the feel-good signing of Shawn Hunwick, circumstances notwithstanding. I won’t elaborate on Hunwick’s road to the NHL or his constant battling to get a whiff of playing time his first couple years of college. If Aaron Portzline's tweet report is to be believed, it’s where Hunwick played his college hockey that seems to be getting the attention, at least here in Columbus.

If you’re a Columbus Blue Jackets fan in Columbus and can’t admit to yourself that the Blue Jackets are the minor league team in town, you are indeed worse that the biggest Penguins super fan. That in itself is why the CBJ are not long for Columbus, but that’s a different story. But with that in mind, the ‘Columbus’ fans have asked Hunwick to surrender some of his pride he worked so hard for.

He's covered up his University of Michigan themed goalie mask with blue tape so that you can't see the Michigan "wings." NCAA regulations aside, I find it deplorable that this young man felt compelled to do this playing in Columbus, OH. If Kari Lehtonen can put sissy Final Fantasy toons on his lid and Ray Emery can put Mike Tyson on his, certainly the NHL is not asking him to change his winged goalie helmet.

I am sensitive to this for several reasons. Personally – I went to The Ohio State University and my wife graduated from the University of Michigan. I enjoy the rivalry and my most favorite thing to whisper in my wife’s ear late at night is “Michigan Lost.” We met post-college and because she wasn’t a Yankees fan, the relationship began. Living in Michigan, being married to a Wolverine, then moving back to Columbus, I can honestly tell you we Buckeyes are unhealthily obsessed with this storied rivalry.  Michigan fans care just as much about the rivalry, but Buckeye fans are like the Dale Earnhardt fans of college football.

Secondly, a goal mask is a defining piece of a goaltenders identity. I’ve had the privilege of being friends with a couple NHL and Colligate goalies and while to most it’s just a piece of equipment, most hang onto their masks long after all the other gear has gone to charity, sports card companies, or to pay tuition bills for their kids.  To a fan, most folks know who’s in net by their mask rather than their number. The helmet is the only piece of hockey equipment that is visually allowed to be customized in hockey. It’s singularly the most defining and identifiable piece of equipment in all of sports. PERIOD.

And so, a kid who is living one boyhood dream after another, who most likely can’t afford a new NHL spec mask, who can’t likely receive one from his surrogate professional team if he wishes to petition for an extra year of NCAA eligibility, is taping over his mask so he doesn’t get booed on his home ice during warm-ups. Be proud of this kid Columbus, don't be so primordially obsessed with a rivalry in ametuer athletics that it detracts from this kids remarkable story while it's happening in your town.

In the hockey world, I hold playing hockey for U of M holds more honor than playing in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Think I’m wrong? Then you’re saying playing for Todd Richards is more noteworthy at a bar than playing for Red Berenson. Truly, having a cup of coffee in the NHL is a remarkable feat, but more so is walking-on the U of M hockey team and winning the starting goaltending job after two years.

So Blue Jackets fans know this, while your captain wants out, while your front office jobs and coaching positions remain mostly entry-level and unwanted, it’s this sentiment of making your emergency goaltender cover up his evil U of M insignias that will ultimately cost you the Blue Jackets. But if asking your goalie who played for that ‘school up north’ to cover up his winged helmet is that important to you, than you probably don’t give a shit about a local NHL hockey team anyways.

Just think Columbus, you could have had this instead of Rick Nash.

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