What is a Thrasher anyway? I assume it's the modernist dino-bird on the roof of the Philips Center that shoots fire from its mouth whenever Atlanta scores. Tonight, my eyebrows were singed once too often as the Thrashers came back from 3-1 down to burn my Lightning 4-3 in OT.
From start to finish, this was just a great hockey game, the best I've seen all month. With Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa on the ice, the skill level was unbelievable. No trapping, no holding, no dumping, just great passing, solid goaltending and stars doing what they're supposed to do on national TV. We Southeast Division fans get to see this skill regularly, and I hope the Versus audience appreciated what they saw. After a week of grinding, trapping and headhunting in the Western Conference, it was great to see these stars in action!
The stands weren't anything close to full, but the fans were loud and the overall experience was much better than I expected. Atlanta outplayed Tampa in the first period, winning all the battles, but Moose Hedberg gave up a couple of costly rebound goals in the second. I was feeling confident until the Thrash got a 5-on-3, courtesy of ref Dave Jackson, who is by far the worst official in the league (not just because of this call, but hundreds of others over the years). He wears the number 8 on his back, and I think it represents the number of calls he gets right each year! I'll blame the Lightning defense for the last two goals, as the d-men simply let the wingers skate around them twice. Why don't defensemen stand forwards up at the blue line anymore?
They showed some weird videos on the Jumbotron. One was two minutes of a faux Lightning fan and a guy in a suit singing in the penalty box, and the second was just animal bloopers! Ever see a camel bite a guy in the butt? They loved it in Atlanta! I've learned that there is a sub-culture of important men (and women) in charge of "game presentation" or some similar title. They run the scoreboard, select the music, plan the TV timeout and intermission activities, pick the anthem singer, etc., all designed to "engage the fans" (remember that phrase from my Edmonton blog?) and make them feel like part of the excitement.
Recently, I mentioned to one of these guys, that I thought St. Louis had the best overall game presentation, and he said that when John Davidson took over, he hired the game presentation guy from the Capitals. I thought whoever took over in Washington put on a mediocre show, and today the Thrashers told me that their game presentation guy has just been hired by the Caps. Sounds like a game of musical chairs to me, but it makes a big difference to the feel of each venue. So Caps fans, get ready for animal bloopers in the Verizon Center!
They're moping in Toronto, as the Argonauts lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and aren't going to the CFL Grey Cup, but I'll be there to cheer them up tomorrow as the attention shifts back to the hapless Leafs.