I hadn’t been to a Wolves game since their inaugural season in 1994 on Hanson Brothers night, which was two lockouts ago. I hadn’t been to the Horizon at all since Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor, and Danny Carey were polishing off the last notes to “Lateralus.” So to say I was in for a new experience of sorts would be right on the mark last night.
I hadn’t seen the new re-model of the interior of the Horizon, and I have to say I’m a fan. It feels cozier than it did, the sight-lines for hockey are better than they were, and it just feels like a more-modern arena, whereas the old layout felt dated probably from the moment the place opened. The constantly turning concourse could have used some work, but there’s only so much you can do. And the search for a beer other than Coors is mind-numbing. If Killion ever makes the trip there he’s probably going to have a seizure.
Anyway, other thoughts on my night watching the Hogs and Wolves:
-I’m pretty sure when I went in ’94 the Wolves hit the ice to “Kickstart My Heart.” They still do. But big ups to the pyrotechnics guy who got all the flames and fireworks and explosions on the beat. That can’t be easy. Though how all that flames and heat helped the ice surface, I’m not sure.
-Oh right, actual hockey. The best word for last night’s affair would be “turgid.” It’s obvious that both teams, though Rockford especially, are having trouble adjusting to rosters thrown in some upheaval by the lockout and sinking NHL-ers joining the ranks. Passes to where people thought people would be were prevalent.
Not helping was an awful ice-surface. With the humidity and warmth outside and probably a fuller house than they are used to in Rosemont, it was just a choppy sheet. Pucks were bouncing over sticks all night, causing many chances and possessions to end abruptly.
-I don’t want to make any judgements after one game. Obviously, it would have been nice if Nick Leddy was more noticeable. He had two end-to-end rushes where he went through the Wolves like Juggernaut through a game of red rover. But then he went missing for the rest. You just wondered why he didn’t do that every time. He also still looked a bit shy of contact, even though no one at this level should be able to catch him. Again, one game and it’s hard to know how it feels to be a NHL player and then being back in the “A”. Maybe he’s too concentrated on playing a team game. Or just feeling his way. Or maybe he’s just trying to not get hurt before the NHL season starts. But let’s see how it goes.
-On the other side, Jimmy Hayes was probably the best player on either team last night. While still looks lumbering, he worked hard and caused turnovers in his own end while making things happen in the other. I’m not going to worry about his speed so much if he can continue to work hard and end up in the right spots as he did last night. But that was in the AHL, has to do it in the NHL. But it’s a positive start. I’m sure Q (who was sitting in the pressbox right next to friend of the program Chris Block, and we kept hoping to look up there and see a pile of empties in front of them with their arms around each other by the 3rd period as they sang something loudly. Didn’t happen, but maybe next time).
-Ryan Stanton looks like the perfect AHL d-man. He does everything just well enough to be successful at that level. But he doesn’t do anything well enough to make you think he can play at the next one. Sure, if there’s an injury crisis he could probably skate on your third pair for a few games and not kill you. But I think that’s about it.
-Only time I saw Kyle Beach do anything is when he got hurt.
-Marcus Kruger didn’t have any of the limits that Leddy did, as he pretty much dominated every shift he was on.
-Carter Hutton was very good. Sadly, that probably doesn’t mean anything.
I was glad to be at a hockey game, but as I watched it I kept thinking what I tell people when explaining why I don’t watch college football. I’m from a real city, I want the real, best thing. And this isn’t it. But it’ll have to do for now.