Not me, thank God. And knock on wood…and step on a crack and break your mother’s back.
Sports figures in general and hockey players in specific are amongst the most superstitious beings on the planet. And if you’re wondering why, good thing that I’m about to tell you.
Every first year university student taking the introductory psych class will hear the name BF Skinner. The so-called father of behavioral psychology is not always spoken of in the most admiring terms. His Skinner box, which some erroneously maintained that BF wanted to raise children in, is often equated with the excesses of the Third Reich. His theories of behaviour modification are mentioned in the same tones reserved for commentaries on Abu Grahaib prison.
Well, I’m not here to correct the record, but lets talk about Skinner’s experiments and resultant theory of how superstition develops. Without me commenting on the humane treatment of animals, essentially what Skinner did was put a pigeon in a glass box and then randomly provided mild electric shocks to the bird. Skinner’s observation was that the bird started to change its behaviour in reaction to the shocks…hoping, according to Skinner to behave in a fashion that would avoid the shock. Given that the electricity was turned on at random moments, there was no logical way the pigeon could realistically avoid them Still, the bird started to exhibit elaborate series of behaviours in an attempt to avoid the electricity.
So the idea is folks, we often have no idea of the forces that move or control our fate. We exhibit elaborate behaviours in order to influence events under which we have no control. My friend Jorge tells me that his wife was once banned from the family room for a half a season because once when she entered to ask Jorge something…the Canucks were scored on. Whooops! Other friends have told me that they either hold the remote control or avoid holding the remote because of various superstitions that have developed over time in terms of the success of their team. And the ubiquitous remote control is the perfect talisman in the modern world of sports. You can watch three games at once if you get into the zone. How it operates is best left to the world of magic.
Hockey players are notorious for such behaviour. Putting equipment on in the correct order. Taking the same route to the rink. Wearing the lucky tie. Putting a loonie under centre ice before a tournament.
I was watching the Oilers play San Jose just before the Canuck game started tonight and in the first minute Robert Nilsson had a clear break away from center ice. Just as he was skating in alone on Nabokov, with no SJ players in the picture frame, young Robert noticed his stick was broken…which apparently occurred when he had blocked the shot at his own blueline. But his stick was barely fractured, held together no doubt by some stray carbon fibres. But it was indeed busted and he kicked it away in disgust. How does one explain this? Well it’s obvious. Some poor Oiler fan must have been holding the remote control when he should have set it down on the coffee table.
To The Game:
The danger playing against bottom dwelling teams is to take them lightly and looking ahead instead of just taking care of business, taking it one shift at a time. Add to this, we’re facing an Andy Murray coached team. Mr. Murray has never had the luxury of coaching a really talented team. He has always been burdened with guiding a team of scrubs.
But he’s a helluva coach.
And the Blues are a team that can arguably claim to have the worst injury problem in the league. From Karyia to MacDonald to Brewer to McKee. The Blues have more built in excuse than anyone…including us. And the first period sees them come out strong, but there’s not much left on the Blues roster that can close the deal. Tkachuk, a guy we all love to hate, and Brad Boyes are the big deals on this team…everyone else who’s dangerous is on the M*A*S*H.
Janik Hansen, a guy I’ve supported all year long, returns from his brief exile on Main & Portage with a dynamite wrist shot to open the scoring. John Garrett maintains that Legace should have had it, but I disagree. It was nearly a perfect shot…hard, to the top corner stick side. You going to stop that one John?
So we are in the lead, let’s just cruise for the two points and…whoops, nice pass Larry (I cannot call him Lawrence; a designation reserved for seaways and in-bread princes in the British Royal family)…aaaaccchhhk, the Blues David Backes ties it up. Okay, one more finisher. Mr. Nicholet I should tell you something here. Bolduc made a bonehead play last game and he is enjoying the balmy minus 35 degree temps in the heartland tonight. Do not pass up the middle!!!!
Okay back to even. We re-group and kill of a PP by the sixth rated team in the NHL (How the hell did these guys get sixth?…did they go 12 for 12 before all the injuries?) without much problem. The ensuing rush as we return to even strength sees the Sedins set up sniper Willie Mitchell. Okay sarcasm…but did you see the goal? Mitchell pops in his own rebound in the last twenty seconds of the period and we leave the period up 2 to 1.
I put the remote down on the coffee table for the first time since the opening face off.
The second period exposes the worst parts of the Canucks game tonight. The Blues out-work us, sending two men in on every puck. They out-shoot us, eleven to three by my count, mostly because they out-skate us; and because their feet are moving, and ours aren’t, they get the PP opportunities. We kill those, but that’s the only good news.
Sure, our guys are cruising…hey we are three points out of first. We are da bomb. There’s only a couple of minutes left to play in the second, so no problema…and then Berglund scores on a sloppy Canuck change. Ahhh, tied up. Well, we’ll just have to turn it up in the third period…but less than a minute later, Steen touches a Tkachuk feed and suddenly…mamacita! We don’t feel so good anymore. It’s what happens when you get out-worked, out-skated and out-hit.
You get out-scored.
There’s not much sense in detailing the third period. We tied it up a couple of times, and you could see the collective attitude of our guys. Okay, we got ‘em now. Especially after we tied it up early in the period. Yeah, we’ll be okay. But the Blues continued to out-work us and there they go again…another goal up on us.
We tie it late on a PP with Daniel getting his 20 th and you can see the boys thinking, we’ll take the point and get the in OT. But a late PK by Mats Sundin and yep…they are up again. Before we can think about pulling the goalie they seal the deal and suddenly a game we had in the Win column just plain disappears on us. Nothing to be superstitious about here.
It’ what happens when the other teams outplays you.
The Dawg’s Three Stars:
1) Keith Tkachuk…a force from the opening faceoff.
2) Willie Mitchell…three point night
3) TJ Oshie…pressed all night until he scored the winner.
Unsung hero… My remote control…kept it close.