By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — This is why I was rooting for Colorado.
Aside from merely wanting the Blackhawks to keep the spring party going, it’s nice to have some other layers of interest to make for a richer viewing experience. And with the Minnesota Wild, we get nothing.
Earlier games against the Avs featured speedy end-to-end action, with the ‘Hawks dominating pretty much everything but the final score, primarily due to the individual performance of the detestable Semyon Varlamov. That matchup would have been a big part of the fun, being able to root hard against the goaltender arrested on domestic violence and kidnapping charges in Denver this past October, and simultaneously against his coach, Patrick Roy, who himself was arrested for domestic violence, also in Denver, in October of 2000. They make a lovely pair – one that I’m sure Bobby Hull appreciates, too.
We have no such venom to direct at the now hapless Ilya Bryzgalov, who flops around in the crease while pucks whiz past his head. The likeable 33-year-old is merely the Wild’s latest at the unsettled position this year, after spending time this season with the Las Vegas Wranglers and Oklahoma City Barons. And I know nothing about coach Mike Yeo that provides any added texture to the matchup, even after scouring his Wikipedia page for reasons to wish him ill.
There’s no history, either. The expansion team started in the 2000-01 season, only sharing geography with the once-hated North Stars and the battles of the 1980s. Dino Ciccarelli, Basil McRae and full-team brawls during warm-ups have no lasting connection, all of it dissipated by the Stars’ move to the anodyne hockey wasteland of Dallas. It’s like trying to hold some ancient basketball grudge against the Timberwolves because of something George Mikan or Clyde Lovellette did in 1952.
Even the usual broad-brush trolling of their fanbase offers no fleeting satisfaction. The illiterate hayseeds of St. Louis, sub-human street vandals of Vancouver and the hideous Boston racists at least are good for a reactive laugh or two when engaging in the kind of lazy verbal stone-throwing that goes along with the NHL playoffs.
Minnesotans, however, aren’t much of a target, since there’s not much to lampoon. They like to fish, have Scandinavian ethnic roots, and are highly educated and socially tolerant, outside of whatever wackazoid district keeps electing Michelle Bachman. Imagine trash-talking Garrison Keillor: you yell some insult at him, and he reacts by raising an eyebrow wryly, breathing audibly out his nose, adjusting his glasses, and then staring back down at page 27 of Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death.
Not to mention the problem with the singular/plural of the team’s name. Just as we do with the NBA’s Heat or Magic, there’s always the uncertainty of whether or not it’s “the Wild eventually and predictably lose the series to the clearly superior Blackhawks” or “the Wild eventually and predictably loses the series to the clearly superior Blackhawks.” Colorado may have presented a similar issue, sure, but “Avs” is used enough.
As it is, Minnesota seems to be not much more than a boring second-round foil for a Blackhawks team moving on to bigger and better things. Perhaps they take a game like they did last year, or maybe two, but it’s hard to get too excited.
This Wild team needs a more descriptive name, and one that ends in “s.”
Like the Speed Bumps.