Blue and White Beat: April leaving hockey fans, Marlies “refreshed”

April leaving hockey fans, Marlies “refreshed”

It’s scoreboard watching time for hockey fans of all ages, in all leagues.

Not only did Ricoh Coliseum play host to some anxious moments on the ice, but anyone keeping tabs on action happening elsewhere also endured a few nail-biting moments.

The scenario for the Toronto Marlies was simple. A win over the Manitoba Moose, combined with a loss by Syracuse – who were playing in Rochester – clinched a playoff spot for the Marlies.

Equipped with my laptop in the press box at Ricoh Coliseum, one of my Firefox tabs was set to the AHL’s live scoreboard at stats.theahl.com. Throughout the game, I was able to keep an eye on the Syracuse score with a periodic press of the “F5” key. (I have a chronic impatience that is not satisfied by the website’s 60-second refresh rate).

It didn’t look good for Greg Gilbert’s squad, midway through the game with Toronto down 3-1. Shortly after Jeremy Williams pulled the Marlies to within one, I hit “F5” again, and for the first time all evening, the result out of Blue Cross Arena flashed a score other than 0-0.

“1-0 Rochester” I announced to the delight of my colleagues including Louis Pisano of ToSports.ca seated to my left, and Gurdeep Ahluwalia, co-host of Rogers TV Marlies broadcasts, on my right.

As the teams adjourned to their rooms for the second intermission, I switched back and forth between the tabs on my browser; one for the AHL scores, one for the NHL – in which St. Louis, Nashville and Minnesota were all fighting for their playoff lives, and one for the lone OHL game on the evening in which the Brampton Battalion had a chance to close out the battle of Peel region against cross-town rivals Mississauga.

Gurdeep quipped to me “I have an iPhone, but looking at your laptop is faster!”

On the ice the Marlies didn’t disappoint the 3,540 fans in attendance. Tim Stapleton made a gorgeous outside-inside move on a Moose defenceman before picking the corner on goalie Cory Schneider to tie the game. “Stapes” was the catalyst on the overtime winner, leading a rush into the zone and eventually wiring a point shot that was tipped by Bates Battaglia for the victory.

But the drama didn’t end there, as reporters and media staff refreshed their Blackberry devices well into the time allotted for post-game interviews. The mood in the Marlies dressing room was intense as players gathered around laptop computers for updates out of Rochester, with Syracuse still down 1-0 and desperate for the equalizer.

The refreshed displays on my Blackberry which showed the time remaining in the third period seemed painstakingly slow. “2:05”. “1:17”. And “0:41” by the time we were ushered out of the room to begin coach Gilbert’s address to the media.

Just before Gilbert arrived on the scene, a euphoric cheer could be heard from within the dressing room.

Syracuse had lost. There will be playoff hockey in Toronto.

“We played a very good hockey game. Our intensity, physicality and the way we executed was very good tonight,” said Gilbert proudly. “They’re a tough team to play against, they’re a hard-nosed team, as are we,” he observed of the Moose, who are now the Marlies’ first-round opponents.

Williams was the first player to speak following the confirmation of the team’s playoff berth. “It was pretty nerve-wracking, coming down to the wire. Guys on our team pulled together, and we beat the best team in our division three times to get us to where we are.”

“Bring them on!” cheered Williams when I asked if his team was ready to face the Moose in the playoffs. “Every we play them, it seems like it’s playoff hockey. So, it’s going to be a good series.”

I returned to the press box to pack up my laptop, hitting “F5” just one more time to see that the Battalion had secured their spot into the Eastern Conference Final by holding off Mississauga 3-2. I haven’t lived in Brampton for over 20 years, but having grown up in the city – spending 12 years of my childhood there, they are my sentimental favourites.

I couldn’t help but once again marvel at the technology available to us in the present-day world of real-time updates, and reflected back on what “scoreboard watching” was like, say 20 years ago.

For fans of the NFL, remember when NBC and CBS displayed nothing more than a “10-minute” ticker? These days, a 10-minute refresh rate seems older than many of the dinosaur exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum. Tune in a football game on CBS or FOX, and you’ll see not only the real-time score of the game being broadcast, but a continuous scroll-ticker of the out-of-town results – with not only the scores, but the players’ statistics.

It’s ‘refreshing’ to think that technology has evolved so exponentially, for us sports fans.

***

Sami Jo Small and Vicky Sunohara, who both played on the 2002 gold-medal winning women’s hockey team in Salt Lake City, were in attendance at last night’s game. Sunohara is among many pundits who applaud the recent amendment to the Hockey Hall of Fame by-laws to allow the induction of women, beginning in 2010. “It’s awesome! We’ve been wanting this for a long time. It’s such a great honour, and it’s going to be exciting to see who’s going to be first!”

Small, sporting her new engagement ring from her betrothed – Team Canada sledge hockey player Billy Bridges – has been keeping a close eye on the Womens’ World Championships in Finland. “Jayna Hefford, Jennifer Botterill and Caroline Ouellette are leading the way for Canada. It bodes well for the finals (against the U.S) on Sunday.”

While critics of the women’s game still view this tournament, and the Olympics, as a two-horse race between Canada and the U.S., Small is unapologetic. “The gap between the North American teams and European teams may be increasing, but I don’t think Canada should ever justify being the best in the world. I think sometimes people want to knock them off their pedestal, but as a Canadian fan I want them to win the World Championships. If they win 10-0, that’s great.”


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Blue And White Beat, and will be blogging at TMLfans.ca throughout Marlies playoff run, as well as the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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