TERRE HAUTE —
It’s niche sports day here at the Tribune-Star, so we’ll start with a test of how much you learned while watching the recent National Hockey League season.
Had it not been for what I’ll be writing about in a few paragraphs, I would be in serious NHL withdrawal (yes, I caught myself watching an NHL Network rerun of Game 7 of the Hurricanes-Oilers final from 2007 a couple of weeks ago). Major League Baseball (and remember, I’m a Cub fan) just doesn’t have the same tempo.
My NHL fandom, however, is strictly situational.
The Bill Wirtz Blackhawks of the 1990s keep me from fully embracing the current Stanley Cup champions (back then, the Hawks would consistently bring in “character” guys, translation of which meant they couldn’t skate or handle the puck but would win all the fights in a three-goal loss), yet I was happy to see them beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the finals — even though, 35 years ago, I was a huge fan of the Broad Street Bullies (Bobbie Clarke, probably because of the scraggly hair and lack of teeth, is still one of my all-time favorite players).
But one of the main things I’ve always liked about the NHL is the names, going all the way back to Gerry Desjardins and Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard and Guy LaFleur. If you could pronounce the names, I reasoned, you were a true fan and not just some punk wannabe.
Which brings us to your quiz. All you need to know is how to say the last names of two players and both first and last of a third. Answers a little farther down.
1. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks.
2. Conn Smythe Trophy contender Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks.
3. And, just to see if the only hockey you watch is the playoff variety, Tampa Bay Lightning sniper/pest Martin St. Louis.
• The temporary hockey replacement — is World Cup, you may have guessed, and a further comment on how pathetic and dismal the Cubs are is the fact that last Friday I listened to most of the U.S. match against Slovenia on the radio. It’s safe to say that soccer on radio isn’t something I would have considered until a couple of weeks ago, but with British announcers (and their utter lack of political correctness) it’s actually kind of fun.
If the referee didn’t have a particularly good performance that day (and those same announcers were all over him from the get-go), I’m guessing he was no worse than the U.S. defense, by the way. And if we haven’t advanced to the knockout round by beating Algeria (remember, I’m not in the office Tuesday or Wednesday), we have no one but ourselves to blame.
One of the things U.S. soccer lacks, by the way, is a good nickname. If hockey’s strength is its pronunciations, international soccer’s cachet is due to all the team names: the Azzuri (Italy), the Three Lions (England), the Elephants (Ivory Coast), the Black Stars (Ghana), Bufana Bufana (South Africa), El Tri (Mexico), La Furia Rojas (Spain), the All Whites (New Zealand, whose national basketball team, of course, is the Tall Whites), the Indomitable Lions (Cameroon), Les Bleus (France, as in singing les bleus) and my personal favorite, even though they aren’t in World Cup, the Reggae Boyz (Jamaica). If we want to compete, by golly, we need a nickname.
But we probably don’t have one because very few people in the U.S. play soccer for fun. I keep hearing about the upcoming soccer boom in this country because of all the kids in soccer leagues, and I say … well, I say just the opposite. Let’s see, in every other country you have kids playing in the streets and here you have kids being dragged to games by Mom and Dad. Hmmm.
So I’m not rooting against our nicknameless boys, even though they are the 1990s Blackhawks (we’re not skillful, but we try really hard!), but the games I’m looking forward to (“a good watch,” as I heard one team described by the British fellows) involve teams like Paraguay, Argentina, Portugal, Ghana (Jenny has a rooting interest here), Spain and, of course, Brazil. My team to watch a week ago was Cote de’Ivoire, but the Elephants are toast as we speak (thanks for going in the tank, North Korea; hope none of you guys are planning to defect).
1. Taves (rhymes with “saves,” even though he’s not a goalie).
2. BUFF-lin (no, I can’t explain it phonetically).
3. Mar-TAN Sahn-loo-EE.
• Capital of baseball — I have located the baseball capital of the world in terms of most great players per capita, and it isn’t even San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.
In covering my first Rex game last week, I discovered that outfielder Cooper Smith is from Montgomery, Texas, home of the famous Ransom’s Steakhouse and Saloon frequented often by the Amey family during our recent spring break trip.
Who else is from Montgomery, which is maybe one-third the size of Seelyville, you ask? Well, there’s John Danks, Chicago White Sox lefthander; Andrew Cashner, Chicago Cubs eighth-inning rookie reliever (and hopefully not the next great arm ruined by Larry Rothschild after Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija, et al); and Jordan Danks, John’s little brother and future Chisox outfielder, to name three so far.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.