Print Edition: November 14, 2012
I’m going to go ahead and be super honest here. I find the term “the kids” to be the most obnoxious thing to happen to sports since Tim Thomas. It makes sports journalism a freaking drinking game, and quite frankly I don’t need help getting drunk while watching hockey.
That being said, it’s difficult to watch a game with 19-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 20-year-old Taylor Hall, and 21-year-old Jordan Eberle without calling them kids. Especially when you interview Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after a morning skate, and he proudly crows about the 10 pounds he’s gained over the summer. “I think part of it is just getting older,” he chimes, “but I’ve been in the gym every day.” That’s nice, sweetheart.
The “younger players who seem to be kind of good and make the Barons-Oilers franchise fun to watch” (YPWSTBKOGAMTBOFFTW), as I am dubbing them (think it will stick?), are joined this year by Justin Schultz. This rookie found a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement and left the University of Wisconsin in order to become a free agent. It didn’t spark a bidding war, but only because his entry-level contract salary was already dictated. He essentially had his pick of teams, and the Kelowna-native chose Edmonton over Vancouver. He’s proven to be an amazing asset: his overtime winner on Saturday night made him the leading goal-scorer on the team, with seven. And yes, he’s a defenceman. And yes, he’s playing with the three “kids”—or “YPWSTBKOGAMTBOFFTW”—that make those enraptured by the world of hockey soil themselves every time they step out their front doors. Schultz also has more assists than anyone on the team, with nine.
I really wanted to write an article about all the things they did this weekend that are not kid-like at all, but there wasn’t enough content. So, rather than crowing about how adorable they all are for 800 words, here’s a nice little mix.
Kid-like: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ “moustache.” It’s kind of like the sparse piles of downy fluff that those creepy boys in floor-length coats in high school sported the second their testicles descended. Apparently, it’s socially acceptable to grow this kind of moustache if you make a crap-load of money and play hockey kind of well.
Kid-like: Each of the “YPWSTBKOGAMTBOFFTW” sneaking out behind the media while their coach was being interviewed. You’re professional athletes, play nice for the cameras for two flipping minutes please. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Kid-like: The six-foot, newly-185-pound “Nuge” attempting to shoulder-check the Heat’s six-foot-two, 200-pound Captain Laing into the boards. It was kind of like when a little kid bowls with the bumpers in the gutters – he bounced right off Laing like the veteran was his own personal bouncy castle on the ice. Wee!
Kid-like: The celebration after Taylor Hall’s goal. Sure, it ended a 187-minute scoring drought, but after his fist pump was interrupted by his linemates (Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins), they were all literally jumping up and down on the ice. It may have been a teensy bit of overkill. A more mature player would have nodded in satisfaction, then taken a sip of Gatorade – probably with his pinky in the air.
Kid-like: Justin Schultz’s reaction to the loud boos every time he touched the puck on Friday night, and the suggestion that it could be bitter Vancouver fans. “I thought it was pretty funny. I didn’t notice it until the third period, all the guys gave me a hard time. It was good.” Classy response to a classless question. And I’m allowed to say that, because I’m the one who asked it.
Not Kid-like: Taylor Hall giving the longest post-game interview on Saturday night, and specifically ensuring that the high school and elementary school students were able to ask him as many questions as they wanted. He answered them as seriously as he answered the folks from TSN, even though the questions were partial repeats of earlier ones and somewhat irrelevant (hey, they’re learning – and doing a great job). It was adorable, and made me want to pet him. Whoops, I promised I wouldn’t talk like that. Oh well.
Not Kid-like: The Barons came back on the ice after the game was over and saluted their fans in the building – there were quite a few of them, including three charter buses of fans who came from Edmonton.
Not Kid-like: The view as they milled around outside the locker room. Their six packs had six packs. I’ve informed my boyfriend that it doesn’t count as cheating if they have bodies like that.