Let me welcome our out-of-town guests for tonight’s NHL playoff series, especially you folks from St. Louis, who have come to cheer the Blues.
(Actually, it seems odd to cheer the Blues, since, according to B. B. King, the Blues are something you get when your life stinks — and that’s not going to happen to your hockey club for at least four games.)
But hey, what do I know? I live here, in Detroit, and as you can tell, there are certain differences between our towns. Detroit, for example, is famous for Motown music, the birth of the automobile and a heavyweight champion of the world, while St. Louis is famous for having mud in its river.
Also, our hockey team actually competes in the regular season.
But let us not focus on our differences. Let us focus on our similarities. We are all wondering how this series between the Red Wings and the Blues will go.
Wonder no more. . . . GAME 1: The mind games begin before the opening face-off, when Blues coach Mike Keenan arrives with a tape measure and demands to check the Wings’ bench. He discovers two things: 1) the bench is regulation length; 2) Scotty Bowman wears a 34 inseam. Meanwhile, Bowman sends a message to Keenan suggesting a nice night out in Detroit might be dinner with Keith Gave, a Free Press hockey writer, heh-heh. Still, the stunner comes when Grant Fuhr, thought to be gone for the year, skates out as the starting goalie. “What can I tell you?” Fuhr says. “I’m a fast healer.” As he says this, he is run over by the Zamboni, and is out for the year.
The game is won by the Red Wings, 4-1. Afterward, Keenan is seen sneaking into Bowman’s office with his tape measure. GAME 2: In keeping with hockey tradition, before the game, two national anthems are sung — the American, and the Russian. Unfortunately, since Russia is now 438 different countries, this takes 2 1/2 hours. By the time the game starts, Wayne Gretzky is in bed. Without their aging superstar, the Blues need a lift. They get it when Grant Fuhr, thought to be gone for the season, skates out to start the second period.
“What can I tell you?” Fuhr says. “I have amazing recuperative powers.” As he says this, he is clomped on the head by a large octopus, and is out for the season.
The Wings win, 5-0. Afterward, Mike Keenan is seen measuring Bowman’s suits. GAME 3: The series shifts to St. Louis, where Detroit’s Russian-born players, Fedorov, Kozlov, Konstantinov, Fetisov and Larionov, decide to visit the famous Arch.
“Give me Big Mac,” says Fetisov.
“Ya, Big Mac,” says Kozlov.
Other Wings players opt for more highbrow culture, which, in St. Louis, means the Bowling Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Darren McCarty and Stu Grimson get their fingers stuck in Nelson Burton Jr.’s bowling balls, and are scratched for the game.
St. Louis wins, 1-0, on an early Glenn Anderson slap shot past Chris Osgood, who is bending over at the waist.
“WHY WERE YOU BENDING OVER?” Bowman screams.
“I thought I had the stomach pull,” Osgood says.
“No, that was me,” says Mike Vernon.
“You have the stomach pull?” says Osgood.
“Yeah, you have the groin pull,” says Vernon.
After the game, Keenan is seen wearing Bowman’s pants. GAME 4: Keenan, still playing mind games with his former mentor, makes all his Canadian players put “OV” at the end of their names. Brett Hullov scores first, on a pass from Wayne Gretzkyov. Not to be outdone, Bowman makes all his Russian players change their names, too. Sergei Jones scores on a sweet pass from Slava Williams, with an assist from Igor Goldberg.
The game is tied going into overtime, when Grant Fuhr skates out to play goalie. “What can I tell you?” he says. “Some guys got it, some guys don’t.” As he says this, Grimson skates over and punches him in the mouth. He is out for the season, and next season, too.
The Wings win, 3-2, on a goal by Vladimir Smith.
After the game, Keenan is seen shaving his mustache. GAME 5: Blues win, 5-4. I’m sorry, I cannot provide more details, because this game is played on Mother’s Day, and your mother told me not to.
By the way, you should call her. GAME 6: The Blues, with their backs against the walls, do the only thing they can do. Walk forward.
Gretzky and Paul Coffey, best friends off the ice, have not spoken all series. Now, Gretzky tries some trash talk. “Bruce Springsteen stinks,” he says, skating past Coffey. Coffey, a huge Springsteen fan, says, “Oh, yeah? Well, so did ‘The Flamingo Kid.’ ” Gretzky attacks him, and both are ejected. They are later seen at the Arch, sharing a quarter-pounder.
The game is won, 4-3, when Steve Yzerman scores with six seconds left. As he swings, he is heard to say, “Adam Oates for Bernie Federko, my butt!”
After the series, Mike Keenan is a no-show. He is discovered the next day, trying to board a plane under the name “Scotty Bowman.”
“How did you know he was a fraud?” the security guard is asked.
“Easy,” he says, “I asked how the goalies were doing, and he said they were perfectly healthy.”