Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicago's Antti Hero

After the Stanley Cup finals wrap up, will Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi parlay his fame on ice into endorsement deals with:
  • Dairy Queen (Antti Freeze) or . . . 
  • Mennen Speed Stick (Antti Perspirant) or . . .
  • Quiznos (Antti Hero)?
Perhaps there's a crossword theme in there somewhere, but ANTTI will have more practical applications for me, as an awesome new fill word.

Niemi, born in Vantaa (!) Finland, has caught my eye as the most crossword-excellent of this Stanley Cup. It's true, there's a lot to love between the two teams--The Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers--with player names like HOSSA, EAGER, GAGNE, ASHAMCARLE, PRONGER.

First of all--ANTTI NIEMI is amazing . . . the first and last names are new to my word list, a real godsend. But ANTTINIEMI, as a potential 10-letter crossword entry, makes me weep with gratitude. Solvers, take note: he's coming to a grid near you. Stanley Cup trivia is fair game in crosswords.

Okay, so I cringe and cover my mouth in sympathy when Duncan Keith leaves his teeth on the ice (or rather, they're removed with a stick).* But still, I'm a fan. I like to watch hockey for purely sentimental reasons. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel safe. I don't root for a favorite team; for me, it's the simple act of watching the game on TV.  

My father was a huge hockey fan. When I little enough to have an 8 PM bedtime, I'd occasionally wake up to find him sitting in the living room with the lights off--watching hockey on TV. The volume was off, so as not to waken sleeping children.

If my timing was good, I'd catch a glimpse of our cat who wanted in on the hockey action. During the first period, the cat would run to the TV, sit on his hind legs and attack the puck by swatting his fully-clawed paws at the screen, kangaroo-style. Eventually my father would calm the cat down, and they'd both watch the game to its conclusion.

I look forward to tomorrow's game--to feeling good about new crossword names from Finland, warm childhood memories and pets that made me laugh.

*Ben kindly wrote in with a correction--see comments. Thank you, Ben!  ~E.G. 7/7/10  


Susan said...

Liz - I am not, I confess, a regular reader of your blog. I caught this one about Antti Niemi from your salute to my friend and neighbor, Amy Reynaldo. I agree with your comments about and congrats to Amy on her 5th anniversary of Crossword Fiend, but I love (maybe more) your post about Antti. As a Chicagoan and a sports fan (alas, a Cubs fan, too), I also have loved hockey for years (since there were only 6 teams, I admit), thanks to my father, who taught my 3 brothers and me the complexities and simplicity (rather, finesse) of watching and playing the game. We also had a cat who hogged the tv screen, swatting at the moving figures while perched atop the set. The resurgence of the Hawks this season - and their marvelous, skillful, beautiful win of the Stanley Cup - has been wonderful to watch and experience, as the 2 million fans who came out for the parade/rally attest. The team could not have done it without the quiet rookie from Finland, who really can stand on his head in the crease. So take that, Coach Laviolette; you couldn't psyche out our netminder! Thanks for your memories and your shout-out to my man Antti!

Howard B said...

Yes, thanks for the crosswordese hockey tribute. It's truly an exciting sport, and in addition to the plethora of puzzle-friendly names, the fast pace and constant action can at times be amazing.
Although I'm not of the feline persuasion, at times I'm even been tempted to get up and try to swat at that little puck coming towards the net. I can completely sympathize.

Re: Duncan Keith: Hockey players are an odd, rare breed. I can't quite explain the mindset of someone having seven of their teeth removed via "dr. puck", and then returning to the ice minutes later to help the team. Perhaps choosing to be a goalie isn't so crazy after all...

In any case, it is refreshing to see the emphasis of the team over the individual in a pro sport; so congratulations to Chicago on the hard-earned victory, as well as Philadelphia for their efforts in an exciting series.

Elizabeth said...

@Susan, thank you! You've described the excitement beautifully. Congratulations on an amazing win; one could feel the electricity in the crowd, especially the games played in your Chicago arena. The finesse, as you say, is the charm. Your cat loved hockey too? Hilarious!

@Howard, very funny, I love it!! I resort to wild fist-pumping and screaming. As for Duncan Keith--did I imagine the sound of his teeth hitting the ice? Ouch! The team dentist must have his/her hands full. Re ANTII: it's a win/win all around. He's a gem on the ice and on grid. Yay!

Ben said...

Liz, if I may post a small correction weeks after the fact, I think Duncan "Teeth" lost his faceful of pearly whites, not by being hit by a stick, but when a Flyer tried to clear the zone and shot the puck directly into his face.

More importantly, great blog, like your work in the NYT, and as a guy who won a tennis match this morning in Lincoln Park, Chicago before heading in to work... keep keeping 'em in!

Elizabeth said...

Ben, I appreciate your correction, which is very welcome here. I wasn't aware of the circumstances. So, Duncan's mouth stopped the puck? Ouuuuuch!!! (It brings new meaning to "The puck stops here.")

I play at the 119th St. courts in Riverside Park. If you're ever in the nabe, let's play some tennis.

Thanks so much for visiting. And congratulations on winning your match this morning . . . excellent!