Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Introducing Dale Arnold

As we speed towards the launch of www.hockeybuzz.com, I am proud to introduce another blogger that will have his own blog on www.hockeybuzz.com....Dale Arnold is one of the most passionate hockey people I have met in my life...In great hockey towns there are great hockey people...Dale exemplifies this to a T (or should I say "to a B"?)

Dale Arnold could probably be considered a hockey lifer. He started his career with five years of college hockey broadcasting, followed by seven years in the American Hockey League with the Maine Mariners. He spent two seasons as the radio voice of the New Jersey Devils, one as radio voice of the Boston Bruins and the last ten as the TV voice of the Bruins, winning two New England Emmy awards. He has also served as play-by-play voice for the New England Patriots and New England Revolution. For the past fourteen years he has also been a full time talk show host on WEEI Radio in Boston.

Here is a sample of what to expect from Dale's Blog...this article is exactly why I am thrilled to have him aboard.

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Dale Arnold

It’s an isolated and insulated little world we live in. As hockey fans we have become accustomed to talking amongst ourselves. Misunderstood by many and mocked by more than a few, it’s simply been easier (and less painful) to talk about our sport with other hockey fans. Baseball fans have no problem discussing their favorite sport with any other sports fans; football fans simply assume that everyone is a fan of their favorite sport anyways. But hockey fans have an interesting internal conflict --- a love of their sport coupled with an inferiority complex.

And if we were honest about it, there has been much to feel inferior about for the last several years. We love a sport that has slowly but surely become a shadow of its’ former self. Night in and night out, the fastest and most graceful sport has devolved into a tractor pull. Many nights, the game could be played in shorts and sneakers for all the speed and grace we’ve been witness to. Our sport has expanded beyond what many feel the world’s talent pool can realistically support, and the game’s truly great players have been largely stifled by over-coaching and antiquated rules.

Fans of other sports have a totally outmoded view of hockey, seeing it as one part ultimate fighting and one part professional wrestling. They harp (incorrectly) about stick work and fighting, while refusing to acknowledge or understand that there are more bench-clearing brawls in baseball than there are in hockey. In fact, hockey fans of a certain age will steadfastly maintain that there is more emotion and physicality in a WNBA game, and that what hockey needs is more black and blue, not less. 

Then came the ultimate embarrassment.   Hockey disappeared from the sports scene and the consciousness of sports fans for an entire season. Hockey became less than boring; it became something even more dire. Hockey became irrelevant. Fans of the other sports, who never truly understood our passion or our game, no longer mocked us, they simply ignored us.

Then suddenly, the clouds broke and the sun shone through. Not only was hockey coming back, it could and should be coming back better than ever. The only good thing about a season lost to lockout was that it gave the game an opportunity to reinvent itself. Hockey finally acknowledged what its’ fans knew for a long time --- the game was broken and needed to be fixed. Anything and everything was open for discussion and the rules changes implemented for the NHL’s return season are a starting point, not necessarily the end of the road. The emphasis on division and conference play, the elimination of the red line, the implementation of the shootout, touchup offside, larger offensive zones, and new goalie equipment and puck-playing rules are all geared to giving the fans what they’ve always wanted and deserved --- greater flow and greater entertainment value. 

Perhaps the greatest change in our game was the realization by management and players that the sport was priced beyond the range of the blue collar fan that is an essential staple for our survival. A hard-working guy would scrimp and save for a month of two, skipping the night out at Chuck E. Cheeses, and putting together enough money to take his wife and two kids to an NHL game; an NHL game that in many instances had little or no entertainment value. That hard-working fan felt duped and cheated, vowing in many instances to never return. The upcoming season not only promises greater entertainment value, but guarantees that in virtually every NHL arena the tickets will be more affordable and more available.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is an undercurrent of excitement and anticipation that most longtime NHL fans haven’t seen in their hockey lifetimes. My day job is as a sport talk show host at the highest rated all-sports station in North America. Granted that having the defending Super Bowl champions and the defending World Series champions in our city would make it difficult for the Bruins or Celtics to get much attention under any circumstances, but the amount of hockey talk in our market since the new CBA was announced has been unprecedented. The free agent signing frenzy has grabbed the attention of even the peripheral sports fan, and the move of star players from team to team and city to city has got even baseball and football fans buzzing. The question of whether the Bruins could or would keep Joe Thornton actually dominated our airwaves for nearly a week.

Now comes the hardest part --- following through on the promise of summer and giving the fans a reason to come back in the fall. Players say they’ll be more accessible than ever, now they need to prove it. Management says the game will be more exciting and wide open, now it has to show it. NHL officials say the game is now viable, on and off the ice, now it has to maintain it. The games have to be emotional, fast-paced, hard-hitting, exciting and entertaining. We’ll be there because we’re hockey fans. Whether we can lure our fellow sports fans into the rink is dependent on all of the above. 

It’s been a long time since we hockey fans could hold our heads high in our favorite sports tavern. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel; a red light indicating that our game has scored a big, big goal.

You can email Dale with your thoughts Darnold850@aol.com



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