Tag Archives: hockey

The Heat is On

Sunday, February 25, 2018: Stockton, Calif.

Stockton Heat 4, San Diego Gulls 2

I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since I last ventured to Stockton for a hockey game.

Things have changed a bit.

The old Stockton Thunder of the low-minor-league ECHL are gone, replaced by a Calgary Flames farm team as part of the 2015 realignment of minor league hockey that put five members of the highest-level minor league, the American Hockey League, in California.

The AHL team came with a new identity, the Stockton Heat, with uniform and logo closely aligned with the Flames’, um, flame motif.

Despite the higher quality of play, I wonder if the bloom has gone off the rose somewhat for hockey in Stockton.

Attendance was announced at 3,370 — hopefully it was just a slow Sunday. Maybe they should have offered more Andrew Mangiapane  bobbleheads. I was there early but not early enough to get one.

Anyway, the game was proficiently played, in the way that has made pro hockey a little boring to watch, in which effective defensive disruption in the neutral zone made it hard for either team to maintain much in the way of interesting puck possession. On the other hand, most of the goals, as I recall, came on fast moving breakout plays.

The pest: Watching the warmups, I pegged the Heat’s Ryan Lomberg as a bit of a wise-ass. True to form the player, who was up and down from Calgary all season, was exactly that kind of on-ice pest you want on your team and hate on your opponent’s. His heads-up play netted him two assists.

A long road from Moline: Backup goalie C.J. Motte, signed that very day, wore a helmet painted for the Quad City Mallards.
The Heat starter, Ryan Faragher, had only been signed two weeks earlier.

Fashion notes: I saw an Erik Karlsson Senators jersey.
I saw a Teemu Selanne Jets jersey.
I saw many people wearing Heat jersey.
I even saw someone wearing a San Francisco Bulls jersey.

I did not see a single Stockton Thunder sweater.

The media today: The press row was largely deserted except, I think, for a couple people who work for the Heat.

My wife will be happy to read this: There were no fights. Though there was a third-period roughing incident that came close …

Game reports: here and here.

Box score: here

Highlights: here

Inside the Great Red Hockey Machine

It’s not unusual to see near-identical ideas result in films released at the same time.

Save the world from a killer asteroid. Terrorists attack the White House.

Usually, it’s simultaneous schlock.

It’s happened again, but it isn’t schlock — it was my unexpected pleasure to enjoy two high quality documentaries about Soviet hockey in a three-day period.

It’s hard to imagine that the directors and producers of ‘Red Army’ and ‘Of Miracles and Men’ weren’t aware of each other’s efforts — particularly since the great defenseman Slava Fetisov pays a pivotal role in both documentaries.

It’s not a repetitive journey — each film uses a different lens to tell the story of Soviet hockey.

“Of Miracles and Men,” an ESPN 30 for 30 production, has a higher concept at its disposal: looking at the 1980 Olympics’ ‘Miracle on Ice’ contest from the point of view of the Soviet players who were on the losing end.

The film’s storyline runs through Fetisov, who agreed to revisit Lake Placid to be interviewed there.

‘Red Army’ tries to paint a broader picture — explaining how the Soviet hockey program worked, trying to unravel the seeming contradiction of how such a brutal and rigid system produced such beautiful hockey.

Slava Fetisov is the key figure in both documentaries. Credit: Sony Classics

The answer to that question, in another irony, lies in the efforts of one individual in a collective society: Anatoli Tarasov, the father of Soviet hockey, who developed the intricate passing system that Soviet teams rode to world domination.

Both films tell his story, though it’s featured more heavily in ‘Red Army’ which traces the rise of hockey in the Soviet Union, and also its fall, centering largely on Fetisov, who largely through the force of his will forced open hockey’s Iron Curtain, which had kept Soviet stars from playing abroad.

Both films are well worth anyone’s time; they’re not just for hockey fans.

By happenstance, I saw ‘Red Army’ first, and if one has a choice I
think that’s the best order to watch them in, as it paints a larger canvas that provides context with which to appreciate the specific moment ‘Of Miracles and Men’ revisits.

‘Red Army’ is in theatrical release around the U.S.; ‘Of Miracles and Men’, which debuted on ESPN, is now available on Netflix.