We Opine on Hockey and the English Language

I got my start in blogging about 9 months ago when my friend Nash invited me to contribute to his blog We Opine. Random hilarious discussion ran the vast spectrum of sports, politics and male sterilization procedures, and often included snippets of our personal instant messages. And cocktails. It is in that spirit that I dedicate an occasional column at Sounds Good to carry on the We Opine tradition. I wrote the majority of this post Friday night, and added some links and such today. Enjoy and feel free to add your thoughts.

I just finished watching the only period of hockey I have watched all season. The 3rd period of Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the period with a 2-0 lead and ailing captain Sidney Crosby on the bench. The Detroit Red Wings kept the pressure in the Pittsburgh end for more than 15 of the 20 minutes, it seemed.  Detroit scored on a long shot after nearly 14 minutes, and pinged the crossbar with 2:15 left. But Pittsburgh’s excellent defense never allowed anything to develop in front of the goal, save for a harrowing final six seconds. Why the heck haven’t I been watching this game?

I guess I never really got over the last strike. And I moved to Portland, where we have the WHL Winter Hawks, and occasional Canucks and Sharks games, I think. And I got into Fantasy Baseball and Football, and playing music, and blah blah blah – ahem – blogging. (Excuse me.)

I wouldn’t even have tuned in until I saw my friend Shannon’s Facebook status update: “Game 7ing!” Now, I’m all for proper grammar and syntax, occasionally making an exception for efficient and common text-speak. But this is a linguistic variant I can get behind – I call it verbing. It’s effective and easily understood – heck, to not verb is a tremendous waste of the inherent flexibility of words. I say, Verbing Awesomes Language. Although I will admit, as Shannon contends, Verbing Wierds Language too.

I still wouldn’t even have tuned in until I remembered the Onion article I saw that reminded me that these two teams were in the Finals. (Again, apparently.) The last time I was paying attention, teams from exotic locations like Carolina and Tampa Bay were in the Finals, so two old school teams duking it out for 20 minutes seemed worth watching before having some dinner. (Ah, Happy Hour Sports on the West Coast.) What I saw tonight took me back to my favorite hockey years in the mid-90s, when the Devils finally brought home the Cup.

So I think I’m back, hockey. I’m sorry I was gone so long, but I couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment as the Penguins passed around the Stanley Cup. Hey, there’s Bill Guerin, I remember him. Hey, did that guy just drop an F-Bomb on national TV? Awesome! If you’ve read this far, leave a comment and tell me when you got hockeyed (or re-hockeyed, like me.) Or give me some good examples of verbing.

In other hockey news:

Brother Ray

Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002
Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002

On May 28, Ray Ashley passed away after a long battle with cancer. You can read his obituary and explore some of his music and writing by clicking his name above. I’ll remember him as a good friend, a masterful musician, and an inspirational influence on my own musicianship.

In early 1993, I worked in a record store with a fellow named Jan who played guitar. He invited me over one day to listen to him jam with some new friends, bassist Ray and drummer Joe.  I ran into Ray and Joe later that Spring at a Phish show, where I was shocked to learn that Joe worked with my Mom!

Over the next few years Ray and I forged a friendship from our common love of adventurous music. Ray introduced me to God Street Wine and his own creative compositions, while I in turn hooked him up with thE otheR waY and turned him on to my hero, J J Johnson. As was his way, Ray immersed himself in these new discoveries, playing bass with the former and transcribing a dozen songs by the latter.

I had the honor of collaborating with Ray and Joe on a project called the 9-Volt Smoke Detectors, an eerily prescient name as our first and only gig was nearly thwarted by an electrical fire. Ray and I would later play a few gigs as a duo – Ray on Warr Guitar and me on the congas he sold me, which I still play to this day. These were my first public performances since graduating college in 1992, and I credit Ray with rekindling my creative spark.

Ray is gone, but he will be remembered through his music, which bears his personality throughout. Technically proficient yet passionate, structured but open to improvisation, lyrically hopeful with a hint of sly wit. His songs painted pictures of a better world.

Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999
Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999