Christmas for hockey fanatics

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

There are events on the annual sporting calendar that never fail to get couch potatoes cooking.

With remotes in hand, nacho chips and six-pack at the ready, we eagerly anticipate such television extravaganzas as the Super Bowl, Grey Cup, World Series, March Madness and the Masters.

For many Canadians, those events take a back seat to an April phenomenon known as the first round of the NHL playoffs.

This weekend is like Christmas for the diehard hockey fan.

Sixteen teams, televised doubleheaders almost every night and round-the-clock analysis from the talking heads.

If you are in a hockey pool, it's the only time when none of your players have been eliminated.

What could be more perfect? Especially after last year when, thanks to the NHL lockout, we were forced to go outside and breathe all that healthy spring air instead of hunkering down in the basement with Mr. Hitachi.

Sure we lost weight, discovered that Winnipeg actually has some pretty nice parks (who knew?) and got to know our wives better, but at what cost?

Springtime without playoff hockey is like a birthday without cake and presents.

There does come a time, around the middle of May, when the lure of the golf course tempts us to join the Maple Leafs on the links, and the playoffs start to lose their lustre.

But right now is the pinnacle for hockey fans. It just doesn't get any better than this.

SKEWED STANDINGS: We heard a lot of people this week complaining that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs despite having more than 40 wins and winning percentages well over .500. Of course, those complainants are failing to realize that everything to the right of 'W' in the standings is actually in the 'L' column. The shootouts and overtime loss points have skewed everything to an indecipherable level, but the bottom line is the Leafs were 41-41 this year and the Canucks were 42-40. In today's NHL, that ain't good enough ... The Kansas City Royals managed only one run in a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox this week and have a 2-12 record so far this season. But the good news is, they won a bid on EBay to put together a team and play the Winnipeg Goldeyes ... I'm not usually one to gloat (OK, sometimes), but since I took such a beating over my performance in the March Madness pool, I have to reveal that I eked out a victory in the Sun's regular-season hockey pool. Thank you, Joe Thornton ... Speaking of Big Joe, he's our pick for the Hart Trophy, while Alex Ovechkin will nip Sid (the Kid) Crosby for the Calder and Nik Lidstrom gets another Norris Trophy ... Crosby will be only the second player to score 100 points and not be rookie of the year. The other was Joe Juneau, who hit the century mark in the same year Teemu Selanne put up 132 points.

BLUE LOOKING GOOD: These past two weeks have been Brendan Taman's finest as general manager of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He picked through the carcass of the Ottawa franchise to acquire two starting Canadian offensive linemen (Obby Khan and Val St. Germain), a former Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Brad Banks) and a dominating linebacker (Kyries Hebert). And he dealt a sixth-round draft pick for a former all-star defensive back (Kelly Malveaux). It's too bad everybody else in the CFL is going to be better too, because these Winnipeg Renegades, er Bombers, should be pretty good.


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