A Gay Man’s Experience at the Frozen Four

The 2014 Frozen Four marked the second time I attended college hockey’s premier event. However, this was the first time I went since I came out of the closet.

Luckily, I live in a city that’s widely accepting toward gay men, so when fellow hockey fans in Madison find out I’m gay, they don’t care. In fact, the older couple whose season tickets are behind me started asking me about my dating life after they saw the series of failed dates I brought to games this year.

But when I travel to new cities, I’ve learned I need to tread a little more lightly when discussing my personal life with fellow hockey fans at the bar or at tailgates.

The Frozen Four in Philadelphia proved an interesting experience for me. My friends and I were drinking a lot, so I knew I had to be careful that I didn’t rub any Philly faithful the wrong way. Not only am I gay, but I’m a Penguins fan. To the wrong person, that could trigger a double dose of hatred.

The beautiful part of the Frozen Four is that fans of every hockey team attend, even though their team didn’t make it. My friends and I wore our Badgers gear, and we sat in between Boston University and Dartmouth fans. In fact, we played college hockey bingo and my friend got a cover-all before the puck even dropped.

Naturally, that kind of fan diversity leads to a great bar atmosphere before and after the games. Fans often share stories of how many years they’ve been attending the Frozen Four, their favorite cities that have hosted (Providence seems to be a popular choice, by the way), and the conversation naturally includes personal stories.

And when male hockey fans tell personal stories, they often include references to “my wife” or “my girlfriend.” Which leads to the gay man’s conundrum: Do I share my story about my boyfriend, or do I just smile and nod and hide the fact that I’m gay?

We have to deal with this conundrum all the time, but sports fans know it more than most. And I always have to hesitate to reveal who I really am. I hate it (and it reminds me of this great speech), but we all have to deal with it.

This year’s Frozen Four featured Minnesota, Boston College, Union and North Dakota. All those schools brought a slew of fans to Philadelphia. Especially North Dakota.

Oh, North Dakota fans.

I hate to stereotype, so I’ll just share one story about the UND fan that sat behind us during Thursday night’s semifinal between his team and the Gophers.

We’ll call him Fred. Fred didn’t bother showing up for the first game—which turned out to be a great one as Union knocked off Johnny Gaudreau and BC. Of course, Fred was sitting right in the middle of the row, making everyone get up for his frequent trips to the bathroom and concessions.

Fred was with his girlfriend, and he was proud to announce to everyone near him that this was his girlfriend’s first-ever hockey game.  I honestly do enjoy when people experience live hockey for the first time, and the Frozen Four is a great place to start. I was hoping to hear her thoughts and questions throughout the game, but Fred wouldn’t let her get a word in.

During the first break in the game, the crews started clearing the ice.

“She likes it when they clean the ice, don’t you, babe?” Fred said.

Those were the types of things sexist Fred kept saying all night long. And I’ve encountered several North Dakota fans like him, including a few that shouted pavlovian homophobic insults at any and all Gophers fans that came into view.

Minnesota and North Dakota are big rivals, and both of them are also rivals with Wisconsin. So the Badgers fan in me didn’t really want either team to win. But after interacting with the North Dakota fans, I threw my allegiance behind the Gophers. Which made this even sweeter:

Even though Minnesota and Wisconsin are rivals on the ice, their fans all have a fairly healthy relationship with each other—maybe because citizens of the bordering states are mostly “Midwest nice.”

I’ve never found a Gophers fan with whom I wasn’t able have a good conversation, and many Gophers fans said the same thing about Badgers fans. Sure, we may give each other some crap, but then we’ll buy each other a beer after the game.  (One thing we also agreed on was our mutual dislike of North Dakota fans).

 So I figured I’d test the waters with some Gophers fans.

The first night we were in Philly, we were sitting with some random Gophers fans at the bar. One of them was from Madison and we were talking about hockey in Wisconsin’s capitol. They asked if I played and where. I said that yes, I play at Hartmeyer Ice Arena.

He pointed out that Hartmeyer is right by the Oscar Meyer wiener factory.

“What makes it funnier is that I play in the gay league, and we’re right by the wiener factory,” I blurted.

All of them were taken aback for a second, and then they laughed and said, “I didn’t know gay hockey leagues existed.”

That led us down a great path of hilarious hockey jokes filled with gay innuendo. We wound up playing bubble hockey and getting decently drunk. It turned out to be a great night, and I didn’t have to hide who I was.

Before the championship game on Saturday, we decided to post up at the Gophers bar near the arena and watch Penguins-Flyers. I didn’t dare sport any Penguins gear, but I did wear my Badgers hat. We were at a bar that featured female bartenders in ass-less chaps and red panties. When we walked outside to get a drink, there was a group of three college guys sitting down with a perfect backside view of one bartender every time she reached down to grab a beer.

The one guy (we’ll call him Steve) saw my hat and made a comment about the Badgers losing in the first round. We started talking a bit, and we explained how we’re from Pittsburgh and we flew in from Wisconsin. Steve and his friends actually drove to Philly from Minneapolis, and we talked a little bit about the Big Ten Tournament that was held in St. Paul.

“Okay, I like you guys,” Steve said. “You’re nice. Even though you’re Badgers fans, I like you.”

About an hour later, we saw those same guys again, and Steve wound up next to me at the bar. We started chatting again, and he actually admitted that he’s from Madison, but moved to Minneapolis to go to college at Minnesota.

“Oh, you’re the opposite of my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s from Minneapolis but moved to Madison for school.”

Steve stopped for a second, then looked around and shouted, “NO WONDER HE’S SO NICE, HE’S GAY!” then gave me a big hug and bought me a drink.

I guess “all gay men are nice” is a stereotype that I can live with—especially if it gets me free drinks from straight men.

So thanks Gophers fans. Because of your acceptance, I was able to be myself at the Frozen Four and not have to worry about hiding who I really am.

It’s a shame, really, that I even have to consider these things, but I think it says a lot about how far we’ve come that a gay Penguins fan was able to talk about his boyfriend while drinking at a bar outside the Flyers’ arena.

Or maybe it just says a lot about the college hockey world. If hockey fans are the hipsters of the sports world, then college hockey fans are Brooklyn.  So I really shouldn’t be surprised that they are, for the most part, very accepting of gay people.

Either way, I had a great time in Philly. And even though Gophers fans were super nice, I still couldn’t find it in me to cheer for them. So I was thrilled to see Union capture the title.

And next year, I probably won’t have to tiptoe around my personal life when talking to other fans, as the 2015 Frozen Four will be in Boston, the home base of marriage equality. If you have the chance, you should most certainly go.

Posted in College Hockey | Tagged | 4 Comments

A Zak Divided Can’t Stand

The Lake Erie Monsters season is wrapping up tonight and the Avalanche are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I feel like Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, but instead of the Bulls not losing, and me not getting laid, its more of the Avs can’t lose and the Monsters can’t win.

Erie Lake Monsters logoThe Monsters have had a really disappointing second half of the season here. Now there were a few games that gave me hope like the one where Sami squared off at center ice against Admirals goalie Scott Darling, and VDG had a hat trick. But the rest of the second half has been a whole bunch of fail. I’m not really sure where the blame lies, weather it be with the coach as some suggest, a lack of defense, poor netminding, all of the above, even none of the above.

Erie Monsters Fight

The Monsters have been consistent in that their problems have been all over the place. They are like my car, fix one thing and another breaks on the drive home from the mechanic.

Eric Monsters PickardIn a season like this, the only place to look is the coach. I have a feeling that Dean Chynoweth’s days at the helm are very limited. At least the Monsters final game of the season wasn’t disappointing. Pickard did a wonderful job in the net, while the officials made quite a few questionable calls at best. I mean the puck touched the line it didn’t cross it no way that’s Grand Rapids goal should have counted.

Varly pregame Gm1On a brighter note, now that my itchy, ginger, playoff beard is making it’s self known. How about them Avs? Wow what a season we have had in Colorado. Between the beginning of the season where the Avalanche couldn’t lose or Semyon Varlamov breaking Roy’s win record and also facing more than 2000 during the regular season, it has been a wild ride.

Patrick Roy AvsPatrick Roy has done some amazing work this season. He took a team that was at the bottom of the list last year and made them one of the best in a single season. I most certainly did not expect the Avs to have ended the season with the record that they have had, and I believe that is mostly due to having a man behind the wheel who knows what he is doing.

The Avs have been amazing during the post season so far. We are only two games in so far and Nathan MacKinnon already has one goal and six assists for a total of seven points. Damn this kid has had an amazing rookie season for an 18 year old. I think we took the better draft pick with MacKinnon.

MacKinnon 2014 Playoffs Round 1

Varly pregame Gm1 (3)I am a little worried though. We have had and still have problems with our blue line. I mean, if I was Roy when looking at the stats that Varly has seen more than 2000 shots on goal this season I would have sat down with my d-men and told them to step up their game, and that they should not be relying on stellar goaltending alone, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Follow me and my ginger playoff beard on Twitter: @LEMonster88

 

 

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Homo Homer

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

April. The cruelest month. Mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with Spring rain.

Yup. We're helpless.

Yup. We’re helpless.

How do we put this? There just wasn’t a whole lotta Captastical in “America’s Hockey Capital” this season…even if that motto doesn’t send you screaming out a window.

How bad was it? Not even Red Rally Balloon (or blimp) could have saved this squad this season. Face it: our defense was weaker than wet Kleenex, our five-on-five as shriveled as Donald Rumsfeld’s conscience, and our goalie-go-round more confused than Chris Christie in a SweetGreen.

This is exactly what this season felt like. Exactly.

This is exactly what this season felt like. Exactly.

Moar? How about a sclerotic front office? Asinine line switch-ups? Trades and acquisitions more tone-deaf than Alec Baldwin at an ACT-UP meeting, inconsistent play, no Olympic medal for Ovi, crappy t-shirts and I’m waiting in line for 20 minutes and you’re just now telling me you have no hot dogs. TED Y U NO HAVE HOT DOGS?!?!

In summa, this season was a swift one to the nads. Over, and over again…hard, swift and directly to the giggleberrys. Just one giant bad touch of a season.

Now to be fully honest, it’s not like the entire hockey season was without moments of happy. Torts got canned and flamed out way out west…so that was a special little snowflake of schadenfreude, yah?

Scandinavian good guys Sweden and Finland overturned the Olympic apple cart and brought home some sweet metal – even Nicky finally got his – even if crybaby Crosby snagged yet another blah blah please start shutting up about Crosby it’s not ruining my feels. And how many Wings won a bit of that?

WinterClassic1 Pavel Gregory Shamus GettySpeaking of, how about that Winter Classic? Scotty Bowman coaching at the alumni game? Red Kelly? Ted Lindsay? Mr. Hockey freakin’ Gordie Howe? And the game itself – Wings v Leafs, original six, out in a blizzard, at the Big House?

I wasn’t there but I can still taste the cocoa, the kishka, the iced beer. I can hear, once again, the amazing amplitude of being there, in Michigan stadium, cold as a Ryan budget…the roar that can only come from a humongous hole in the ground with 100,000 vocalists shouting in the world’s largest theater-in-the-round? Mmmm. Can you tell from my swelling pride that I’m a native Michigander? Detroit to be specific.

Sure, Toronto won. Just. But what a cherry pie. Capitals_Red_Wings_Hockey-04c38

And what about that Caps-Wings home and home match-up earlier this year? First game in Detroit; hard fought at the Joe, the place on its feet for overtime, and a lightning bolt of a shoot-out win for 1 for the Wings.

Then two days later, here in your nation’s crapital, the arena electric with dueling Wings and Caps tribes, the game teeter-tottering like a Hollywood movie, maybe this, maybe that, only then after OT and another shootout and a lazer shot that wins it for the Caps…

(exhale)

20140202_120708

Two teams. Two games. Each witha thrilla win at home; each with three points. Best.

So…looking back, here in the Mirkwoods of playoffs, what path does a Wings-transplant/Caps-transplantational patient take?

It’s right there. Capitals, love you, go golf and figure yourselves out. Wings?

I can pivot.

If the United States government with all its whatnot and Humpheroo and phoofehrah can pivot from something…we think Iraq, or Afghanistan, someone?… to Russia,or to South East Asia and the…um we really don’t know what we’re doing and really just need to stop here because confused

I am pivoting.

We are seeking a reset of relations with the Wings. We still believe in the innate greatness of the Capitals as an ideal; our founding ideas. And yet, we can recognize the much older nobility of a culture that preceded us; namely, the Red Wings. Home sweet home.

This is not a battle of old vs. new; of east vs. west. This is a recognition of all that we share and agree on. That hockey matters. And that I really really really need a Cup this year.

WingsNation: please please please. Please. Start by humiliating the filthy B’s.

- Sincerely, Doug

WingsPlayoffNationPS: Oh hellz yeah. BTW: looks like Wings Nation extends far across this nation.

What unites Alaska, Alabama, Washington, Tennessee, Louisiana, TenneTucky and the Great Lakes State?

Yup. America – north and south, rich and poor, pooter and critter – knows hockey. And they are Detroit Hockey Nation.

Oh, and look who we’re picking to go all the way!

SCP Bracket

 

 

 

Posted in Detroit Red Wings, Playoffs, Washington Capitals | Leave a comment

Gay Hockey Diary: Playoff Time

I finally started learning how to actually play hockey in the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I’ll chronicle my journey in my Gay Hockey Diary, a semi-regular feature here. See the previous posts here.

I now know why hockey players golf in the summer. I really don’t know what to do with myself now that hockey is over. Sundays now feel a little empty without MGHA games to keep be busy. So I might start golfing more, just to fulfill the cliche.

But I couldn’t be happier with the way our season ended, as the No. 6 seeded Green Gay Puckers stormed all the way to finish the tournament in 5th place!

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Round 1: Green Gay Puckers vs. Boo-teal-licous

The teal team holds a special place in my heart, as they were the first team I scored against. Granted, I don’t really think it was even my goal, but the ref saw a guy with a beard smack the puck in the net, so I got the goal.

We lit up the Boo-teal-licious goalie for 6 goals in our first game against them, but he came back with a vengeance in the playoffs. The Puckers carried the play throughout the entire game, but we just couldn’t score.

My center, Kevin, hit several posts, and Andrew, Teal’s goalie, stood on his head to make some incredible saves. He even had our bench applauding a few of his saves, he was that good.

But we found ourselves in a hole after giving up two quick goals in the second period. Then, one of our players got knocked down behind the net with three minutes left, and the ref raised his arm.

I thought for sure we were getting a power play. But no, our right wing was sent to the box for checking.

So we stacked our penalty kill with all our best players, and instead of playing defense, we just attacked. The anger from the wrongful penalty spurred some of the best play I’ve ever seen from our team’s veterans and they finally hit the back of the net with two minutes left on a shorthanded goal.

Once the penalty ended, we pulled our goalie and swarmed into the offensive zone. I fed a pass to Kevin with about 6 seconds left on the clock. He let a shot rip that sailed past Andrew in the crease.

He hit the post, and the game was over. The Green Gay Puckers were sent to the loser’s bracket.

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Round 2: Green Gay Puckers vs. Puck a L’orange

The orange team has had our number this year. They beat us in both games we played, and their goalie, Ryan, has simply tortured us. He even subbed in for absent goalies in weeks we weren’t even playing the orange team. He’s probably the best goalie in the league, and he’s become a good friend.  It seemed like we were playing against him every week—and he kept beating us. I had so many great chances against him, but I couldn’t bury it.

Since the orange team finished the regular season in second place, I assumed we wouldn’t have to worry about Ryan in the playoffs. But, the Team Formerly Known As Purple Reign somehow knocked off Puck a L’orange in the first round—which sent us on another collision course with the brick wall that was Ryan.

Once again, the Green Gay Puckers came out flying. We’ve become a great puck-possession team. The first five minutes saw more of the same, however, as all of our great chances bounced around in the crease before Ryan smothered the puck.

Then, finally, we got the monkey off our back thanks to Kevin who managed to bury a shot from the slot. We scored again a few minutes later, and we realized that we just might have a chance.

But the orange team came right back with two goals of their own in the second period.

Then, with the second period winding down, my line hopped over the boards and I went right to my favorite spot on the ice.

My friend now calls it the “Tony spot”—it’s about three feet to the right of the crease. I’ve learned that defenders only really try to push me out of the way if I’m right in front of the crease, so I now stand just to the right of it, and people seem to not notice me. Maybe it’s because I’m short.

But anyway, Kevin got the puck into the crease, and Ryan missed it on his covering attempt from the left side. It squired right to my stick and I took a swing. Out of nowhere, an Orange defender came in and blocked my shot with his skate.

“Of course,” I thought.

But I took one more whack at it, and the puck slipped behind the defender and into the net. That one felt good, and I thought it might hold up as the game-winner. But, we gave up a goal early in the third period. Then, with about 5 minutes remaining, I helped cause more havoc in the crease and my linemate Ben swooped in and buried a fourth goal to give us the win.

We don’t get too competitive in the MGHA, but that win felt good. It was the most jovial locker room I’ve ever seen from the Green Gay Puckers. We all came in expecting a loss, which would mean we would be battling to avoid a last-place finish in Round 3, but instead, we found ourselves fighting for 5th place.

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Round 3: Green Gay Puckers vs. Blue Bayou

I really enjoyed playing for the Green Gay Puckers, but if there was one team that exemplified everything good about the MGHA, it was Blue Bayou.

Frankly, Blue Bayou was awful. They wound up with a lot of first-year players who had never played hockey before, including a goalie. They never won a game until February, and only a few times did they even give opponents a scare.

But Blue Bayou was the most fun and most encouraging team on the ice. It was truly a pleasure to watch them play and to play against them.

What they lacked in talent, they made up for in personalities. Some of my best friends wound up on the Blue team, and they are all bright, cheerful and even loud people.

They would frequently start chants on the bench. Whenever their players made even the most mundane plays, they would all stand up and cheer. You could just tell that they all were very good friends off the ice, and they supported each other more than any other team on the ice.

Many a Blue Bayou player told me, “we may not win, but we have the most fun,” and there’s really no denying that.

I don’t even really remember much about the game, even though it was our last game. The Green Gay Puckers won and earned 5th place, but I just remember having a blast in that game. Both teams got great chances, both teams were yelling and supporting each other, and everyone was simply enjoying themselves.

It was the perfect way to end my first season in the MGHA. This league doesn’t care about anyone’s sexuality, race, gender or age. Hell, we barely care about skill level. If you don’t know how to play, we’ll teach you. I learned so much this year about hockey, but the biggest thing I’ll remember is just how much fun I had.

So here’s to a great season in the MGHA. I can’t wait until next year.

The Summer: Tournament Time

While I’m sad that the MGHA is over for the year, I’ll have plenty of gay hockey to keep me occupied over the summer. First is the MGHA Classic April 26-27 in Madison. We’re inviting players from all over the country to come play.

And I’ll be playing in New York City gay league’s Chelsea Challenge over Memorial Day weekend, which just so happens to coincide with Fleet Week.

So stay tuned for some offseason updates in my Gay Hockey Diary.

If you have any questions about the MGHA or life in general, feel free to email me.

Posted in Gay Hockey Leagues | Leave a comment

Dancing with Avery: Ejected from the Game

The “shocking” twist announced at the top of Dancing with the Stars last night was that there would be a double elimination. Usually these happen much later in the competition, but it was yet another attempt to shake up the show for season 18.

For those in the bottom of last week’s leaderboard:  Sean Avery (20 points), Swimmer Diana Nyad (18) and actor Billy Dee Williams (15), it was unwelcome news to start the show. The announcement of who was safe and who would go was done in batches and in round two Billy Dee found out the Force was with him. Yes, as predicted, his Star Wars-infused disaster of a Cha Cha Cha was a fan favorite and he was safe despite having the lowest judges scores.

Diana Nyad was eliminated within the show’s first hour.

avery_shirtless

Avery said in his rehearsal package, which featured him in a couple of quick shirtless takes, that he didn’t want to be the first to go home, and he was saved from that. Instead, he went second.

Unlike Nyad, Avery found out about his elimination after his group of three, which included actress/housewife NeNe Leakes and Australian pop star Cody Simpson, danced as the final three of the evening.

Here’s Avery’s work from last night, including the rehearsal footage, Salsa, judging, post-dance chatter and elimination.

I wonder, if Avery had the Salsa last week, would he have survived this week? In last week’s scores he was a single point off of NeNe, game show host Drew Carey and hunky singer James Maslow. I doubt he could’ve beaten Drew in the viewer votes, but I can imagine a scenario in this alternate universe where he could’ve overtaken either NeNe or James.

Avery looked far more at ease with the Salsa, even seeming to enjoy it. His comment about DWTS wanting constant smiles was excellent, although he had to understand it was part of the game too. No one wants to vote for someone who doesn’t look like they are having a good time. In the dance itself, he looked good. There were some footwork issues, but he had rhythm and he certainly moved and lifted Karina confidently. The final spin in the air was outstanding. The judges appreciated the work he put in too, giving him a 21 out of 30.

He would’ve been more protected had he survived this week. The leaderboard had five people (if you count him) at the bottom together. Billy Dee had an unfortunate Tango, which gave him another 15. There was a four-way tie at 21 with Drew, NeNe, actress Candace Cameron Bure and Avery. But we’ll never know how that might have panned out.

Three athletes are still in the running for the Mirror Ball. Skaters Charlie White and Meryl Davis are at the top this week, both earning 25. Charlie did a great tango and Meryl flew threw the air in a great Swing number. They’re tied in first with James. Paralympian Amy Purdy snagged a 24 for her Swing routine, which was also outstanding.

So with Avery out, PuckBuddys coverage of Dancing with the Stars concludes. If another NHL’er shows up in future seasons I’ll be happy to do this again.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some gratuitous ab-action, courtesy of James Maslow, who also did a Salsa this week. This was scored four points higher than Avery’s.

Jeff is excited to bring his love of dance competition shows to PuckBuddys after blogging about both “DWTS” and “So You Think You Can Dance” at jeffandwill.com. Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s written a young adult novel, Hat Trick, which details the coming out of two high school hockey players. He’s currently working on two sequels to that book. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.

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Caps’ First Tweets

To mark their 8th birthday, twitter created a very cool tool to easily pull up any account’s first tweet. This made diving back to see the first tweets from those in the Caps organization an absolute breeze. Let’s fire up the Wayback Machine – first, the players:

Ovi @Ovi8 An early adopter. hahaha!!!)))) 

Ovi

Kuz @Kuzya92 Google translate: “Forgot the keys to the intercom?”

Kuz

Nicky @Backstrom19  Stick taps his bro.

Nicky

MoJo, @mjohansson90  Simply Swedish

MoJo

Troy @tbrouwer20 Happy to bare with him

Troy

Joel @JRandalWard42 “My name is Joel”

wardo

Brooksey @BrooksLaich Huh?

brooks

Clearly NOT our Jason Chimera @JasonChimera

not jason chimera

Dustin @DustinPenner25 This guy has mastered Twitter.

penner

T-Dub @tom_wilso “The kid”

Tom W

F-16 @EricFehr Blame Nate

Fehr

New guy Chris Brown @txbrownie Mazel Tov!

chris brown

JC74 @JohnCarlson74  Hello, Campers!

JC74

Alz @KarlAlzner  Needs more Duncan, Charlie and Murphy!

Alzner

Ersk @JohnErskine04  May the power of Kenny compel you!

ersk

Greenie @GreenLife52 The journey…

MG52

Connor @connorcarrick  He’s a little bit country…

carrick

Braden @Holts170  JC74 gets the stick tap

Holtby

Halak @JaroslavHalak41 (You need to update your bio, dude)

halak

After the jump, the Front office and the CSN broadcast team- Continue reading

Posted in Washington Capitals | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Dancing with Avery: Clunky Contemporary

ABC’s Dancing with the Stars made its season 18 debut last night with 12 new stars arriving in the ballroom. From the moment former NHL player Sean Avery was introduced, he continued to look like he wasn’t thrilled to be there. While the other competitors looked excited and were grooving to the music, Avery looked more stoic than anything else.

Sean Avery - ABC PromoIf you missed this last night, his official promo picture sums it up. His partner, Karina Smirnoff is clearly into the moment, but he stands there looking as if he wants to be anywhere but here.

Is it nervousness because he’s distinctly out of his element? Maybe. His debut dance was Contemporary, which I thought was a mean choice to throw at competitors in the first week. Three dance styles were on display last night: Cha Cha Cha, Foxtrot and Contemporary. None of the styles are easy, but Contemporary requires fluid movement and a major connection to your partner and the music. Usually the stars get to start with some ballroom basics and move on to the more complicated dances. I don’t recall a season where Contemporary was unleashed so early.

Let’s go to the video for Avery’s performance, as well as the judges critiques and his post-dance interview with Erin Andrews.

Yes, Avery said he was trying to channel Ren McCormack from 1984’s Footloose, specifically the famous scene where he danced in the abandoned warehouse. Anyone else as shocked as I am by this revelation?

The dancing hockey player ended up with a judges score of 20, out of a 30. Carrie Ann and Bruno gave him sevens while Len went with six. The six was more in line with what I thought the dance deserved. Avery’s movements were clunky and lacked passion. A couple of the judges called him intense, but Karina didn’t seem in the same intense space that he was and it made for a lopsided performance because they weren’t emotionally connected.

Avery was outscored in Contemporary by both Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure (scoring a 25) and Olympic Gold Medal ice dancer Charlie White (scoring a 27, the night’s highest score). Let’s look at Charlie’s dance, which I’ll admit gave me goosebumps. This is what Contemporary should be.

How did the other athletes do last night? Charlie’s skating partner Meryl Davis scored a 24 with a great Cha Cha Cha. Paralympian, and newly minted Bronze medalist snowboarder, Amy Purdy also got a 24 for her Cha Cha Cha. Swimmer Diana Nyad got 18 points for her Foxtrot.

At the end of the show, White was at the top of the celebrities and actor Billy Dee Williams was at the bottom with 15. Avery’s 20 put him third from the bottom with only Diana and Billy Dee trailing.

Of course, this is really a popularity contest, so how well someone dances often matters less than how big their fan base is. Can Avery pull more votes than a beloved actor from Star Wars, who milked that for all it was worth? That’s a tough call, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Avery was eliminated next week. If not next week though, I don’t think Avery will make it to the halfway point unless he starts to act like he wants to be on the show and put in the work to improve his technique.

Who do I think ultimately wins the Mirror Ball Trophy? My money is on the ice dancers. Meryl and Charlie are going to duke it out to the end. Charlie will get all my votes because he’s so damn cute. Tough competition will come from actresses Bure and Danica McKellar, snowborder Purdy, as well as Australian pop star Cody Simpson.

To wrap up this week, let look at the truly disturbing number from last night, showing Disney marketing synergy run amok. It’s like a missing scene from the Star Wars Christmas Special. Here’s Billy Dee Williams doing a Cha Cha Cha to the Disco version of the Star Wars theme.

Jeff is excited to bring his love of dance competition shows to PuckBuddys after blogging about both “DWTS” and “So You Think You Can Dance” at jeffandwill.com. Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s written a young adult novel, Hat Trick, which details the coming out of two high school hockey players. He’s currently working on two sequels to that book. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.

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