Above the Glass
by Samantha on 08/05/12 at 06:41 PM ET
Sitting here in the blissful aftermath of what Michael Phelps has achieved, it’s hard to believe his storied Olympic career is over. Which may be why so many experts are saying he isn’t done, despite his public declarations that he’s hanging up the Speedo for good. But he’s right; he has nothing else to prove. That’s part of the challenge; how will he ever outdo himself? Life may not hold adventures as lofty as history-making Olympic greatness, but there’s still plenty of life to be lived and plenty of adventures to be had. In all of his Olympic interviews, he’s made it clear that he’s ready for the next big thing. In that case, may I suggest that he give hockey a try?
He’d come in pretty handy in a shootout. You don’t have to know diddly about swimming to see that Michael Phelps is gifted. So I couldn’t help but giggle when he told Bob Costas in an interview that he was just a normal guy. Maybe someone should tell him that “normal” people don’t have 22 Olympic medals hiding in their sock drawers, which is apparently where he keeps some of them. But my point is this: I don’t want “normal” people on my sports teams: I want super-human athletes who make my jaw drop. That’s why I love shootouts. They combine everything that makes the game great: precision, speed, skill, and mental fortitude, the same things that make Phelps a great competitor. I say put him in as the last shooter, the hockey equivalent of a relay race’s anchor. He’d nail it every time.
He’d be the master of last minute goals at the buzzer. One of the most controversial races in the Beijing Olympics happened when Phelps beat Milorad Cavic by 1/100 of a second in the 100 m butterfly. In hockey, the equivalent is a “did that just go in there?” goal that makes it past the goalie just before the horn sounds. Here in Portland, said feat was pulled off in November 2009, when Chris Francis scored the game tying goal against Seattle on a face off with two seconds to go (it also marked a hat trick for Chris). Those extra seconds were put back on the clock thanks to Head Coach Mike Johnston complaining to the refs. It gave them a chance, they took it and Chris went on to score the game winning goal as the final shooter in a shootout. If he ever decided to convert to hockey, Michael Phelps could be counted on for similar feats of derring do. Just substitute a goal for every race where he’s made his biggest move in the final 25 meters, and you can see why he’d come in quite handy at the 11th hour.
On the other hand, he’d be good at breakaways too. There were also races in Athens and Beijing where Phelps broke away from the competition en route to new world and Olympic records. Imagine if you gave him a hockey puck and some room to move it. It would be as mind boggling as his Olympic feats.
He’d throw a mean punch. Now mind, I don’t think Phelps is a violent person, but he is obviously very loyal to his teammates and he’s all business when he steps onto the starting block. Which tells me that if an opponent took a run at his goalie, put a cheap shot on a linemate, or if he simply didn’t like what another player chirped at him, Phelps wouldn’t mess around. He’d drop the mitts, rip off the helmet and get down to it. And given how competitive he is, he’d probably win the battle most of the time.
He’d go three for three on the power play. 22 Olympic medals and 18 gold is mind boggling enough. But it’s more staggering when you realize that in the four of his events (100 Butterfly, 200 Individual Medley, 4X200 Freestyle Relay, 4X100 Medley Relay) Phelps won gold in three consecutive Olympics. Put him on a power play and you can bet the same thing would happen.
Obviously, he’d score a lot. And he’d probably break a record doing it. In Beijing, Phelps set an Olympic record in the 100 m butterfly, and world records en route to the rest of his gold medals. He wouldn’t just score in hockey; he’d shatter the record books. Forget “50 in 50.” He’d do it in the first 25 games of the season; or less.
He’d win a lot of shiny things. If you want your team to win a lot of Stanley Cups and your favorite players to win a lot of NHL Awards, Michael Phelps would be your man. After all that he’s done, anything less than shiny objects simply would not do.
Parting shot: Michael Phelps is still young, he’s in tippy top athletic condition, he’s the same size as hockey players and he’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be a champion. Plus, apparently he likes golf, the off season sport of choice for self-respecting hockey players everywhere. As long as he doesn’t mind sweating and swearing and throwing a punch now and again, he’d make an ideal hockey player.
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About Above the Glass
Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.
I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.
Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass