Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Town Hall Meetings To Decide Tense Hockey Race

Detroit, MI. (May 21) - This blue-collar midwestern city will soon be the focal point of a convention of ice hockey enthusiasts who will converge to help decide the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL) via a series of Town Hall meetings.

Delegates representing the Western Conference of the NHL have begun arriving, ostensibly to throw their support behind the Detroit Red Wings, assuming they vote along conference lines. Delegates representing the Eastern Conference, expected here tomorrow, are expected to back the hockey club from Pittsburgh, named the Penguins. But as it goes with conventions of this type, nothing is certain.

"I've seen these things tilt the opposite way that you think," said western delegate Sam Robbins of Aurora, OH, who says he's leaning toward the Red Wings. "But who knows? Maybe something will happen during these meetings to change my mind, and the minds of others."

Delegate Sam Robbins, with the stage of Saturday's town hall meeting in the background

Beginning Saturday evening at 8:00, delegates will be in attendance as personnel from the Red Wings and Penguins take the stage in the city's historic Joe Louis Arena to engage in a lively discussion about why their team should be crowned as champion and thus presented with the Stanley Cup, the symbol of NHL supremacy. Meeting 2 is set for Monday night at the arena in Detroit, with the scene shifting to Pittsburgh for Meeting 3 next Wednesday. The cities are sharing in the hosting of the town hall meetings in the interest of fairness. Analysts predict that it may take as many as seven meetings to declare a winner.

"But if renegade attempts are made to crash the meetings, as has been rumored, by a contingent from Philadelphia and another from Dallas, then all bets are off," Robbins said. The teams from those two cities are recognized by their supporters as being worthy championship candidates as well, though it's doubtful whether they'll be seated in the meetings.

The town hall meetings will be moderated by NBC's Tim Russert and Mike Emrick, along with longtime hockey essayist Barry Melrose.

"It'll be our jobs to make sure the teams answer the hard questions that hockey observers want answered," said Russert, who's said to be "boning up on" such issues as which team has more secondary scoring and better penalty killers.

Penguins up-and-coming leader Sidney Crosby has been attracting the young vote, while such Red Wings veterans as Chris Chelios and Kris Draper appeal to an older, more conservative sector. Melrose can't wait.

"This is the matchup all the hockey pundits wanted to see," Melrose said in a conference call attended by three other people. "Some say it would be best if the Red Wings and Penguins joined forces to form a 'dream team,' but I don't think either team would be satisfied with second banana status," Melrose added. "I say let them fight it out at the meetings."

Attendance will be ensured with promises of free food and drink by way of vouchers handed out at street corners, fast food restaurants, and your daughter's school.

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