And then being part of 20,000 rabid hockey fans to collectively, instantaneously, without any prompting to erupt:
- OZ-ZIE! OZ-ZIE! OZ-ZIE!
Over the PA: "Do not arouse the wrath of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz!"
Chills. Every time.
Today, Chris Osgood officially announced his retirement. Interestingly enough, at the exact same moment it became instantly unacceptable for anyone calling themselves a Wings fan to continue motherfucking the guy like it was going out of style. There is absolutely no question about it: today Hockeytown lost one of the best goaltenders to ever don the winged wheel to retirement.
Of course, when a guy who has taken so much shit from his own fanbase decides to retire, a debate will be sparked about whether the Hall of Fame is the proper destination for the 10th winningest goaltender of all time, one of the best playoff netminders in history, a dude with 3 cups who is EASILY the most mentally tough goaltender to ever play the position. Today isn't the day to jump into that debate. Suffice it to say - fucking right he deserves it.
There have been some damn impressive moments over Ozzie's career. Take a minute with me for a nice stroll down memory lane.
- The Fight
Roy was clearly embarrassed that his huge gaping vagina was plastered all over national television the year before, and was hoping to show the world his new testicular implants. When he saw the inevitable line brawl, he started making his move to the blue line, removing his mask and challenging The Wizard on the other end of the ice. Osgood, a Red Wing through and through, answered the bell.
The two met at center ice and exchanged blows. Now, Roy didn't receive the public Vaginoplasty that he did the year before, but as far as I'm concerned, Ozzie won that fight. Might have been close to a draw, but from where I'm sitting, most of Roy's flailing swings didn't land, and Ozzie stayed in it, eventually taking that little overrated piece of shit we chased out of Montreal down.
- The Goal
- The Cup
It was that summer that the fate of the team had been put purely and squarely in Osgood's hands. He had a hefty workload in front of him, and a task as daunting as any other: Repeat.
Repeat for those who think this is just a one-and-done type performance. Repeat for those rabid fans who haven't quite been satiated by just one cup full of victory after a 42 year drought. Repeat for Vladdy.
That spring, the Wings found themselves in the playoffs again. This wasn't Ozzie's first go-round in post-season action. A few years earlier, he played 15 games in the disappointing 95 playoffs. This time, however, he was tougher - stronger. He posted a 2.12 GAA and a .918 SV%, winning 16 games - allowing Stevie to place Lord Stanley's chalice in Vladdy's lap that June.
- The Replacement
Where he promptly shit the bed.
After a couple of terrible performances in games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Predators, Babcock did the right thing and yanked Hasek in favor of The Wizard. And hot damn did he deliver.
1.55 GAA. .930 SV%., 14 wins.
If it weren't for Zetterberg's absolute lights out performance in the finals against the Pens, there is no doubt in my mind the Wizard would have had a Conn Smythe to his name. The same rings true for the following post-season run. Had the offense just not stayed at home for Game 7, Ozzie was the clear choice for MVP. The man solidified himself as the best playoff goaltender to take the ice in the last couple of decades. Make no mistake - it's not an easy thing to be given the reins only a few games into a Cup run in Detroit. It certainly doesn't make it any easier that you're replacing one of the best goalies of all time, who just happens to be a lunatic. It takes focus and drive to perform even decently under those kinds of circumstances. But Ozzie? He was lights out.
- The Passing of the Torch
He was shit.
That's no knock on Super-Jimmah. It's just facts. He had quite the rough start, and who could blame him? Detroit is an intimidating place to play and he was but a rookie. But he figured it out. He got his mental faculties together and started to continue the tradition of mental toughness in goaltenders?
Fuck no. Everyone, everyone, from Bedard to Babcock, to Super Jimmah himself have credited Chris Osgood with being an amazing mentor. When we rely on Howard down the stretch, we've got The Wizard to at least partially thank for passing on his best quality to the next guy. A few years from now, when Hockeytown turns on Jimmah, and spends all their time bitching about how he's just not good enough, we'll have Ozzie to thank for his ability to block it all out, and just focus on stopping pucks.
Now, Ozzie's riding off into the wild blue yonder, but he isn't going far. He'll be working with Bedard, helping to mentor the young prospects. Considering some of Bedard's recent comments about McCollum - how his struggles seem to be all in his head - that's exciting.
Ozzie - thank you. Thank you for persevering through tough times year after year. Thank you for putting up with the bullshit, from the fans who somehow found ways to bitch about everything, including somehow the desire to push through injury (fucking bizarre), all the way to the coach who treated you like garbage throughout 09/10. Thank you for stopping more shots than any other Red Wings goaltender, ever. Thank you for being The Wizard.
Join me. One last time:
- OZ-ZIE! OZ-ZIE! OZ-ZIE!