Great Game Previews in History: 14 January 2014

by J.R.

Today In History

Bodyline_3rd_Test_Oldfield_02In 1933, the controversial Bodyline Ashes between Australia and England — the Conference III-est cricket series of all time — culminated when Australia captain Bill Woodfull was struck on the heart by a lifting, short delivery and fell to the ground in his crease.

It doesn’t take a lot of cricket understanding to grasp the idea behind Bodyline, so here goes: Australia had some of the world’s most dangerous batsmen at the time, including Donald Bradman, perhaps the greatest batsman ever. In an effort to curtail the strong play from Down Under, England decided to have its fast bowlers bowl short (so the ball would bounce up into the batsmen’s bodies and head) and down the leg side (that is: towards their bodies). To make a baseball analogy, England had its fastest guys do nothing but brush back the batsmen. In addition, England set its field so that there were a number of fielders behind the batsmen on the leg side, effectively eliminating the only way to combat such a strategy, which is to try and tuck the ball behind (now, the Laws of Cricket only allow teams to put two fielders behind the batsmen on the leg side).

It was a brutal, brutal series (that England won, by the way) that changed cricket and the relations between England and her colony forever.

Avalanche at Blackhawks, 7PM Central, 6PM Mountain

Records: Avalanche (28-12-5, 61 points, 3rd in Conference III); Blackhawks (30-8-10, 70 points, 1st in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: The Hawks ran away with it 7-2 at the United Center December 27.

Last 10: Colorado 5-2-3; Chicago 5-1-4

Historical Context: With Bradman leading the charge and a full XI of useful players, Australia was the class of world cricket in the 1930s. England — like Colorado — was a former-glorious team looking to climb back to the top of the pile and its captain, Douglas Jardine, was a reviled, brash figure who had his own ideas — confrontational ideas — of how to win. Sound familiar?

Coyotes at Blues, 7PM

Records: Coyotes (21-15-9, 51 points, 5th in Pacific); Blues (31-8-5, 67 points, 2nd in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in OT to give the ‘Yotes a 3-2 win in St. Louis November 12.

Last 10: Phoenix 2-5-3; St. Louis 8-1-1

Historical Context: As we opined before the season began, St. Louis is the best example of that Conference III combination of talented and rude; thus was Jardine, whose antipathy for the Australians was supposedly borne of the fact that an Australian touring side wouldn’t let him finish a century when he was playing for Oxford. In the hyperpolite days of the 1930s, Jardine even went so far to say “All Australians are uneducated, and an unruly mob.” When a teammate told him the Australians didn’t like him very much, he famously responded “It’s [flipping] mutual.” He once even spit at the crowd! He spit! David Backes’ Inglorious Backes routine towards Canadians is like a square dance compared to Jardine and the Australians.

Flames at Predators, 7PM

Records: Flames (16-24-6, 38 points, 6th in Pacific); Predators (19-21-7, 45 points, 6th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: The Preds won 4-3 April 23, one of only two wins the team had in April of the lockout-shortened season.

Last 10: Calgary 3-7-0; Nashville 3-4-3

Historical Context: Games against Calgary — especially Tuesday games — are the games Nashvillians hold up as the most boring games on the schedule; indeed, a Tuesday game against Calgary was the worst game I’d ever seen live until The Worst Game In Conference III History. Predators fans also seem to think that Nashville always lays an egg against the Flames, but maybe that’s because they fall asleep sometime in the second period, as the Preds are 9-0-2 against the Flames in the last 11 games in the series. Anyway, anyone who thinks cricket is boring should be forced to watch the Preds play the Flames and then watch the last day of the second Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston in 2004 and judge which is more boring.

Senators at Wild, 7PM

Records: Senators (20-18-8, 48 points, 6th in Flortheast); Wild (25-18-5, 55 points, 4th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Mikko Koivu got the winner November 20 in Ottawa, a 4-3 Wild win.

Last 10: Ottawa 6-2-2; Minnesota 5-5-0

Historical Context: Amazingly, there were relatively few injuries to the Australians despite the aggressive tactics. Woodfull, despite being hit in the heart was able to continue. The worst injury was to Australian wicket-keeper Bert Oldfield, who top-edged a ball from leg-theory specialist Harold Larwood into his head and fractured his skull, causing insurance rates to double and beginning a series of increasingly bitter telegrams between the Australian Cricket Board and the Marylebone Cricket Club (at the time, the game’s governing body). The irony here is that the ball that injured Oldfield was down the off-side (away from his body) and he admitted it was his fault. Lo, would the Wild be so lucky as to escape serious injury as the Aussies did.

Oilers at Stars, 7:30 PM

Records: Oilers (15-28-5, 35 points, 7th in Pacific); Stars (20-18-7, 47 points, 5th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: David Perron got the winner in the shootout, a 3-2 Oilers win Dec. 1.

Last 10: Edmonton 4-4-2; Dallas 3-6-1

Historical Context:  Though it was seen as unseemly and unsightly and ugly cricket — and caused great strain between the two countries: citizens of each refused to buy goods from the other, a Hong Kong newspaper called the Australians sore losers and Australians refused to buy goods in Hong Kong, English expats in Australia were shunned, a statue of Prince Albert was vandalized in Sydney with its knocked off and “BODYLINE” painted across it — it was, at least, innovation. Poor Dallas Eakins, seen as an innovator, just isn’t having Bodyline levels of success.