Conference III Game Previews: Mob Football Edition

by J.R.

Today is Mardi Gras, Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday.

MobfootyNo matter what you call it, it’s the last day before Lent, which makes it a day of merriment and celebration.

In Britain, particularly, the day is a day for mob football — wild, raucous affairs with goals miles apart and teams of hundreds. Scoring is difficult (in some cases nearly impossible). It is basically an excuse to get drunk and run around in the early spring’s relative warmth for a few hours.

It is a very Conference III sport and, in celebration, the NHL has scheduled six of the seven teams in its best division to play in their on-ice version of mob football. Conference III hockey is similar in spirit to these medieval carryovers, except that in Britain, there’s often more room to operate.

In a special Shrovetide edition of the Game Previews, we answer the question: which absurd, lawless and dangerous version of mob football best describes each game?

Avalanche at Blackhawks, 7 PM Central/6 PM Mountain

Records: Avalanche (39-17-5, 83 points, 3rd in Conference III); Blackhawks (36-12-14, 86 points, 2nd in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Tyson Barrie scored in overtime to give the Avs a 3-2 win January 14 at the United Center.

Last 10: Colorado 7-3-0; Chicago 4-4-2

Mob Football: Odd to see Chicago wearing the Crown of Fecal Matter, but so it is. The Blackhawks will try to shed the chapeau de merde with a win against the visiting Avs. Tonight’s match-up is most like the game of Uppies and Downies in Workington, West Cumbria (which is nowadays played on Easter, instead of Shrove Tuesday). There, the teams are divided between the Uppies of the east and the Downies of the west. Traditionally, the Uppies are the more affluent with the local petty bourgeoisie and treated the Downies with some disdain. Chicago — Conference III’s traditional upper-class — never expected a challenge from the Avs (hey, and Chicago is the one of the easternmost teams in Conference III and Colorado is easily the westernmost).

From the Wiki:

The object of the game is to “hail the ball” (throw it up in the air three times) at the opposing team’s goal. The Downies goal is a capstan at the harbour, while the Uppies is the gates of Workington Hall Parklands.

There are no other ostensible rules of play and the game is primarily a rough and tumble scrum interspersed with break-away sprints by members of one team or the other (with some similarities to rugby).

Stars at Blue Jackets, 6 PM

Records: Stars (29-22-10, 68 points, 5th in Conference III); Blue Jackets (31-25-5, 67 points, 5th in SUDM)

Last Time They Met: The Jackets won 3-1 on the penultimate day of the 2013 season.

Last 10: Dallas 6-2-2; Columbus 5-4-1

Mob Football: Scoring the Hales is the traditional game in Alnwick, Northumberland. The winning team — the teams are the parishes of St. Michael and St. Paul and number 150 or so each way — is the first that scores two goals — or “hales” in the parlance — by sending the ball through two goals that are decorated with greenery (Victory Green?) about 400 yards apart. This game was once played in the streets before being moved to the daintily named “The Pasture.” Just as Columbus and Dallas were moved as part of realignment. “Legend has it that it was never a ball but a Scotsmans head that was kicked about.” OK.

Lightning at Blues, 7 PM

Records: Lightning (34-22-5, 73 points, 3rd in Flortheast); Blues (40-14-6, 86 points, 1st in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Alex Killorn (his real name) had a goal and two assists in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 win November 2.

Last 10: Tampa Bay 4-6-0; St. Louis 6-3-1

Mob Football: The scorer in the Royal Shrovetide Football Game in Ashbourne gets to keep the ball. It’s a shiny, new plaything for whomever puts the ball in one of the goals (separated by three miles) in the game between the Up’ards, who live north of the river, and Down’ards, who live south. The Blues got themselves a shiny, new plaything in Ryan Miller, who’ll make his home debut tonight for his new team.

Here’s some rules:

  • Committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited. Unnecessary violence is frowned upon.
  • The ball may not be carried in a motorised vehicle.
  • The ball may not be hidden in a bag, coat or rucksack, etc.
  • Cemeteries, churchyards and the town memorial gardens are strictly out of bounds.
  • Playing after 10 pm is forbidden.
  • To score a goal the ball must be tapped 3 times in the area of the goal.

Penguins at Predators, 7 PM

Records: Penguins (40-16-4, 84 points, 1st in SUDM); Predators (26-25-10, 62 points, 7th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: The Penguins sailed to a 4-1 victory November 15.

Last 10: Pittsburgh 5-3-2; Nashville 4-3-3

Mob Football: The teams in Cornish hurling in St. Columb Major are uneven. The Townsmen far out number the Countrymen, though this was not always the case. St. Columb Major is considered the largest field of any sport in the world — about 20 square miles — and to win, a team must put the ball into his team’s goal or carry the ball beyond the bounds of the parish.

On paper, the Pens are like the Townsmen, holding a decided advantage. But tonight Pekka Rinne returns, which may even up the numbers a bit for the Countrymen.

Islanders at Jets, 7 PM

Records:  Islanders (23-32-8, 54 points, 8th in SUDM); Jets (30-26-6, 66 points, 6th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Al Montoya bested his old team for a 3-2 Jets win November 27.

Last 10: New York 2-7-1; Winnipeg 7-2-1

Mob Football: The Sedgefield Ball Game, unlike the others, is an individual game, requiring a participant to not only put the ball into the goal, but then return it to the center of town and pass it through Sedgefield’s bull ring three times. The Islanders are a team with superb individuals, but as a team, they aren’t much of a muchness. Can the Jets take advantage and further advance their playoff hopes?