What is it about Keith Ballard? Personally, I think it’s the hipchecks. I’ll confess before this year I didn’t know much about Ballard. I knew some, but he wasn’t on a team I followed closely, that and for a few years I was living in a place with not so great internet nor tv service. I was excited when I found out he was traded to the Canucks. I mean you can’t go wrong with blueline depth can you? I did some research, learned a little about him beyond the Vokoun incident, and I was going to wait until the season started to pass judgment. I can’t say I actually waited that long, I think it was the first interview. He has a great sense of humor in interviews; he is a Minnesota boy, and the hipchecks! How could you go wrong?
On some level, the Minnesota boy thing was what won me over. Being from Minnesota it was special, weren’t a lot of Canucks from the US, and now we had 2 from Minnesota! Alberts and Ballard are my Minnesota connection. And of the two, Keith Ballard quickly became my favorite. Sure, he had his ups and downs and those injuries. I can’t analyze as well as some, most of my thoughts are just that, reactions to what I see. It might have been Keith’s worst season as far as points and playing time go, but he had games where it just seemed like he dominated and was all over the ice, it seemed like he played more than 15 minutes sometimes, even if he only played 15 or less. And like all players, he made mistakes, sometimes they were costly, sometimes they weren’t, but it always seemed he played from the heart.
No matter what happened, it seemed like he played any role given to him well. He mentored little Tanev, he stabilized the bottom parings no matter how they rotated around him, he gave hilarious interviews, and he played whatever role was needed, is still needed of him as a consummate professional. Yet, he could still laugh about it. He still pulled pranks, joked, got excited for his teammates. You’d rarely see the frustration shine though. And that endears him to me even more.
If those where his dues, then they should be paid in full. I hope that he when he plays in the next round, when he is back next season; I hope that he shows everyone just how amazing he is. I have to believe he will be back, because other wise my heart will break a little no matter how far the Canucks go this season. And if I have been saving up every penny I get (I have) just to buy his jersey, then I want it to be a Canucks jersey.
Sometimes, I want to analyze everything, season numbers, the career numbers, the points, the TOI, you name it, because it of a need to justify why he should be playing, why he should be playing more, why he is my favorite. Then I remember that he is my favorite, there is no need to justify that nor is it possible to qualify just why. We all like different players for different reasons. There are no set rules for it. Your favorite doesn’t have to captain, the highest scorer, the enforcer, the rookie. There is no rhyme or reason for it, it just is. I don’t even think you make much of that decision, it just happens, one day you wake up and you have a favorite player. And Keith Ballard tops my list of favorite hockey players. He joins some pretty special company: Markus Naslund and Jaromir Jagr.
You can follow Kate at @kleine_snowdrop and make sure you check out her great photo blog Kleine Snowdrop's Journey