10 best hockey references on HIMYM
This coming Sunday, July 23, is Robin Scherbatsky’s birthday, according to the “Robin 101” episode of How I Met Your Mother.
Three years have passed since the CBS sitcom took its curtain call through a back-and-forth two-part finale. If we are to believe the flashforwards, 2017 marks Robin’s first birthday since she voluntarily drifted away from her four friends. She has divorced Barney Stinson and cannot stand to see Ted Mosby paired up with the title character.
Back in the real world, no mainstream American TV program has sought to match HIMYM’s knack for squeezing in quantities of quality hockey references. That motif was a natural nod to Robin’s Canadian roots and Vancouver Canucks fanaticism, two traits she shares with her portraying actor, Cobie Smulders.
We know from the aforementioned “Last Forever” episode that friendships will be repaired in due time. But until then, let us dip into the HIMYM universe and salve this otherwise wounded period in the gang’s collective relations by looking back on the saga’s best references to Robin’s national pastime.
There were scenes in prior seasons with Robin sporting NHL gear while stickhandling in a living space. One notable instance saw her in a Roberto Luongo jersey.
But this one, set in her hotel room hours before her wedding, wins out for the implicit tribute to a bygone brand. She and her goaltending sister, Katie, are wearing what appear to be customized, logo-less Atlanta Thrashers jerseys.
The events of the episode take place two years after the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg. And while this might be reading too deep, perhaps the deletion (or whiting out) of the Atlanta emblem is a subtle reference to the resultant return of the Winnipeg whiteout.
9. “Robin 101”
Ted, the first member of the core cast to date Robin, hones his pedagogy skills by teaching Robin’s new boyfriend, Barney, how to go about a relationship with her. His No. 1 item on the list of don’ts is to “mention hockey’s lack of popularity in the U.S.”
He would have been remiss not to issue such a precaution. Plain and simple.
8. “Perfect Week”
When Nick Swisher happens into MacLaren’s, Robin’s American friends must explain that local women swooning over a Yankee is the equivalent of her doing the same for a Canuck. Moments later, when they venture to Swisher’s table, the versatile power hitter acknowledges the perks of being a Major Leaguer.
He then adds, “But I’ll tell you one thing, it’s no hockey.”
As it happens, there is no readily available evidence that Swisher is an actual puck enthusiast. Nonetheless, the scene made for a fun intersection of America and Canada’s time-honored sports of choice.
7. “The Broken Code”
When Lily Aldrin intervenes on a perceived threat to her best-friend status with Robin, she inadvertently exposes the point made in “Robin 101.” As Robin and her new acquaintance bond over their hatred for the Bruins, Lily mistakenly refers to the latter’s favorite team as “your precious New York Rogers.”
If HIMYM’s writers were going to break the first rule of “Robin 101,” they might as well satirize hockey’s second-class status and those responsible for it. They take that satire to the top shelf, as Lily is a born-and-raised New Yorker who cannot remember the name of the local Original Six franchise.
6. “Coming Back”
In the second episode of the ninth season, Robin finally treats the audience to one universal propensity among non-Toronto Canadian hockey fans. She makes a joking simile out of the Maple Leafs’ championship drought, then explains to the oblivious Barney that the hex dates back to 1967.
Those who have followed the NHL for the last few generations know the polarizing nature of the Leafs. The production, events and airing of this episode occurred not long after a Canadian magazine poll declared the Leafs the most hated franchise in the country.
5. “The Platinum Rule”
Robin recounts the thrill of visiting the Canucks dressing room and meeting Mason Raymond in this episode. At the time, Raymond was a rookie out of Minnesota-Duluth, and splitting his season between Vancouver and its then-farm team, the Manitoba Moose.
Uncannily, Raymond was recalled from a six-week AHL demotion the day after the episode premiered (Dec. 10, 2007). The next night, he made his 10th career appearance for the Canucks, scored his first goal and added a helper in a 3-2 win over the reigning champion Ducks.
Clearly, Robin and her real-life alter-ego saw the potential in Vancouver’s 2005 second-round draftee even before he started making a splash in The Show.
4. “End of the Aisle”
In a fit of cold feet, Robin suggests joining Ted as he relocates to Chicago. The committed Canucks devotee’s mind is scrambled to the point where she says, “Hell, I could root for the Blackhawks.”
Uttering that line must have required a strong stomach on Smulders’ part. Although this episode premiered in 2014, it takes place a year earlier, before realignment and not far from the height of the Canucks-Blackhawks rivalry.
For her part, Robin must have temporarily forgotten that the Chicago Wolves were still Vancouver’s AHL affiliate at the time. Then again, that two-year partnership ended after 2012-13, so it is just as well that neither she (nor Ted for that matter) take off to the Windy City. There would have been nothing for either of them.
3. “P.S. I Love You”
At some point, HIMYM had to put an actual figure from the hockey universe on camera. It finally did in the penultimate season.
Longtime L.A. King Luc Robitaille is arguably the most seasoned actor, albeit one who always plays himself, among NHL alumni. To date, he has 37 credits on his own IMDB profile. The powers that be at HIMYM clearly picked up on that when they enlisted him among a slew of other Canadian celebrities for their faux documentary within the show.
In his first “interview” clip, Robitaille confesses to having occasionally used “Sandcastles in the Sand” to “get a good cry in” before a pivotal game. For subscribers to The Hockey News, that should have evoked memories of when the magazine used to ask NHL players to name the most embarrassing item in their CD collection.
2. “Robin 101”
As Ted continues his lessons for Barney, he lists the Canucks’ first-place finish in the 2003-04 Northwest Division standings as the first topic to raise to improve Robin’s mood. Back in the apartment, Robin elaborates to Lily and Marshall, “That’s just telling the story of a scrappy underdog team that prevailed despite shaky goaltending and, frankly, the declining skills of Trevor Linden.”
Those two nuggets of knowledge undoubtedly taught new facts to the bulk of the U.S. TV audience, and they were rooted in reality. After posting 41 points in 71 games the year prior, Linden appeared in all 82 contests but mustered a mere 36 points in 2003-04. Meanwhile, starter Dan Cloutier and backup Johan Hedberg retained mediocre save percentages of .914 and .900, respectively.
Interestingly, though, Robin omits Todd Bertuzzi’s suspension for the homestretch as another obstacle that team overcame. Come what may, Vancouver did finish one point ahead of Colorado that year.
1. “Old King Clancy”
The episode title alone put this reference in its own class, as more far-reaching history makes its way into the script. Evoking a name from the NHL’s formative years rather than a contemporary personality is the insurance goal.
The episode’s title term is ostensibly found in a scroll of Canadian sexual slang terms, all of which feature the name of a native-born celebrity. In this case, the name is that of Hall of Famer King Clancy, who last played 30 years before the Toronto title drought began.
Clancy skated for the original Ottawa Senators and Maple Leafs in the NHL’s first two decades. He moved on to a pair of coaching stints and was the namesake for the league’s leadership and humanitarian award.