Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If Dryden Had Been A Bruin

(RC Note - I found this gem of a story courtesy of Bertrand Raymond in today's Le Journal de Montreal. Only the translation and a portion of the content are mine. Enjoy)

Sam Pollock, considered a genuis in his domain as the Canadiens GM., was often recognized for his flair. If the Canadiens were able to maintain such standards of excellence under his watch, it might be because Pollock had a certain tunnel vision.

When speaking of Pollock, those attesting to his brilliance, often make mention of the robbery he committed at the hands of the California Golden Seals in 1970 that enabled him to land Guy Lafleur.

In the 1970 draft, the Seals came calling to Pollock for some help, as they were falling in the standings - and help them he did! Pollock sent a speedy forward named Ernie Hicke and the Habs first pick in the '70 draft, to the Seals in exchange for Francois Lacombe and California's first pick in 1971.

The pick turned out to be Lafleur. Had the Seals finished second to last overall, the consolation prize was marcel Dionne. Shrewd!

Another Pollock tale with a twist occured under considerably less limelight involving Ken Dryden in 1964, and this time the Bruins were the unsuspecting victims. The trading of the involved parties, seemed quite inconsequential at the moment, though It would alter both teams fate's for years.

On the day of the 1964 Amateur Draft, Pollock made a deal that ought to go down in history as the most one-sided of all time.

A total of 24 players were chosen on that draft day, divided amongst the leagues six teams. Later in the day, the Bruins traded Dryden and Alex Campbell to Montreal for Guy Allen and Paul Reid.

Dryden went on to win 6 Stanley Cups in seven and a half years of play, is in the Hockey Hall Of Fame, and has just had his jersey raised among the game's immortals.

As for the other three, not a single game in the NHL between them.

To be more precise, this draft consisted of players aged 16 or older who were not associated with an NHL club via C-Form drafting. Dryden at the time had just played one season with the Etobicoke Indians of the OHA, and was headed off to Cornell U with no thoughts of sacrificing his goals of a University degree.

The Bruins and others knew of Dryden's intentions, but the player Boston really had eyes on was Allen, taken two positions ahead, by the Canadiens.

"It was a very private draft in those days", Dryden says. "I only found out about it one week later. The funniest part is that my junior B coach informed me that I had been taken by the Canadiens. It wasn't until 1974 that I found out otherwise."

During a passing conversation with Habs scouts Claude Ruel and Ron Caron, it was mentioned to him that he had in fact been a Bruins draft pick.

"I didn't know that I'd been traded for. They kept me in the dark about this for almost 10 years."

The scouts explained to him what happened on that fateful day, and how the Bruins desperately wanted Allen.

Dryden admits that since the day he found this out, the name Guy Allen has never left his consciousness, simply because this player, unknown and mysterious, drastically affected the outcome of his entire life.

Eighteen months ago, in Ottawa, among a group of Liberal party faithful, someone in the pack asked the former number 29 if the name Guy Allen had any significance to him.

Dryden bolted upright, "Well, of course, the man changed my life!"

Allen played his Junior A hockey with Niagara Falls and his playing days ended there. He reurned home to Timmons and became a fireman.

A year ago, while on the Liberal campaign trail, Dryden finally met up with the man who altered his career. They had tons to talk about.

At the time, the Bruins were never close to winning the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens always had the habit of knocking them out of the playoffs should they get there. It's only logical to ask Dryden, how he feels his career would have unfolded, had he remained Bruins property.

"I don't even want to think about", laughs Dryden.

Dryden makes a point to suggest that every detail of his career went perfectly. His life has never lacked spice and excitement, and that all his hockey dreams were fulfilled simply by landing with the organization that had just set out to honour him.

"When I get asked if there were ever regrets in my career, I always say, "Hold it right there!".

"Consider that an athlete has no choice in where he begins to play, and that careers for all intents are usually on average, quite short. I had the chance to belong to the Montreal Canadiens, to play in the Forum, and live in Quebec in the 1970's!"

"Who do you know that would have regrets, had their life unfolded this way? Myself, I never regretted a single minute."

"Never mind, what would have gone down had I gone to Boston instead. I'm just happy things went the way they did."

It's Tag Time Again - If I Were A Hockey Player

When I was 9, this is who I was in street hockey, but that was a long, long time ago...

I got tagged by Jes Golbez at Hockey Rants on his fun "If I Were A Hockey Player" meme. Filling it out reminded me alot of when I was a hockey player. Ah, the good old days of youth. Between filling this out and watching Dryden's number go skyward, I'm beginning to wonder if I am old already. Makes me want to visit my old man and drink him under the table just to prove my youth.

I'd like to pass this tag along to Joe Pelletier at Legends Of Hockey Network. I'd love to know who Joe would be. Joe you can e-mail me the answers and I'll post them into here, if you wish. I have a feeling Joe will be lined up between Bure and Kurtenbach. His reply will be very interesting.

Joe has a great post up right now in tribute to Ken Dryden, with four great links that are very interesting.

To that tag I'll add Matthew at Current Habs History and E at Theory of Ice, simply because they are making quick and studios work of Habs postgame summaries.

Keeping it Canadian and not at all, all Canadiens, I'll offer up the last two tags to Paul Kukla and Alanah McGinley at Canucks and Beyond. I'd expect something on a non-bipartisan side, but I'm sure it won't include any current or former Red Wings.

Enjoy the fun people!

If I Were a Hockey Player:
Team: None but the Habs
Uniform Number: 17
Position: LW
Nickname: Longshot
Dream Linemates: Sidney Crosby in 2012, Brett Hull
Rounding out the PP: Sheldon and Nicklas
Job: Passing, puck dumping, penalty killing, irritating.
Signature Move: Drop pass, cut left and pass to the right, snarling at TV camera's.
Strengths: Passing, vision, duking.
Weaknessess: Florida Pathers Ice Dancers, feable shot, and diving fouls.
Injury Problems? Pulled groin
Equipment: Same old CCM shit I've worn for years, wooden stick, and a Reebok turtleneck that makes me 8% faster.
Nemesis: Darcy Tucker
Scandal Involvement: Florida Panthers Ice Dancers.
Who I'd face in the Stanley Cup Finals: In a different schedule Toronto for the same reason Jes mentions, if not, then the Red Wings
What I'd do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Sleep with it, and win it again!
Would the media love me or hate me? Loved everywhere but Toronto.

UPDATE: The tag's gone well so far..2 for 5 and still waiting on Kukla, Alanah, and E.

Matthew at Current Habs History was the first to jump on the tag. You can read his answers here. By the sounds of it, I'd draft the kid myself, as long as Komisarek doesn't have to surrender # 8.

Joe Pelletier at Legends of Hockey also took my tag, flattering me in the process. Joe, who is a true gentleman, said, " I don't usually do these but I'll make an exeption for you and your site, since you've been so good to me and my site."

Being good to Joe's site, is really just about wanting everyone to stay atuned to the game's great history. It's always a pleasure to get lost at Legends.

There is little braggadicio is Joe's answers. The player that comes to mind when I read it, is Harold Snepsts, but off ice I believe Joe would be Jean Beliveau.

He writes:

I know I'd play defense. In reality I'd be a 5th or 6th defender at best, but with a little dreaming leeway here I'll assume I can achieve a 4 spot status. I'd be very unheralded, very unnoticed. I'd be strictly defensive, happy to accept the one on one challenges and help the team. I would make a great first pass out of the zone, and if I could ever learn to skate maybe I could be a pretty nice player, maybe even as good as a Mark Howe or a Scott Niedermayer. But in reality I'd be a Keith Carney, or a Marek Malik, or a Dave Burrows.

Here's the following particulars:
If I Were a Hockey Player:
Team: Any Canadian Team or Original Six Team
Uniform Number: 19 in the NHL, 72 for Team Canada
Position: D
Nickname: none
Dream Linemates: Scott Stevens
Rounding out the PP: Not me.
Job: defense first, nice first pass, penalty kill
Signature Move: First pass.
Strengths: First pass, quick stick, good positioning
Weaknessess: strength, skating, shot.
Injury Problems? I hope not
Equipment: Wood stick, heaviest I can find. Mostly flat blade too.
Nemesis: Jagr
Scandal Involvement: Even if I was in a scandal, the media still wouldn't care about me.
Who I'd face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Toronto, the city would be amazing to be in if they ever got there.
What I'd do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: host a street hockey tournament, winners get the cup. Would the media love me or hate me? Wouldn't even notice me.
UPDATE: E has grabbed the tag and passed to Tapeleg. See Theory Of Ice and On Frozen Blog as they attempt to keep track of where this monster is heading. Readers are welcome to drop their submissions in the comment box.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Matt Lashoff One-Ups Marek Malik

Check out the move by Matt Lashoff of the Providence Bruins at the AHL All-Star Game yesterday, in the skills competition. It's very reminiscent of Marek Malik's shootout winner with the Rangers last season - only better.This little slip move might just be the deke/fake of the future.

Lashoff is a Boston first round pick, 22nd overall in 2005, and played in 12 games with the big team earlier this year.

Here are the Malik and Robbie Schremp goals from YouTube. Thanks to Julian for pointing out the similarities.

Ken Dryden - From The Mask of Mystery To A Briefcase Of Boredom

Today, the Canadiens will be raising Ken Dryden's # 29 high to the Bell Centre roof. This jersey retirement is a long time coming for a goalie whose stats easily rank him with the best ever in the game. During Dryden's 8 season career, he won 6 Stanley Cups, 5 Vezina Trophy's, the Calder Trophy, and the Conn Smythe. While appearing in 397 games, he won 258 of those, tying 61, and amazingly only losing 57 times in his entire career.

What I always think of first, when I hear his name mentioned, is his rapid rise to glory in 1971.

I was 9 years old at the time, and the two hockey players I knew of best were Bobby Orr, of course, and an up and coming superstar named Guy Lafleur, who I'd seen play against my hometown Royals.

I clearly recall that my small but widening hockey world was packed with Bruins fans at the time, as Orr, Esposito and company were tearing up the league offensively. The defending Cup champs looked as though they were unstoppable.

In those days, when the Canadiens weren't televised, I would listen on the radio. Certain games were harder to fall asleep on than others. The night Dryden made his debut, the radio bristled with adjectives defining the lanky netminders prowess. By the time I'd seen him play on TV, I understood what all the fuss had been about - this guy was huge!

What wasn't well known about Dryden at the time, was that he was winning games by himself for the Canadiens farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. Dryden had just finished four years of studying law at Cornell University, where he led the Big Red to some amazing seasons. Cornell lost just 6 regular season games during Dryden's tenure, two of which he did not play in.

The Montreal club could not help but take notice.

The Canadiens had finished in fourth place that year, 29 points and a world and a half behind the Big Bad Bruins. The Habs appeared to have a snowball's chance in hell of beating them in the opening round.

Looking back on it now, a pair of late season changes, paved way for the Canadiens fate - Dryden and the aquisition of Frank Mahovlich.

Dryden quickly became the name on everyone's lips as he stoned the likes of Esposito and frustrated the Bruins shooters throughout the series. I can still see Espo shaking his head while looking down at a sprawled Dryden, wondering how he'd managed to cross the crease so quickly.

Seven games later, the Bruins went home stunned, and Dryden was on his way to becoming a hockey legend.

While Dryden's seasons after '71 were consistantly great, the element of surprise was never again so innocent in the eyes of a 9 year old hockey fan.

As the hockey world learned more about the off ice Dryden, it tempered somewhat the initial vision of a wild man goalie, acrobatic and spectacular, contradicted by moments of calmness of cool.

Dryden had become the greatest goalie in the game at the time, but resembled nothing short of a lawyer off ice. We would soon all know the reason for that.

I remember many hockey discussions in my teens that involved the Dryden greatness. Was he making the Habs champions with his skill and agility, or were the Canadiens so deep in talent that any decent schmuck could have tended goal and fared almost as well.

On certain nights, that almost seemed like the truth. Admittedly, Dryden's worst enemy was his own complacency. It was almost as though the more he won, the more he became bored with it. The challenges for Dryden existed outside the world of hockey.

In 1979, Dryden hung up the pads, and it is said that he never doned goalie equipement again. When he appeared in charity efforts, Dryden oddly, was now a defenseman.

Soon he was an author, on occasion a hockey commentator, a lawyer, a Maple Leafs general manager, and finally a politician. Some may joke that each endeavor was a downgrade into the uppity sphere of self indulgence.

Tonight, when # 29 is yanked towards the ceiling of many immortals, I'll forget for a minute about the bespectacled chronic bore who became Dryden. I'll put aside visions of him with an attache case. That an icy stare into hypnotized faces while he speaks to us the politician who remains clueless about stay at home Moms. I'll try not to imagine that he was just recently a Prime minister wannabe.

This evening, I will focus on that goalie who came out of nowhere. The rebel with a wild bushy scraggly mop of hippy hair sticking out of the fringers of a white spider fingered mask, and the mystery behind it. I'll think of Esposito and Orr, inaudibly swearing at him in 1971. I'll think of that cool cat, who perched on his goalie stick while the play was in the other end of the rink.

Maybe I'll do it with the sound turned down.

There's tons of great stuff online about Dryden - check out some of these.

A book review for "The Game", a national best seller and still a must read.

A one on one interview with Dryden at Legends of Hockey -

Great bio link with all of Dryden's stats.

HHOF Dryden profile.

CBC and Canada.com pieces related to tonight's ceremony.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stanley Cup Name Trivia

It is often assumed, and rightly so, that to get one's name on the Stanley Cup, one must have to work at it.

In some instances, certain players have had to work at it harder than others.

As traditions and requirements for eligibility have changed over the years, there have been some odd additions and omissions. It is not only players who can earn the honour, anyone associated with the team now has an opportunity for Stanley immortality.

Ken Dryden was drafted 14th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1964 NHL Amateur Draft. Dryden had no interest at the time in attending the Bruins camp, preferring to attend Cornell University and tend goal for the Big Red. Dryden was subsequently traded to the Canadiens for Guy Allen and Paul Reid, neither of whom would play a single NHL game. As a player with the rival Cornell, Dryden often played in the Boston Garden, and was quite used to its rowdy atmosphere by the time he helped the Canadiens to the surprise 1971 Cup. Dryden would be named the Conn Smythe Trophy in '71, and win "Rookie of the Year" the following season.

It is well known that Dryden is the only player to have ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP before winning the Calder. In similar fashion, Canadiens prospect Christian Bordeleau won a Stanley Cup with the team in 1969 as a 19 year old before winning the Memorial Cup the next season with the Montreal Junior Canadiens.

Chicago Blackhawks great, Tony Esposito started his career by getting his name on the Stanley Cup while serving as a third string goalie on a Montreal team that had Rogatien Vachon and Gump Worsley. Esposito played 13 games with 1969 Canadiens, including one very historic contest against his brother Phil's Boston Bruins that ended in a 0-0 draw. Much like Dryden, Esposito would also get his name on the Cup and go onto win the Calder Trophy in 1970, setting a modern day record with 15 shutouts in one season. In what became a Hall Of Fame career, Esposito reached the finals in 1971 and '73, but never did get to earn his name onto the Cup.

Former Norris Trophy winner Harry Howell enjoyed a lengthy 23 year professional career, mostly with the New York Rangers. When the defenseman retired in 1976, he left the game with the dubious honour as the player having played in the most games, 1141 in all, without having his name on the Cup. He was more fortunate as a scout, getting his name engraved amongst the 1989-90 Oilers championship team - in his first year on the job!

Steve Brule played one playoff game for the New Jersey Devils in 2000, getting his name on the Cup having played the least possible games. Three years later, Brule suited up for a pair of games with the Avalanche, who undoubtably signed him for his extensive Cup experience. Brule is still an active payer in the Austrian League with Graz EC.

Phil Housley, 12th in all time games played, is now the player having taken part in the most games, 1495, without getting a sniff of Stanley. Housley, played mainly with Buffalo and Winnipeg, before moving onto succession of 6 other teams. Mike Gartner, 1432 in 19 seasons, Norm Ullman, 1410 in 20 seasons, and Dale Hunter, with 1407 in 19 seasons, are next. Marcel Dionne, with 1771 points in 1348 games remains the games most prolific scorer not to have reached glory, however his younger brother Gilbert, who played a career total of 223 got lucky in 1993 with the Canadiens.

Ullman was particularly unfortunate, arriving just after the Detroit dynasty in 1955-56 and reaching the Leafs two years after their last win of thewir great 1960's run.

Incomprehensibly, goalie Ernie Wakely's name is in with the members of the 1964-65 champion Canadiens team. Wakely had played in just one game for the Habs - two years prior in 1962-63. He hadn't even set foot in the Forum in '65, playing with Omaha in the CPHL and Quebec and Cleveland of the AHL. Oddly, his name was added again in 1967-68, though he still hadn't played during that season. Wakely played one more game for the Canadiens in 1968-69, but this time there was no such luck with the mug. Wakely soon moved on to St.Louis where such screw ups were virtually impossible. He rounded out his career with a decade in the WHA.

On the 1983-84 engraving of the Edmonton Oilers, a name under owner Peter Pocklington appears this way, "XXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX". It is the X'd out name of Pocklington's father Basil, who had no direct correlation to the team. In the early 1990's, the Cup known as the Presentation Cup was sent to Montreal for repairs and returned missing the X'd name. An Islanders inscription had also been erroneously labelled "Ilanders" and the Cup was returned to be re-engraved with the Islanders name spelled correctly and the Pocklington X's added back on. The league directed this to preserve Stanley Cup lore. However, the Pocklington snafu is not found on what is known as the replica Cup, the one that sits at the HHOF and is used only when the Presentation Cup is on the road for various duties.

While the "Russian Rocket" Pavel Bure came close to winning the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Canucks, the Bure name still found it's way onto the Stanley Cup. Inscribed among the names of the 2003 New jersey Devils, is one V. Bure. Vladimir Bure, father of Pavel and Valeri, was a fitness consultant with the team. The father was an Olympic swimming medalist in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.

Scotty Bowman was born September 18, 1934. So why is his name in with the 1936-37 Detroit Red Wings champions when he was only three years old? The answer is simple, there are two "Scotty Bowman's". The first was a Winnipeg born defenseman who played with that years Wings team, named Ralph "Scotty" Bowman, and is inscribed on the Cup as simply "Scotty Bowman". The other, the legendary Canadiens and Red Wings coach, is named William Scott Bowman, but is best known as "Scotty". The coach who has won 9 Stanley Cups as a bench boss, named his son Stanley Glenn Bowman, after winning his first Cup in 1973. Stanley, of course was for the Cup, and Glenn was for Glenn Hall, the goaltender he admired most, and who who helped Bowman reach the Stanley Cup finals three years in a row with the St. Louis Blues.

Mike Ricci, who won with the Avalance in 1996, had friends over during the summer for a celebration day with the Cup.Among the guests were Ken and Cheryl Riley, who had been having trouble conceiving a child. During the party, Cheryl kissed the Cup and later in the day found out she was pregnant. When he was born, they named their son "Stanley C. Riley.

Lorne "Gump" Worsley Passes Away At 77

Hall of Fame goaltender Lorne (Gump) Worsley passed away Friday at age 77 at his home in Beloeil, Que.

Worsley played 21 years in the NHL with New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars.

He died at the Honore Mercier Hospital in St. Hyacinthe after he suffered a heart attack on Monday.

He had been ill for four years, his wife, Doreen Chapman, told The Gazette last night.

"He was a terrific goaltender," former North Stars teammate Lou Nanne said. "If I could pick any goalie to win a big game, it would be Gump.

"He was one of the real characters in the NHL. He had a lot of personality and really showed the human side of the game. He didn't look like an athlete and smoked like a chimney between periods, but he was terrific when he put the pads on."

The Gumper was among the last of a fading breed: the maskless goalie. He was among the last goaltenders to opt for a face mask, making the move not long before he retired in 1974 after spending most of his 21 seasons in the NHL looking shooters straight in the eye.

Gump Worsley was hockey's hard luck goalie for over a decade before joining the Montreal Canadiens.
Nicknamed for his likeness to cartoon character Andy Gump, Worsley was a seemingly happy-go-lucky soul who would bravely stand in his net, collecting over 200 stitches while claiming "my face is a mask."

Born in Montreal in 1929, Worsley grew up in extreme poverty. The great depression left his family penniless, but this did not stop Gump from dreaming of becoming a big league goalie. Worsley, who had to borrow equipment for much of his youth, did not dream of playing for Montreal Canadiens. Instead he admired Frank Brimsek of of the Bruins and Davey Kerr of the Rangers.

Employing the old stand-up style of netminding, Worsley advanced from the Verdun Cyclones junior team, he would turn pro in 1948 as a New York Ranger farmhand. Despite numerous All-Star seasons with several teams in several leagues, it wasn't until 1952-53 that Worsley got a shot at the NHL. Rangers starter Chuck Rayner was injured for much of that season, and despite a last place finish Worsley impressed enough to earn the Calder trophy as the NHL's best rookie.

The short and stocky Worsley never would have expected what would happen next.
The following season the NHL's best rookie never had a chance to play. Instead he was sent to Vancouver Canucks of the old Western Hockey League. While earning a league championship and top goalie and MVP awards with the WHL Canucks, Worsley watched his replacement in New York, Johnny Bower, flounder.

1954-55 saw Worsley return to the Big Apple for the next decade, though that wasn't necessarily a positive thing. The Rangers continued to be completely hapless, surrendering nightly onslaughts of 30 and 40 shots a night, leading the quotable Worsley to term his experience there as a "jailhouse." A reporter once asked Worsley which team game him the most trouble. Gump quickly answered, "The Rangers."

Gump came across as loveable and admirable on the ice and in the eyes of the public, but he actually suffered from depression and alcoholism during his tenure in Manhattan.

Worsley baited coaches, particularly Phil Watson. "As a coach, he was a good waiter," Worsley said of Watson, just one of the many salvos the two exchanged throughout the length of their fractious relationship. Yet the fans loved the "Gumper," admired his courage and appreciated his wit. Worsley worked 583 games with the Rangers, all of them without a facemask.

The Rangers Fan Club honored him three times with the Frank Boucher Trophy as the team’s "most popular player on and off the ice." The Metropolitan New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association twice named him the Rangers’ Most Valuable Player, in 1961 and 1963.

After ten years of being a live target with the Rangers, Worsely was dealt to his hometown Canadiens in 1963 along with Leon Rochefort, Dave Balon and Len Ronson for Jacques Plante, Phil Goyette and Donny Marshall.

The trade salvaged Gump's legacy as a loveable goalie on a terrible team to a legacy of Stanley Cup championships and a Hall of Fame nod. Worsley backstopped the Habs to Stanley Cup championships in 1964-65, 1965-66, 1967-68 and 1968-69. He was selected to the NHL's First All-Star Team in 1968 and to the Second Team in 1966. Worsley and partner Charlie Hodge shared the Vezina Trophy for lowest goals-against average in 1965-66. Gump and Rogie Vachon shared the same award in 1967-68.

Early in 1969 he suffered a nervous breakdown due to his petrifying fear of flying, the new norm in NHL travel thanks to western expansion. His career seemed to be over, but the expansion Minnesota North Stars took their chances with the goaltending icon by picking up his rights. The 40 year old goalie returned in 1970, playing some of his best hockey ever. His enthusiasm helped the Stars get into the playoffs for three straight years.

Gump ended up playing in 24 seasons, allowing a 2.91 goals against average in 862 games, and recorded 43 shutouts. He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

With files from the legends of Hockey, SI, Montreal Gazette, and the NYR Alumni Site

Kenora Thistles - 1907 Stanley Cup Champions

The Kenora Thistles won the Stanley Cup in 1907, the smallest town (population 4,000) to have ever laid claim on the mug in history.

The town was originally known as Rat Portage, Ontario. In the early 1890's, an amateur Senior hockey club was formed and a contest to name the team was held. The winning entry came from a Scottish carpenter named Bill Dunsmore, who submitted the nickname along with a drawing of a thistle for the team logo.

By January of 1896, several youngsters in the Rat Portage area between the ages of 11 and 14 formed a junior team. They became so good that they eventually beat the senior boys team.

Among this group were future Hockey Hall Of Famers Tommy Phillips, Tom Hooper, Billy McGimsie, and Si Griffis.

Over the next five years, these young players joined the senior team earned themselves a reputation as one of the premier amateur clubs in the western Canadian provinces.

In 1903 they challenged the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup and lost the two game total score series 6-2, and 4-2. HHOF records have them named as the Rat Potage Thistles at this point and that was how their name was engraved on the Cup as opponants to Ottawa. In notes from the series of 1903, are claims that the ice was so bad due to mild March weather, the younger and speedier Thistles were disadvantaged against the tougher and more physical Ottawa team. In victory, members of the Silver Seven were each given a box of La Fortuna cigars.

1905-06 Thistles - from left: Billy McGimsie, Matt Brown, Roxy Beaudro, Tommy Phillips, Eddie Giroux, Tom Hooper, Silas Griffis

In March of 1905, the Thistles again challanged Ottawa for the Cup, faring somewhat better by taking the first game by a 9-3 score. Ottawa then came back to win the next two by scores of 4-2, and 5-4.

The challenges to the Silver Seven in 1905 are quite legendary. In the first, in January, the Dawson City Yukoners travelled 6,400 miles to Dey's Arena in the capital only to get pounded by 9-2, and 23-2 scores. The series had been set for five games, but after the second, the Yukoners literally quit and went home. Frank McGee tallied an amazing 14 goals on the night of January 16, 1905 - a record that will likely never be broken.

Two weeks after the series against Rat Portage, the Silver Seven held a banquet at the Russel Hotel to celebrate their Cup wins. Team captain Harvey Pulford, was among the many team members who had gotten drunk that night as the party spread outside the Hotel walls. Sometime in the late evening, he drop kicked the bowl onto the frozen Rideau Canal, where it was later recovered. Pulford was the heavyweight boxing champ of eastern Canada from 1898 to 1908.

During the summer of 1905, Rat Portage changed its name to Kenora.

After the Montreal Wanderers had defeated the Ottawa Senators at the end of the 1906 season and had captured the Stanley Cup, it was too late in the season to face the western champions. Thus it was decided by the Cup Trustees that Montreal would face the Thistles in a two-game, total-goal series midway through the ECAHA season.

The Thistles were up to challlenge, winning the series against the Wanderers by scores of 4-2, and 8-6. The games were played at the Westmount arena in Montreal on January 17 and 21.

Game two was a physical affair with the Wanderers attempting to slow down their speedy opponents. Drawing 55 minutes in penalties, compared to the Thistles' 30, Montreal couldn't quite come back .

Prior to the series start, the Thistles had added two more future Hall of Famers to their roster, Art Ross and Joe Hall. The previous season, the Thistles had made great advances in the fundamentals of the game by lining their defensemen alongside each other, rather than placing one forward and one back as had always been the norm.

The members of the Stanley Cup winning Thistles were Eddie Giroux, Ross, Hall, Griffis, Hooper, McGimsie, Tom Phillips, R. Phillips, Roxy Beaudro, and manager Fred Hudson.

Seated: Si Griffis, Eddie Giroux, Art Ross
Seated second row: Roxy Beaudro, Tom Hooper, Tommy Phillips, Billy McGimsie, Joe Hall
Standing: Russel Phillips, Unknown, trainer A.J.Link, Unknown

The Kenora Thistles reign as Stanley Cup champions would be a short one - a mere 63 days in fact.

In March of 1907, the Wanderers challenged the Thistles with a rematch, this time closer to Kenora turf, at the Winnipeg arena. Minus Ross, the Thistles didn't measure as well. Having added Fred Whitcroft, and Alf Smith and Harry Westwick from Ottawa under Wanderers protests, Kenora still lost by a total score of 12-8.

Having lost the first match 7-2, the Thistles needed to outscore the Wanderers by six in the second game and fell short winning by a 6-5 margin.

After losing the challenge, the remaining core of the Thistles disbanded in 1908, some signing elsewhere as free agents, with others choosing retirement.

Harry Westwick was added in time for the rematch against the Wanderers.

Fred Whitcroft became a Thistle in March 1907.

Roxy Beaudro was a late replacement for Theo Bellefeuille. His late goal in game 2, broke the 6-6 tie and was the eventually Cup winner.

Art Ross had been a member of the Brandon Kings, and was paid a $1,000 by Kenora to play for them in this one challenge. His great rushes from the point were key to the Kenora win. Ross later played for Ottawa and ran a very successful sporting goods store in the city.

Tom Phillips, thought of as the best left winger of his era, scored all 4 goals in game 1 and a hat trick in game 2. Aside from playing in the '05 and '07 challenges, Phiilips also did the same in '04 with the Toronto Marlboroughs.

Billy McGimsie had been badly cut and bruised in the first series against the Silver Seven two years prior. He was known at the time for his skating and "dribbling", an early term for stickhandling.

Joe Hall, while a member of the team, was not used in the series.

Tom Hooper was called the "vice captain" of the team, he scored five powerplay goals - 2 in the first half and 3 in the second - in the Thistles 8-6 win.

Si Griffis retired after the series, for 5 seasons before returning to the PCHL in 1912. He was born in Kansas in 1883 and moved to rat Portage as a youngster. He would go on to win another Cup win the Vancouver Millionaires in 1915.

Alf Smith joined after the January Cup win.

Eddie Giroux the teams goaltender, was the unheraled MVP of the two game showdown, performing brilliantly in the second game to upset the favored Wanderers.

For more information on the Kenora Thistles visit their homepage here and check out this site dedicated to the 1907 Cup Championship.

Many other players performed as Kenora Thistles and you can look them up at this link.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Canadiens Peter Principal

As a rule, I generally shy away from rumour talk like an outbreak of herpes.

This one, however, seems to have teeth, and it is concerning me.

It is being jumped on from all over with the zest of a Viagra gripping Hugh Hefner.

I'm speaking of the Peter Forsberg to the Canadiens talk.

I have a motto about trades that has rarely steered me wrong: If you are reading about it - it ain't gonna happen.

GM's simply do not compromise the integrity of a deal being discussed, or about to go down, by talking of it to anyone who would dare be brash and stupid enough to print it.

It just doesn't happen often and it's rarer than Pope poop.

If you scope the standing of teams, examine the contracts and their context, witness the players performance, you can pretty well figure out who's likely to be moved.

Guessing who makes no one a genius.

Guessing where to and for who in return, makes one a psychic.

No psychics of the like work in hockey circles.

That is generally how I've seen it since forever.

I state all this beforehand, because their is a rumour of Habs concern that has an unusual source speaking of it. He also seems to be advising against ir - rare as that is.

In Friday's Le Journal De Montreal, Yvon Pedneault took on the Forsberg file.

Pedneault is never one to claw into these things. He has an incredibly tight lipped reputation as one of the most well informed journalists covering hockey in North America. It is said that he is almost constantly on his cell phone, quizzing for the-about-to-happen news. He never lets a cat out of the bag as far as trades go, but knows every detail behind the deal the minute it occurs.

In short, he is extremely reliable and trustworthy from both sides of the fence.

He is not concerned about breaking stories. He is only concerned with being fully informed on what has happened the second it occurs.

Upon a trade, he will speak of how long teams have discussed players involved. He will comment that other players figured into a deal at one point without ever alluding to who they were. He'll examine and disect the deal from the differing GM's points of view, why the time came for the trade. He'll know if it involves off ice concerns or contract stalemates.

His post trade analysis' are of unequivocal repute.

This explains why GM's are willing to slip him a detail or two. He just never leaks.

So now, I figure if Pedneault is speaking of Forsberg and Montreal for more than the first time, this isn't just smoke, it's fire!

I'm not so sure I like it either!

To quote Pedneault, he had this to say today:

"In Philadelphia, there has lately been much written that Montreal is one of the teams ( 11 all told ) that are in the pursuit for Forsberg. Montreal is being being billed as an interesting destination as the organization is stockpiled with young talent, and the types of players for whom the Flyers are taking an interest in as well. Despite the fact that the Habs opponants are always better down the middle, the Canadiens can get by well enough without Forsberg. Bob Gainey and his scouting staff would be gambling big on this one."

He went on to mention that the Canadiens have been watching Forsbeg closely.

In another area of the same edition, Pedneault puts forth Forsberg's name once again, upon being asked which players would best fill the Canadiens deficiencies. he also mentions the Panthers' Gary Roberts.

So there is your smoke and fire, from the lips of one who's rarely ventured onto this limb.

I'm sure he broke no confidences in speaking of the player - Forsberg's name is being bandied about as though he is the sole savior to a dozen teams woes.

Involved in the quagmire that is aquiring Forsberg are a no trade clause needing to be waived, the remainder of a 6M dollar contract, and that fact that he cannot seem to remain healthy enough to promise a contribution worthy of dealing him.

Outwardly, Forsberg, speaking as a proud player, has spoken of staying put in Philly. Some say that this is due to self doubt that he will actually be able to help whoever pays the big price for him. In a nutshell, he doesn't want to go to a team and disapoint. Didf I mention he was a proud man?

Inwardly, he desperately wants to win another Stanley Cup. It is what players of his stripe are built for, and why he competes so ferociously when games are big. He continues to believe that, should he solve the dilema that is his left skate and foot, he can make the difference on a winning team.

Now about that particular boot. Forsberg had pre-season surgery on both ankles to alleviate discomforts built up due to extreme wear and tear. While the medical side of the ankle injuries have healed in a way that termed them successes at the time, Forsberg's right foot strength has left much to be desired. It has been determined that with a proper, more comfortable type of skate boot, his problem will be solved.

Trouble is, he has been searching high and low for a specified design that may not exist to help him.

In fact, he spent a great amount of time in Montreal earlier this season, working with a skate manufacturer, in order to find that perfect fit. It is told that he practically ran from laboratories to rented ice, trying out every prototype handed to him until he satisfied that an improvement was within his grasp.

It all reads like the resume of a future Masterton Trophy winner.

With barely a month to go before the trading deadline, Forsberg's yet to find a perfect solution to his foot foibles. Watching him play, some have suggested that he favors one side to another when having to pivot or skate backwards. It would take a big edge off his game.

In understanding all this, do the Canadiens really believe he could be worth the risk?

Even a Forsberg deemed 75% healthy may solve the Habs second line center desperation, but the Canadiens will need to unload a spare part under the cap to find room for the rest of Forsberg's mullah. Along with that, a prospect or two might need to be sacrificed to aquire him.

The Flyers surely will take no one's "has-beens" in the deal, they already have a team full of them - so forget pawning the likes of Samsonov or Niinimaa their way.

An interesting scenario does exist due to the Flyers sitting dead last in the NHL. They get first claim on all waiver wire pickups. Should the Canadiens want to deal player off - for arguments sake, David Aebischer, they simply need to send him to the minors. Calling him back up and having him claimed on waivers frees the Canadiens of half his contract dollars, thus enabling the team picking him up, in this case, the Flyers, to deal him themselves, as a 50% cheaper commodity due to that waiver loophole. The Flyers would then receive whatever they get in return, thus sweetnening the Forsberg deal to Montreal.

The Canadiens and Flyers have a history involving big names changing hands.

While Bobby Clarke is no longer the Flyer's GM in name, he is still the most highly consulted person in the organization on day to day player matters. Bob Gainey and Clarke have a longstanding friendship - it was Clarke who hired Gainey to coach the Minnesota North Stars while GM of the team in the early 90's.
Now that's alot of smoke to fan. Is there a fire?

Only Pedneault and the fly on the wall have the answer for now.

A Record EOTP Day

The Site Meter is a wonderful thing for blog self awareness.

This little site of mine is but 7 months old and it's nice to have that meter which enables me to watch it grow. Having it has taught me a bunch about how things work in this blogging business.

I have posted these 2 graphs to illustrate what can happen when things are going right. The one above is the hour upon hour traffic from today and the one below shows the last seven days.

I bring this up because today was a great day on this site, a record day for me here, in fact.

As you might have read in an earlier post, I came across a funny story in the paper about Sidney Crosby being led out of a Dallas bar simply for being underage. I thought it might be oddly unique, so I did a search on the story online and found no other source for it but the french paper it was reported in. After translating it to english, I rifled off a little note to our friends at Kukla's, James Mirtle, and Eric at Off Wing in hopes one of the three would see interest and pick it up.

To my surprise, all 3 grabbed it, and it made for a busy day here traffic wise.

Jes Golbez, at the Crosby Show, also tagged along. (For some reason, he's taken to calling me Robocop!)

A few other sites as well, came along for the ride.

My previous best ever day, was back about two weeks ago, when I registered 304 visits. I was pretty impressed at the time, being so green at this.

Today, I hit 610 visits, slightly more than double that previous best. It might not be alot to some people, but we all start somewhere.

The best part of all, is that I likely added a few more regular readers, and that is what pleases me most.

After all, one writes to be read. Appreciated or criticisized, it's a fun distraction from wars and inflation.

I must give a big thanks to those bloggers named above who work in a communal type of way with hundreds of us littler guys. The boost is always appreciated. When I encounter newer bloggers, the kindness shown to me is never forgotten and it is passed along.

They are the Gretzky's of hockey blogging assists!

Friday, January 26, 2007

My Daily Newspaper Reading Routine

As a Montral Canadiens fan, it has always been a priveledge to me to be able to pick up read whatever french Montreal daily's I can get my hands on. Reading them for years has actually helped me maintain my second language quite well, in addition to getting the best and most concise news on my team and the NHL at large. Living roughly 65 minutes from Montreal, in Cornwall, Ontario, being afforded bilingual media access gives me great insight into what is two very different life sensabilities and perspectives.

My favorite paper has long been Le Journal de Montreal for its sports section, which trumps that of any newspaper in Canada. No paper comes close to it in hockey coverage. Not the Sun chain, not the Toronto Star, not the Globe and Mail. It has to be experienced to be believed.

While most papers now tend to defer it's readers to online coverage, the JDM still packs its pages full of punch. Consider today for example. There were no NHL games last night and the Canadiens have not played in 6 days. That didn't prevent them from filling 14 pages with hockey content, and not all of it based on the Habs.

Now the 14 pages today, there were 38 different articles and sidebar pieces of information. This does not include its daily two page spread foldout of stats and and standings for every hockey league you've ever heard of, updated day by day, with no cutoff time like your lovely Sun chain, which often doesn't even include the Senators final scores. Speaking of scores, they usually run a page or two filled with game summaries also.

Other sports are covered, somewhat less indepth. There were 11 pages filed with baseball signings, the Super Bowl, etc.

The hockey section of Le JDM has tons of clout due to a pair of Hall of fame journalists in their midst, columnist and editorialist Betrand Raymond and Yvon Pedneault, one of the best connected sources for news in the NHL and a man highly ranked in THN's "Most Powerful People In Hockey" listing. They dominate the paper not only with their input, but also their influence. Pieces that contain their opinions are usually quite profound - this ain't Damain Cox or Bruce Garrioch here, spouting the usual "Go Home Team" assembly line gibberish.

Translated to English, the hockey based articles in today's paper were:

Cover Story - A Hockey Fan Poll on the Canadiens season so far and questions on how things will go down the stretch.

The Debate Is On - an explanation of the poll and its proceedures (Denis Poissant)

Poll #1 Should the Canadiens make a trade - 56% Yes 27% No

Which player do you feel should be dealt? Samsonov 13%, Aebischer 11% Kovalev 8% Niniimaa 7%

Poll #2 Do you believe the Canadiens can win the Stanley Cup this year? 76% No 9% Yes

Which team will win the Cup? 26% Buffalo, 8% Anaheim, 5% Detroit and Ottawa

Poll #3 Who is your favorite player on the Canadiens? Huet 26%, Latendresse 19%, Koivu 17%, Kovalev 6%
Poll #4 Among this group of 10 players, which one should the Canadiens pursue in trade talks? Brad Richards 16%, Joe Sakic 16%, Peter Forsberg 12%, Ian Laperriere 10%, Markus Naslund 5%, Scott Gomez 3%, Bill Guerin 2%, Mike Modano 2%, Craig Conroy 1%, Ladislav Nagy 1%.

(IMO- Sakic and Gomez are unavailable. There have been rumblings about the other 8.)

Poll #5 How do you rate the Canadiens performance in the last month? Excellent 1%, Good 22%, Satisfactory 40% Terrible 34%

Poll #6 How would you rate coach Carbonneau's performance so far? Excellent 39%, Good 47%, Satisfactory 6%, Terrible 2%

The Public Has Spoken (Jonathan Bernier)

Huet, Latendresse.and Koivu Are Favorites (Bernier)

Canadiens To Reach Playoffs, But Not Much Else...(Pedneault)

Hab Fans Knowledgable But Unhappy (Sidebar)

Sabres And Ducks In Final (Sidebar)

In The Eyes Of The Experts - The opinions of 7 columnists including Raymond, Pedneault. Jacques Demers, and Michel Bergeron on 5 questions about the Habs needs and wants as the trade deadline approaches.

The Canadiens Payroll (Sidebar)

The Sellers Are Rare (Marc De Foy)

Easier Said Than Done (De Foy)

Forsberg...And Not Much Else (De Foy)

Carbonneau: " That's Gainey's Business" (De Foy)

Begin Not Rushing Throught Rehab (De Foy)

Carbonneau No Mediator In Roy Settlement (De Foy)

Roy Back Behind Ramparts Bench (No Credit)

Reps Approve Saskin Inquiry (Sidebar)

Lalime Recalled By Chicago (Sidebar)

Hecht Returns To Sabres (Sidebar)

Tight Race For East Playoffs Spots (Sidebar)

Cournoyer: "Dryden Kept Us In Games" (Andre Rousseau)

Boucher's Father Gets Viewing Of ASG (Martin Leclerc)

Marty Turco: Comedian (Leclerc)

Revising The ASG Format (Leclerc)

What If The Predators Chose Kansas City (Leclerc)

Crosby On The Outside At ASG Private Party (Leclerc)

St-Jerome Panthers On Fire (Gilles Vachet)

3 On 3 League Starting In May (Vachet)

Blocked Shots Stats (Sidebar)

Most Hits Stats (Sidebar)

Brind'Amour Slumping (Sidebar)

Lightening Edge Over Devils (Sidebar)

Most days the paper is not so intense. Two or three times during the week, the NHL content is toned down a touch and the QMJHL gets the spotlight some. On average, there is about 75% of the coverage above. If you were to subtract the "Poll Results", you'd have a fair idea.

This is why the JDM has been my prefered resource for over 20 years.

Now reading just one paper would be a great way to gain a narrow view of things. Luckily I read pretty fast and sieze things well enought that at my morning coffee stop that I can rip throught the remainders of the Gazette, Sun, and Star sports sections within 10 minutes.

Nothing starts off the day like a warm cup of coffee and some interesting hockey news. If I'm not working that particular day, I have the rest of it to blog and read blogs. Normally I will peruse at least half the sites I have linked to, going back to certain ones often enough.

It's a great and informative daily routine.

Koivu Passes Remission Exam

This is the best of news.

Five years and a few months after he was first stricken with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Saku Koivu has passed his five-year remission tests with flying colours, one of them an exam that was given on the machine he helped buy for the Montreal General Hospital.

The machine is a PET/CT scanner, a sophisticated cancer-detection unit that does positron emission tomography and computed tomography. The Saku Koivu Foundation raised $2.5 million of the $8 million required to purchase the scanner.

The five-year remission exam is the benchmark for cancer cures. In passing it, the man who has given hope and inspiration to countless others got his own good news. Now he has other things to think about - like a hockey game in Toronto tomorrow night.

Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette has been running a series on his his Top 10 All Time sports heroes.

Today's paper features Koivu in a piece titled: #4 Saku Koivu: Oh Captain, my Captain

"He has come to mean so much to this city, in part by taking life's hard knocks without complaint and leading Habs with his huge heart."

Saku Koivu wasn't chosen for the NHL All-Star Game this week - but he received a bit of beautiful news that is better than all the all-star contests for the rest of time rolled into one.

For the rest of the highly introspective article just link here.

Crosby Wins Door Prize At ASG Post Game Party

(DISCLAIMER: As the source of this piece on Crosby via various links, and due to the message board posting at the "LetsGoPens" site, I must denounce the terminology of Sidney getting "hammered" at any time. Nowhere in this article, or the one I transcribed this from at Le Journal, does it make mention, infer, or even alluded to such a thing! Sidney, as far as is known, was simply in a bar. If you have been linked to here from the Pens site, I just wanted to clarify that fact in regards to that wording. Cheers!)

Sometimes youth and noteriety has it's downside.

Sidney Crosby learned all about this Wednesday evening while attending a private party with all of the NHL's elite.

According to Martin Leclerc of Le Journal de Montreal, Crosby tagged along with the NHL All-Stars entourage to "The Ghost", a Dallas nightclub atop the chic W hotel.

While the NHL's leading scorer was enjoying the evening in the company of other players, some "good samiritan" pointed out to the establishments owners that Crosby was only 19.

The legal drinking age in the state of Texas is 21.

Shortly after 12:30 a.m., Crosby was asked to leave the club, even though it had been booked for the purpose of a post ASG celebration, and he is seen as the biggest star amongst the gathering.

Seemingly in Texas, the law is the law.

Unperturbed, Crosby simply hit another club in downtown Dallas, where some other players had gotten together.

Yesterday, enjoying a day off, Crosby found some icetime and worked out alone, while awaiting the other Penguins players who arrived last night in time for today's game against the Dallas Stars.

UPDATE - Thanks to Pete, a reader at the KK site for pointing out this link: State Profiles And Underage Drinking Laws

According to Texas law, Sidney would have been allowed to consume alcohol if accompanied by a parent/guardian or a legal aged spouse. A written note from Mario might have done the trick!

The New Equipement Spin

Year in and year out, for some time now, various manufacturers of different pieces of hockey equipement swear up and down that their product will improve the game of hockey and impact players on ice performances.

Lately we have had Reebok claim that a lighter jersey, with tighter fitting fabric, will now make a player skate faster.

Maybe they should have invented skates that makes a player so fast, the jerseys blow dry.

What next, somebody inventing a more accurate puck?

Why do we continue to swallow these overblown pretensions?

Anybody knowing how testing works, surely knows that test results are about as random and dependable as a survey slant.

My biggest gripe has always been with the one-piece, snap at random, graphite sticks that players en masse have converted to in the last decade. While players love their lightness, their isn't a single statistic that proves to me that players are shooting pucks any harder with them.

Take Tuesday's All-Star game skills competitions as a testing ground. Since the rise in popularity of these graphite sticks who can actually attest to having increased power? Zdeno Chara won the hardest shot competition with his reinforced one-piece, netting him a speed of 100.4 mph. Ten years ago, Al McInnis registered the exact same result with a wooden stick.

So, where's the progress? They shatter more cleanly?

Skate technologies have vastly improved the hockey boot, making them firmer and better fitting. While the more comfortable boots translate into better skating because of feel, it can hardly be claimed that it makes a skater any faster. A new blade technology, such as the CT Edge Skate Design, claims to improve speed with a smoother glide and less dig.

I always thought the harder you dig, the better the push. The stronger the push off, the stronger the glide. Somethings amiss here.

Muscles, training and practice, tend to have more profound effects on a player. Testing is a rather iffy science as it doesn't consider the role that physical improvement plays into results.

With all the supposed advances, isn't it odd to note that in the speed skating competitions at the last decade of All-Star games skills contests, that only three players have had better times than Andy McDonald's 14.03 this past Wednesday.

Yet it is often assumed that today's skaters are much better than years ago. Perhaps that was just Reebok spinning they were wetter years ago.

Skate sharps are a peculiar taste among players, with every player having a prefered technique on demand to team trainers. Many will do it themselves they are so finicky. Give them new blades with slighter flares and they will be filing them whatever way they choose just as they always have.

Does the less dig technology apply to all weights of players, or only the lighter ones?

Will the "no sweat-less-wind-resistant" jersey also make the slow players 8% faster?

There are so many variables in any type of testing, that making large claims can seem dubious, almost misleadingly dishonest.

I never buy into a sales pitch based on on claims. I trust time tested results.

Now where did I put that patent for the velvet cushioned jockstrap? It says here that players wearing them tend to block 53% more shots and have better looking offspring!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sidney Crosby And Alexander Ovechkin 2007 All-Star Game Press Conference

That "Cat's Meow" question Sidney had to laugh off makes this whole clip worthwhile.

I thought Les Nesman died on WKRP In Cincinati!

Ovie is his usual, goofy and charming self - before a night of shooters in a Dallas pub.

What Do You Want From An All-Star Game Anyway? - Selling Hockey Stateside Part 1

Holy Moly, a 12-9 blowout!

Doesn't much resemble an NHL game now does it?

There is no perfect format for the event to please everyone. Everything has been attempted. It cannot become meaningful or representative of the NHL game.

Should it even?

It was once a Stanley Cup champions versus All-Stars game. It had some meaning and sense. It pitted a well tuned unit against players not used to playing together, whose goal consisted of beating (read - maiming) the defending champs.

Imagine the Carolina Hurricanes lining up against the best of the rest. The words purposeless and obsolete come to mind.

East versus West, a longstanding concept, still fails to produce the sparks of a regular NHL contest. A North America team against the World team, provides a home team to cheer for, albeit with the same result.

Challenge Cups, Rendez-Vous 87, and the Olympics have all had their runs, generally messing with a good NHL season already underway. Yes, they were more compelling, but offered no long term solution.

The absense of the game's physicality gnaws at many a die hards nerves in these All-Star contests. The fact is defensive play cannot be forced on players participating in a meaningless game.

The All-Star teams simply do not resemble what a team is. To think it ought to, is missing the point.

Who wants to see all these assembled talents grind it out in a trap style game that ends 3-2, with players on each side out for the season because of injuries.

What would be the point of that?

Do you really want to see Sidney Crosby flattened at center ice, head down for a second, by Dion Phaneuf?
I can handle that in the context of a regular season game, but not here.

Many suggest that something be at stake it this game, to make players perform in a semblance of what the game is about.

In baseball, homefield advantage in the World Series has added interest. However, in baseball, there is little physical contact other than a spikes high slide into second base or the chin music served to the batter hogging the strike zone.

The idea cannot translate itself into a hockey game of such small consequence.

So exactly what is the point of the All-Star game anyway.

Well, it's not about who wins and who scores, because who really remembers anyway?

It's not about who makes it to the game and who didn't.

Just who won that Dodge truck in '86?

It's all about the sell. Marketing. Promotion. Showcase. Personalities.

Should it really be about anything else?

The fact that it focuses on the game in its most unrepresentative state annoys many. Often, the curious are deceived while the diehards yawn.

Over the years, the All Star festivities have grown to include skills competitions and fanfests. Both have been great starting points, if imperfectly executed.

Does the NHL really need to go over the top with Cuba Gooding Jr. types, faking a frothing love of the game, while looking like an imbecile reading cuecards.

The Hollywood promo that the All-Star game claims to be, is not trying to preach to the converted, but seeing Cuba ask Paul Coffey questions on a 1993 Cup final he didn't partake in, and watching Joe Nieuwendyk twitch facially while wondering just what dynasty he was a member of, hardly sells the game to anyone.

I must admit that personally, I loved watching the mic go dead on Mark Messier in a moment of self promotion.

Does a down to earth, working class game need such hoopla?

Evidentally, to sell it in U.S. markets, it does.

As Canadian fans of the game, many of us have problems with that angle, and we really shouldn't.
It doesn't need to be sold to us - we own it.

The All-Star game is about selling the great game of hockey to a United States Of America that is hesitant to buy in, as it is foreign to them, in most parts.

Foreign in the sense that it is not yet of their own.

It one day will be, but not tomorrow.

What Do You Want From An All-Star Game Anyway? - Selling Hockey Stateside Part 2

Americans, for the most part, in most parts, do not have the benefit of a grass roots hockey growing of the game. Why compare apples to oranges when speaking of Canada and the U.S.?

One of the most telling statistics to come out of All-Star week was that the Dallas area has prospered hockey wise since the franchise moved there from Minnesota in 1994. The amount of ice surfaces has gone from 4 to 26. High school hockey has likewise increased in numbers. The kids involved in the sport have quadrupled annually. Hockey is on the upswing in Texas. It's great news.

The San Jose area is even better in that regard.

As this translates from each U.S. city, over time, numbers will compound and grow the game at all levels eventually reaching the NHL.

This is the solution, and it's not an overnight one. It will take decades.

The NHL should not be seeking to hit a home run in it's attempt to sell hockey south of the border. Curveballs are being thrown, not fastballs.

When the U.S. college hockey scene involves the fanaticism that erupts around football and basketball, success will be at hand.

It's all about growing the game at root levels.

It's about kids, parents, and the hometown teams.

I sense the NHL is starting to get this notion.

The troubles is, bottom lines will never be satisfied with such long term payoffs. Money invested in teams now, are for payoff in shorter terms.

TV contrats will be up for discussion, but nothing less than a major network will ever assist in the game's growth and popularity.

Expansion is just a spin on success without victory. It's a crapshoot and nothing more. The NHL will be bringing it to a new agenda soon, if it hasn't already.

Moving teams to Canada will always get talked up, hardly solving the American problem.

The NHL's solution in reality, isn't much of a condolence to its shortest term issues of money invested and profits gained.

Hockey's success may very well be dependent upon grass roots fervor, that will parlay its effort into dollars well beyond the lifetimes of those who presently sit in hockeys positions of power.

Can they do something for the love of the game to benefit future generations, or is it all lost on the greenbacks of the here and now.

Our children will tell us when we are balding and grey, that at long last, it has worked.

It's a safer gamble than Fox's purple glowing puck!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ovechkin Wins Shooter Competion

Well, kinda...

If you were one of those wondering what the heck happened to Ovechkin during the skating drill, you're not alone.

According to Martin Leclerc of Le Journal de Montreal, Ovie was a busy boy the night before. Leclerc writes:

"Hockey fans in a stylish Dallas pub got quite a surprise Monday night when Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Dion Phaneuf showed up together at the pub. Partyers at the club didn't hesitate to coax the three young stars into a shooter contest - and we're not talking with hockey sticks here. Not ones to back down, the two Russians and the Canadian, it is told, showed they weren't born yesterday and handled everything put in front of them. Nothing scandalous about this - the youngsters have planty right to have a little fun from time to time. Aren't the All-Star festivities a time to party, after all?"

Leclerc also caught coach Lindy Ruff putting on reporters covering the game, who were none the wiser.

If heard some of the questions coming at players from the media, it's all you can do not to fall down laughing.

When asked a Les Nesman type reporter, what it felt like to be the "cat's meow" of whole deal, Sidney Crosby almost choked on a Penguin. Laughing he said, "I don't know how to answer that question seriously!"

As for Ruff, he was asked if he planned to make use of his team in the same manner as he does behind a Sabres bench.

Putting on the most serious face imaginable, the coach leaned forward in his chair and said, "I have an 0-1 record at this game, and I have every intention of leaving here with a .500 record. For that reason, Bob Hartley and I have set aside three hours for a reunion on game strategy later on this evening."

Nobody blinked!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Stanley Finally In Canucks Hands

(RC Note - It's not often I get to write fiction, but I hit upon a fun notion. Seeing as I still owe Zandstorm at WFS one final Canucks related post from last weeks lost bet from the Habs game - I thought I'd go for broke! "What the heck", I thought, "Canucks fans will love this!" My biggest challenge may have been to keep to keep it real. Hope I succeeded and everyone enjoys it. Just in case anyone is wondering - no bets on Saturdays Maple Leafs game. I might dabble in fiction - imagining the surreal would necessitate hallucinogenic drugs!)
The Vancouver Province - June 14, 2007

The third time was the charm!

Unbelievably, the underdog Vancouver Canucks beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1, and on the goaltending heroics of Roberto Luongo have, at long last, gotten their mits on Lord Stanley's mug.

It is the Canucks first Cup in 37 seasons of existance, after two tries in 1982 and 1994 and the city of Vancouver's first Cup since the 1915 Millionaires took care of the Ottawa Senators 92 years ago.

Appropriately, Canucks captain Markus Naslund first hugged the Cup when handed it by Commissioner Bettman. He then called to longtime former captain Trevor Linden, as each grabbed an end and hoisted it high.

The crowd, many calling themselves Canuckleheads during these playoffs, erupted into frenzy at the gesture.

While the Canucks and their fans were overjoyed and suspended in the moment, a sullen and shocked New Jersey Devils, the heavy favorites, left the ice stunned and in disbelief. The Devils undertook the game in an offensive fury, confident of returning back to the swamp for game seven. Luongo turned out to be the roadblock at the Jersey Turnpike.


With all five previous games being decided by one game, this one was no different in that respect.

Unlike the others where late goals decided the outcome, this game's winner came early in the middle period.

The Devils pounded Luongo hard in the opening 20 minutes, as he stopped 18 of 19 shots fired his way. After John Madden put the Devils ahead, Bryan Smolinski, aquired at the trade deadline, battled a dribbling puck past a lunging Martin Brodeur.

In an odd play, that is likely to never be forgotten in Canucks lore, Rory Fitzpatrick put the Canucks up 2-1 on the heels of a penalty kill that saw Vancouver get the better chances.

After Henrik Sedin came within inches of sliding a rebound past Brodeur, Fitzpatrick was hooked at the blue line as the Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski cleared the puck out of the zone. Mattias Ohlund leaving the box intercepted the clearing shot and spotted Fitzpatrick who'd fallen in behind the play. Fitzpatrick dumped the puck in dutifully and turned to come off ice. In a gesture of serendipity, coach Alain Vigneault urged Fiztpatrick back into play. Seeing as he was the third Canucks defenseman in the Devils zone, Fitzpatrick smartly went to the net where he was hit in the leg by Kevin Bieksa's point shot. As Fitzpatrick scuffled with Rafaslki in front of Brodeur, he had no idea it had hit him.

"Like they always say, right place, right time", said the unlikely hero. "I've never played forward ever. I didn't know what else to do but go to the net."

Fitzptrick was caught completely off guard by Vigneault's gesture.

"I thought he must have thought I was someone else for a second. I hesitated a bit, but seeing as we had three D out there, I went with it and it paid off. It's just nuts!"


As big as the Fitzpatrick goal would turn out to be, it was Conn Smythe winner Roberto Luongo who saved the day.

Luongo was focused and practically unbeatable on the night, stopping 36 of 37 shots by the Devils, the most Vancouver had surrendered all series. His moment of glory, the silencing of his every detractor, came 6 minutes into the third when he foiled Patrik Elias on a penalty shot.

It was a call that Vigneault argued vehemently as Elias had a clear shot to score on the initial break. The coach, red under the collar, could not imagine such a call being made when the shooter clearly still had opportunity to score.

Elias had broken in behind Sami Salo, who hooked his stick sky high as he was about to shoot. Luongo dove to poke the puck when Elias, with one hand, deked it away to stuff it by the goalie's outstretched frame, only to have it hit his leg at the goal line.

As official Chris Lee pointed to center ice, Vigneault and the Canucks bench erupted. So caught up were they in call, little did they realize that the initial play was under review. Once it was ruled no goal, Elias skated to center ice for a second try.

Luongo stood firm and deep in the crease as the Devils sniper bore down. The fake shot and deke did not fool the goalie, who easily gloved the attempt.

"I recognized the move from game three", said the lanky goalie. "It's hard to forget when you've been beaten by it once already."

It was the second year in a row that a penalty shot has been called in the finals.

Luongo played every second of the Canucks 27 game drive, the most games ever needed in NHL history to win the Cup. Allowing only 45 goals and earning 5 shutouts. He could be seen as the only Canuck in contention for Smythe.


After all was said and done, the Canucks had a much more difficult path to the finals than did the Devils.

The Canucks, ranked third, needed multiple overtimes and seven games to get rid of the pesky Dallas Stars before taking seven more to undo the Ducks. San Jose had obviously worn down Detroit in the 7 game loss to the Red Wings. The badly beat up Motown crew's offense spit and sputtered, as did the Canucks against the Stars.

The Canucks earned their way to the finals by limiting the Red Wings to ten goals in seven games.

New Jersey, meanwhile, plundered through 2 straight six game sets against Tampa Bay and Ottawa before squaring off for seven more with the hard luck Sabres.

Upon reaching the finals, the Devils had played in as many pressure cookers than did the Canucks, while only playing two less games.


After splitting games in New Jersey, the Canucks lost the usually decisive game three only to storm back win three consecutive one goal wins.

"The key was game four", said Linden, who scored the lone marker in the 1-0 OT win, "And the key to game four was Roberto".

"After seeing how determined he played, and how he turned away the best the Devils had to give, we felt inbeatable!"

It must be frustrating for Brodeur and the Devils to be beaten by the team often referred to as "New Jersey West". It may have been Vigneault smartest move as coach, to turn the Canucks into a tight checking unit, in the model of the Devils.

"The players deserve the credit for buying into the system", said the elated coach.

"The scoring lines were simply not gelling by mid-December and we were left with little choice but to look inward for solutions. With Roberto playing as well as he was, the team team quickly understood it was the only vialble option."

By a January winning streak, it was a successful one also.

More successful than they'd ever believe.


All was quiet at Robson and Thurlow Streets in regards to police incidents. The riot gear proved uneccessary amongst the well behaved crowd of delirious Canucks fans waving white towels until sunup. Vancouver police have suspended seven officers caught sharing beers with fans by the CBC camera's during the after game street party. Details of the Stanley Cup Parade will be made official by the Mayor's office at noon tomorrow.


The five leading playoff scorers remained Sabres throughout the last round, even without their participation...Only 5 of the Devils 15 home playoff dates were sellouts...Peter Forsberg made his retirement official yesterday. After his trade to Nashville was a bust, he believes his injured slowed him down to ineffectiveness...Toronto Maple Leafs have widened their GM hunt to include Pat Quinn, Pat Burns and Mike Keenan...the the Blackhawks are eyeing Angelo Esposito after winning the draft lottery shuffle this past weekend...Expansion talk will be hot on the league agenda with prospective cities considered over the next 6 years including Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Quebec City, and yes, Winnipeg.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Unveiling Of New NHL Reebok Jersey's - The Wait Continues

Still waiting to see Reebok's 30 new NHL jerseys?

Yeah, so am I.

Seems all were getting for now is a prudent sneak peak via the All-Star duds, of what's to come.

Today was supposed to be the day of the big unveiling. Or was that last week?

The brainwashing this new idea will need in order to fly has the NHL proceeding with caution it seems. They have Sidney Crosby as its prime posterboy, conveniently signed as a Reebok spokesperson leading the way.

They have carefully placed articles online loaded with spin about the duds effienciency that is said to make the average NHLer a whopping 8% faster due to lightness.

I wonder if former goaltender John Garrett, who once flew about a WHA ice surface in only skates and a jockstrap, took part in the testing?

Apparently, the water repelling aspect of the fibre reduces the amount of sweat a player carries, as the jersey does not soak it up. Tests on Sergei Samsonov proved inconclusive!

What I'm the most curious about, is will the jersey's fibres still allow it to be pulled down over an opponants head during a knucklefest? Will it then shrink back, giving their puggish grins that bankrobber-in-pantyhose look?

Will Ed Belfour still be able to untread the armpit stitching all the way to his wrists, giving himself batwings the envy of Gene Simmons?

All these questions will just have to wait, I guess.

Seems the NHL feels all this time off due to the All-Star shutdown might not be the wisest time to spring these radical duds upon us.

Anyone knowing when and where they can be checked out, I'd love to know.

On second thought...

Here's a bunch of reading on the subject while you wait.

At NHL.com: Players Will Have The Edge in 2007-08 and Phil Coffey and John McGourty go "Head To Head" on the issue of the Reebok duds.

Maple Leafs Share Views Of New Jerseys

Out To Pasture: Fire breathing horse logo not at the glue factory but don't expect to see it soon..if ever again

Lighter On Their Skates.

NHL Considering Fining Players Who Alter New Uniforms.

Bettman Defends Uniform Switch.