Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Gretzky’

My terrible ode to the Great One

January 28th, 2011

Everyone on this planet knew it was Wayne Gretzky’s 50th birthday on Wednesday. If you didn’t you probably live under a rock. Or in America. You know, because all Americans don’t care about hockey. OK I’m kidding. Most Americans. (I’m just screwing around).

Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton OilersAnyways, many were busy compiling lists or remembering the greatest Gretzky moments.
Not me though
. But since you asked, one of my biggest Gretzky memories, aside from seeing him get into a fight and ejected from a Kings-Senators game in the 90′s at the Civic Center (I’m totally dating myself…), was seeing team Canada eliminated by the Czech’s at the 1998 Olympics in a shootout that didn’t feature 99 (but did feature Ray Bourque – Really??). It still blows me away that the world’s greatest hockey player didn’t shoot for Canada.

Where was I? Ahh yes. Gretzky’s birthday. Instead of doing lists and memories and all that stuff that I would have made crappy, I wrote an ode to Gretzky’s talent. Well, sort of. You know… in my “what the hell is Burgundy talking about” kind of way. Not to sound all sissy and lame, but I touch on what it must feel like to be Gretzky in comparison to mere mortals like you and I. To have that kind of skill at anything would be amazing… it’s really not that corny. You should just check it out and I should stop talking.

Read “Feeling Like Gretzky” over on The Score’s Houses of The Hockey.

Stay classy, Wayne Gretzky. Again, happy belated birthday.

Behind the scenes details about the recent NHL trades

February 2nd, 2010

The hockey world has been buzzing with all the recent trade activity involving the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, and other teams since last weekend. The buzz is expected to continue in preparation for the Olympic trade freeze and the actual NHL trade deadline in March.

We all know a number of trades will happen between now and the March 3rd deadline. What we don’t know are some of the behind the scenes things that happen when a trade is made. Here’s a few behind the scenes details you may not know about the trades that occurred over the last few days.

  • It is common practice for nearly every NHL club to inform all media outlets of a trade 24-48 hours before their next game. It’s expected that the traded players announced play one final game with their existing club and try not to get injured. Doing this builds added suspense/buzz/positive PR that the NHL loves. Of course, the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers are two of the few teams who don’t do this.
  • Most NHL organizations and their PR teams give players a checklist of things to do after being traded. The list includes:
    • Trade cliché quotes like “If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can” and “I’m just going to keep things simple and play my game”.
    • Details of the transaction and a reminder that the trade is non-reversible. That is, unless you’ve been dealt to Edmonton. In which case, the player can reject the deal at any time – even if press conferences have been set up.
    • Interview talking points if traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s suggested required that you say “I’m looking forward to being a Maple Leaf” a minimum of of 31 one times per interview.
  • Upon learning about the trade involving Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, and Nick Hagman, Jason Blake quickly said to each of them “glad you were traded and not me”. I think there’s a lesson to be learned about speaking too quickly or something there…
  • The Phoenix Coyotes have actually been trying to trade “the rights to be bought and moved by Jim Ballsillie” to Atlanta for some time now. No idea if the Thrashers are biting on this.

Stay classy, NHL trades.

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Northeast division preview- Hint- The Leafs finish last

October 1st, 2009

Hey hey, what do you say,

The NHL finally opens today!

Wow. Glad I got that out of my system. Hockey season is finally back, and I for one cannot wait until Saturday to watch the Ottawa Senators play the New York Rangers. Most of the fantasy pools have been set, so there’s no need to look here for any more information. But I will take this one last opportunity to preview the Northeast division, our favourite division, for the upcoming season. I’m going to go in order of finishing.

Boston Bruins:

The Boston Bruins are still a little pissed off that their season was Bruined by the Carolina Hurricanes (seriously, who saw that one coming?). With that in mind, they sent one of their fine young talents in Phil Kessel into obscurity, or as we like to refer to Toronto here, the little town that couldn’t. But I really don’t think it’s going to hurt Boston at all. This is a mean, big, powerful machine that utilizes the old Cam Neely model of hockey. If it ain’t worth doing hard, it ain’t worth doing. Look to Boston to finish 1st in the division.

Ottawa Senators:

The Ottawa Senators, picked by no one, and discarded by many, are going to be the surprise in the Eastern Conference. They like it better that way. Ottawa has finally eliminated the cancer from its dressing room (nice knowing you Antoine Vermette), got rid of the resident cry baby (see you later Schubert), and moved a key cog in the marketing department out of town (sorry it didn’t last Martin Gerber). And to top it all off, they got rid of Dany Heatley. Now, with what should be steady goaltending, more depth up front since the days of Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat, and an intriguing defence (at least they’re bigger than Montreal), Ottawa has all the pieces to be a contender in the East.

Montreal Canadiens:

Admittedly, Montreal is a better team than they were last year. Better for the new cast of the Seven Dwarfs musical. But in all seriousness, the team should finish in a respectable position if they can by into Jacques Martin’s defense system. Carey Price has a lot to prove after last year, and so far he’s said all the right things. If the newcomers can continue to build some chemistry, this should be a great team on the Powerplay. And expect a lot of Powerplay time too. The only way to catch those squirrelly little Canadiens will be through clutching and grabbing.

Buffalo Sabres:

Oh how the mighty have fallen. I guess no one told the Sabres that they were supposed to do stuff over the summer to make their team better. I think Buffalo will provide some good competition, but most of the build-up for games against Buffalo will be drawn from games of seasons’ past. Remember that time Lindy Ruff and Bryan Murray almost fought. Ah, those were the days.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Speaking of mighty falling, has it really been more than 40 years since something good happened to this team. Now I know Wayne Gretzky should have been called for that high stick, and I know that Carolina had no right to beat you in the Eastern Conference Finals, and I know that Jeremy Roenick shouldn’t have even had the energy to score that Overtime goal, but please stop suggesting that you are even close to being remotely in a position that you could possible challenge for a playoff spot, let alone the Cup. Remember that time Paul Maurice said you would make the playoffs, or that time that Brian Burke said you would get Tavares. Well this is kind of the same thing. You’re not making it. Sorry. If size and stupidity (you call it Trucculence and Belligerence) was a free ticket, then you might be lucky to have a chance. See you next year.

Lastly, for a hilariously astute preview of this year’s Ottawa Senators, check out Five For Smiting. Well done.

Stay classy, Northeast Division.

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Do the Los Angeles Kings need Wayne Gretzky?

September 30th, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, Los Angeles Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi spoke to Toronto’s Fan 590 about all things Kings, their promising young stars and the big take away: an open offer to Wayne Gretzky.

Lombardi talked about using Gretzky’s experience (and status) to enhance team leadership and contribute to building a winning culture for the Kings. Gretzky hasn’t responded to the offer, yet.

I can’t be the only one who doesn’t like this idea. I respect Dean Lombardi – he’s paid his dues in the NHL and knows how to run an organization – but I believe having Gretzky on board would send mixed signals to players and fans about the Kings management, staff and current direction.

Mixed Signals

How do you think Luc Robataille or Ron Hextall feel about this? Robataille has played a large role with the Kings in the last few years and currently serves as the President of Business Operations. Robtaille is a legend all on his own. Does bringing in the best player ever to play hockey suggest Robtaille’s presence isn’t enough? Does it cut down the impact Robataille has made on the young Kings players? What does it say to fans about the direction the Kings are taking?

I’m sure Robataille is far too classy to say anything negative about the Great One possibly coming onboard with the Kings. But Hextall on the other hand… despite being so candid about Dany Heatley this summer, I’m betting Hextall wouldn’t say anything either.

But the same thing goes for Hextall as Robataille. Ron Hextall has made a significant impact to the Kings. He serves as the VP of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager (Lombardi). Would the Great One’s presence with the Kings wash out Hextall’s all together?

Great One’s Impact

With the Phoenix Coyotes situation still fresh in the minds of many, would bringing Gretzky back into hockey (immediately) serve more of a distraction, rather than a resource? I’m all for Gretzky getting back into hockey, but perhaps some time away from hockey may serve best.

Hell, at the end of the day, it’s up to Dean Lombardi and Wayne Gretzky. But personally, I don’t think the Kings need the help of Gretzky (maybe the Oilers do, haha). Seems to me the Los Angeles Kings are well on their way to building a Stanley Cup contending organization without the Great One.

Stay classy, Los Angeles Kings.

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The perfect way out for The Great One

September 24th, 2009

With all due respect to The Great One, the legal fiasco that has become the Phoenix Coyotes has been an absolute disaster for everyone not named Wayne Gretzky. While I’m sure Gretzky would rather see this franchise succeed and prove itself financially viable in the NHL, the reality is the Coyotes won’t. We know that.

I think we all knew Wayne Gretzky would step down as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, after interim coach Ulf Samuelsson recently hired Dave King.

This Coyotes legal disaster is the perfect way for Wayne Gretzky to leave coaching. Let’s face it, after 4 seasons of coaching the Coyotes, they haven’t made the playoffs and Wayne’s winning percentage is a sub par .473.

Let’s call a spade a spade

Ill remember Wayne Gretzky as a player, not a coach.

I'll remember Wayne Gretzky as a player, not a coach.

A winning percentage of .473 on any other team with any other name (other than Gretzky) would likely have you canned after one season and definitely after two. Better coaches with better records and winning percentages have seen the boot with stronger numbers than that.

But the Coyotes couldn’t fire Gretzky. You can’t fire the greatest hockey player ever. He’s also a Managing Partner of the club. Probably can’t fire that either.  This whole legal issue is a nice way for Wayne to leave coaching without the tarnished firing/let go tag. Now the franchise can find a better coach who’s capable of taking a team with some veterans and lots of young talent and making them into a contending team over the next few seasons. The Coyotes have some great prospects and young skilled forwards.

This is the only good thing to come of the Coyotes fiasco. It’s a winning solution to everyone involved, including Wayne Gretzky.

I’d like to acknowledge Gretzky’s improvement as an NHL coach over his four seasons, but to me and the rest of the hockey world, I still remember Wayne as a hockey player (a damn good one too) and not as a coach.

Stay classy, Wayne Gretzky.

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If Theo Fleury can make a comeback, so can…

August 12th, 2009

With Theoren Fleury announcing his intent to return to the National Hockey League, I can’t help but think that it would be a good thing for the game and for the NHL. He was such an entertaining player, a great personality on the ice, and the fact is, everybody loves an underdog.

This is a guy who was always told he was too small for the NHL, making it just another reason why it would be great to see him back. I remember a discussion a few years ago about the “New NHL” (as an aside, I’m glad we don’t get inundated with that every broadcast now), and how guys like Fleury would have thrived (throve? threwved?) under the new rules.

Anyways, all this got me thinking about some other comebacks I think would be great to see.

- Cam Neely

I always thought Cam Neely was cut down in his prime, and I think most fans in Boston would have to agree. The guy was an animal, and an absolute powerhouse on the ice. Can you imagine him now though. While the new rules have made it great for smaller, skilled guys, there still plenty of room for giant power forwards like Neely. With less clutching and grabbing, a guy like Neely would be a freight train. I swear that playing Boston would strike fear in the hearts of defencemen and goalies everywhere….again.

- Pavel Bure

When Pavel Bure left the league, it was done with very little fan fare or excitement. He just kind of left. But it’s really too bad when you look back on his career and how good he was. He scored some of the best highlight-reel goals I can remember, and the open space on the ice would give him the room to manoeuvre and make those fantastic goals look even better.

- Mats Sundin

Too soon?

- Anson Carter

I know, I know. It doesn’t seem to fit. But Carter was a guy that I thought was such a great complimentary player. Remember when he played in Vancouver on the Sedins’ line. He scored a career-high for goals that year, and provided some much needed enthusiasm for that line. I respect what the Sedins can do, but let’s be honest; they’re not always the most entertaining when they’re not scoring goals. All this is to say that Carter could still play a pretty good role on an NHL team, but for some reason is toiling in Europe. I’ll never forget that goal he scored at the World Hockey Championships to win gold. This guy had heart.

- Eric Desjardins

Man I miss Eric Desjardins, if nothing else that he was absolutely dominant in EA Sports NHL 98 and was the heart and soul of my blue line. But seriously, Desjardins, like other dominant players in the 90s, kind of faded away. Maybe its better to leave on top than watch yourself fade away, but this was a defenceman I was always worried about when we played Philadelphia. He was absolutely one of the best powerplay specialists of his day. Not to mention that he is the only NHL defencement to ever score a hat trick in the Stanley Cup Finals when Montreal won the Cup in 1993.

- Paul Coffey

Again, talk about another great defencemen of the 80s and 90s. Coffey was an absolute animal when he played with Gretzky and Messier in Edmonton, and he continued to play a dominant role until he retired. I always loved to watch Coffey jump into the play and you never had to worry about his position, cause it usually meant they were going to score. He could be the puck moving defencement that so many teams still covet….ahem Bryan Murray.

- Alexandre Daigle

Too soon?

There you have it folks. A short list of players that I think would make great comeback stories. Thoughts, suggestions? Did I miss anybody?

Stay classy, retired NHL players. Thanks for the memories.

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Stanley Cup Final- Game 7- Keeping my Fingers Crossed

June 12th, 2009

I have to admit, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype for this one. Stanley Cup Final rematch, Game 7, back at the Joe, a chance to build on a dynasty for one team, a chance for redemption for another team. The storylines are endless and the excitement has built to an all-time high. This is what the NHL wanted. Let’s hope they get it.

Why the cynicism?

I have no doubt that this game has the potential to be great; a game we will talk about for years to come. But, like Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 last year, it also has the potential to fall flat on its face.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQaQGOSquo&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

This morning, the TSN Top Ten was the Top Ten Stanley Cup Final Game 7 moments. Not to give too much away, but there were only ten moments they listed. Yesterday, Ian Mendes at Rogers Sportsnet posted some of the best Game 7s in sports. Again, it was a short list. I’m sure in both cases there were many more. But there have also been plenty of duds. So here’s hoping tonight’s game doesn’t turn out like these travesties:

2009 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
In what had been arguably the best series of the playoffs, there was no other option than a Game 7. Two of the best young teams in the East were going the distance, and we were promised fireworks. Well, except for a breakaway save by Fleury against Alexander Ovechkin, this game had about the same enthusiasm as Joaquin Phoenix’s recent appearance on Letterman. Pittsburgh skated away with this one, and I felt like I was watching pre-season in Switzerland. Not the Conference Semi-Finals.

2004 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals- Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Maybe this one stings a bit more because of my allegiance to the Ottawa Senators, but talk about another Game 7 letdown. In what was supposed to be Ottawa’s chance at finally beating the Leafs in the playoffs, a struggling offense, and stellar, if not incredibly lucky goaltending from Ed Belfour (remember when that Hossa shot hit the butt-end of his stick? Really Eddie? You meant to do that?), pushed this series to a Game 7. Well, we all remember how this one went. Current Stars GM Joe Niewendyk put two softies past Patrick Lalime and the game was out of hand and out of reach. The Sens bench, which used to turn defense into offense, was absolutely startled. They had no game plan after those goals, and we had to watch in utter dismay as Alfredsson led the charge to shake hands with the dreaded Leafs. In a series that had so much potential for Sens fans and the Battle of Ontario, this Game 7 was a dud.

2003 Stanley Cup Finals- New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
This one is being talked about as Dan Bylsma’s missed opportunity, but Game 7 was a complete bore. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit, most of the hockey world was cheering on Giguere and the Ducks as the cinderella story of 2003. But a shutout performance from Martin Brodeur and two goals from Mike Rupp made this less exciting than a John and Kate Plus 8 marathon on TLC.

1999 Western Conference Finals- Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
Colorado took an impressive 3-2 lead over the future Stanley Cup Champions with a 7-5 victory in Game 5. After Dallas tied the series in Game 6, we all figured for some fireworks in Game 7. Well, 6 minutes into the third period and Dallas was already up 4-0. Only 7 minutes later did Colorado score its first goal, but Dallas had already wrapped this one up. They were on their way to the Finals. With a Colorado team that featured the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, Drury, and Fleury, we all figured we’d get a bit more out of this Game 7.

1996 Conference Semi-Finals- Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues
I don’t know if you can call this a bad game, so much as a brutal way to end a series. We all know the goal. It’s replayed over and over and over. But Steve Yzerman grabs a loose puck that was coughed up by Wayne Gretzky, skates into the St. Louis zone, and fires a shot from the blueline that somehow handcuffs Jon Casey. It cements Yzerman as a great leader, player and playoff performer, sends Casey to who-knows-where, and ends the series. Good series, good hockey. Awful goal.

My age is beginning to show here, cause I’m sure I’m missing some other brutal Game 7s. Here’s hoping that tonight’s billing lives up to the hype, and doesn’t make my list next year.

Stay classy, Stanley Cup Finals Game 7. The NHL needs you.

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