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July 21, 2018

Names On The Cup

If it isn't hockey, I don't watch it. My television collects dust in the summer months. I try, but I can't find much of anything on Netflix. I have more luck with YouTube, be it TED Talks, running videos, or, especially, hockey.

I found this great documentary available on YouTube in it's entirety. Watch it, and you will wish it was winter again, too.

July 16, 2018

Remembering Ray Emery

Terrible news this past weekend as former NHL goaltender Ray Emery died in what police are calling a boating misadventure.

It seems Emery jumped off a boat for an early morning swim on Sunday. Only he never resurfaced. Rescuers recovered his body by 3pm

Ray Emery was best described by The Athletic's Chris Stevenson as "brilliant and self-destructive, a star and a distraction, infuriated and infuriating.:

Emery, who played for Ottawa, Chicago, Anaheim and Philadelphia, was known as a scrappy goalie to say the least. A modern day Ron Hextall, Emery enjoyed dropping the gloves and took on not just other goalies, but the other team's goons, too.

That made "Sugar" Ray Emery fun. Volatile. Competitive. Fun.

He had a tattoo that stated "Anger is a Gift," but Emery took it his love of fighting little too far when he debuted a mask with the Ottawa Senators featuring former heavyweight champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

That was the start of Emery's misadventures in the NHL.

There was rumors around the league that he loved to party. And then there was a road rage incident where no charges were ever laid. And who will forget the $500 bet he won from Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson for eating a cock roach. True story.

More concerning, at least on the hockey front, he allegedly was late for team practices on a few occasions, and later missed a team flight for a playoff game. Couple that with wrist surgery in the off-season and the Senators unloaded their goalie before he became more of a distraction even though he backstopped the Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.

The rest of the NHL seemed concerned about Emery, too. He had no contract offers and had to go to Russia to resurrect his career.

He did get a chance to return with Philadelphia in 2009, but a bad hip injury threatened to derail his career once and for all. The injury required surgery that had 13 centimeters of bone taken from his leg and placed in the hip.

Emery was able to rehab from that and played his best hockey in Chicago. In 2013 he went 17-1 with a 1.94 goals against average and .922 save percentage as Corey Crawford's back up. The Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup that year.

From there it was on to brief stops in Anaheim, Philly again and Germany before leaving hockey altogether.

The controversies didn't stop, however. As recently as 2017 there were TMZ reports of a break up with his fiancee after incident involving restraining orders and arrest warrants.

I guess Ray Emery was right when he told columnist Earl McRae back in 2011 that "for the rest of my life, 90 percent of the articles written about me will refer to the negative things about me that happened.”

Even the articles following his shocking death at the age of just 35

July 03, 2018

Thoughts On Free Agency

Some thoughts on what has transpired so far in Free Agency:

  • Good for John Tavares. I was cheering for him to leave just like the audience cheered Jim Carrey's character to leave his own bizarre circumstances in the movie The Truman Show. This is ultimately the result of poor management over the years. The team has gone nowhere, except to Brooklyn and even that uncertainty remains. The dollars could be found anywhere. The opportunity, the stability and the respect was to be found anywhere but Long Island...err, Brooklyn.
  • Oh my Canucks. Overpaying for 4th liners. But I do like that they seem intent on defining roles and leaving roles open for the prospects where they hopefully will thrive. That is a positive.
  • What's up with Anthony Duclair? Lots of talent, but already been through three organizations by age 22. And all three of those organizations dumped him quickly. And we're not seeing teams jump on him quickly so far.
  • Austin Czarnik in Calgary could be the steal of the summer. If he's given the right chance, he has some decent upside in him I think.
  • Another good gamble, for somebody, might be Nick Shore. He needs to play with better linemates because he makes strong plays with the puck from the wing.
  • I wonder if Jason Garrison will get a chance to return to the NHL next season.

June 27, 2018

Will HHOF Give Wickenheiser The Spotlight In 2019?

The Hockey Hall of Fame induction class of 2019 appears to be the weakest class in many years.

The most notable first year eligible player is Hayley Wickenheiser. As arguably the greatest female player of all time, it is a guaranteed lock that the four time Olympic gold medallist gets the nod.

But the men's side is not nearly as strong. Of the first year eligible players, only Patrik Elias and a trio of Tampa Bay Lightning standouts deserve mention: Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Dan Boyle all led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Elias had a very underrated career with New Jersey and was as consistent as they come. All three Lightning stars were NHL standouts at that time, and enjoyed lengthy careers as impact players. Is that enough to get them elected?

Were any of them any better than the list of holdovers from recent years, such as Daniel Alfredsson, Theo Fleury, Alexander Mogilny or Sergei Zubov? I'm not so sure.

Given the lack of an obvious candidate from the NHL side, it would be nice for the Hall to give women's hockey the full spotlight for a change. Hayley Wickenheiser has done more for hockey - both men's and women's - than most and deserves it.

June 26, 2018

Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Announced

The Hockey Hall of Fame official press release:

TORONTO (June 26th, 2018) – Lanny McDonald, Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame announced today that six individuals have been elected to Hockey Hall of Fame Honoured Membership, four in the Player Category and two in the Builder Category.  The vote took place today at the annual meeting of the Selection Committee in Toronto.

“The Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these hockey legends as Honoured Members,” said Lanny McDonald.  “Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved.”

In the Builder Category, Gary Bettman was elected.  After being named NHL Commissioner in 1993, Bettman has led the NHL to unprecedented financial growth with league revenues increasing by over $3.5 billion (USF) during his tenure.  Bettman also oversaw the league grow from 24 to 31 franchises and NHL attendance by 7 million fans per year.

“This is not something I was focused on and I’m speechless and grateful to be included with this group,” said Bettman.  “I’m particularly honoured to be part of a class that includes Willie O’Ree.”

Willie O’Ree was also elected in the Builder Category.  The native of Fredericton, New Brunswick split his hockey between his home province and Quebec.  From there he went to Springfield and was called up to the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958, making him the first black player in NHL history.  After a long professional minor league career, O’Ree retired in 1979 at the age of 43.  He has spent the past 20 years as an NHL ambassador and in 2008 received the Order of Canada for his work growing the game around the world.

“This honour would not be possible if I had not rejoined the league in 1996,” said O’Ree.  “I was given a second wind to give back to the game and I am honoured to be recognized.”

In the player category, goaltender Martin Brodeur spent 20 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils, where he owns or shares 12 NHL records.  The three-time Stanley Cup Champion is one of only two goaltenders to play in over 1,000 NHL games. On the international front, Brodeur was also part of two gold medal winning Olympic teams – in 2002 and 2010.

“As a player you get to meet Hall of Fame members and now to have my name in the same sentence makes me speechless,” said Brodeur.  “I was fortunate to play on great teams that allowed me to play with my own personality, which is so important to a goaltender.”

Jayna Hefford was born in Trenton, ON and as a youth set scoring records in Kingston minor hockey that have never been surpassed – by either a male or female hockey player.  After a stellar career at the University of Toronto, Hefford went on to star in women’s hockey, both at the CWHL and international levels.  For Canada, she was a member of seven IIHL gold medal teams and also won four gold medals at the Olympic Games.

“I have chills and am very proud,” said Hefford.  “I am happy for this incredible honour and especially want to share it with my family.”

Martin St. Louis went from not being drafted by any NHL team, to a 17-year NHL career, playing 1134 regular season games and registering 1033 points.  A five-time NHL All-Star, St. Louis won the Stanley Cup with Tampa in 2003-04 and was on Canada’s gold medal Olympic team in 2014. A seven time NHL Award winner, he ended his career as only the 6th undrafted NHL player with 1,000 career points.

“Hockey is all about the people who have supported you over the years – both your teammates and your family,” said St. Louis.  “I tried to be the best player I could be every day and am proud of all of my NHL memories.”

Alexander Yakushev came into the North American hockey spotlight during the 1972 Summit Series and his play established him as one of the top players in the world.  By that time Yakushev was already established in international hockey as a starring member of Spartak Moskva for almost a decade.  Elected to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2003, his accomplishments also include Olympic gold medals in 1972 and 1976.

The 2018 Induction Celebration will be held on Monday, November 12th at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.   For more information regarding the 2018 Induction Weekend/Celebration, visit http://www.hhof.com.

Established in 1943, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s (“HHOF”) mandate is to recognize and honour the achievements of players, builders and officials who bring special distinction to the game of hockey, and to collect, preserve, research and exhibit objects, images and resource materials connected with the game as it is played in Canada and throughout the world.  As a non-profit corporation and a registered charity under the Income Tax Act, HHOF owns and operates a museum and place of entertainment offering state-of-the-art exhibits, multimedia presentations and educational programming from its premises at Brookfield Place, Toronto, Canada.

Kelly Masse
Hockey Hall of Fame

June 22, 2018

Hockey Hall of Fame: The Two Martys

The Hockey Hall of Fame meets on Monday to decide who will be honoured in the induction class of 2018.

Among first year eligible players, there are only two who will get serious consideration. Martin Brodeur is a guaranteed lock to get the call. Martin St. Louis has a strong case though he may or may not get in on the first try.

Other first year eligible players (essentially players who last played a professional game three seasons ago) include Sergei Gonchar, Martin Rucinsky, Slava Kozlov, Kimmo Timonen, Brendan Morrow, Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan and Evgeni Nabokov. All had strong careers and are likely to be honoured at their various national levels. But the likelihood of any of them making the Hockey Hall of Fame is remote.

So let's look at the two Martys.

Martin Brodeur

When the selection committee discusses the name Martin Brodeur, it will be a short session. He will be a unanimous honouree in less than five minutes.

After all, the man has three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezina trophies and holds pretty much every conceivable NHL record for goalies imaginable. Most games played, wins, shutouts, even goals scored, both in regular season and in playoffs, and both in terms of career and individual seasons.

Everyone in hockey knew that Martin Brodeur would be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame since about 2002.

The NHL is so confident they have already the New Jersey Devils playing in Toronto on the Saturday before induction night (November 12th), also known as the NHL's annual Hall of Fame game. Usually the team most associated with the highest profile inductee plays in Toronto that night, since Toronto is the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Martin St. Louis

In in 1,134 career regular season games, St. Louis scored 391 goals, 642 assists for 1,033 points. The 40-year-old won the Stanley Cup and Hart Memorial Trophy with the Lightning in 2004. He is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner and three-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2014.

Not bad for a player who was never drafted by any National Hockey League team.

I suspect Martin St. Louis gets in, though I'm not sure if he will be made to wait. The Hall of Fame is unintentionally created two levels of enshrinement - those who get immediately - aka the game's true greats - and those who get in eventually - aka those who some believe are on a lower tier.

Was St. Louis any better than Jeremy Roenick, Alex Mogilny, Theo Fleury, Daniel Alfredsson, Saku Koivu, Rod Brind'Amour or Petr Bondra? Because those guys, plus goalies like Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter and Mike Vernon, are the holdovers who are also looking for one of the three remaining spots to join Brodeur in the HHOF class of 2018.

I would say yes, St. Louis' career was stronger than any of those players. And since this is a relatively weak induction list, chances are strong he will be included in 2018.

The Holdovers

I just mentioned the list of holdovers still hoping to get the phone call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would be perfectly fine if none of those skaters make it into the Hall of Fame, though I suspect Daniel Alfredsson might have the strongest case. I am definitely one who believes the bar for skaters is set far too low as it is already.

I do believe the bar for goaltenders is set a bit too high. I believe both Barrasso and Richter in particular should get in. But it won't be this year. This will be Brodeur's night.

The Women

The Hall of Fame can induct as many as two women, and it is in separate category than the men altogether.

The selection committee has shown a lack of knowledge of the women's game over the years, failing to induct anyone some years. A few days ago I wrote up a list of women the Hall should be considering.

I think Jennifer Botterill and particularly Jayna Hefford have the strongest cases. The Hall of Fame likes to have a little symmetry when it does up these induction classes. Like Brodeur, both won Olympic gold medals in Salt Lake.

The Builders

The Builders category is always tough to predict. It's basically a lifetime achievement award, and there is no waiting period per se. An honouree could continue to be working in hockey and still get inducted. They wait too long in some cases, as they posthumously inducted Pat Burns and Pat Quinn in recent years.

One day Fran Rider has to be honoured for her work building the women's game, and Viktor Tikhonov for his developing of hockey in Russia. Given Igor Larionov's presence on the current selection committee, do not expect Tikhonov to get inducted any time soon.

June 21, 2018

McDavid vs Crosby

I have often said Sidney Crosby is a player of destiny. He is at his most brilliant when the spotlight is at it's brightest, scoring the defining moment goals at the Winter Classic, in the Stanley Cup finals, or in back to back gold medal games. .

From an early age he was pegged as "the Next One." And like a true generational talent (I hate how overused that term is right now) such as Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr before him, he is a prodigy who not only fulfilled his promise, but has had one of the greatest careers in hockey history.

Fast forward to the next generational talent. Sorry Leafs fans, I don't mean Auston Matthews. Yeah, he's good. Very good. But the only true generational talent right now is Connor McDavid. He is the best of his generation. He's already the best in the league.

How good is McDavid? Good enough to win the Lindsay Award as the best player in the league as voted by his peers for the second year in a row. Good enough that since he broke into the league three years ago I've been saying that not only is already a better player than Crosby almost immediately, but the most offensively gift player I've seen since Wayne Gretzky. Now that's saying something, as there have been A LOT of really amazing players in the last 30 years.

But my fear is that McDavid will not get a chance to have the career that Crosby did, or all of the other greats. Will McDavid be the next Marcel Dionne instead of next Gretzky?

What separated Dionne and Gretzky was championship success. Dionne never had the supporting cast to get anywhere. All the game's true greats - Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Howe, Crosby - were surrounded by a great group that pushed them over the top.

Oilers fans must understand my fear right now. On the same night that McDavid won the Lindsay, they watched former Oiler Taylor Hall win the Hart Trophy as the League's MVP. The Hart remains the most highly regarded individual trophy in hockey. Oilers fans could be watching McDavid and Hall together, except the Oilers traded Hall for a depth defenseman, and then unwisely used the salary cap space to overpay for a slow thug named Milan Lucic.

Oilers fans don't need to be reminded of all the other shortcomings in their roster. Aside from Leon Draisaitl, is there anyone on the current Oilers roster who can really help McDavid achieve his destiny? Their goaltending is weak. Their blue line is thin. The best player in the game can only take you so far - even one as good as McDavid.

Then you throw in the fact that McDavid may never get to have the international accolades others have achieved. Will McDavid ever get the opportunity to play in the Olympics? The Olympics played a huge role in defining Crosby's career, and Alexander Ovechkin's. And if the NHL does not return to the Olympics, does anyone really care about the mismanaged World Cup anymore?

I really want to see Connor McDavid fulfill his destiny to become one of the game's all time greats. I really do believe he is already better than Crosby, and there is some Gretzky in him - the only player I've ever said that about. I sincerely hope he gets the supporting cast he needs to achieve greatness.

June 20, 2018

Brian Burke, Bobby Orr And More Exciting New Hockey Books Coming

I recently learned Brian Burke is working on a book. I was instantly excited as Burke as one of the most compelling, entertaining and polarizing men in the game. The book promises to be a hit.

I took a look on Amazon's listings to try and get a hint of when to expect the book, but no word so far. We are likely waiting for the fall of 2019.

As many of you know I'm something of a hockey book freak. I have something like 1400 of them somewhere. I've even read a few of them.

So while scrolling through Amazon's listings I found a few more exciting upcoming titles.

Kevin Shea is back with what promises to be a fantastic new title for the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is the Hall's 75th anniversary of existence, and the 25th anniversary of their relocation to the historic Bank of Montreal building in downtown Toronto. To celebrate, Shea looks at the history of the Hall itself, as well as its honoured members and some of famed memorabilia.

Every Washington Capitals fan will want this title, as their first Stanley Cup championship is chronicled from the pages of The Washington Post.

Similarly, fans of the Vegas Golden Knights can relive their historic inaugural season as seen through the eyes of the Las Vegas Sun.

Bobby Orr is back with another autobiography, of sorts. I always enjoy these photo essay styled books and it is certain to be a hit.

155 pages on a 2 minute penalty way back in 1979. Alright, it is perhaps the most famous penalty of all time, if only in that certainly changed Don Cherry's life forever.

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