“I don’t mind seeing pucks,” Minnesota Wild goalstopper Devan Dubnyk said this month. “That’s what I’m here to do.”
Frank Seravalli of TSN.ca got talking to 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers.
Q: You said a couple years ago that you’d like to play until you’re 50. Is that still realistic?
A: I know I’m going to play to 50. I know that — if I don’t get injured. I never said I’m going to play here (in the NHL) until I’m 50. That’s a different story. You can always play ’til 50. There’s a lot of guys that play until 60, you know, just beer hockey.
Q: But what about the NHL?
A: I don’t think I could go until 50. It’s very tough.
Sidney Crosby is at war with Mario Lemieux, according to reports emerging from Pittsburgh, or at least they’re feuding or … mutually miffed? We don’t have a lot of details, so let’s try to get it right, the what-we-know. They’ve fallen out. There’s been a falling out.
Former player Matthew Barnaby is the source for this, at SiriusXM. Could be because they disagree about who’s coaching in Pittsburgh, or else … maybe it’s the 2014 playoffs that soured the relationship. Does this mean Crosby will be traded? “That,” says Barnaby, “I don’t know.”
Someone asked Mario Lemieux about all. “It’s absolutely not true,” he said. “It’s silly.”
Jagr is the cover story in the new issue of Sportsnet magazine, where his age/agelessness is again front and centre. “The time between when I quit hockey and I die,” he tells Kristina Rutherford, measuring air with his hands, “I want it to be the shortest.”
Jagr goes on:
“If I can play til I die, that’s what I will do. What else are you gonna do? Even if you retire, you still will have to go work out, and maybe harder than you do when you play hockey because you don’t wanna look ugly and fat. At least I don’t want to.”
Fans in Toronto are selling blue-and-white striped socks with Mike Babcock’s head at the ankle. They’re called Babsocks, obviously. One of the principals, Jake Mednick, explained the rationale to Sportsnet.ca. “There’s been a lot of negativity, especially last season, around the team, around the organization — and it wasn’t as fun to be a fan anymore,” he said. “We want everyone in the city to have fun and feel good to be Leafs fans.”
No word so far on what the coach himself thinks. He did have a thought, in recent weeks, to add to the flaring debate around how to fertilize scoring in the NHL: bigger nets. Others advocated for slimming down the gear that goaltenders are permitted to pack on.
Said Mike McKenna, sometime NHLer now netminding for the AHL’s Portland Pirates:
“I’ve become completely numb to any pending goalie equipment regulation changes. I’ll play in whatever as long as I’m not getting hurt.”
ECW announced a pair of memoirs they’ll be publishing down the road, in September of 2017: Greg Oliver is assisting Gilles Gratton on Gratoony The Loony, while Sportsnet’s Ken Reid is sidekicking Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man.
Also in the works from ECW for 2016: David Dupuis and Waxy Gregoire have been working with Hall of Fame defenceman and erstwhile coach Red Kelly to tell his story.
Stu Cowan from Montreal’s Gazette reported that the Canadiens’ new captain, who’s taking lessons in French this fall, has been greeting reporters with a confident “Bon midi.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs and their goaltenders are working with the man who revamped/rescued Devan Dubnyk’s aforementioned game. The National Post’s David Alter reported that in September, the Leafs officially enlisted the services of “puck-tracking guru” Lyle Mast.
His specialty is something called head trajectory, which is … well, keeping an eye on the puck that’s trying to get by you. It sounds much more interesting when Mast describes it, though, at his Optimum Reaction website:
“Head trajectory impacts the ability to efficiently execute every aspect of your training, development and game play, based on your setup. It empowers the athlete to train on the values of efficiency versus just speed and seeing the puck versus just looking at it. It exposes the difference between being able versus unable to execute your save and post-save responses, eliminating delays.”
Saving and/or post-responding, Montreal puck-seer Carey Price hurt his lower body in some way that required a week’s rest and recovery away from the ice. “It’s always nice to come home,” he said before that. “I always miss the smell of the mountains.”
Price disclosed his injury, which is to say Montreal did, announcing that he’d been hurt in an end-of-October game against Edmonton. Or, sorry: he sustained the injury. He didn’t disclose his injury, which is also to say that Montreal didn’t, to the extent there was no press release describing where and how it hurt, when and wherefore. Because — of course not. Why would you pinpoint your own weaknesses for other teams? Carey Price’s ailments are proprietary information.
“Pricey est fait fort,” tweeted P.K. Subban. “Tout ce qu’on sait pour l’instant, c’est qu’il est évalué.”
Also in Minnesota, Jason Pominville hasn’t been scoring goals. “You have to dig deep and find a way,” he advised The St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Right now I’m kind of in that boat where pucks aren’t finding me, and when they are, they’re bouncing. I’ve just got to find a find a way to put one in.”
“Blessé au bas du corps,” said La Presse Canadienne.
“The thing is,” confided Montreal coach Michel Therrien a couple of days later, “it’s nothing major. He had some treatment and said Friday morning that he had a certain amount of pain, so the medical staff didn’t take any chances and kept him off the ice. He went to see the doctor when we returned and our medical team recommended that he take a week off.”
The week turned into three. The diagnosis continued undisclosed, non-divulged, irrevealed. Mike Condon, Montreal’s back-up, was asked to fill in. “I’m not going to try and be Carey,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can.”
He was, nevertheless, pretty good, going 5-1-2 in the eight games Price missed in November. Price went to New York with his father, Jerry, to get a second opinion, which very well could have cheered him, or confirmed what he already knew, or even, possibly, surprised everyone. For most of us it was nothing new insofar it was (of course) kept secret.
“We’re not the Russian Red Army team,” Leafs’ winger Brad Boyes mentioned a week or two back, or several, in hearing of Stephen Whyno from The Canadian Press, “so we’ve got to make sure that we’re out there playing our style, our game.”
“We’ve had some shots and chances,” said Taylor Hall, regretting an Edmonton Oiler loss to St. Louis, “but not enough to create momentum for our team. It’s disappointing.”
When Price returned to the Montreal net last week, he helped the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders. “Carey Price was Carey Price,” Therrien said afterwards.
He beat them again over the weekend, and then he beat the Rangers, mostly — in that game, a 5-1, he gave way to Condon after two periods.
So everybody wondered, as Sportsnet.ca did:
“The reason it’s all so hush-hush,” Renaud Lavoie from TVA Sports told TSN, “is nobody knows what’s going on.”
Which makes sense.
Someone from Montreal’s Gazette spotted Price limping through the lobby of the team hotel Thursday morning.
All Therrien would say was that, yes, it was that previous injury nobody really wanted to talk about in the first place. “He tweaked it.”
Lavoie said that it was pretty definitely the right leg, the right knee is what people who knew these things knew, though Lavoie was also thinking there was more to it than that, could be a combination of things, a hip, a groin. “If you look at him right now, there’s a lot of question marks.”
Stephen Cole’s new book is a boisterous account of the decade when the NHL let it all hang out: Hockey Night Fever: Mullets, Mayhem and the Game’s Coming of Age in the 1970s. Who else was he going to kick off with, chapter one, if not the ungovernable Derek Sanderson?
Cole sketches vividly to give us Sanderson’s early days in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He’s drawing here on Sanderson’s two autobiographies, published 42 years apart. If you’ve read those — I’ve Got To Me came out in 1970, Stan Fischler assisting, when Sanderson was 24; he was 66 when Crossing The Line (Kevin Shea lending a hand) in 2012 — you’ll maybe recall the prominent figure cut by Sanderson’s father, Harold.
A wounded veteran of infantry battle in the Second World War, he was the one who (the story goes) read in Maclean’s in or around 1950 that no professionals were more respected in Canada’s than hockey players and so, guess what, that’s what young Derek would be. Once the boy got up on skates, Harold’s the one who told him not to worry about a little blood. Later he made a ritual of saving Derek’s actual stitches once they’d done the work of binding his hockey wounds.
“A sparky daredevil,” Cole calls Harold, “pushing Kotex past the finish line in sleepy postwar Ontario.”
That’s in reference to a job Harold worked at Kimberly-Clark. In his 1970 memoir, Derek tells us that he started sweeping floors, then became a machinist. In 2012 the telling is more detailed and only a tiny bit awkward:
After the war, my dad got a job at Kimberly-Clark plant, where they manufactured feminine hygiene products. My father was mechanically inclined and could fix anything. He was great with machinery. By simply looking at things, he could tell you how they worked.
Which brings us to the crucial moment in the Turk Sanderson origin story: the first steps on skates.
Here’s what Stephen Cole gives us:
Harold fixed butter knives to the bottom of Derek’s first shoes. Later, he spread linoleum on the driveway, building a practice net from abandoned (?) pipes at Kimberly-Clark.
There are a couple of things here to unpack. One, I have to put a question mark on that question mark. What’s that all about? Sanderson 2.0 makes no mention of linoleum; Harold’s net is for the famous rink he froze across several neighbours’ backyards:
My dad made real boards, and brought home some old discarded pipes from the Kimberly-Clark plant, along with old mesh from the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena, to make nets.
Is Cole suggesting that the pipes were still in use when Harold decided to remove and repurpose them? If so, is that kind of an accusation really best levelled via punctuation?
Two: butter knives?
It’s straight from the Sanderson/Shea, 2012, which come with bonus material detailing some of the engineering involved.
My dad was an extremely intelligent guy, in spite of his lack of formal education, and with a boatload of common sense, he took a practical approach to everything he did. He wanted me to find my balance on a pair of skates. To prepare me, he took a couple of butter knives, cut them off and taped them to my shoes and then had me walk around on the hardwood floors. I was four years old.
After what I’ve read, I’m not doubting Harold, his ingenuity or his ability. I do wish, though, that we knew a bit more about the taping. We’re talking best-quality duct tape, I assume. Still, can you tape knives to shoes in a way that they’ll support the weight of a rambling four-year-old? I just don’t see taped knives holding in place. I guess probably an experiment is in order, with these butter knives and tape. Just as I can secure the lend of a willing toddler, we’ll head over to the Puckstruck testing lab.
In the meantime, consider that this may have been old hat for young Derek. If you go by what he says in I’ve Got To Be Me/1970, he was already up about in the living room a whole year earlier, at age three, with no cutlery in sight:
My dad bought me a pair of skates and then, right in the living room, he’d lace them up and have me walk around on the carpet. The point was for me to get the feel of the skates and to develop balance.
“Just walk around on them,” he’d say, and I’d stumble all over the place until I got the feel of the blades on the boots. My mother, Caroline, didn’t exactly object. She was usually mild mannered, always had food on the table and our clothes were always clean. She was the type of person who, if you got up in the middle of the night, would make the bed while you were gone.
(Hockey card images courtesy of Hockeymedia)
Let’s allow, for a moment, that young Stevie Y was actually wiling away some time in the Joe Louis branch of the Detroit Public Library when photographer Bruce Bennett. Why not? This was January of 1984, halfway through his rookie season with the Red Wings. He had a pretty good year, scoring 39 goals and 87 points. He was the first 18-year-year-old to appear in an NHL All-Star game, and he end the year as runner-up to Tom Barrasso in voting for the Calder Trophy.
I’d like to know what else features in the stacks at the Joe. A lot of Gordie Howe’s books, I’m guessing, along with all the books about Mr. Hockey, too. The one Yzerman has in hand is Stan Fischler’s 1967 biography. Howe turned 39 that year, and he was in his 20th year as a Red Wing. Assuming Yzerman made it to the last chapter, he would have read Fischler’s musings on the imminent end of Howe’s career. “It’s going to be a bad day around here when he quits,” Sid Abel is heard to mutter. “A very bad day.” Howe, of course, had another four Red Wing seasons in him, and seven more after that in Houston and Hartford.
As Steve Yzerman knows, Howe talks about his longevity in that final chapter. Balance is key. Management, he says, expects you to eat, sleep, live hockey. “To me,” Howe goes on, “that’s a good way to go crazy. I don’t believe in it. For one thing, you have to take care of the body. That is a hockey player’s equipment. You keep in shape and you watch your weight. You eat the things you know you should. Take the day of a game. I would love a steak but I have eggs instead. Why? Because I feel I play better with eggs.”