this week + last: #freetorts

happy wayne

Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant wished him many happy returns of the day, today.

Also this week, P.K. Subban was twittering: “Congrats to @geniebouchard on a great run! Definitely Many more to come! #canada”

Meanwhile, in Dallas, as the Leafs were losing 7-1 to the hometown Stars, the scoreboard showed Justin Bieber’s grinning mug shot and Rob Ford on the rampage.

“We invented this game,” said Nike this week, in a lengthy new and – gotta say – kind of gloomy commercial, “we perfected it.” Which was confusing, frankly, because though presumably they meant Canadians it never was completely clear throughout the whole ad that the we wasn’t corporate rather than patriotic.

Sorry, said the owner in Edmonton, Darryl Katz, in an open letter to Oilers fans asking for forgiveness and patience.

I know this will almost certainly be the eighth consecutive year since we made the playoffs. I hate that fact as much as anyone, but the reality is that this is only year four of the rebuild that started when we drafted Taylor Hall. The good news, if you can call it that, is that other teams that committed to fundamental rebuilds went through the same kind of droughts over the same kind of time frames, or longer. That doesn’t make it fun for anyone; it just means we have to stay the course.

Pavel Datsyuk was tweeting: “Happy New Year from my cat! Best Wishes in 2014” That was last week, a day or two before he was named captain of the Russian team going to the Sochi Olympics.

Montreal coach Michel Therrien: “Tomas Plekanec est, à mes yeux, un candidat sérieux pour le trophée Frank-Selke.”

“We have the most fans,” said Nike, referring (I think) to Canada rather than its own corporate realm, “the most players, the most heart of any nation.”


In Kyiv, Ukraine, as the situation grew worse this week, anti-government protesters donned hockey gear to battle police. (Photo: Sergei Grits, The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, in Ottawa: a writer named Michael Murray was writing in the Citizen. “Hockey covers us,” he said, “like an invisible skin here.”

Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe talked to Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask about the team’s goalie coach, Bob Essensa, and the tonic he applies in practices after Rask has had a tough night in net.

“It’s more about just laughing,” said Rask said. “He jokes around. Just tries to keep it light.

“When you get scored on in goal like I’ve been getting scored on lately — it’s just bounces here and there — it’s tough. It’s draining. Because you think you want to stop them and you feel like you kind of have to, but then again you can’t really blame yourself, either. It’s a tough situation mentally but that’s why he’s here, and we just try to keep things light and work hard.”

Nike: “We’ve spent our whole entire lives on ice.”

In Winnipeg, coach Claude Noel lost his job, which Paul Maurice gained. Centre Olli Jokinen told The Winnipeg Sun that he felt the team had been playing scared. “All of us should be embarrassed that we’re at the point where we have to change the coach,” he said.

Vancouver got into a hibiscus with Anaheim. This was before the rumpus with Calgary for which the Canucks’ coach, John Tortorella, earned a 15-day suspension. Anaheim beat Vancouver 9-1, was the problem in this one. Ducks’ coach Bruce

Boudreau: “There was a lot of frustration on their part. They just started punching our guys. It wasn’t the brightest thing to do. What are the refs supposed to do?”

Tortorella: “I’m not even going to try to explain it. One of those nights, so we plow along to our next game and get ready to play. … It does me no good, it does the players no good, to discuss anything that happened here.”

P.K. Subban scored a goal to beat Ottawa’s Senators in overtime; the Senators thought he celebrated too much.

“I don’t care,” Subban told reporters. “I don’t care. It’s the game of hockey, you’re not disrespecting anybody. To be honest, that game’s over. I don’t really need to comment on it.”

It was Tortorella who said, once, in calmer times, that defensemen need 300 NHL games to figure out how to play the position.

“Yeah, that’s a good number for me,” said Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, 23, who’s in his fifth NHL season. “This year has been by far the best for me personally. The biggest thing is the consistency in my game. That gains me confidence when you feel you can play your best and make plays on a night-to-night basis.”

“So it doesn’t matter,” Nike argued, “if we’re playing at someone else’s rink, or in someone else’s province, or even in someone else’s country.”

The Calgary/Vancouver started with a brawl, at the opening face-off. Later, Tortorella tried to fight his way into the Calgary dressing room. That got him his suspension. The NHL fined Flames’ coach Bob Hartley US$25,000.

NHL VP Colin Campbell called Tortorella’s conduct “dangerous” and “an embarrassment to the League.”

“I don’t think this embarrasses us,” Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa told The Vancouver Sun. “If anything it shows how passionate he is and how much he cares about his team … I think you respect a coach more when you see that he has your back and how much he cares. We are not just pawns out there, we are not just guys he is sticking out there to fight. He cares that we had to go through that.”

ESPN’s Keith Olbermann nominated Tortorella as the worst person in the sports world. “He may be a gifted coach but he is a clown and not in a good way,” Olbermann said. “He unnecessarily provokes the media, his own players, even the fans.”

“#FreeTorts,” tweeted Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.

“As long as there’s ice to skate on,” Nike proclaimed, “we’re at home.”

A group of erstwhile Rangers played some midday shinny this week in New York’s Bryant Park, attracting a crowd.’s Dan Rosen:

One man crossing Sixth Avenue near the entrance to the park screamed “Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, holy [expletive]!”

Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press watched a diminutive Carolina winger score a goal with the ol’ shoot-the-puck-with-your-stick-between-the-legs ruse against Philadelphia. “Nathan Gerbe just #Hertl’d Steve Mason,” he tweeted.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie chimed in a little later: “If I ask nicely, can we agree Gerbe goal is not showboating. Just skilled play to change shooting angle, fool goalie.”

Detroit and Olympic coach Mike Babcock said that before Sidney Crosby accepted the captaincy of Canada’s Sochi team he wanted to make sure that Jonathan Toews was okay with it, Toews having won two Stanley Cups to Crosby’s one.

Toews was appreciative. “Everybody knows Sidney is the guy,” he said.

Babcock on Toews: “He’s a pro who does it right every day. He’s a 200-footer. To me, he’s an impressive, impressive man.”

Richard Sherman, who plays for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, raised a ruckus last Sunday when he energetically castigated a competitor in a post-game interview, demanding respect or … something. When the fuss continued into the week, Sherman expressed his frustration:

“Maybe I’m talking loudly on the field and saying things I’m not supposed to, but there was hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I thought, Oh man. I’m the thug? Geez.”

Anaheim GM Bob Murray told Pierre LeBrun of about his plans for his goalie. “There’s not a chance in hell that I’m moving Jonas Hiller,” he said. “I’m tired of hearing about the rumours, I can tell you Jonas is not going anywhere.”

Dallas Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin was a controversial choice for Russia’s Olympic team but coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov dismissed the doubters. “The national team needs a guy with such energy and desire,” he told Ria Novosti. “I don’t know yet how I will use him, but I have some thoughts.”

The Rangers traded a promising defenceman to Nashville. Stan Fischler’s take: “I once thought that Michael Del Zotto had Norris Trophy potential. Not sure what went wrong but for Rangers deal is addition by subtraction.”

Scotty Bowman went to a Tampa hospital this week to get his right knee replaced by Steven Stamkos’ surgeon. “All those games standing behind the bench has [sic] taken its toll,” Bowman tweeted the night before.

As hockey’s new reality TV show went to air this week, “NHL Revealed™: A Season Like No Other™, executive producer Julie Bristow told CBC Radio that viewers ran no risk of hearing hockey players swear in the series. “We don’t want that to get in the way of the storytelling,” she said.

A documentary debuted this weekend in Haliburton about the incredible hockeyness of the small Ontario town that’s sent local boys Bernie Nicholls, Ron Stackhouse, Cody Hodgson, and Matt Duchene to the NHL. Ice is, I believe, the only possible answer to the question that the film’s title poses, though I’d like to know if I’m wrong. It’s called There’s Something In The Water?

 (Gretzky photo: @WayneGretzkysTO)