“Please join me in celebrating 41 years of not giving a damn about the Winter Olympics,” tweeted writer Gary Shteyngart this week.
Or … maybe not. Alex Ovechkin, for one, was watching his TV on Friday as Russia’s games officially opened while also (if his punctuation is any guide) leaping around the room as he tweeted:
Сейчас смотрю открытие Олимпиады,у меня нет слов!!!спасибо за этот праздник!!!я горд за свою страну!!!!@Sochi2014*
Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News heard Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller talking about the MVP award he won at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. “It’s not like I can stack it behind me in net,” Miller was saying. “It won’t deflect pucks.”
Just as he did in those Olympics, Sidney Crosby scored a great goal on Miller this week, in Pittsburgh’s game against Buffalo. Fellow Penguin James Neal: “It took my breath away, yeah.”
Another famous American goalie was talking about Canada’s team this week: Jim Craig from the golden 1980 team. “I think Marty St. Louis should have been given the opportunity to represent his country,” Craig opined. “He is a winner, leader and class act.”
That was before the announcement, on Wednesday, from @HockeyCanada:
Steven Stamkos ne jouera pas pour #EquipeCanada à #Sochi2014. Un remplaçant sera nommé au cours des prochains jours.
“It was a little shocking,” Stamkos said of learning that his leg hasn’t healed enough for him to play.
The inimitable Dave Bidini posted a first dispatch as Hockey Canada’s commentator on the Olympic tournament, which he’ll be contributing from … in front of his TV, at home in Toronto. “Last Olympics,” he wrote this week, “my kids heard their grandfather swear for the first time.”
Reports of Canucks coach John Tortorella’s return this week from 15 days of suspension included the words “I apologize” and “my stupidity” and “very embarrassing” and “the nonsense I caused.” Time to move on, Tortorella told reporters. “I’m glad I’m back with our guys,” he said. “I’m looking forward to trying to grow more as a coach with them. More importantly, get our team growing together again to be a competitive team.”
Speculation on who would replace Stamkos hovered over Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis, and Taylor Hall.
Henrik Sedin decided he’d have to miss the Olympics; Sweden shuddered.
Stephen J. Harper’s publisher announced their next big hockey project: in the fall of 2015, Simon & Schuster Canada will publish the not-yet-titled memoir that Tie Domi is writing with Sportsnet reporter Jim Lang. “An inspiring story of family, camaraderie, hard work, perseverance, plenty of hockey and hard knocks,” promised the press release.”
Publisher Kevin Hanson: “Tie Domi fought his way into the hearts of hockey fans and sustained a memorable career through leadership and grit, loyalty and humility.”
Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber raised an online hat to the man who steered Radio-Canada’s La Soirée du hockey for so many years: “The late Richard Garneau, essentially Jean Béliveau with a microphone, receives IOC’s Pierre de Coubertin medal. A richly deserved honor.”
Chris Johnston from Canadian Press got the early word on from Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Palace from Slovenian goalie Luka Gračnar: “The ice is perfect, everything is great.”
Crosby placed a captain-to-captain call this week, telling Hayley Wickenheiser good luck with the flag-carrying in Sochi on Friday. “Wave it high,” he said, “and don’t trip.”
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma is headed to Sochi to coach the American team, so a reporter asked: any Olympic sports you’d like to compete in, other than hockey? “Bobsled or luge.”
Boston’s captain Zdeno Chara went to Russia early to carry Slovakia’s flag at the opening ceremonies. When he’d done that, according to CP’s Stephen Whyno, someone cornered him to ask to the question all of us wanted answered: what does he think of the puck they designed specially for these Olympics? “It looks nice,” Chara confessed.
Canadian coach Mike Babcock said six votes were cast in the vote to decide the Stamkos dilemma, one for the coaches, five for members of the management team. All of them were for St. Louis.
Philadelphia Flyers’ chairman Ed Snider took a different tack. He said he hated the Olympics. The fact that Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux isn’t going? That made it a, quote, farce. Claude Giroux is better than half the guys on Team Canada, he said. Anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn’t belong on the Canadian team? “They don’t know anything about hockey.”
When he’s not blogging and tweeting, outspoken former NHL player and referee Paul Stewart spends his days as an officiating and discipline consultant for the KHL. He’s also writing an autobiography, aided by sportswriter Christopher Smith. In a column this week, he had advice for young referees and linesmen. Including:
“Know the rules, when you are in the bathroom or have some free time refresh your knowledge, there is NO excuse for not knowing options on a penalty or the rules.”
Igor Larionov launched a five-part radio show on Friday of this week on SiriusXM’s Sports Zone (channel 92). Hosted by his daughter, Alyonka, “Igor Larionov’s Triple Overtime Radio” continues tonight with Larionov talking about his successes playing for the Soviet Union, which included Olympic gold medals in 1984 and ’88, though not in ’80. Guests over the course of the series will include Pat Quinn, Brendan Shanahan, Evgeni Nabokov, and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Sizing up the referees who’ll be blowing their whistles in Sochi, Paul Stewart talked up one of the two Germans:
“May not be a well-known name around most of the western hockey world but I must say that he’s a phenomenal skater and a solid official in general who keeps getting better.”
The San Jose Mercury News talked to Viktor Tikhonov this week about playing for the Russian Olympic team. Not 83-year-old scary-taskmaster coach of Soviet and Russian hockey teams who won three Olympic golds and eight World Championships — this Viktor Tikhonov is that Viktor Tikhonov’s grandson, who plays for SKA St. Petersburg in Russia’s KHL.
“Things you pretend to do when you’re a kid is win the Stanley Cup and get the Olympic gold,” said 25-year-old Tikhonov the younger. “Having the chance to do that now is a dream come true.” Born in Riga, Latvia, he spent much of his childhood in California. He was drafted first-round by Phoenix in 2008 and played 61 NHL games before heading to Russia.
The description that’s posted on Keith Allen’s page at the Hockey Hall of Fame’s online catalogue of players is a bit of a downer — “a perfectly pedestrian two-year career in the NHL,” it starts out. It does, glad to say, go on to note his singular achievements as an executive, including his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 1992.
Allen, the man who built the Philadelphia teams that raised two Stanley Cup teams in the 1970s, died on Tuesday. He was 90.
Hired originally to coach the team, he made his mark as when he moved up to the GM’s office. The list of his achievements is long: drafted Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish; traded for Bernie Parent, Reggie Leach; hired Fred Shero.
“In my mind he was and always will be one of the greatest general managers in the history of hockey,” said Ed Snider. “He was known as ‘Keith the Thief;’ I never knew of a bad deal he made. This team would never have reached the level of success we have had over the past 48 years if it were not for Keith.”
Born in 1923 in Saskatoon, Allen spent his playing days as a defenceman, mostly in the minor leagues. He did play a part in two Stanley-Cup winning editions of the Detroit Red Wings, in 1953-54 and in 1954-55.
In Sportsnet’s magazine Sportsnet, Gare Joyce wrote about Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, the legendary high school/hockey-player manufactory in Faribault, Minnesota, whose alumni include Olympic captains Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise.
Parise is remembered not only for the many goals he scored but for his propensity for spending all hours at the school’s rink, which was never locked.
“He not only played in pickup games in the off-hours,” Joyce writes, “but learned to drive the Zamboni to a professional standard.”
* Ovechkin translation:
Now watch the opening of the Olympics, I have no words! Thanks for this holiday! I am proud of my country!!!! @ Sochi2014