Forty-three years ago this week, visiting Moscow with a Canadian rep team, a right winger, Waterloo-born, in Ontario, went shopping. The Minnesota North Stars’ Bill Goldsworthy that is, seen above: he bought a balalaika.
Fast forward to this past week, when an NHL deputy commissioner was talking about newly enhanced security measures at all 30 of the league’s rinks. Fans going to games will now have to walk through magnetometers — those metal detectors you know from airports.
“For better or for worse,” Bill Daly said, “we live in an uncertain world, and it has to be of paramount importance to us, the health and safety of our fans. An extra precaution that might take an extra 30 seconds for each fan I think is more than worth it if it means you’re creating a safer environment for your fanbase.”
A right winger, meanwhile, sat down to read a statement to a gathering of reporters on the opening day of the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp in South Bend, Indiana.
“I am confident,” Patrick Kane said, “once all the facts are brought to light, I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong.”
Anything, he may have meant. Accused of sexually assaulting a woman in August, he’d arrived to play hockey while a New York state grand jury considered whether or not he’ll be indicted.
Chicago management said they saw no problem with having Kane attend camp as though nothing had happened. Fans cheered when he stepped on the ice for the first time.
Up north and over the border, a former centreman — the greatest ever to have played the game? — was surprised, this week, by just how excellent this collection of “better casual clothing” is that Sears Canada is selling in his name.
The new No 99 Wayne Gretzky Collection will (and I quote) keep men looking neat, handsome and fashionable this Fall.
These are polos we’re talking about, t-shirts, knit jackets, hoodies. Mercerized cottons, cashmeres and merino wool give this collection a luxurious feel, offering men a complete look: I have this on good authority. “The long-sleeved 100% cotton shirts come in a variety of patterns, including plaid, printed and checked.”
“Sears got my style down when they created this collection,” Gretzky confided in a press release. “I had the opportunity to wear all the pieces, from the t-shirts and sweaters to the jeans and dress pants, and the style, quality and value is excellent. I thoroughly expected it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be this good.”
At that Blackhawks press conference, Kane took questions from reporters.
Q: Patrick, how tough is it to focus on hockey with so many things going on right now?
Kane: I’m focussed. I’m happy to be here at camp. It’s an unbelievable venue here at Notre Dame. There’s a lot of history in this venue. I know we’ve had some success coming back here the last couple of years. It’s good to be back here again. I’m happy to see all my teammates and get done with our fitness testing today. It seems like we have a fun weekend ahead of us, so I’m looking forward to enjoying that. I’d like to keep to hockey questions only.
Q: Are you going to stop drinking?
Kane: Hey, Mark, I appreciate the question. I wish I could answer those questions right now, but there is a legal matter going on that I can’t answer that.
Q: Patrick, to all the people who believed this stuff was behind you, do you feel like you let them down, do you feel like you let the organization down this summer?
Kane: I appreciate the question, David. I’d like to answer that, but at this time with the legal process ongoing it’s just not a question I can answer. I appreciate it. I’m sorry I can’t answer it and thank you for the question, though.
PR Man: Thank you very much. We’ll excuse Patrick here.
Kane may be more important than ever to the Blackhawks, said someone, a pundit, referring to the vital cogs the defending Stanley Cup-champions lost over the summer.
“It doesn’t look like any of it has affected him,” said another Chicago winger, Bryan Bickell, asked about Kane and possible distractions. Also, sic: “He feels comfortable and when he left he was a happy Patrick Kane from when he left is what he is now.”
A Montreal defenceman pledged C$10-million over seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation who, for its part, unveiled The P.K. Subban Atrium last week. The man himself was on hand to say a few words, including several to Elise Béliveau about how he hoped that this was something that would have made her late husband Jean feel proud. Also:
“Sometimes I try to think, ‘P.K., are you a hockey player, or are you just someone who plays hockey?’
“I just play hockey. Because one day I won’t be a hockey player anymore, I’ll just be someone who played hockey. So what do I want people to remember me for other than being a hockey player? Well, every time you walk into this hospital, you’ll know what I stand for.
“In life, I believe you are not defined by what you accomplish, but by what you do for others. That’s how I live my life.
“This is not about hockey or about how many goals I score next year or even how the team does.”
A Washington left winger got engaged to a model the week before he celebrated his 30th birthday. Nastya Shubskaya is the model, Alex Ovechkin the winger. On the occasion of the birthday, Pavel Lysenko of Sovsport.ru talked to Ovechkin’s mother, which is how we know that he weighed 12 pounds at birth. “My son was very vociferous,” Tatiana Ovechkin recalled of his debut at a Moscow hospital all those years ago; he “growled like a bear.”
A former Los Angeles defenceman returned to Russia before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service deported him. Back in July, Vyacheslav Voynov had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence against his wife, Marta Varlamova. “I’m glad to be back home,” he told Sport Express. He skated with Russian national team coach, Oleg Znarok, back on the ice for the first time (Voynov said) since he ruptured an Achilles in March. He wouldn’t say which KHL team he was going to sign with — negotiations are still underway. Asked about coverage of his case in the press, he said he was avoiding it.
“My family and I have agreed that we do not read it, we will not delve into what people think. We keep away from this.”
In not unrelated news, the Los Angeles Kings announced a suite of new off-ice Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives.
With an L.A. violence prevention centre, the team is launching a promotional campaign, “Kings Over Violence,” dedicated “to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.”
The Kings are also adding: programs to better educate players about the risks involved in drug and alcohol abuse; sexual harassment training; a “conduct awareness program;” a new Player Assistance position, focussing “on the challenges of addiction and substance abuse.
An Anaheim defenceman, meanwhile, shot a five-year-old Grizzly bear named Cheeky. That was in British Columbia in 2013; this week, Clayton Stoner learned that he’s facing five charges under the province’s Wildlife Act. He’s due to appear in court in Vancouver on October 9.
A legendary Montreal right winger continued to eat uncooked hotdogs — as in, raw — before Canadiens’ games at the Bell Centre. Chris Nilan (@KnucklesNilan30) was there to document Guy Lafleur, at shadowy right, partaking in what I guess is a longstanding ritual, with a side of mustard.
“And who,” tweeted the writer and journalist Wab Kinew after Wayne Gretzky appeared at a Toronto event to endorse Conservative leader Stephen Harper, “is Jagr supporting in the Czech parliament? The Social Democrats or the Civic Democrats?
“I always liked Lemieux better than Gretzky anyway.”
A left winger announced his retirement this past week, and also a defenceman. The latter, Ryan Whitney, said a Twitter farewell:
Unfortunately, my body broke down on me sooner than I had hoped. I’m 32 years old and you’re likely to find stronger and more stable ankles and feet on the residents at your local nursing home.
Winger Daniel Carcillo, meanwhile, was on the Player’s Tribune talking about his decision to leave the game. The death this past February of friend and former teammate Steve Montador lies heavy on his heart, Carcillo wrote, and it’s the reason why he’s devoting himself to try to help hockey players make the transition from the NHL into what comes after they leave it. “It might sound strange,” he wrote,
“but what guys miss the most when they retire isn’t the rush of getting into fights or playing in front of 20,000 people. It’s the down time when you’re B.S.ing around in the locker room or grabbing dinner or playing golf after practice. You miss the structure of hanging out with your best friends every day. When you get thrown back out into the real world, it can be lonely.”
After Montador was found dead, his brain went to the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto’s Western Hospital where neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator runs the Canadian Sports Concussion Project. Montador, who was 35, played 614 NHL games before he retired. Study of his brain revealed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Dr. Tator was in the news this week after another retired player died, Todd Ewen, an apparent suicide.
He was 49, a former … fighter? Brawler. Enforcer? Goon wasn’t a word he liked. It caused him to bristle. “Call me anything, as long as you don’t call me the G-word,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1996. “I find it derogatory.”
Several accounts of Ewen’s death made note of his off-ice interests. He wrote and illustrated children’s books, including one called Hop: A Frog Who Dared to Be Different. He also, said USA Today, “created elaborate sculptures out of hockey tape in his spare time.”
Teammates and coaches mourned, friends and fans. His name was soon appearing in lists that included Montador’s name along with those of Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, amid (as The Toronto Star’s Sean Fitz-Gerald wrote) “intensifying attention on the long-term implications of repeated head trauma in sports.”
“You can’t just bury your head in the sand and think there is not a connection,” said former NHL player Mathieu Schneider, a special assistant to NHLPA director Donald Fehr.
Dr. Tator, for his part, is hoping that the Ewen family will consider donating his brain for study.
“The role of the enforcer needs to be phased out,” Tator was telling USA Today. “The concept of having to have fights with their almost automatic blows to the head are something that we really need to get rid of.”