this week: surviving a meteor strike

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P.K. Subban was dining on liver in Paris, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports, when he got the word last Wednesday that the Montreal Canadiens had traded him to Nashville’s Predators.

“Quoi?” tweeted Montreal’s mayor, Denis Coderre, when he heard the news. The online shock was matched only by the outrage: “La twittosphère s’enflamme à propos de l’échange de P.K. Subban” was a Journal de Montreal headline from the following day.

“So that Subban trade really happened, eh?” wrote Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Principal Secretary and a prominent Habs fan. “Call me old fashioned,” groused another, actor and director Jay Baruchel, “but it’s more fun to watch PK Subban play hockey than it is to watch Michel Therrien coach hockey. #fuckingHabs”

Also, in other news, the Toronto Maple Leafs convened a camp for their brightest prospects this week, in Niagara Falls. Mitch Marner was there, and William Nylander, along with, of course, Auston Matthews, drafted first overall in June’s draft. Reported the Associated Press: Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill “quickly noticed a flaw in Matthews’ stride: his left shoulder wasn’t coming across enough.”

Subban’s personality was too big for Montreal, said The Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur.

Andrew Berkshire, a writer for Sportsnet who also commands editorial content for the analytics firm Sportlogiq: “The Montreal Canadiens have made possibly the worst trade in the history of their franchise, for no reason at all.”

“Unbelievable,” Subban told Adam Vingan, regarding his foie de Paris. About the trade, he said he felt closer to winning the Stanley Cup than he had to before. “I’m just happy to be in a situation where I can excel and feel good about myself coming to the rink every day.”

“I don’t want to take anything away from P.K.,” Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said when he stepped up to face the media in Montreal. “He’s made the way he is and he’s a good person.”

“This is the Roy debacle all over again,” declared Brendan Kelly in The Montreal Gazette. “It’s the worst move by the Habs since Réjean Houle dealt Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche for a bag of pucks in 1995. It took the franchise years to recover from that horrible trade.”

roch pkstrk

David Poile disagreed — but then he was the guy on the other end, Nashville’s GM. “I’m a general manager,” he said of Subban on the day, “but someday I’d like to be a fan, and he is a guy that I would pay money to see.”

“We never had a problem with P.K.,” was something else Marc Bergevin said. “You have 23 players on your roster and they’re all different. They all bring different things. One of the most important things for me is punctuality. We never had a problem with P.K. with that.”

At NHL.com, Adam Kimelman wrote about an 18-year-old draft prospect. His lede:

After surviving a meteor strike, moving to Canada became a bit easier for right wing Vitaly Abramov of Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Abramov led Gatineau and indeed all QMJHL rookies in goals, assists, and points (93) last season. Columbus ended up drafting him. Kimelman:

Abramov was at school in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia on Feb. 15, 2013 when a meteor exploded over the city. The meteor was between 49 and 55 feet in size, with an estimated mass of 7,000 to 10,000 tons, according to CNN.

The estimated energy released by the meteor’s explosion was 300-500 kilotons, or about 20 times the estimated amount released by the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

“I was in school and all the windows in my class crashed,” Abramov said. “All windows in the city was gone. … It was like big panic because it was something none of us had ever seen. But after that it was fine when everyone said it was a meteorite and we’re still alive.

“Normal school day and a meteor came down.”

“I will not go into detail why we think we are a better team,” Marc Bergevin told that press conference, “but we feel we are a better team.”

kunlunIn China, during an official visit by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the Kontinental Hockey League announced that it would add a Beijing franchise to the league, HC Kunlun Red Star, for the 2016-17 season.

Other news from Montreal: the Canadiens acquired winger Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Black Hawks for a pair of draft picks. Known for his energy and a talent for annoyance, Shaw is also remembered for having been suspended in this year’s playoffs for uttering an anti-gay slur. He talked to reporters on a conference call soon afterwards, including Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times, who heard him say that Bergevin had been in on drafting him, Shaw, as an assistant GM in Chicago. “He likes the rat in me,” Shaw said.

One new teammate Shaw mentioned was Brendan Gallagher.

“Me and Gallagher have had some fun battles,” he said. “Now I’m excited to be on his side to annoy people together, I guess. It’ll be a fun team to play with. I’m pretty excited about it. Can’t wait for September.”

The Calgary Flames, meantime, drafted 18-year-old Matthew Tkachuk, a.k.a. son of a Keith. “He’s a pain in the ass,” said Brian Burke, chief of Flames hockey operations. “We don’t have enough guys who are pains in the ass… I like guys who are pains in the ass.”

For his part, Tkachuk fils mentioned to a Calgary Herald reporter that he models his game on Corey Perry’s. Wes Gilbertson:

And if he can, indeed, blossom into a Perry sort, he might not have to pay for a meal in Cowtown for his entire life.

After all, Perry is a guy who seems to routinely score 30-plus goals each season, never shies away from a collision and, thanks to his aggravating style, has probably been called four-letter words that most of us don’t even know.

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2016 class last week: Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Pat Quinn, and Sergei Makarov. Here’s Katie Baker, at The Ringer, on the erstwhile Number 88:

Lindros was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, after six years of mostly silly rejection, and it’s about damn time. Ever since he was a teenager, the center was an unceasing, and worthy, obsession of the hockey world. He was huge (6-foot-4, 240) and hugely skilled, capable of playing a style of hockey that seemed more of an abstract ideal than an actual bodily possibility. (Instead of using the 20/80 scale to evaluate prospects, hockey scouts ought to just rate them from 1 to Eric Lindros.) He was, for a time, hockey’s avatar. In the biopic he’d be played by Channing Tatum, and you’d spoil the viewing experience for your kids because you’d keep pestering them: No, you don’t understand, there was no one like him in his prime.

 What should a Hall of Fame be? This is a question that all sports face; baseball has a whole steroid-fueled generation that it may never decide how to properly judge. Should the place feel like an encyclopedic compendium of a sport’s most successful players as defined by known, unassailable metrics — career length and Cup wins included — or should it have more laid-back shrine-to-the-glory-of-hockey, this-is-what-things-were-like-back-then vibes? I’m an extremist, but my ideal Hall of Fame would be the best kind of museum, the type that immerses you in the context, ugly and beautiful, of all of hockey’s eras. Hell, put an interactive NHL on Fox glowing-puck exhibit next to Lindros’s bust. Few things are so specifically, disgustingly mid-’90s.

“I’m not P.K. Subban,” Shea Weber said when the media in Canada turned its attention to him, “I’m not going to try to be. I’m going to bring my hard work and attitude and try to bring this team some wins. The biggest thing I want to do is win. I know that they’ve got a good base there, obviously one of the best goaltenders in the world, some top-end forwards, and I’m just excited to be joining that group.”

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off the ice, though, howe was a peach

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Gordie Howe was quite possibly the nicest man you ever met — supposing you ever met him. Wayne Gretzky did, and has said just that, many times, including recently, during the sad week following Howe’s death on June 10. “A special man,” said Dan Robson, someone else who encountered Howe in person. He met a lot of people, over the years, and their consensus has been clear: he was a softspoken prince of man, funny and friendly, gentle, generous with his time, humble and cheerful.

Except at work. On the job, he was a different man: cruel and nasty, pitiless, a danger to navigation. “Mean as a rattlesnake,” Paul Henderson said in memoriam. “Tougher than a night in jail,” according to Brian Burke. Carl Brewer: “The dirtiest player who ever lived.”

“Everybody,” reminisced Rod Gilbert, “was scared of him.”

You’d think he hated his work. You’d guess he’d been forced into it, made to keep at it, couldn’t wait to escape. But no, of course not, quite the contrary — everybody knows that Gordie Howe loved the game that he was so dominantly (and malevolently) good at.

The meanness was a piece of the goodness, integral. Which is to wonder, also: could he have been quite so very good if he’d maintained his civilian decorum on the ice without turning on the viciousness?

No. Or, well — who knows. We assume not. If we ask the question at all, that is. Mostly, we don’t. Mostly we — Canadians especially — understand that this is a game, hockey, that demands a certain savagery. He did what he had to do. Howe talked about this, in his way. “Hockey,” he used to say, “is a man’s game.”

The second time Howe tried an autobiography, with Paul Haavardsrud’s assistance, he talked about self-preservation. “Not only was it hard to make the NHL, but once you broke in, you also had to fight like hell to stay there,” they wrote in Mr. Hockey: My Story (2014). “When there were only six teams, every player in the league came prepared to claw over his best friend the second the puck dropped.”

“I play tough,” is something else Howe said, in person, in 1974, “but I never hurt somebody.”

Gordie Howe wasn’t the first hockey player to be cast as a peaceable Jekyll who, donning skates, stepping to the ice, transformed into a remorseless Hyde. Not at all: hockey’s narratives note split personalities going back to the beginning of the organized sport. A few years ago, when I was reading all the hockey books, it became a bit of a hobby for me, collecting up variations on the trope. In most cases it’s framed as both an apology for bad on-ice behaviour. It also usually carries an implicit reassurance that a given player’s tranquil off-ice self is the genuine and governing one.

Don Cherry had another theory, which he framed for George Plimpton. Tiger Williams, Bob Kelly, Dave Schultz, Dan Maloney — they were very much alike in their personalities, he explains in Open Net (1981):

“… quiet off the ice, soft-spoken, and semi-shy. I’ve never seen a tough guy off the ice who was a wild man on, nor have I seen a wild man on the ice behave the same way out on the street. It’s one or the other. I guess if you were wild both on and off the ice, they’d park you away in a loony bin somewhere.”

Included in the pages of my book I had a former Leaf hardman, Kris King, talking about how, in his unintimidating time off the ice, he liked to fish and do a bit of charity work. My thick file also features citations of:

• the late Bob Probert, one of the most fearsome fighters in NHL history, “a classic goon,” in one writer’s phrase, who also had enough of a scoring touch to twice record 20-goal season with Detroit. “He was a teddy bear off the ice,” Jeremy Roenick wrote his autobiography, J.R. (2013), “and a fucking animal on the ice.”

When I played against Probert, he seemed like a wild-eyed, vicious thug. But when I played one season with him in Chicago, my attitude about him changed. He seemed like a gentle giant, a pleasant man with a big heart. If you met him in the dressing room, he would strike you as the guy you would want as your neighbour.

• Dave Schultz, one of the heaviest implements in Philadelphia’s toolbox during the bullyish 1970s. Asked for his opinion of Schultz in early 1975, NHL president Clarence Campbell didn’t hesitate: “He denigrates the sport.” An Associated Press feature from that same spring called Schultz “a Teddy Roosevelt type” who “speaks softly and wields a big stick.”

Off the ice, Schultz is a pussycat. He’s not an arguer. As a matter of fact the so-called ‘hammer’ of the Philadelphia Flyers is more of a peacemaker. His blonde wife, Cathy, says so.

If you were introduced to Dave Schultz without knowing he is a hockey player, you’d probably never guess his vocation. He could be a school teacher, an insurance executive. He comes off a low-key guy.

A year earlier, Dick Chapman of Montreal’s Gazette noted that back home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Schultz filled the hours “with things like jigsaw puzzles, building model ships and golf.”

• Ron Harris, a teammate of Howe’s and of Paul Henderson’s in Detroit in the 1960s. “By far the toughest guy in the league,” Henderson wrote in The Goal of My Life (2012). And:

… just like a lot of tough guys — guys like John Ferguson, for example — he was one of the nicest people in the world off the ice. But put a pair of skates on him, and he would get that glaze in his eyes. It’s kind of like Jekyll and Hyde — guys like that become crazy!

The toughness Ronnie added to our team made him really valuable.

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one week and another: haven’t really looked at it as a concussion

In The Paint: Montreal’s Classic Auctions closed out another big sale last week. Big-money items included a 1980 Miracle-On-Ice U.S.A. number-23 sweater worn by Rob McClanahan (sold for US$$86,220, including a buyer’s premium); four different gold-and-diamond Stanley Cup rings of Billy Smith’s (one of which went for US$ $36,563); a Herb Cain game-worn woolen number-four Bruins’ sweater (US$25,937); and one of Andy Warhol’s iconic 1984 “Wayne Gretzky #99” screenprints signed by both artist and subject (US$$8,249). Also on the block was this 1964 oil painting by brushtender Jacques Plante. Bidding started at US$300 with the final price climbing to US$2,014.

In The Paint: Montreal’s Classic Auctions closed out another big sale last week. Big-money items included a 1980 Miracle-On-Ice U.S.A. number-23 sweater worn by Rob McClanahan (sold for US$$86,220, including a buyer’s premium); four different gold-and-diamond Stanley Cup rings of Billy Smith’s (one of which went for US$ $36,563); a Herb Cain game-worn woolen number-four Bruins’ sweater (US$25,937); and one of Andy Warhol’s iconic 1984 “Wayne Gretzky #99” screenprints signed by both artist and subject (US$$8,249). Also on the block was this 1964 oil painting by brushtender Jacques Plante. Bidding started at US$300 with the final price climbing to US$2,014.

Carey Price is 6 foot 3, reported The Globe and Mail’s Sean Gordon, and his thighs are as stout as 50-year-old timber.

From Stan Butler, who coaches the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, came a tweet last week:

In hockey Choking equals Poor Preparation plus Low Self Confidence. #mentalpreparation

Evgeni Malkin told Sport Express about some of the keys to the success he’s been enjoying in his ninth NHL season. Language was one of them: as soon as English ceased to be a problem, he said, came “looseness and confidence.” Also, he has a good Russian cook now, who prepares soups and pancakes. His fridge, now, is filled with “tasty and familiar food, not the typical American chips and stuff.”

“Thank God,” said Malkin, “all is well and I am happy in life.”

When, last week, Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall traded a defenceman, Kimmo Timonen, to Chicago’s Blackhawks, he said that he was sending them not just a skilled and experienced player, “but a damn good person, too.”

“I’m comfortable and strong,” said Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf.

An entomologist who discovered a new species of wasp in Kenya’s Teita Hills of Kenya, being a Bruins fans, named it Thaumatodryinus tuukkaraski, writes Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Boston Globe. And so Tuukka Rask —

who won the 2014 Vézina Trophy as the best goalie in the National Hockey League — will have the unusual honor of a callout in the scientific journal Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae.

“This species is named after the acrobatic goaltender for the Finnish National ice hockey team and the Boston Bruins, whose glove hand is as tenacious as the raptorial fore tarsus of this dryinid species,” the authors wrote in the paper, which has been accepted and will be published in April.

Robert S. Copeland, an entomologist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi who grew up in Newton, said naming this particular wasp after Rask reflected his admiration for a player who has “had an outstanding career in one of the most difficult positions in sports.”

The name also fit for other reasons. The project that led to the discovery of the species was underwritten by the government of Finland, Rask’s home country. The wasp is yellowish and black, similar to the Bruins’ colors. The grasping front legs of the female have claspers that look vaguely like goalie gloves.

Alert: if you happen to be browsing Player Bios filed by the Detroit Red Wings, and you come across captain Henrik Zetterberg’s he does not, in fact, collect smoke-detectors. The actual wording is this:

OTHER: Hosts guests from local children’s hospitals at DRW home games in his Zetterberg Foundation Suite… Serves as the team spokesperson for the annual smoke detector collection…Scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 2008.

Last month, while Michal Neuvirth was still a goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres, he paid US$2,000 to dive and embellish his distress after Nashville’s Mike Santorelli took a penalty for running into him. Neuvirth, who was trade on Monday to New York’s Islanders, is the first goaltender to pay the price, apparently; he’ll pay more if he does it again, says the NHL, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Headline on an NBC Sports item ahead of Detroit’s game in Anaheim Monday last:

Zetterberg (Jamie Benn head punch) doubtful for tonight

Two days earlier in Dallas it happened, during the second period of a 7-6 win by the Red Wings. Benn took a roughing minor for the punch; Zetterberg played on until the end of the period and missed the third.

Of the game, Pavel Datsyuk said, “We play not really good today. We happy we win.”

Regarding Zetterberg, reporters in a scrum that included Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News asked coach Mike Babcock whether his captain might have a concussion. “Yeah,” he said, “I don’t really know that. I didn’t talk to the guys. Let’s just say he’s got an upper-body injury and I don’t know if he’s fine tomorrow or not fine tomorrow, so we’ll see him tomorrow. We’ll practice tomorrow and then play the following day, so we’ll see where he’s at.”

“You go through this whole range of feelings when things aren’t going well,” said Cam Neely, president of the Boston Bruins, for whom he once used to skate the wing. The team’s season, if you haven’t been paying attention, has been lacklustrous. “I’ve been frustrated. I’ve had some anger tossed in there. And now, for the first time, I’ve landed on disappointed.”

Detroit GM Ken Holland: “He got punched in the head, didn’t feel great after the game, so anytime you have any kind of head injury, you don’t feel good and we’re not going to put you in the lineup.”

From Ken Dryden, writing in this month’s Walrus about Scotland’s referendum, tells of visiting the house in Harwick, in Scotland, that his ancestors left in 1834 to come to Canada. A man named Norman Huggan lives there now; afterwards, Dryden went to a local pub called the Waverley.

Longtime NHL referee (ret’d) Kerry Fraser wrote about Benn’s punch in his column on TSN.ca, specifically the question of why wasn’t the Stars’ captain punished with more than the merest minor penalty.

Historically and currently a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head of an opponent is roughing. Roughing is a minor altercation that is not worthy of a major penalty to either participant. (An altercation is a situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized). A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who strikes an opponent with his hand or fist. (Rule 51.1)

In reviewing this altercation that resulted from a Detroit end zone face-off, the initial push-off and subsequent glove punch that Jamie Benn administered to the head/helmet of Henrik Zetterberg fell completely within the parameters of this roughing rule. The altercation began as a result of Zetterberg tying up Benn with a stick between the legs and a left-hand shoulder wrap after the Stars captain won the draw back toward the top of the face-off circle.

Benn attempted a ‘crow-hop’ to break free from Zetterberg’s restraint/interference to get to the front of the net without success. As the shot and eventual save was made by Jimmy Howard, Benn created separation with a forearm push and subsequent glove punch to the lower right side of Zetterberg’s helmet. Unless there is a change in the rule and operating procedure, this play will continue to be enforced as a minor penalty for roughing. Continue reading

this week: encore des maux de tête et des raideurs au cou

rangers americans

New York, New York: It was Rangers versus Americans that night at Madison Square Garden, December 16, 1937, with the visiting team winning 2-0, which is to say, the Rangers. “A speedy, well-played contest that was packed with action,” reported The New York Times. It was Ching Johnson’s first game as an American after 11 years as a Ranger, and he almost scored. Here Rangers’ goalie Dave Kerr smothers the puck in front of John Gallagher. Tailing him are Rangers Lynn Patrick (9) and Ott Heller (3), with the Americans Sweeney Schriner (11) following up with Art Coulter. Tussling in front: Cecil Dillon of the Rangers and the Americans’ Hap Emms, the latter in his only shift of the game. According to The Times, Toronto manager Conn Smythe was in the house and at the end of the game offered the Rangers’ boss, Lester Patrick, $20,000 to sell his son Lynn to the Leafs. The answer was no.

Jay Feaster lost his job this week as GM of the Calgary Flames. Stepping up in his place was Brian Burke, whose torrid hair made big news when he went to meet the press.

“We want black-and-blue hockey here, that’s what we do in Alberta,” Burke mentioned. “We’ve got to be big and more truculent — I know you’re all waiting for the word, there it is. I want a little more hostility out there than what I’m seeing right now.”

He said he wasn’t kissing babies, i.e.: “I’m not running for office. This is about winning hockey games. And I have to take the steps that I think are going to lead us to win the most hockey games we can win.”

“I’m tellin the real world what goes on,” is something Don Cherry said, this week.

Bob Cole watched a Chicago goalie take the net for his first NHL minutes in Toronto on Saturday night, Kent Simpson was his name, 21, from Edmonton, the score was 5-2 for the Leafs and Finnish rookie Antti Raanta had done all that he could do for the Blackhawks, and the first shot that Toronto took, it was Joffrey Lupul, passed Simpson by, and Cole said, “Ya gotta feel sad for that young man.”

Brian Burke: “Easier to fill out the roster with bangers than skill players. Anyone can paint a barn.”

In New York, the Rangers continued to falter. Katie Strang of ESPN heard about it from defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “The hockey gods are testing us,” he told her.

Larry Brooks from The New York Post wrote about the Rangers’ Derek Stepan who, in his struggles, hadn’t scored a goal in ten games. A non-factor, Brooks called him. Maybe was he, quote, playing his way off the U.S. Olympic Team?

“Enough is enough,” Stepan said. “I have to score.”

About his team, he said this: “Our confidence is really fragile. We’re so fragile.” Continue reading

strach’s gretz

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Number of sticks Strach says Wayne Gretzky gave away each year of his career: 700.

According to Strach, autographs Gretzky signed each day during that same career: 200.

Strach? Gretzky’s pal Al Strachan, former sportswriter for The Globe and Mail and Toronto’s Sun, whose new book, 99, contains many pieces of information that you didn’t know not to mention all the quotes you’ve never heard.

How many pieces? Thousands, Strach says.

Quotes? An equal number.

Number of sticks all those giveaways add up to, mathwise, over Gretzky’s 30-year professional career: 14,000.

Autographs: 1,460,000.

Assistance Gretzky gave to Strach over the years: Virtually limitless.

Frequency with which Strach says he’s made fun of Gretzky face-to-face: Often.

And in print? Never.

Number of temper tantrums Gretzky has had, ever, it says here: Zero.

Number of jabs, digs, and/or sneers, both head-on and side-swiping, of which NHL commissioner Gray Bettman is the target: 6, at least.

Vertebrae Gretzky injured in his career: T6, C5.

Age at which he started skating: 2 ½.

Number of goals he scored in his first year playing organized hockey: 1.

Number of goals he scored in his fifth year: 378.

Number of chin-ups Gretzky can do: 2.

Unflattering references herein to former NHL president John Ziegler: 1.

Plenty of disdain for, also: Stan Fischler, Brian Burke, the media sharks, Andy Murray, Pat Quinn, Ed Snider, Chris Gratton, Marc Crawford, Bob Nicholson.

Price Gretzky paid for his first car, a used Pontiac Trans-Am, in 1978: $3,800.

Amount of Gretzky’s signing bonus that year from the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA: $25,000.

Amount Toronto GM Cliff Fletcher offered Gretzky in 1996 to sign with the Leafs: $3 million a year.

Guy who nixed the deal: Leafs’ owner Steve Stavro.

Other team Gretzky was willing to sign with, except for they blew it: Vancouver.

Blame: Pat Quinn.

What anyone who knows Gretzky at all knows about the notion that he’d risk his reputation for a relatively small endorsement fee from a stick manufacturer, or ever get involved in sports betting: He never would.

What Marty McSorley used to let other teams know: “You go after Gretz and you’re going to get hurt. You may get hurt so bad that I’ll get suspended, but I don’t care. You should, though.”

Dave Semenko’s preferred method to deliver the same message: “A stony — and scary — glare.”

Cost, per person, to participate in Gretzky’s summertime Las Vegas fantasy camp with which he raises money for the good causes supported by his foundation: $11,999.

The craziest thing about pro sports, according to Gretzky: “If you don’t play with confidence, you can’t play.”

Theoren Fleury’s (possibly derisive) thoughts on the 1998 Olympic semi-final in which Canada lost in a shoot-out to the Czech Republic: “Perhaps next time, they can set up a Scrabble board at centre ice and we’ll play Scrabble to see who wins.”

Whether he admits it or not, guy responsible for not selecting Gretzky to shoot in that crushing loss: Marc Crawford.

What Gretzky says: “I really don’t believe I would have made any difference.”

According to Strach, number of goals/points Gretzky would register in a season if he were playing in today’s NHL: 130, 300.

Gretzky’s Q score: the highest of any hockey player.

His impression of Queen Elizabeth II? “Really nice.”

Number of days he works as a spokesman for TD Bank: 10/year.

Does he favour enlarging hockey’s net, to help with scoring? “No chance. That would be criminal.”

Thoughts on head hits and the scourge of concussions? Not included.

Whether there’s a place in the game for fighting? No comment.

Number of times it should be mentioned (and is) that Gretzky is a better human being than he ever was a hockey player: Twice.

99 
Gretzky: His Game, His Story
Al Strachan, assisted by Wayne Gretzky
(Fenn/M&S, 324 pp., $32.95)

(Photo courtesy of The Want List http://www.flickr.com/photos/hockeymedia/)

this week: we are talking about my brain

habs

Of referees, Alex Ovechkin said, “Right now you can’t say nothing to them. Even if you’re captain, even if you’re not a captain, even if you’re the fan, you’re still gonna get two minutes.”

Chicago played 24 games, soaring up to the top of the Western Conference standings and onto the cover of Sports Illustrated, who said they’d saved hockey. Then they lost this week to Colorado. “I’ll join the chorus,” wrote Gare Joyce. “What the hell is wrong with the Blackhawks?”

Regarding Sports Illustrated and that cover, lots of people (or at least Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports), said: puh-leeze and (more or less) Are you kidding me? and Thanks a lot but just because Americans non-fans weren’t paying attention to hockey doesn’t that it needed saving when they finally noticed what Chicago was doing.

Told that Toronto’s population had surpassed Chicago’s to take fourth place on the list of largest North American cities, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Go Blackhawks.” Well, his office did, anyway.

Kevin Bieksa told The Vancouver Sun that his groin felt fine.

“I love The Hockey Song,” said Ken Dryden. On the day of a memorial service for Stompin’ Tom Connors held at Peterborough’s Memorial Centre, Dryden recalled meeting the singer for the first time at rink in Huntsville, Ontario, in a room “that months after the season had ended still smelled like a hockey bag — like 20 hockey bags.”

Ovechkin: “Of course some refs don’t like some personalities on our team, but anyway, you have to respect us. We’re emotional, we’re in the game. When we say something bad to linesmen or bad to referees, we can’t give them two minutes when they yell at me or they yell at coaches or yell somebody. It’s kind of position when they have to give us a break.”

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma talked about the concussion Evgeni Malkin doesn’t have. “There is not a concern,” he said. “Just an upper-body injury.”

For his part, Sidney Crosby said he didn’t mind if Malkin ends up making more money than him, Crosby, when he, Malkin, signs his new contract. Malkin’s. Continue reading

babes

One Babe And Another: Gordie Howe with a Ruth impersonator.

It wasn’t the hockey players they were trying to impress in 1925 when they called Bullet Joe Simpson the Babe Ruth of hockey. If they’d wanted to do that, they would have announced he was the Cyclone Taylor of hockey or maybe the Scotty Davidson. To some people who saw him play, Davidson was the best ever, barring none, which is intriguing to hear because, well — Scotty Davidson? But: Babe Ruth. 1925 was the year that bootlegger Big Bill Dwyer and his buddies bought the roster of the Hamilton Tigers and replanted it in Manhattan as the New York Americans. Tex Rickard needed a new attraction to fill his Madison Square Garden and hockey, he and Colonel John Hammond had decided, was it. To a New Yorker who’d never seen a game before, Cyclone Taylor wasn’t going to mean much. Everybody understood the dominance of Ruth, the swagger of the most famous Yankee of all — which still doesn’t explain how the team came to have two Babe Ruths playing for them that year. Continue reading