zarley zalapski, 1968—2017

Bad news today from the NHL: former defenceman Zarley Zalapski has died at the age of 49. Born in Edmonton, he played 12 NHL seasons, mostly for the Calgary Flames, though he also skated for Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal, and Philadelphia. “I played defence,” he once recalled, “’cause we were short defenceman.” His father disagreed: as Zarley’s earliest coach, Len Zalapski said he’d consigned his son to the blueline. “I always had a theory that defencemen get more ice time.”

Long before Ken Hitchcock found his way to the Stars’ bench in Dallas, he cut a 15-year-old Zalapski from his team in Sherwood Park, Alberta. (The coach confessed his regret, later.) In 1984 the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux first overall, and they followed that up in ’85 by claiming Craig Simpson. Zalapski was next: Pittsburgh made him their first-rounder in ’86, fourth overall. He also wore the maple leaf, patrolling bluelines for several Team Canadas. At the 1986 Izvestia tournament in Moscow, he was voted top defenceman ahead of Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov. At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Calgary (Canada finished fourth), he joined a defensive corps that also counted Randy Gregg and Trent Yawney. “I’ve never really expected anything out of hockey,” Zalapski said in those years. “It really didn’t matter as long as I kept at it, kept enjoying it.”

The name? His father borrowed that from his favourite golfer, Kermit Zarley. “It’s always worthwhile if you have a unique name,” Len Zalapski said.

 

this week: des mauvaises performances, ça va arriver

img007J.T. Miller’s mother had a hard time getting to grips with the fans at Madison Square Garden who were chanting her son’s name after he scored a goal on his first NHL shift. 

“I don’t know what happened,” said Toronto defenceman Mark Fraser when he was asked whether his teammate Mikhail Grabovski had bitten Montreal’s Max Pacioretty or not. “It’s the game. In the heat of the moment guys react differently.”

“I don’t know,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said, a couple of times, in an interview with Gare Joyce from Sportsnet magazine, who found the Oilers’ young centreman to be “open, relaxed and unfailingly polite” as well as “almost comically soft-spoken.”

“This one is tough to explain,” said Matjaz Kopitar, coach of the Slovenian national team (and Anze’s dad) after his team qualified for next year’s Olympics. “We are a miracle.”

“Did you guys see Pavel Datsyuks goal tonight?” tweemled @GabeLandeskog92. “I don’t care what team you cheer for, that’s a sick goal. Wow.” Continue reading