court watch

Just so we’re clear, Justice Clément Gascon was at no time drafted by any NHL team, ever, and has refrained (so far) from saying he was.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newest nominee, to the Supreme Court of Canada starts his new job next Monday.

His draft year would have been 1979, if he’d gone the hockey route, and flourished. That was a good one for actual hockey talent as opposed to notional: Ray Bourque, Michel Goulet, Mike Gartner, and Kevin Lowe were all selected in the first round.


Will the Supreme Court open its doors to Mr. Justice Marc Nadon? We’ll find out tomorrow, when after months of deliberation the high court rules on whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointee is legally qualified to take the bench.

Justice Nadon's father, Yves, was a minor-league goaltender in Quebec and, later, a respected coach.

Justice Nadon’s father, Yves, was a minor-league goaltender in Quebec and, later, a respected coach.

Nominated in September to fill one of the Supreme Court’s three Quebec seats, Nadon was sworn in early in October — only to step aside when his appointment was decried by Quebec’s National Assembly and challenged in Federal Court. That’s when the federal government asked Justice Nadon’s prospective colleagues to rule on his eligibility. (Subsequently, the Court announced that until the case was decided, he would be barred from entering the building.)

Serious stuff, this, with implications that could keep on reverberating well beyond the Court. It’s enough, almost, to make you nostalgic for that simpler time when Judge Nadon’s biggest worry was fumbling his hockey past in a televised hearing before MPs on Parliament Hill. That was October 2, of course, when he told members of a Commons Committee that he’d been drafted by the Detroit Red Wings at age 14 when, no, in fact, he hadn’t.

“I certainly didn’t lie,” he told The Huffington Post next day, offering a tangled explanation of what he’d really meant, promising that he’d be much more careful when it came to rendering Supreme judgments when — if? — the time came.

Without knowing how it’s going to go tomorrow — and, in legal parlance, without prejudice — the prime minister has to be planning for all eventualities. Herewith, in the spirit of chipping in, a non-definitive list of lawyers who were, definitely, drafted by NHL teams.

• Rod Pacholzuk, d/lw, University of Michigan, picked 202nd overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1978 draft. Never played an NHL game. Law degree from the University of Windsor; civil litigation lawyer with FH&P in Kelowna, B.C. Not much to in the archives on regarding his hockey career — as a rookie for Michigan in 1975 he was projected “to see a lot of ice time.”

• Mike Gillis, lw, Kingston Canadians, picked 5th overall by the Colorado Rockies in 1978. Played 246 games for Colorado and Boston, registering 76 points. Graduated law from Queen’s University. Former hockey agent, now (somewhat beleaguered) GM of the Vancouver Canucks. The Hockey Hall of Fame calls him both “a decent role player” of whom more was expected coming out of junior and “an outstanding two-way worker.”

• Dirk Rueter, d, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, picked 104th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1980 draft. Never played an NHL game. Graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School; corporate lawyer specializing in structured finance, McCarthy Tétrault, Toronto. Possible problem for his judicial hopes that he had a couple of seasons in junior with 100+ penalty minutes?

• Jeff Jackson, lw, Brantford Alexanders, picked 28th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1983. Played 263 games for Toronto, New York Rangers, Quebec, and Chicago, scoring 86 points. Law degree from the University of Western Ontario, practiced with Heenan, Blaikie; now works as an agent for the Orr Hockey Group. “Not blessed with natural scoring ability,” says the Hall of Hockey Fame, but still: “used his speed and size to drive to the net, dig the puck out of the corners, and check the best forwards on the opposition.”

Whether they’d be interested in a job on the Supreme Court or not, the big problem with all of these candidates is that the three seats set aside for Quebec are need to filled by superior trial or appellate court judges or current members of the Quebec bar. Given the general lack of draftees from the province who’ve gone on to legal careers, would the Court expand the limits, maybe, to include Montreal Canadiens alumni? Would that work for everybody? We might need a ruling from the Federal Court on that, but just in case, a couple of Hab goaltending prospects:

• Dave Elenbaas, g, Cornell University, drafted 62nd by Montreal in 1972. Law degree from the University of Toronto, partner at Macmillan specializing in employment and labour relations law. Never played a regular-season NHL game, apparently, though according the Benchwarmers blog, he was a back-up for at least 29 games. He was very impressive in a September, 1976 Forum exhibition win, 7-1 over the Bruins, said The Montreal Gazette. Another Cornell grad had recommended him — as a man and a goalie — to Habs’ scout Ron Caron. Against Boston, Elenbaas made some outstanding saves — although, he said, “I might have made them look a little harder than they really were. I was little nervous so I went down a little quicker than I should have.”

• Ken Dryden, g, another Cornell grad, drafted 14th overall by the Bruins in 1964. His law degree was from McGill University. He played 397 NHL games plus another 112 in the playoffs, won a Calder and a Conn Smythe, five Vézinas, six Stanley Cups, ascended to the Hall of Fame in 1983. “Dryden was better than we had ever dreamed,” said Bobby Orr in 1971 when the Canadiens upset the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs before going on to win the Cup. That was also the year that Boston’s Phil Esposito called him a “thieving giraffe.”

Finally, a couple of former NHL players do have experience as international jurists, although neither one earned a law degree: Rons Duguay (1980) and Greschner (1988) both served as judges at the Miss Universe Pageant, in South Korea and Japan, respectively.

this week: honestly, the ice don’t have much give

Advil® is the new Official Pain Reliever of the National Hockey League and the 30 Team Athletic Trainers, Pfizer announced this week. I can’t tell you whether there was an old Official Pain Reliever, before, but according to a Simmons Market Research study (says Pfizer), NHL fans are younger, more educated, more affluent, and access content through digital means more than any other sport.

“The NHL deal provides a terrific platform for driving the launch of our new, fast acting Advil® line,” said Brian Groves, U.S. Chief Marketing Officer at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. “Advil® is built to be as fast as it is tough. We see the players and the League as embodying the fast acting Advil® promise of fast recovery from tough pain.”

The news on Wednesday, from The Globe and Mail: “Newest Supreme Court judge Marc Nadon skates through nomination hearing.”

So that was a relief.

The new NHL season had started on Tuesday. The commissioner, Gary Bettman, told Peter Mansbridge from the CBC that if fighting were a light-switch, it was broken, you couldn’t just turn it off. Or … no. He said it isn’t a light-switch, because what would be the point of a light-switch that doesn’t turn off? Or … even if electricians found a way to put a light-switch on fighting, in Bettman’s NHL, no-one would be allowed to touch it, other than to turn it on. Once it was on, it would be staying on.

The Chicago Blackhawks got their Stanley Cup rings this week. Each one weighs 93.0 grams, with diamonds and gemstones numbering 260 for a total of some 14.68 carats.

“Wow,” tweeted Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul on Tuesday, as Toronto went to Montreal. “Even the US government is shutting things down to watch Leafs/Habs on opening night. What a spectacle!”

From Canadiens’ owners Geoff Molson that same afternoon: “Ce soir, on va demander aux partisans de chanter l’hymme national … tonight, we will ask our fans to sing the national anthem …”

Toronto won. There were five fights, and no light-switches. Throwing a punch at Toronto’s Colton Orr, George Parros of the Canadiens fell and hit the ice face-first. He was knocked out. And went to hospital.

 “You never want to see a guy get hurt like that,” Orr said. “I just hope he’s all right. It happened fast. I slipped and he came on top of me. The ice isn’t going to give.”

“It was unfortunate,” said Toronto’s coach, Randy Carlyle. “Those are tough things.”

Nazem Kadri: “Honestly, the ice don’t have much give.”

“I see more players get hurt from hits, collisions, from pucks, than I do from fights,” said Josh Gorges.  “I don’t think saying because a player got hurt in a fight that now we have to talk about taking fighting away. And I bet if you ask George, he’ll be the first to agree with me on that one, too.” Continue reading

kerfuffle in the court

refs_2Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed the newest member of the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday, having decided that of all the former 14-year-olds never drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1964, Mr. Justice Marc Nadon is the best one for the job.

A kerfuffle, The Toronto Star is calling it this morning. Justice Nadon told The Huffington Post that he was sorry to have used the word “drafted.” It was a term he’d employed “very loosely.”

“I wouldn’t,” he said, “have used that word if I thought this was going to be — for me drafted meant, was really meant in a really wide sense.”

“I certainly didn’t lie.”

Lessons learned, then? Justice Nadon told The Star he’d be much more careful in his judgments. That seems important, a good start.

Continue reading

marc nadon’s hockey career: that’s not what I meant

The Huffington Post tracked down Justice Marc Nadon today to ask him about his account, yesterday, of what might have been if he’d chosen a career on ice rather than heading for the bench. As he tells Althia Raj and Ryan Maloney, here, he never meant to say that he was drafted drafted:

On Thursday, Nadon confirmed he was never officially drafted to the National Hockey League.

“I wasn’t trying to say that I was going to play for the Red Wings that year or something to that effect,” the Federal Court of Appeal Justice told The Huffington Post Canada.

Nadon said his father had told him that he would be part of the Red Wings organization, and if in a few years he became a Wayne Gretzky-type, they would have a grab on him.

“But I never became a Wayne Gretzky so it never went any further,” he said.

On Wednesday, Nadon told an Ad Hoc Commons committee reviewing his appointment that he was drafted by the NHL team as a young teen.

“During my youth, my ambition in life was to become a hockey player, which may seem surprising looking at me but those days were different. In fact, I was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings when I was 14,” he said.

“However, around the age of 16, my father read me the riot act and said that I had to decide whether I wanted to study or play hockey. I opted for studying. It now seems I made the right decision,” the justice went on to say.

Nadon told HuffPost Thursday: “I certainly didn’t lie.”

“I wouldn’t have dared say that at 14 that Red Wings were going to consider me for their hockey team the next year. I would have been an idiot to say that. That’s not what I meant,” he said.

Nadon only meant that he was going to be part of the Detroit Red Wings’ organization, he said.

“I was 14, my father was handling all this and he had told me that I would be part of the Red Wings’ organization. So I used ‘draft’ in the way that I would have used it in those days, loosely termed to say that I would be part of the organization. The exact details I never knew exactly. So it wasn’t a draft the way they are now, that you are drafted and you go and play for the Red Wings or — no, no, I was 14. So, it was employed very loosely. Not to imply that I would play for the Red Wings, that somehow I was part of the Wings’ organization and I was a decent hockey player that’s what really what it was meant to say, nothing further.”

nadon update

Some thoughts from Lloyd Davis, book editor extraordinaire and secretary of the Society for International Hockey Research:

I doubt that he was drafted by the Junior B Detroit Jr. Red Wings. It was still the sponsorship era, so I don’t think the OHA had drafts. Otherwise, a guy like Paul Henderson wouldn’t have had to weigh three offers in 1960. (He tells the story that he ended up choosing Boston, where he figured he’d play the most, but on the way to Niagara Falls to sign his C form and try out for the Flyers, he got intercepted by the GM in Hamilton, where the Red Wings had their junior team.) It was still the era when Boston would sponsor the entire Parry Sound minor hockey system in order to secure the rights to Orr, something Detroit did in Stratford to get Nick Libbett.

 A move from Montreal to Detroit would’ve raised residency issues. In 1968, when Marcel Dionne left the Drummondville Rangers to play in St. Catharines, family members had to move with him to satisfy the OHA that he was in fact living in Ontario. Even in the ’70s, when Gretzky left Brantford to play Junior B for the Toronto/Seneca Nationals, there was a legal wrangle with the sanctioning bodies. So it’s highly unlikely that a Junior B team in Detroit drafted Nadon. If the NHL Red Wings had any interest in him, they’d likely have secured his rights and put him on the St. Jerome Junior A team.

judge nadon of detroit

Denis Smith played midget hockey for the Edmonton Canadians in the late 1940s. He was a sometime left winger, though he also played on defence. Later, when he captained the Oxford University Blues, his nickname was Smoothy.

As a Canadian in Edmonton, he was property of the Montreal Canadiens. That’s how it worked in those years. You signed a C form, entailing your rights to whichever NHL club your team had its affiliation.

I think this must be what we’re talking about, more or less, with Justice Marc Nadon, the government’s new nominee for the Supreme Court who told a parliamentary committee yesterday that he was “drafted” by the Detroit Red Wings in the early 1960s. It’s a different era: C forms had been phased out by then. But as Lloyd Davis from the estimable Society for International Hockey Research points out, the Junior A St. Jérôme Alouettes and its midget affiliates were sponsored by Detroit through the Red Wings’ AHL farm team in Pittsburgh. Which means that if Nadon had decided to pursue his hockey dreams, he would have done so in the Red Wings’ system.

Denis Smith, who’s my dad, thought he’d like to play for another local team, the Edmonton Athletic Club, but to make the switch, he would have had to sit out a season. He wasn’t quite ready to do that until 1948 when his Canadians fell out of the running for the playoffs with a few games still remaining in the regular season. The team’s management decided that that was it, they wouldn’t play those last games, done and done. “They took our uniforms back,” my dad was saying today. “That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

drafting judge nadon

If Stephen Harper’s new nominee to the Supreme Court wasn’t drafted at the age of 14 by the Detroit Red Wings, should he have been?

That’s a good question for hockey retroactivists. First, though, a quick review of what the Honourable Marc Nadon, 64, told a special House of Commons committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday afternoon. Let the record show (via Susana Mas of CBC News):

Nadon said he came from humble beginnings, the son of parents who valued the importance of post-secondary education — an opportunity they lacked.

The new justice said that as a youth his ambition in life was to play hockey. Nadon said he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 14.

Nadon conceded he is neither an Ottawa Senators fan nor a Montreal Canadiens fan, an admission he joked could be “fatal” in the nation’s capital.

He said his father read him “the riot act” around age 16 and forced him to decide whether he wanted to study or play hockey.

Nadon chose the books over Canada’s national winter pastime.

Or in his own words:

During my youth, my ambition in life was to become a hockey player, which may seem surprising looking at me, but those days were different. In fact, I was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings when I was 14.

That’s all clear enough. But as court documents testify — sorry, that should be exhaustive online hockey databases — the evidence shows (via, et al.) that Nadon wasn’t, in fact, drafted at all, by Detroit or any NHL club.

Born on September 7, 1949, Justice Nadon would have been 13 in 1963, the year the NHL convened its first amateur draft. Before that, clubs sponsored junior-league teams to which  they herded their young prospects. Players signed contracts, known as “forms.” An A form got you a try-out, a B gave the team the option to sign a player for a bonus. The C committed your professional rights to the team in question. You had to be 18 to sign that one, or if your parents were willing, they could do it for you.

Montreal had the first ever pick and they used it to take Garry Monahan from St. Michael’s. Detroit took his teammate next, Peter Mahovlich. After 19 more picks, that was all for 1963.

In 1964, the routine was the same: the draft was in June, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, at the end of the NHL’s annual meeting. Explained Montreal’s Gazette:

Each club took its limit of four, meaning the switching of rights to 24 potential stars at $2,000 for each player.

The rights can be exercised on a youngster’s 18th birthday. Most of the kids involved are 16 years old now.

The draft meeting was closed and no names were announced.

We know now that Detroit had the first pick overall with which they chose Claude Gauthier, a Rosemount midget from Quebec. Not an auspicious crop of first-rounders, the class of 1964: only one in six ended up playing in the NHL, Tom Martin for Toronto, who got into three games. Continue reading

still undrafted: marc nadon’s hockey memories

Stephen Harper’s Supreme Court nominee told a parliamentary committee today that he was “drafted” by the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 14 — but the records don’t seem to agree with Federal Court of Appeal judge Marc Nadon.

As first reported on and picked up on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Justice Nadon’s hockey memories have been causing confusion late today.

The first NHL amateur draft took place in June of 1963, when Justice Nadon was just 13. The following year Detroit selected Claude Gauthier first over all. While Judge Nadon may have been scouted by the Red Wings. he may have been praised, and even promised big things. But there’s no indication in any hockey reference that a Marc Nadon was ever drafted at any point by any NHL team.

So did Justice Nadon misspeak or, like many of us, just remember his long-gone hockey career as having been more glorious than it actually was?

More to come.