andy hebenton, 1929—2019

For a full obituary of Andy Hebenton, the durable former Rangers winger who died on January 29 at the age of 89, I’ll refer you here, to The New York Times. Born in Winnipeg, Hebenton would go on to compile a record of remarkable reliability, playing 16 straight seasons in the minors and the NHL without missing a game. Starting with the Rangers in 1955, he was a steady scorer who won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1957. His NHL ironman streak of 630 consecutive games stood until Garry Unger of the St. Louis Blues surpassed it in 1976. As of today, Hebenton stands eleventh on a league’s list that’s headed by Doug Jarvis and his 964 consecutive games. Active players ahead of Hebenton as of today are Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau, and Keith Yandle.

(Image: Credit: Louis Jaques, Library and Archives Canada/e002343734)

newsy’s freak stick is to be examined

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Idolized: A cousin of Newsy Lalonde’s painted this portrait of Canadiens’ Hall-of-Fame centreman, the story goes. Montreal’s Classic Auctions sold it for just over C$200 in 2007.

The slap that Shea Weber puts into his shot has a history of wreckage. Pucks he’s propelled have torn through nets at the Vancouver Olympics and busted out endboards in Nashville. He’s broken Chris Osgood’s mask. Bones, too, several of which have belonged to teammates whose dangerous duty it was to stand in front of a net Weber was aiming at. Martin Erat broke a leg that way when Weber played for Nashville, and Jordin Tootoo a foot. Weber is in Montreal now, and the breakages continue. Last week, his slapshot smashed Brendan Gallagher’s hand. He’s out for eight weeks.

Investigating Weber’s assets earlier this month, The Globe and Mail’s Sean Gordon described his on-ice demeanor as “Mars, the god of war, maybe, only with a migraine.” Heavy and high-flying, Weber’s shot, Gordon wrote, is “terrifying” and a “demoralizer.” He asked Carey Price about it. “So fluid and smooth,” the Montreal goaltender said, “and just so, so hard.”

Rod Gilbert once noted that Boom-Boom Geoffrion and Rocket Richard would sometimes bash pucks off the boards so hard that you’d have to cover your ears. Weber’s shot, Gordon writes, has a similar quality — “it sounds different than other players’ hitting the boards on the occasions his rangefinder is off.”

What is it that makes the Weber shot so powerful? Size (6’4” and 230 pounds) matters, and muscle. Montreal captain Max Pacioretty told Gordon that you have to be a very fast skater to have a shot like that, and also mentions “body control.”

Weber himself isn’t much help. He can’t really say how he acquired the shot. “Just repetition, I guess,” he told Gordon.

His stick is a factor, its stiffness in particular. Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel, famously, uses a customized Easton that’s believed to have a flex rating down around 70, which gives the shaft the pliability of a whip and makes his shot (as James Mirtle has written) one of the hardest-to-stop in the world. Winnipeg’s exceptional rookie Patrick Laine uses an 87 flex.

Many NHLers tend toward a stick in the 100 flex range. Weber’s is well beyond that. In a game this month against Toronto, Weber broke a stick with a flex of 122 cross-checking a trespasser Leaf in the Montreal slot. “You need to be a strong man to use that thing,” Carey Price told Sean Gordon.

There are heavier sticks in the NHL, but not many. Zdeno Chara’s, for one. His, as you might guess, is longer than anyone else’s in the league. On skates Chara towers almost seven feet over the ice, which is why he gets an exemption from the NHL’s limit on stick-length. Fifty-three inches is the rulebook maximum; Chara’s Warrior is said to wander on for 65.

On the ice, that means it’s ubiquitous, as Jonathan Toews told Nicholas Cotsonika of Yahoo! in 2013. “I don’t know what to compare his reach to,” the Chicago captain said. “It’s tough to get away from him. On his half of the rink, he’s going to get a piece of you somehow.”

At that length, Chara’s sticks have to be exceptionally stiff. According to Boston’s equipment manager, Keith Robinson, they’re typically 150 to 155 flex. If Weber’s stick is unyielding, Chara’s (as Justin Bourne has written for The Score) “is basically a gigantic piece of rebar.”

All of which leads, inevitably, to a headline from The Vancouver Daily World in December of 1921:

lead-in-his-stick

Sounds like a salacious euphemism. Maybe that’s as the sub-editor intended. In fact, it’s a faithful description of the story it tops. As is this one, from The Ottawa Journal, across the country:

newsys-stick

Newsy Lalonde was 34 that year, and pretty much at the end of his playing days. He’d been a superstar in both hockey and lacrosse for years by then. On the ice, he was Montreal’s almost-everything: coach, captain, primary offensive weapon. If he was slowing down as an NHL force, it wasn’t obvious: when the 1920-21 season came to an end, he led the league in scoring.

Senators’ manager Tommy Gorman tried to pry him from Montreal in the fall of ’21, bring him west to play for Ottawa, but that didn’t work out. The news of his newfangled stick surfaced, if only briefly, just as the new season was about to get underway. Just how it all worked out, and whether he was permitted to use it, isn’t clear: I can’t find any follow-ups to these original articles.

What they say is that Lalonde had designed and built his own stout stick. The description isn’t much: “Lead is filtered in,” the papers tell us, “and it is balanced to an ounce when held from the centre.” With no evidence to the contrary, I say we have to accept that this was all about improving his puckhandling. Lalonde does sound like he wishes the news had never leaked: he wouldn’t say, The Globe mirthlessly reported, “what this stick would do in a game.”

Last we know, the league was studying the case. I’d surmise they nixed Lalonde’s bespoke stick, but I don’t know for certain.

Canadiens opened their season a few nights later in Toronto against the St. Patricks, a.k.a. the Irish. They lost, 5-2. The goal Newsy Lalonde scored in the third period on a pass from Didier Pitre was the least of the news he made, whatever stick he had in hand.

In a game that featured (said The Globe) “much ill-feeling and rough play,” Lalonde was “the storm centre.” Lou Marsh told the tale for The Toronto Daily Star and in his lively narrative next morning, Lalonde was both “wily” and a “human pest.” Early on, he clashed with Toronto defenceman Harry Cameron. There was an encounter, too, with centreman Reg Noble, in which the two men “sassed each other with the good old ash.”

In the second period, Toronto winger Corb Denneny cross-checked Lalonde across the stomach, which provoked the Montreal captain, a few minutes later, to charge Denneny from behind. Marsh’s description is the vivider:

In an Irish rush on goal [Bert] Corbeau knocked Denneny kiting and the Toronto lad spilled Lalonde. Both went sliding into the nets like a varicolored avalanche, with Lalonde riding the prostrate Denneny. In the melee Lalonde’s stick lovingly caressed Denneny’s neck, and Denny did the possum act in the corner. Lalonde was booted for a major penalty despite his protests that it was all an accident. Lalonde shouldn’t have accidents with his truncheon caressing the vicinity of the other fellow’s collar button. It doesn’t seem reasonable.

In the third, before Lalonde scored his goal, he ran into Toronto’s Babe Dye. I’ll let Lou Marsh take it out:

Lalonde spilled Dye and Dye gave a correct imitation of a corpse. While the first aiders were doing resuscitation business and Lalonde was standing around weeping crocodile tears, Denneny sailed across the pond and pucked the famous Canadien one in the famous puss. Lalonde looked as surprised as a bulldog bitten by a gold fish.

this week and others: hammy trpělivě dřel

Jaromir Jagr is the third best forward in hockey history, according to Corey Masisak of nhl.com.

He ran the numbers — they’re here — and that was his finding. “Jagr is by no means the third most iconic forward,” he wrote.

He’s certainly not the third most popular. Critics of the statement above will immediately turn to words like leadership and toughness to try and prove it wrong.

That’s OK, but Jagr’s ability to dominate during his prime, which happened to be one of the toughest eras in the history of the NHL to produce offense, along with his excellence well into his 40s is why he deserves to be considered the best forward not named Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.

“Fuck that,” the owner of the Philadelphia Flyers was saying last week, Ed Snider. Not about Jagr; he’d been asked about patience and building a Stanley Cup-contender, waiting two, three years to compete. Nope, he said: the time is now. Or, at least, next year, since the Flyers won’t be playing in the 2015 playoffs.

“They beat us all over the ice,” is what the Leafs’ coach, Peter Horachek, said after St. Louis waylaid his team by a score of 6-1. “They beat us from the beginning to the end. They beat us all over the place.”

Gordie Howe’s family had a jam-packed 87th birthday planned for him March 31, according to Helene St. James from The Detroit Free Press. All being well, his family had a barbecue planned, and a cake, maybe some catfishing. (He’s living with his daughter, these days, in Lubbock, Texas, where it’s catfish season, apparently.)

Roman Josi is the Erik Karlsson of the West, said his (Josi’s) coach in Nashville, Barry Trotz, if CP’s Stephen Whyno is to be trusted.

Evgeny Romasko became the first Russian-born referee to work an NHL game a few weeks back, lending his whistle to a meeting in Detroit between Red Wings and Oilers. Back home in Russia, former pairs skater looked to the heavens as he hoped that Romasko might land a full-time NHL contract for next year.

“If we compare the first match with Gagarin’s flight,” Zaitsev told RIA Novosti, “the contract for the season with the NHL will be on a scale with the landing of the first man on the moon, even though he was not Russian.”

Ottawa beat the New York Islanders earlier in the month, and after it was over Senators coach Dave Cameron revealed the reason why. “You can’t win in this league without goaltending. Hammy was real good.”

Nearby, Islanders coach Jack Capuano was explaining the loss. “We have to stay the course and grind it out,” he confided. “Our structure has to be there and we have to execute and play with pace. But if you can’t score, you can’t win.”

The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno checked in on Toronto’s Leafs, with particular thoughts on Phil Kessel’s recent defence of his captain.

No. 81 wasn’t wildly off the mark in his extraordinary outburst on behalf of Dion Phaneuf, although the aim was wide. If Kessel wanted to unload on the bitchin’ brigade, he should have targeted the ex-Leafs who’ve found a second career as radio and TV pundits because they’re the most venomous bashers of the bunch, their insider analysis far more scathing than any critical salvo launched by a beat reporter or columnist. And on the evidence, they’re right.

Of the odious tweeters and bloggers nothing more need be said. But it’s still unclear what exactly got Kessel so hot. He ain’t saying. We’re expected to read his mind, which oftentimes seems an empty cavity.

Kyle Turris, Ottawa centreman: “Hammy is standing on his head for us. I can’t even explain how well he’s playing. It’s unbelievable.”

Scott Gomez wrote about his hockey trials and tribulations at The Players Tribune:

Life and hockey kind of mirror each other in the sense that when you’re having good times, it’s difficult to imagine how things will ever go wrong. And when you’re having bad times, well, yeah.

Czech nhl.com was on the story, too:

“Hammy” ale dál trpělivě dřel a postupně se vypracoval v kvalitního gólmana. I díky zdravému sebevědomí a velkému odhodlání. Ostatně dvouletá smlouva od Sens nebyla jen dílem štěstí, nejprve totiž uspěl na zkoušce na jejich farmě v Binghamtonu.

Calgary rookie Johnny Gaudreau talked about what’s working with the high-scoring line he’s on with Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan:

“The chemistry is there. For me, it’s the chemistry. When you get to play with a player or a few players throughout the whole season, you just feel really comfortable with them on and off the ice. You learn more and more about them and where they’re going to be at on the ice and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

“Hammy has been exceptional,” was another thing that Dave Cameron was saying in Ottawa. “Everybody knows that.” Continue reading

what the leafs need: everybody knows

leafage

Toronto Maple Leafs need to change a lot more than just the coach (Ken Campbell, The Hockey News, January 6)

Maple Leafs need to mend divided dressing room (Chris Johnston, Sportsnet.ca, January 8)

Rebuilding Maple Leafs need to get value in a Dion Phaneuf trade (Damien Cox, Toronto Star, January 30)

Emotional James Reimer says Leafs need to play with more “passion” and “resolve.” (Jonas Siegel, TSN1050, February 6)

Don Cherry says the Toronto Maple Leafs need to get tough again. (Mike Johnston, Sportsnet.ca, February 7)

Toronto Maple Leafs need to rebuild, Canadian musician Tom Cochrane says (National Post, February 9)

“We can’t change what happened in the past,” said Robidas. “All we can change is how we play tomorrow. We have to start building a foundation. We have to be a tough team to play against. That is our identity. We have to play fast, we have to compete.” (Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, February 13)

Why the Copyright Board of Canada Needs a Leafs-Style Tear-Down (Michael Geist, michaelgeist.ca, February 15)

Shanahan should emulate Wings in rebuild (Jonas Siegel, TSN.ca, February 16)

Kadri and Gardiner need to make a better impression (David Shoalts, Globe and Mail, February 17)

Foundering Leafs need rebuild architects with creativity, humour (Tim Whitnell, Burlington Post, February 20)

“We need to make some changes. That’s apparent,” said Nonis. “We have some good players that maybe haven’t played to their capabilities this season, that haven’t had the years that we need them to have. But they’re good players. It doesn’t mean we’re going to fire-sale people out. We’re not going to make moves to clean the roster out. We need to get value.” (Toronto Star, February 27)

Toronto Maple Leafs need draft picks while Montreal Canadiens could use defensive depth: What Canadian NHL teams might do on deadline day (Michael Traikos, National Post, March 1)

Maple Leafs need to find players who want to wear blue and white (Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun, March 3)

Might be best for the Maple Leafs to trade Bernier (Stephen Burtch, Sportsnet.ca, March 3)

“He’s a good player, a good guy, everyone likes him. But the things are said about him. People rip for this and that, but you watch him and he tries hard every night. Obviously, it’s not fair and I think it needs to stop. Why does he get the blame?” (Phil Kessel on local Toronto criticism of Dion Phaneuf, March 3)

Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel is entitled to his rant, but he needs to look in the mirror, too (Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun, March 3)

If Phil Kessel would like the other side to really see him, he can start by opening his own eyes (Cathal Kelly, Globe and Mail, March 4)

Toronto Maple Leafs need to be cut ‘down to the bone,’ says former coach Ron Wilson (National Post, March 6)

The Leafs need to develop picks in the right atmosphere. (Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, March 6)

Kessel needs to get off the soapbox and into the boxscore, where he speaks the lingo more eloquently, if not erelong. (Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star, March 7)

Maple Leafs need to look inward for answers (Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet.ca, March 8)

Toronto needs Kadri to take next step (James Mirtle, Globe and Mail, March 9)

Leafs can’t allow Blue & White disease to claim Kadri (Jeff Blair, Sportsnet.ca, March 9)

(Illustration: Tex Coulter)

this week: instead I ate cinnamon buns

Louis, Louis: Toronto-born artist Jeff Molloy lives and works on Gabriola Island, B.C. To see more of his wonderful work, steer over to http://molloy.ca/jeff/. "I create multi-dimensional, multi-sensory works," he says there, "that explore historical and contemporary culture through the use of humour, stereotypes, traits and artifacts." The box above called "Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting and Death for Unsportsmanlike Conduct."

Louis, Louis: Toronto-born artist Jeff Molloy lives and works on Gabriola Island, B.C. To see more of his wonderful work, steer over to http://molloy.ca/jeff/. “I create multi-dimensional, multi-sensory works,” he says there, “that explore historical and contemporary culture through the use of humour, stereotypes, traits and artifacts.” The box above is called “Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting and Death for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.”

From southern Europe, this week, word of an old goalie’s persisting desire: “Martin Brodeur,” noted @icehockeyspain, “aún tiene el gusanillo de jugar y quiere regresar a las pistas.”

Wondered Franklin Steele at Today’s Slapshot: does the NHL have a better line right now than Tarasenko, Schwartz and Lehtera?

Newly indicted Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg remembered growing up in Örnsköldsvik and what he ate there as a young athlete. Sorry, inducted. Inductee Foppa Forsberg said, “I really didn’t eat anything — no meat, no fish — and at school I ate maybe on two days out of five. I didn’t like anything, so instead I ate cinnamon buns when I got home. The rule was max three buns, never four. And when I got to middle school and we were allowed to leave the yard during breaks, I could ride my bike home and eat pancakes Mom had made and put in the freezer. I didn’t start to eat properly until high school, so I went from nothing to everything.”

Goaltender Dominik Hasek is another new Famer to enter the Hall. Chris Ryndak of Sabres.com caught us up on what he’s been up to since leaving the ice in 2012:

In retirement, he says he’s active with the Czech Republic’s Hockey Hall of Fame, enjoys playing other sports — that may include bike rides in the country — and has some business ventures he’s invested in. He also has a new English Setter that he’s looking forward to spending more time with.

The Leafs won a couple of games this week, but before that they lost three in a row. Two of those, to Buffalo and Nashville, were whuppings. Towards the end of the 9-2 drubbing by merciless Predators,

The Leafs won a couple of games this week, but before that they lost three in a row. Two of those, to Buffalo and Nashville, were whuppings. Towards the end of the 9-2 drubbing by merciless Predators,

another jersey

Phil Kessel took a Marxian view: it was a question of class. Asked about it at practice next day, he told Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston,

It’s disrespectful, right? Not just to us but to the organization, to all of the Leafs players that have ever played for Toronto. If you want to boo us, but you’re disrespecting all of the great players and the great teams that they’ve had before us here. That’s the way I look at it. I think that’s pretty classless to throw your jersey on the ice like that.

lucic will

was a non-ironic headline in a Boston newspaper this week. (Lucic mostly did.) Continue reading

this week: tonight even tanks won’t help

denis b 1

Once A Dutchie: Denis Brodeur and his 1956 Olympic bronze medal.

Denis Brodeur died this week, the hockey photographer and Olympic goaltender and, of course, Martin’s dad. He was 82. “My father,” Martin wrote in his 2006 memoir, “learned how to play pool on top of an empty Coca-Cola box and didn’t start playing organized hockey as we know it today until he was 16 years old.”

It was Georges Mantha who asked him whether he wanted to play Junior B. His first Junior A game, for Victoriaville, he beat Jacques Plante’s team. He was small, 5’5”, 160 pounds, which may be why he never made it to the NHL but also there was the phone call he missed one night when the New York Rovers, a Rangers’ affiliate, were looking for an emergency goalie and when they couldn’t get Brodeur, they settled for Gump Worsley instead.

From @stats_canada this week: “7% of Canadians are getting tired of talking about hockey but don’t know how to stop.”

Denis Brodeur acquired (his son’s word) 113 stitches across his face over the years, playing mostly maskless.

zinger

Viktor Zinger

Another old goalie who died this week was Viktor Zinger, who backed up Vladislav Tretiak during the 1972 Summit Series. He was 72. He played for CSKA Moscow and Spartak and he won Olympic gold in Grenoble in 1968. He also stopped enough pucks to win the Soviet Union five straight world championships in the years 1965–69.

Sports Illustrated predicted this week that it will have been Chicago over Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup when the season’s all over next June. Sportsnet Magazine agrees. The Hockey News begs to differ: St. Louis will be the one beating Pittsburgh. Which is exactly what EA Sports thinks, too. They ran a computer simulation on their own NHL 14 game to figure it out and, yep, that’s what it’s looking like. A Blues defenceman, Alex Pietrangelo, wins the Conn Smythe Trophy, with Sidney Crosby taking the Hart as leading scorer; Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos winning the Rocket Richard Trophy by scoring 64 goals; and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins getting the Vézina. Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin gets the Calder as superior rookie.

Brodeur père was stopping pucks for the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen in 1955 when they beat the Fort William Beavers to win the Allen Cup and, with it, the job of representing Canada at the Olympics in 1956. Bobby Bauer was the team’s coach. On the outdoor rinks of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Dutchies wore sweaters white and woollen with a green maple leaf on the chest. Also, toques. Continue reading