Pablum Child: Born on this date in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia (it was a Friday there, then), Pittsburgh Penguins captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby turns 32 today. Heading into fifteenth NHL season, the former Kid has accumulated 1,216 regular-season points in 943 games, which ties him (pointswise) with Jeremy Roenick for 43rd on the all-time leaderboard. Among active players, he’s second only to Joe Thornton, who’s notched 1,478 in 1,566 games. Crosby has added a further 186 points in 164 playoff games.
The depiction here? Yes. Right. It was rendered in baby food, by artist Scott Modryzynski, back when he was more regularly crafting hockey logos and portraits out of foodstuffs. (Some of those sublime creations, ketchup-, pasta-, and gum-based, we’ve featured before, here and here and over here.) “It was the height of the ‘Fuck Crosby’ times,” Modryzynski was saying today, “so I was kinda poking fun at him for all the whining he was notorious for back then. Honestly, I don’t follow as closely as I did (a combo of starting a family and being soured by too many lockouts have steered me away from the NHL a little), but I’m under the impression he’s shed that image on his inevitable road to the Hall of Fame.”
You can find more of Modryzynski’s remarkable work at mojoswork.com.
With Max Pacioretty scoring a late goal last night to lead Montreal to a fourth straight win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens were the first team to advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. A few stray notes from the happy city on the morning after:
• Along with all those expectant fans, Montreal’s police were standing by for victory last night … with riot gear. “In past years,” The Gazette noted, “when the Canadiens advanced to the second round of the playoffs, celebrations on the street turned violent.”
• The Catholic Church in Montreal is encouraging fans to support their annual fundraising drive at www.laflammadesseries.ca. For as long as the Canadiens stay in the hunt, the faithful can donate a dollar and light a virtual candle in aid of the Canadiens’ playoffs hopes.
• In La Presse, under the headline
Le retour des Glorieux?
Philippe Cantin’s column wasn’t waiting for the end of the game to wonder whether Montreal’s salad days are in sight again.
• Raymond Pacioretty was at last night’s game, watching his son in person for only the second time this season. Pacioretty the younger hadn’t been scoring, and as he told Pat Hickey of The Gazette, having his dad on hand was a help. “He’s always been supportive and he always says the right things, and he calmed me down tonight. He said: ‘You’ve scored 39 goals this year and maybe you should be more confident.’ I had no confidence. I was hitting posts, missing breakaways, missing empty nets. It shows that the difference between scoring goals and not scoring goals is so mental.”
• At Le Journal de Montréal, Réjean Tremblay was ready to book the Bell Centre anthem-singer for round two:
Let’s get to the big question. Yes, it must be Ginette Reno at the Bell Centre for the Canadiens’ first home match against Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings.
• Would it be rude to mention how much teams have, historically, enjoyed being swept out of the playoffs by the Habs? Well, maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word. It is true that when teams lost to those magnificent Canadiens’ teams of the 1970s, their coaches knew that they’d been beaten by a superlative bunch. Here’s Leafs’ coach Roger Nielson after Toronto lost their semi-final in four straight in to the eventual Cupwinners:
“Nobody likes to lose, but if you have I’d rather lose to a great team like the Canadiens.”
In 1976, they swept the Cup incumbents from Philadelphia in the Final. Frank Brown from The Associated Press described the scene after the Habs clinched the deal with a 5-3 away win:
Through the crush of newsmen, tired but happy hockey players and the usual number of hangers-on, a youth pushed his way up to Montreal Canadiens Coach Scotty Bowman and handed him an envelope.
The emissary was Rejean Shero whose father’s hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, had just relinquished the Stanley Cup.
Bowman, squeezed for space, opened the envelope and read the words: “Congratulations on such a fantastic season,” it said. “You’re truly champions — not only of the league, but of the world.”
The letter was signed, “Fred.”
Amidst sweaty uniforms, equipment discarded for the final time this National Hockey League season and standing on a floor doused by champagne, the Canadiens’ coach looked that boy and said, “Thanks.”
Rejean was thirteen at the time. Now 51, he works, of course, as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he answers to Ray.
• The Soviets stole our hockey team’s steaks in 1972 and for that there can be no forgiveness. Forty years later, I think we’re still all agreed on that, right? Regarding the beer the Soviets thieved, though: are we willing to hear about what might be considered extenuating circumstances?
Because, just to say, the summer of 1972 was a scorcher in Moscow. A month before the Summit Series arrived in late September, correspondent Hedrick Smith was reporting in The New York Times on the Russian summer’s extreme heat, worst in a century. According to the local press, this was “a major heat disaster.” August’s temperatures were up in the crazy 90s. Forests were burning. Cars wouldn’t run. At the Moscow zoo, a deer and two penguins died of thirst.
“It’s terrible,” a citizen told Smith in the street. “They never have enough beer, especially when it gets hot like this. They’ve been shutting down beer kiosks all summer — of all years. First they put out an order telling us to stop drinking vodka and drink beer instead. Then this heat. And now they don’t have enough beer.”
That doesn’t excuse the thieves, of course, because stealing is and always will be wrong. Stealing beer even more so. Stealing beer from hockey players is just about as wrong as you can go without committing an actual sin.
What this heat news could change is how we as Canadians think about that beer we lost in Moscow. Given the local conditions, I think it’s fair to say that our hockey players were not so much victims of a crime as they were heroes on a mission of mercy that, if not in scale then certainly in virtue, ranks up their with the Berlin Airlift.
• I also feel obligated to report what happened, steakwise, in 1974. That was the year the Summit Series was revived in all its glory and bad temper, although this time the Canadian team drew its players from WHA teams instead of NHL.
Paul Henderson was back, and Frank Mahovlich. Bobby Hull got to play. And all the Howe boys, Gordie and sons Mark and Marty. Mrs. Howe went along, too, Colleen, an experience she wrote about in her book My Three Hockey Players (1975). The things she learned about the Soviet Union on the trip included:
- Russians are not thin and have no deodorant.
- They are crybabies.
- Howe, in Russian, is spelled Xoy and pronounced Hooo.
- Russian hotels have no Bibles and the rooms compare unfavourably to a five-dollar-a-night skid row flophouse.
- The beds are clean enough, but “they were not conducive to lovemaking.”
As for the steaks Team Canada shipped to Moscow, they went unstolen. “But the Russians, alas, didn’t know how to cook them.” Also, there was a condiment crisis:
Hockey players have never been famed for their gourmet tastes, and ketchup is one of their standard items of equipment. Never was it so desperately needed. But for reasons possibly known only to the KGB, the cases of ketchup flown in from Canada were impounded for three days.