this week: ungie showed me how to do it

Iphone photo | Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal. | Painting from Serge Lemoyne «Ken Dryden» | www.misspixels.com | ©MissPixels.com Follow me on Twitter @misspixels

Facing The Shooter: A visitor eyes painter Serge Lemoyne’s “Ken Dryden” at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts. (Photo: http://www.misspixels.com/ @misspixels)

The Rangers’ coach, Alain Vigneault, sent a message this week to his scoreless forwards, according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post, and it was this: score.

“This is a big deal,” said Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper, and for a moment was it possible to believe that he was talking about his forthcoming hockey book? It was, but he wasn’t: he was in Belgium, touting a trade agreement with the European Union.

Allan Stanley died today, the Hall of Fame defenceman who helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win four Stanley Cups in the 1960s. He was 87. In Timmins, where he was born, his dad was the fire chief. He played for the Holman Pluggers there. His uncle was another Hall-of-Famer, Barney Stanley, and he was the one (says Kevin Shea, from the Hall of Hockey Fame) to tell young Allan that hockey players drink tea with honey between periods, so that’s what he did. Allan was supposed to be on a plane in 1951 with another Timmins defenceman, Bill Barilko, but he stayed home instead.

One of his nicknames when he played in New York for the Rangers was “Snowshoes;” another was Sonja, “as in Sonja Henie, the figure skater.” That’s what one fan remembered, later: the treatment Stanley got from the hometown fans was “heartbreaking.”

“They booed Stanley when he was on the ice and soon they began booing him even when he was sitting on the bench,” Paul Gardella wrote in 1981, the year Stanley ascended to the hall of hockey fame. “In desperation, the Ranger coach, Frank Boucher, decided to play him only in away games, but that only made matters worse.”

Newspapers called him this solid citizen in 1953, not to mention the husky 27-year-old and large, resolute and unmarried. He was the superbly conditioned big fellow (1966) and the quintessence of the NHL defensive defenceman (1996). He was a prospector in the off-season; in 1964, he had 36 claims nearby Timmins.

(Courtesy hockeymedia at www.flickr.com

Allan Stanley (Courtesy hockeymedia at http://www.flickr.com)

He went after the federal Progressive Conservative nomination in Timmins when he was 31 and playing in Boston, but the principal of the Schumacher Public School beat him to that, so he kept on with the hockey. He was a key piece of the Maple Leaf team that won the ’67 Cup, partnering for much of the year with Tim Horton. He played one more year after that, in Philadelphia, before retiring at the age of 43.

Meanwhile: Pavel Datsyuk can thread a needle in the dark, said an enthusiastic Detroit TV commentator.

And a reporter, this week, from The National Post paid a visit to The Blue Goose Tavern in Toronto, which is where Toronto’s Dave Bolland goes whenever he wins a Stanley Cup. Twice he’s done that. His parents live nearby, and his friends drink there. Some of them said it’s not “Dave,” it’s “David;” also his NHL nickname is verboten. “I think if you called him The Rat here,” said a waitress, “you’d definitely get punched in the head.” Continue reading

sorrier still

113 Days Later: Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft’s “The Martyrdom of St. Donald” (2006), which doesn't purport to depict the state of the NHL after its third Bettman-era lockout, but could. For more of Thorneycroft's scintillant northern visions, visit dianathorneycroft.com.

113 Days Later: Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft’s “The Martyrdom of St. Donald” (2006), which doesn’t purport to depict the state of the NHL after its third Bettman-era lockout, but could. For more of Thorneycroft’s scintillant northern visions, visit dianathorneycroft.com.

So then the NHL did apologize, Wednesday afternoon, in the persons of Boston Bruins’ owner Jeremy Jacobs and commissioner Gary Bettman, in New York, once the owners had voted to ratify the new CBA. Jacobs, who chairs the league’s Board of Governors, said, “This great game has been gone for far too long, and for that we are truly sorry.”

When it was Bettman’s turn, he dug deep to find as personal a statement as might ever have left his lips in the 20 years he’s been manning the bridge at the NHL.

“To the players,” he said, “who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts; to our partners, who support the League financially and personally; and, most importantly, to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry,” Commissioner Bettman said. “I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months, but I owe you an apology nevertheless.”

The early reviews of Bettman’s soliloquy were generally warm, -ish, especially if you compare them to what the critics were saying about him during the stoppage, with Detroit defenceman Ian White rating him “an idiot” and Kris Versteeg, from Florida, calling him cancerous. “I think when you look at Bill Daly and Bettman, they’ve been polluting the game for far too long,” Versteeg added. Chicago’s Dave Bolland Twittered out a fan’s wish for Bettman’s death — though he, Bolland, felt bad about that and apologized. Continue reading

sorry for your patience, there is nothing we can say

img003The Calgary Flames were the first to say sorry, which probably means they mean it, and probably shouldn’t be taken as an admission that they are somehow extra-guilty in the foolery of the NHL’s four-month labour debacle.

That was early Sunday morning, not long after the two sides announced they’d struck a deal. The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the first teams to post a statement on a website, in which co-owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux started by saying how little they had to say:

We offer our apology. There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months.

Did anyone else get an e-mail from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday? Mine thanked me for my patience, which is “tremendous.” Thanking Penguin fans for their support (which is “amazing”), the owners spoke of both “our quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh” and “our commitment to winning the Stanley Cup,” but in modest Toronto, the best that the team was ready to offer was: “We remain committed to ensuring we ice a winning team that competes with the NHL’s best.”

“This Is Oil Country,” said the Edmonton Oilers, over at their site.  #RaiseTheTorch, said the Montreal Canadiens.

No sorry, no Stanley Cup in Boston president Cam Neely’s statement which went, in its entirety, like this: “We are all very excited that the NHL and the NHLPA have reached a tentative agreement, and we look forward to dropping the puck and playing Bruins Hockey in front of our fans at the TD Garden soon.”

Buffalo was supposed to have apologized to its supporters, but the contrition must have had evaporated by the time I got over there, leaving only trace amounts of sincere thanks for fanly patience just ahead of an affirmation that “winning the Stanley Cup” remains job number one for the team.

In Los Angeles, it was Kings’ president Luc Robitaille who said thanks for all your support, fans, not to mention your patience but, please, hold your questions, the wheres and whens of when the season might be getting underway and how to buy tickets. Which sounds (it has to be said) not so very patient in itself. Then again, the Kings did win the Cup last time out, so maybe that’s a tone honestly earned.

From Chicago, the message was, Thank you, fans, for all the blood!

(They had a holiday blood donation drive, I guess.)

I used the search window at NHL.com to find the league’s apology, but it may be that it’s broken. The last time anyone there seems to have expressed remorse was back in the middle of September, when deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, “I’m sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate. We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected.”

apology unaccepted

You can say you’re sorry, feel free. It is, after all, a hockey tradition. Whether or not the apology is accepted — that’s a whole other matter, as analyst and serial offender Mike Milbury learned last week.

He was blistering Sidney Crosby, as you’ll maybe remember, mocking his several concussions, besmirching his good name, calling down bodychecks on his person. Although, on second thought, maybe not. “In hindsight,” Milbury said the next day, “I realize what I said was inappropriate and wrong, and I want to apologize to the Penguins organization and their fans.”

Crosby’s agent wasn’t buying it. “Milbury went too far this time attacking the very sensitive issue of the concussion,” said Pat Brisson. “A simple apology isn’t accepted in this case. The real way to treat this disease is by either suspending or firing Milbury. Plain and simple.”

This week hockey’s big apology came from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team bought full-page ads in the city’s newspapers on Tuesday to run Chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s letter to the fans. “We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations,” he wrote, “and for that we are sorry.”

Was the city buying it? Not so much. Funnelled through the radio call-ins and Twitterswell, that sound you heard through the day was the clatter of an apology being spurned. It’s eight years, now, of no playoffs, and 45 since the Stanley Cup took a ride down Yonge Street. When it’s that bad, as Rex Murphy put it last night on the CBC’s National, you don’t apologize, you go into exile.

sincèrement désolé

Let me explain: Montreal defenceman Ken Reardon (left) meets Chicago steelworker George Grbich (bandaged) in 1949.

It’s a few weeks now since Montreal general manager Pierre Gauthier replaced his coach and started a storm in Quebec because (if you hadn’t heard) the new one doesn’t speak French. New year, same old weather: this week, Randy Cunneyworth pleaded that his commitment  to learning French is second only to winning hockey games — though, of course, the Canadiens have only managed to manage a single victory so far in the seven they’ve played for him. Meanwhile, Gauthier apologized for the whole big fuss. “If we have offended people, I am truly sorry,” he told a news conference on Monday. “It was not our intention.”

 Will it be enough to calm the clamour? Hard to say, though a win for the club over Winnipeg tonight might help the cause. While we’re waiting to see how that goes, a quick look at how Gauthier’s sorry rates in the annals of Habs apologies. To me, I don’t know that it rates in the top five, but you be the judge: Continue reading