NHL Grab Bag: Canadian Olympic Celebration Watch
This Week’s Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: Alex Edler
Good try, Alex, good effort.
The second star: P.K. Subban’s gold-medal video
And they tried to say there was no reason to bring him to Sochi.
I can’t even pick my favorite part. It might be everyone laughing at a Sidney Crosby joke that isn’t actually a joke. It could be Martin St. Louis’s adorable yell, which we’ll look back on as the last moment of everyone liking him before his stunning heel turn trade demand. It’s probably Carey Price doing whatever that is he’s doing.
This video has almost everything. Except turtlenecks. It really needs some turtlenecks. Luckily …
The first star: Old Washington Capitals media guides
I love everything about this post. So many turtlenecks. So many mullets. Also, Al Iafrate in tight jean shorts, Olaf Kolzig rocking your high school mustache, and Craig Berube just generally being five seconds away from kicking your ass.
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. We’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.
The Issue: A week after the thrilling women’s hockey gold-medal showdown between Canada and the U.S., fans are still talking about the officiating.
The Outrage: Everyone agrees: British referee Joy Tottman was horrible.
Is It Justified: Of course it is. All the experts said so. One handsome lad even went so far as to say that Tottman’s calls were “just awful” and wondered if she was trying to pull off some sort of Monty Python sketch. Whether you’re Canadian or American, the one thing we can all agree on about that game is that Tottman was borderline incompetent.
Except … what if she wasn’t?
Despite the nearly universal condemnation from around the hockey world, a small but growing chorus of voices has emerged to defend Tottman’s work. And they make the case that Tottman’s two most controversial overtime decisions — a slash against the U.S. that seemed like a transparent makeup call, and a missed penalty shot for Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser on a clear breakaway — were actually the right calls.
Let’s start with the slash. As others have noted, Tottman had warned the Americans on a very similar play earlier in the game. And while a minor for slashing a goalie’s pads is almost never seen in the NHL, it’s apparently more common in the IIHF. Given that Canada had been assessed a rare overtime penalty seconds earlier, the argument goes, the Americans had no right to expect they’d get away with a foul of their own — especially one they’d already been specifically cautioned on.
As for that penalty shot, let’s take another look:
Note that Wickenheiser only touches the puck once in that clip, before she crosses the red line. She intentionally pushes it well up the ice, then establishes position on Hilary Knight while charging after it. The foul occurs at the blue line. In the NHL, that’s a penalty shot every time, because Wickenheiser is clearly about to get possession back just before she’s tripped.
But the penalty shot section of the IIHF rulebook is slightly different than the NHL’s in one critical way: The attacking player must have possession. Unlike the NHL, there’s no provision for cases where a player is obviously about to establish (or reestablish) control. They must have clear possession at the moment the penalty occurs, and you could argue that Wickenheiser didn’t. Whether she would have had it a second later is irrelevant.
So is Tottman redeemed? I’m still not sold on the slash – even under the circumstances, that feels like a soft call. But when it comes to the penalty shot, I think I have to concede I had it wrong. While it should have been a trip instead of a crosscheck, Tottman got the basic call right.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of them.
This week’s obscure player of the week played in the 1970s for the Flyers and Canucks. He was a defenseman with a little bit of offensive skill, and at one point held the NHL record for playoff points by a rookie.
He also had quite possibly my favorite NHL name of all-time: Larry Goodenough.
Goodenough was picked in the NHL draft, but not in the first round. He made it to the big leagues, but was never a star. He played six seasons, but only came close to playing 80 games in one of them. In other words, he was never all that good, but he was good enough.
He was also once traded in a deal with the draft pick that was used to take Trent Yawney, who was later traded for Stephane “Step on My Toe” Matteau, who was traded alongside Brian Noonan, who was traded for Sergio Momesso. It’s like an awesome hockey name circle of life.
And in case you’re wondering about Goodenough’s nickname: It was “Izzy.” Of course it was.
The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page
In which we select one page on CapGeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheek.
I’m just going to go ahead and hang a “reserved for Dave Bolland” sign here.
Bolland’s page isn’t especially depressing right now, but it sure sounds like it might get there soon enough. The Maple Leafs center, who hasn’t played since early November because of a severed tendon, will be a free agent this summer. He’s looking for an extension. And apparently it won’t come cheap.
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) February 26, 2014
Now clearly, this is crazy. Nobody in their right mind is going to give a guy in his late twenties who’s never even scored 50 points a $40 million contract, especially when they don’t even know whether he’s fully recovered from a devastating injury.
But luckily for Bolland, he’s negotiating with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so all bets are off. These guys gave David Clarkson the league’s worst contract, after all, so who knows what they’ll do with Bolland, a player they’ve spent all year making very clear that they love more than puppies that deliver chocolate.
If you’re a fan of a team with a history of making smart decisions, this sort of stuff probably doesn’t bother you. Maybe you don’t even notice it. But for Leaf fans, it’s utterly terrifying. Dave Bolland is going to get all the money. All of it.
Canadian Olympic Panic Watch
Canadians love three things: rolling up the rim, ruining American pop music, and freaking out about our Olympic hockey teams.
We’re fine, actually.
But, you know, thanks for asking.
See you in four years, world.
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. Each week we find one and break it down in way too much detail.
The Sochi Olympics are now a memory, and after years of hype, the Russian men’s hockey team failed to even win a medal. Once considered an undisputed powerhouse, the Russians have now failed to win a best-on-best tournament for more than 30 years. These are well and truly dark days for Russian hockey.
So, let’s kick them when they’re down by spending some time with “Shaybu! Shaybu!” the pre-Olympic pump-up video that literally sang the praises of Russia’s hockey dominance.
• This seems like a good time for a reminder of the one and only hockey rule that applies in all situations and all eras: It is never a good idea to make a video of hockey players lip-synching. This rule applies if you’re red hot, it applies if you’re the best, and, as we’re about to discover, it definitely applies if you’re Russian.
• OK, so let’s try to sort out what the hell is going on here. This is the video for “Shaybu! Shaybu!” a song by Russian pop star Irina Allegrova. She’s the blonde woman who shows up a few times throughout the video. But the real stars of this production are the various Russian hockey players, past and present, who get to show off their musical skills.
• We open with a shot of Russian players wearing gold medals, which I assume was shot on a soundstage, before transitioning to a montage of faceoffs from history. Kudos to the one guy in the old black-and-white clip who executes the NHL ’94 “bodycheck right off the faceoff” move.
• I’m loving the old-school Soviet jerseys that just had “CCCP” in giant letters and nothing else. Did we ever find out what that stood for? I’m assuming it was “Can’t Catch Canadian Players.”
• This old footage of Russian hockey training from the first half of the 20th century is fantastic. I especially like the guy who’s stickhandling while tied to the boards. That seems like an effective training method. They probably should have remembered to untie Alex Ovechkin before the Olympics started, though.
• The montage continues: The Soviets winning the 1981 Canada Cup, some guys putting on the incredibly tiny shoulder pads that hockey players used to wear before they were all given suits of armor, and several Russian bodychecks that Don Cherry assumes were done with CGI. And now it’s time for the chorus …
• SHAY-BU! SHAY-BU!
• [Something something something]
• SHAY-BU! SHAY-BU!
• [Russian something something]
• Oh, by the way, this song will be running through your head for the rest of the day and quite possibly the rest of your life. I probably should have warned you about that part. Oh well, too late now. SHAY-BU! SHAY-BU!
• You can find an English translation of the lyrics here, though the song is more fun if you just make up your own.
• You know, if at any point somebody says, “I know, let’s get our nation’s six best active hockey players together in one room,” and then Nikolai Kulemin shows up, I think I may have identified part of your whole “never winning gold medals” problem.
• In addition to current players like Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Ilya Kovalchuk, the video also features several Russian legends. We get an early glimpse of Vladislav Tretiak, though he’ll probably get pulled from the video as soon as a plucky group of American college kids show up.
• Alexei Yashin: Still trying to make turtlenecks happen.
• I know what you’re thinking: Anything this terrible must somehow be Gary Bettman’s fault. And you’re right, since this was apparently filmed during last year’s lockout. Hey, Gary, where’s your “make whole” proposal for the eardrums I just stabbed with a pencil?
• So, uh … is anyone going to show these beloved hockey legends how earphones work? No? OK, just checking.
• We get some more classic footage, including a group of Russian children crawling along the ice, presumably in an attempt to find Semyon Varlamov’s lost contact lens from the Finland game. We also get to enjoy a Russian player executing a flying bum check, and some vaguely ominous footage of military commanders being presented with hockey sticks.
• I did enjoy the inclusion of the editorial cartoon of the sad Canadian player getting schooled by a Russian teacher. Very funny, Russia. You really want to get into a cartoon war with us? Somebody go break the glass case labeled “Dave Elston” and let’s show these guys what’s what.
• 1:39: Diving practice.
• Man, Allegrova is kind of intense with the music conducting. But check out Pavel Bure — one hand in his pocket, half-slouched, wearing a patronizing Uh huh, sure, I’ll listen to you smirk. I bet Pat Quinn still sees that look in his nightmares.
• And there’s Tretiak helping to coach a group of adorable little children who’ll go on to become the next generation of Russian stars and … hey, wait, is the tiniest one wearing a Habs jersey? I knew it! Traitors!
• Actually, that may have been Oleg Petrov. Never mind.
• Next we get a brief montage of Russian players celebrating. I have to say: Russian players celebrate better than any other nation. I don’t even think it’s close. I kind of wish they’d won gold in overtime just to see what would have happened.
• And now, per hockey video rules, we get the mandatory fight montage. No Piestany clips, though. Then again, it’s probably hard to find good footage when the lights keep shutting off.
• 2:38: Wait, is that Youngblood?
• See, this is the problem with Russian hockey: Everyone’s trying to be the lead singer. There are only so many microphones to go around, guys. If this was a Canadian video, somebody would be standing off to the side quietly playing a tambourine. And they would accept that role happily because THEY WERE TEAM PLAYERS.
• Dmitri Yushkevich: Out of the NHL for more than a decade; still looks exactly the same. Man I loved that guy.
• And there’s the traditional shot of the Russian team throwing its coach up into the air. It must have won this game, because this time it actually bothers to catch him.
• OK, I’m pretty sure that last shot of happy Russian players celebrating features an out-of-control Danny Markov (as if there’s any other kind). But how do you not end the video with Markov saluting? That’s just an inexcusable oversight. This lack of attention to detail is why you never win anymore, Russia.
By the way, the best lyrics of the whole song, without question, are in the first verse:
Sometimes there are miracles in this world.
And as if it is a joke,
That the best game for our men
By accident was born in Canada.
In Soviet Russia, ironic attempts to trash-talk Team Canada write you.