NHL Grab Bag: Happy Holidays From the Vancouver Canucks!

Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.

The Three Stars of Comedy

Recognizing the NHL personalities from around the league this week (and last week) who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.

The third star: Vancouver Canucks sweater party
I was going to go with the L.A. Kings pajama party or the Capitals doing whatever this is, but I’m pretty sure the Canucks topped them:

Yes, it’s creepy, but remember: At least they’re not wearing bunny suits.

The second star: Toronto Maple Leafs lingerie party
What happens when a 23-year-old Maple Leafs defenseman and 19-year-old Maple Leafs defenseman spend their off night watching a lingerie fashion show? The results, as you would expect, are completely memorizing.

And then everyone laughed and laughed and then Randy Carlyle showed up and banished them both to the press box for no reason.

The first star: Florida Panthers block (the view of everyone behind the net) party
On Wednesday, the Panthers fixed a broken pane of glass the same way you “fixed” that broken window when you were 21 and living in the worst apartment you ever had:

What the … why would you … HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY HAPPEN IN AN NHL GAME?

Actually, it apparently happens when it gets too humid in Florida and the maintenance crew can’t get the protective adhesive wrap off the replacement glass. (At least as described in this tweet, which cracks me up with its casual “these things happen” explanation for something that has literally never happened.)

They left it like that for the last half of the third period, by which point everyone on Twitter had made 50,000 variations of the same “Good thing this happened in Florida or else it might have obstructed the view of some fans” joke.

Things were back to normal by overtime, but for a few minutes at least, we got to witness something we’d never seen before in an NHL rink. And while it may have been an embarrassment for the Florida Panthers, at least the rest of us came away with what may be the greatest pun in NHL history:

Bonus star that would have made the list if it hadn’t gone and got itself disqualified: Brian Burke’s hair
The Flames president finally fulfilled everyone’s predictions by firing GM Jay Feaster and giving himself the job, at least temporarily. Then he showed up at the press conference looking a little, uh, shaggy. That wasn’t especially funny … until his own kids started making fun of him on Twitter:

hair

Pretty funny, right? And then they had to go and ruin it by throwing haymakers at innocent bystanders.

Sir, that was uncalled for. Although it was nice to finally see someone in the Department of Player Safety send a tweet that had a damn number in it.

What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?

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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: Shawn Thornton did something horrible, and now Bruins fans are weighing in with their thoughts on the matter.

The Outrage: They’re being idiots about it.

Is It Justified: Not really, no.

I mean, Bruins fans are being idiots. That part’s indisputable. Seek out any hockey forum, Twitter conversation, Facebook post, blog comments section (including, cough, this one), radio call-in show, or office watercooler where the Thornton incident is being discussed, and it won’t take you long to encounter a Bruins fan defending him, usually in the most rambling, nonsensical, and invective-laden way possible.

But this isn’t a Bruins fan thing, or a Boston thing, or even a hockey fan thing. It’s a sports fan thing. And here’s the key point: When it’s your favorite team that does something like this, everyone sounds exactly the same.

You don’t think you do, of course. You think that you sound rational, make coherent points, and maybe even impress people with how objectively you’re arguing your case. You don’t. You sound exactly like these Bruins fans do this week. Sometimes worse.

We all do. I’m a Leafs fan, and if social media had been around on the night that Tie Domi elbowed Scott Niedermayer, I’d probably still be living in exile to this day because of embarrassment and/or restraining orders. And don’t get me started on the career of Darcy Tucker.

So yes, Bruins fans are having a bad week. Just roll with it. It will be somebody else’s turn soon enough. Maybe yours.

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.

Easily the best moment on the week was Jarome Iginla’s emotional homecoming. On Tuesday, the Flames’ all-time leader in games, goals, points, and adorably dimply smiles made his first return to Calgary since the March trade that ended his 15-year reign in the city.

Iginla was drafted by Dallas, then dealt to the Flames in a 1995 trade that ranks as one of the great win-win deals in NHL history. The rebuilding Flames got a new franchise player, while the Stars got future Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk, who helped them win a Stanley Cup.

It was such a great deal that most fans now remember it as a straight up one-for-one. But it wasn’t. There was one more name involved, and he’s this week’s obscure former player of the week.

Center Corey Millen was a Rangers third-round pick in 1982 and didn’t make his NHL debut until seven years later. He had three consecutive 20-goal seasons in the early ’90s, but at barely 170 pounds, he only managed to play more than 61 games in a season once in an eight-year NHL career. In addition to the Rangers, he had stops with the Kings, Devils, and Stars before being part of the Iginla trade and finishing his career with one full season in Calgary. He went on to play six more years in Europe, then got into coaching.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got. The only other interesting thing I know about Corey Millen is that his middle name is “Eugene.” Did you know that not one single player in the history of the NHL has ever gone by the name Eugene? We’ve had plenty of Evgenys and Evgenis and even a half-dozen Genes, but never a full-on Eugene.

That seems odd to me. I think it’s time we cracked the Eugene barrier. Let’s make it happen, NHL. We did it for Albert, we can do it for Eugene, too.

Great Hockey Debates

In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have long plagued hockey fans.

This Week’s Debate: An NHL player has done something stupid and/or dangerous, and now everyone is mad at them. But wait … are they really that type of player?

Opposed: I am not that type of player.

In Favor: Actually, you are.

Opposed: No, really, I promise you. I am not, nor have I ever been, that type of player.

In Favor: You could have fooled us, given that just now you were seen doing the exact thing that type of player does.

Opposed: Look, you guys have known me a long time, and I think you know what kind of player I am. There are certain lines you just don’t cross, and I pride myself on not being the sort of guy who crosses them.

In Favor: You just did. Literally, you did that exact thing, very recently.

Opposed: I assure you, I never ever would.

In Favor: We have it on film. We’re watching it in slow motion right now.

Opposed: [Begins to tear up.]

In Favor: Oh for …

Opposed: I just … I just need a moment here.

In Favor: Look, I don’t doubt that you’re a very nice person who feels badly about what happened. And it’s true that everyone makes mistakes …

Opposed: [Sniffle.]

In Favor: … But if the subset of “the type of players who would do X” does not include “players who have very recently done exactly X in front of 18,000 witnesses” then I don’t think we’re using the English language the way it’s meant to be used. So can we please agree that you absolutely are, by definition, that type of player?

Opposed: [Muttering.] This is such bullshit.

In Favor: What the … dude, you can’t swear in one of these! They’re strictly PG, you know that!

Opposed: Well then lucky for us that I’m not the type of debater who would swear.

In Favor: YOU JUST DID!

Opposed: [Aghast.] I most certainly would not do something like that. Never in a million years!

In Favor: This is futile. Can we just get the “final verdict” guy?

Opposed: It’s not that kind of debate.

The Final Verdict: If you have to say you’re not that type of player, then you are definitely that type of player.

What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?

Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?

This week, Don Cherry went back to telling animal stories.

I agree that hawks should be wearing sunglasses. Anything else, Don? Maybe a probably untrue bit of wildlife trivia?

That’ll do it. By the way, I honestly think people are more outraged at Don Cherry being wrong about squirrels than they’ve ever been about anything else he has ever said.

All of which is to say that if you’re not following Don Cherry on Twitter then you are a bad person and there is something terribly wrong with you.

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.

With the debut of HBO’s 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic coming Saturday night, let’s look back on a classic moment from the Toronto-Detroit rivalry. Travel back with me to April 21, 1993.

• I know, I know, this is two weeks in a row that our clip has focused on an early ’90s Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game. I give you my word that I will not do this again for at least seven days.

• So here’s the situation: It’s Game 2 of the Norris semifinal between Detroit and Toronto, and the Leafs are getting crushed. They lost the first game, 6-3, and they’re minutes away from losing this one 6-2. What’s worse, they’re getting pushed around by a tough Red Wings team. Also, noted pest and crease-crasher Dino Ciccarelli is driving them crazy. Cue the series turning point.

• I’m going to warn you right up front: This is going to be a Bob Cole–heavy clip. I realize he can be kind of divisive, so I’m going to suggest that we do two versions of this breakdown: one for the Cole fans, and one for the anti-Cole folks. Sound good? Cool. Everyone who likes Cole, stay where you are. Everyone who doesn’t, go through that door marked “anti-Cole” and wait for me in there.

• [Waits for half the readers to file out.]

• [Locks and dead-bolts door.]

• [Presses button that causes the rocket ship behind the door to launch itself into the center of the sun.]

• Cool, now that that’s been taken care of … hell yeah Bob Cole! He works in the word “donnybrook” within the first five seconds. I love him so much.

• So we don’t get a great view of it at first, but something has happened between Ciccarelli and Leafs goalie Felix Potvin. All I know is that Ciccarelli was a dirtbag and Potvin was a mild-mannered rookie, so I think we all know whose fault it was.

• This is the part where you’d normally say “everyone pairs off,” except they don’t. I mean, they all jump in and start fighting. But instead of pairing off, they manage to form multiple odd-numbered groups. This is literally the only brawl I’ve ever seen where the players manage to screw this up.

• Potvin is still throwing punches, and you know what that means: Here comes Detroit’s Tim Cheveldae for the goalie fight! He sprints the length of the ice and … the referee says three words to him, and he immediately turns around and leaves. He basically gives it the old Abe Simpson. I love this.

• Seriously, what was that conversation like? Cheveldae: “Nobody touches my teammates. You’re a dead man, Potvin!” Referee: “No, thank you, Tim.” Cheveldae: “Okeydoke, sorry to have troubled you, sir.”

• This was absolutely the right move, by the way. Nobody knew it at the time, but Potvin could fight like a champ.

• [Flips “YouTube breakdowns written without linking to the Potvin/Hextall fight” sign back to “0.”]

• Meanwhile, Sylvain Lefebvre (why yes, that Sylvain Lefebvre) is tangled up with both Ciccarelli and Mark Howe. Those are two of the four Hall of Famers involved in this brawl, by the way, along with Doug Gilmour and Steve Yzerman. Apparently Paul Coffey missed the memo. Anyway, Ciccarelli doesn’t like being tangled up like this, so he attempts to free himself by repeatedly crosschecking his teammate in the back, which I’m sure went over well.

• Watch carefully at the 30-second mark and see if you can find Waldo.

• Things get broken up and the Red Wings kind of mill around for a while before counting themselves and realizing Home Alone–style that they’ve left somebody behind. Oh right, it’s Yzerman, their franchise player, who’s still tangled up with Jamie Macoun’s mustache. The whole team awkwardly arrives en masse to reclaim him.

• Meanwhile, there goes Gilmour, still yapping away. Can you believe this guy once got punched by a coach? No, I mean it, can you believe the “once” part?

• At about the 1:35 mark, we finally get to a replay of whatever it was that set this off. And … oh. OK, apparently Potvin tried to murder Ciccarelli with his stick. Multiple times. I guess I can see why that made Ciccarelli a little cranky. Sorry I called you a dirtbag, Dino.

• I love that shot of Bob Probert just casually chilling in the Joe Louis penalty box. He could not be more at home.

• One more replay, this one including a great shot of Probert coming in and clearing out both Potvin and Gilmour before Mike Krushelnyski does the old “oops, those are our two best players, I better grab this guy even if it means I’m going to be eating my next 90 meals through a straw” move.

• And we end on just about the most Detroit shot you can imagine: a rink crew guy swinging an octopus around with his bare hand to fire up the crowd. He definitely knows he’s splattering Potvin with a solid coat of octopus spray with this move, right? I feel pretty safe saying he did it on purpose.

• Wait, are fans going to try to do the octopus throw at the Winter Classic? I know they’ve tried to crack down on it over the years, but there’s no way 100,000 people are going to that game without a few of them trying to fling an octopus onto the ice. Which sounds like it should be impossible since it will be a 200-foot throw, except that the octopus is going to be frozen solid.

• Oh man, some poor Maple Leaf is taking a frozen-octopus missile directly to the face on national television, isn’t he?

Oh, and in case you were wondering: Here’s this clip’s epilogue.

Filed Under: Hockey, NHL

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Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at his blog, Down Goes Brown. His first book, The Best of Down Goes Brown, was released last September.

Archive @ DownGoesBrown