NHL Grab Bag: Tortorella’s Rage, Bourque’s Upside-Down Blade, and Don Cherry’s (Possibly Dead?) GoldfishMike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
OK, in the strictest technical sense, this amazing GIF is from 2009, so we’ll penalize it by bumping it down from its rightful place at no. 1. But it made the rounds this week, thanks to a dominating win in SB Nation’s essential This Week in GIFs feature.
Feel free to watch it over and over until you figure out where the linesman comes from. Just make sure you cancel your plans for the rest of the day first.
The second star: Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle did not steal your girlfriend
Or so Taylor Hall claims. Which is interesting, because that sounds exactly like what a girlfriend-stealer would say.
The first star: John Tortorella hates the world
Granted, this isn’t news. The Rangers coach is crusty at the best of times. But this year, he’s taken it to a new level by not only attacking the media and his own players, but passive-aggressively taking aim at other teams, too. First it was Montreal, and this week he went after the Sabres, telling reporters that “I’m not going to give Buffalo any credit” for its win. (Given their bankruptcy history, not giving the Sabres any credit is probably a smart move.)
Look, guys, we don’t want John Tortorella to be the coach of Team USA at the 2014 Olympics; we need him to be the coach. I want to see him rip Team Belarus and then make an Australian reporter cry for not knowing what a puck is.
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week, we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if the anger is justified.
The issue: Kaspars Daugavins tried something different in the shootout.
The outrage: This is hockey! Nobody is allowed to be different!
Is it justified? No, of course not. The only people who have any right to be annoyed at Daugavins are Senators fans, because his move didn’t work and maybe something more straightforward would have. (Although it’s worth pointing out that the same move had worked before in the minors.)
But anyone trying to claim this was some sort of affront to the Bruins or hockey tradition is wasting his time. Complaining about somebody doing something stupid during the shootout — a glorified skills competition that only tangentially resembles real hockey — is missing the point. It’s like complaining that your junk food is unhealthy. It’s supposed to be; that’s why it’s junk food.
Luckily, most fans seem to understand this, and public opinion landed pretty firmly on Daugavins’s side. If anything, this controversy may have been an example of the hockey world’s recent trend toward preemptive outrage — getting all worked up in anticipation of a presumed backlash that never really comes. Our pretend outrage is folding in on itself, Inception-style. I’m not sure I know how to feel about this. (Wait, yes I do: outraged!)
The bottom line is this: Don’t be mad at Kaspars Daugavins for trying something original. Or, at least, semi-original …
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 those players.
This week’s obscure former player is Phil Bourque. He played for parts of eight seasons with the Penguins, including their first two Cup wins, before finishing his career with the Rangers and Senators. Despite a solid career, he was arguably best known for the incorrect assumption that he is Ray Bourque’s brother. (They are distant cousins.)
But this week, he has another claim to fame: He was the previous generation’s Kaspars Daugavins.
Yes, 23 years before Kaspars Daugavins brought his upside-down stick blade to the NHL, Phil Bourque got there first. The video had been one of hockey’s great “How is this not on YouTube?” clips, but thanks to this week’s controversy, somebody finally posted it. (It’s also on NHL.com.)
The clip is worth watching just for the Detroit commentators’ reaction — their contempt is almost palpable. You’re half-expecting one of them to leave the booth and try to attack Bourque on the ice. Gerald Gallant doesn’t seem very happy either, but then again Gallant played in the NHL for 11 years and I have zero recollection of him ever seeming happy about anything.
And in yet another example of how everything in hockey comes full circle, that disgusted-looking coach shaking his head at Bourque from behind the Red Wings bench is none other than Bryan Murray, who — these days — is Daugavins’s GM in Ottawa.
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: Should the NHL continue to award a “loser point” for overtime and shootout losses?
In Favor: Yes, they should. The loser point encourages teams to be more aggressive in overtime, which makes for a more exciting finish.
Opposed: But it also encourages teams to play more defensively in the third period of a tie game, because they want to get to OT and bank a point. We just end up trading one period of conservative play for another, even longer one.
In Favor: Sometimes, sure, but that’s still better than what we had before. Remember the days when nobody tried to score in overtime because they didn’t want to risk coming away with nothing? Ties were so boring!
Opposed: Sure, but that was back when there actually were ties. Now that we have the shootout, fans are already guaranteed to see a winner, so the bonus point is irrelevant.
In Favor: But the bonus point keeps the playoff races closer.
Opposed: No, it doesn’t. That’s a myth. The loser point actually makes the playoff races worse. Not to mention it makes the standings harder to read and screwing up the record book by artificially inflating everyone’s point totals.
In Favor: Well, I still like it.
Opposed: And I don’t.
Also Opposed: Neither do I.
In Favor: Wait, who’s that guy?
Opposed: Oh, him? I invited him.
Also Opposed: Yeah. I thought I’d join your debate.
In Favor: I don’t think you can do that.
Opposed: Why not?
In Favor: Because this is supposed to be a two-person debate. That’s how we’ve always done it.
Opposed: Well, we just randomly decided to make it three this time.
Also Opposed: Yeah, what’s the issue?
In Favor: The issue is that the whole point of these debates is that there’s a winner and a loser. You can’t just decide to go from two to three sometimes but not others. That’s bush league.
Opposed: But this debate was a close one.
In Favor: What does that have to do with anything? I mean, you have to have some integrity to the system. There needs to be consistency so that people know what to expect; otherwise it just becomes some stupid gimmick that creates confusion and … um …
Opposed: [Whistling innocently.]
In Favor: OK, I see what you did there.
Opposed: So, always two, never three. Consistency. One winner and one loser. Got it.
In Favor: I hate you.
Also Opposed: Can I go now?
Opposed: Yeah. Thanks, man.
Also Opposed: [High five.]
In Favor: Can I still get partial credit even though I lost?
Opposed: No, you may not.
The final verdict: The loser point is ridiculous and would have no place in a league that’s run with any integrity, so expect it to stay in Gary Bettman’s NHL forever.
Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week
In which I will complain about things that probably only matter to me.
Last Friday, the Anaheim Ducks announced they’d signed Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year extension. Per club policy, no financial terms of the deal were disclosed.
Here’s the Ducks’ tweet announcing the deal, minus the terms. And here’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie revealing the exact details. Do you know how long it took from that first tweet to the second? Ten minutes. The Ducks’ club policy kept a lid on the details of Getzlaf’s deal for 10 whole minutes.
Why? Because their policy is stupid, outdated, and useless.
And it’s not just Anaheim. Virtually every team does this whenever a new deal is signed, despite knowing full well that all the information will be on CapGeek within an hour.
This isn’t 1983, when nobody knew what anyone made because clubs kept everything a secret to hold salaries down. It’s not even 2003, when teams could spend whatever they wanted so the specific dollar values often didn’t matter all that much. We’re in a salary-cap league now. The dollars are, by far, the most important thing in any contract announcement. Any news that doesn’t include that information is useless. It’s like putting out a press release stating: “Our team played a game last night, but due to club policy we’re not telling you the score.”
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 cheeks.
This week’s most depressing CapGeek page is Ryan Getzlaf’s because, really, screw the Anaheim Ducks and their club policy.
There it is, folks: the full terms of Getzlaf’s new contract, laid out in perfect detail down to the very last … um … wait. This can’t be right, can it? Ryan Getzlaf got $66 million? Tied for the fourth-highest cap hit in the league? For a player who’s never scored more than 25 goals in a season and had only 57 points last year? And he’s locked in until he turns 36, even though forwards usually peak offensively in their mid-20s? And he has a no-movement clause?
OK, I think I figured out why the Ducks didn’t want anyone to know about this contract. Sorry, Anaheim, I take it all back.
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, on Twitter, Don Cherry told a sad story about his dying goldfish.
1. 5 years ago I went into a pet store to buy a goldfish. I saw 2 older fish in a small tank stuck in the plants. They couldn’t move.
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) March 12, 2013
2. I asked the guy “how come?” He said “somebody dropped them off they didn’t want them anymore. I don’t know what to do with them.”
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) March 12, 2013
3. I took them, the guy still charged me 60 bucks. I have a great 100 gallon tank and only 2 fish. They have really enjoyed life. They have
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) March 12, 2013
4. Always been together. But I see one is now having a tough time and he’s not swimming right. Kind of sad.
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) March 12, 2013
That’s it. Story over. Despite 164,000 followers frantically hitting refresh in hopes of a happy ending, there wasn’t one. Don Cherry’s goldfish is going to die, just like all of us are going to die someday, and there’s nothing any of us can do. I need to go lie down.
But the story does raise some important questions, including:
• What did Don Cherry name his two goldfish? Specifically, did he name them “Blue 1” and “Blue 2,” or just call both of them “Blue”?
• What will the inevitable Hollywood movie version of the Don Cherry goldfish story be called? I’m thinking Finding Neely.
• Did the goldfish ever get a chance to hang out with the bees? If not, can we make this happen before it’s too late?
• How is it possible that Don Cherry has goldfish and not, say, a collection of peacock mantis shrimp? Can you really picture him at a pet store going “No, no, just get me something plain, I wouldn’t want anything flashy that’s just going to call attention to myself.”
• Did this story on Twitter immediately result in the appearance of an unfunny “Don Cherry’s dying goldfish” parody account? There are probably like 12 of them, aren’t there? I don’t think I want to look. Let’s forget I brought this up.
• Finally, Cherry says he bought the fish five years ago, but what are the odds that it was really six and he just lost count?
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.
This week we go back to the wonderful world of hockey teams making novelty music videos. It’s the 1992-93 season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have decided it would be a good idea to record a song called “The Leafs Are the Best.” Is it embarrassingly bad? Of course it is.
• So apparently we have Glenn Anderson to blame for this debacle. If you followed his career, this news won’t surprise you. Remember, this is the same guy who once answered every question in an interview with the words “sex on the beach.” Judgment isn’t really a strong suit.
• We start off with a long intro featuring some kids getting ready for some shinny. It’s long. Did I mention it’s long? Feel free to just go ahead and skip to the 1:00 mark. I won’t be offended.
• Why is Wendel Clark wearing a towel like that? He’s making fun of John Cullen’s omnipresent neck guard, isn’t he?
• John Cullen’s Omnipresent Neck Guard would be a great name for a blog, by the way. I’d read JCONG every day.
• You know, I have to be honest, the whole “kids encountering their heroes on the pond” thing is a little clichéd, but so far this video isn’t that bad. I hope it suddenly gets a million times worse and then … yep, there it is.
• Hey look, it’s the entire Maple Leafs roster jogging out of the dressing room while wearing acid-wash jeans. They’re like the Rockers with slightly less impressive mullets.
• A reminder: This video was shot in a world where “You Can’t Touch a Flame When It’s Red Hot” had been out for years, and yet the Leafs were like “No, it’s cool, our video will be really good; this won’t be a mistake at all.” How is that possible?
• That goes double for Jamie Macoun, who was on that Flames team and yet is still rocking out here while wearing a pair of shades.
• And the Mike Bullard Award for “old guy who’s just a little bit too into the lip-synching” goes to … Mike Krushelnyski! Wow. That’s an upset. I would have bet the house on Mike Foligno.
• Can we make fun of that kid’s multi-colored ear warmer? I feel like we can. I mean, I know he’s just a kid in this video, but he’s got to be almost 30 by now. I wonder if he still wears it. If I were that kid, I would never take it off.
• “We don’t have to think, it’s our natural instinct … ” You know what, guys who agreed to participate in this video? In hindsight, maybe you should have thought. Your instincts may have betrayed you on this one.
• I love the shot of Pat Burns angrily staring straight ahead and shaking his head, since you know that’s the exact same reaction he had when they asked him to lip-synch in this video.
• “Number one is our test … ” I’m sorry, that doesn’t even make sense. You can’t just combine a bunch of words and assume it forms a working sentence. Bear down, Glenn, you’re blowing this!
• No idea why Doug Gilmour turned into Captain Jack Sparrow there for a second.
• So according to this video, it took 900 different musicians to perform this song. I’m going to go ahead and say that’s not true. Most of those guys aren’t even doing anything. They just stand around and try to look like they’re involved somehow. It’s like the musical version of the Brian Burke–era Maple Leafs front office.
• “Toronto Maple Leafs … forget your disbeliefs ” Glenn Anderson is not even trying at this point.
• Awww, one of the musicians brought his adorable 6-year-old daughter to sing in the video, and … no, wait, my mistake, that was Nikolai Borschevsky.
• Now we get a shot of the Leafs doing the wave in their dressing room while wearing their white home uniforms. Pat Burns comes in to yell at them, at which point they’re suddenly wearing blue. How do I log in to IMDb and make a note of this continuity error?
• Thoughtful Rob Pearson is thoughtful.
• A twist ending, featuring a surprise Mike Myers appearance! This is the funniest Maple Leafs–related thing Myers ever filmed. No, really it is. It’s not even close.
• The clip ends with everyone recording another version of the song, this time called “The Playoffs Are Here,” which we’re going to ignore because it’s the exact same thing with a few of the words lazily swapped out. It’s basically The Hangover Part II of novelty hockey songs. What happened, Glenn? YOU USED TO BE ABOUT THE MUSIC, MAN!
Epilogue: Upon further review, the 1993 Leafs did not, in fact, turn out to be the best.