Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
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: The L.A. Kings trade deadline analyst
The deadline day tracker on the Kings’ official website offered a complex breakdown of each deal, ranging from “No idea” (Paradis for Gotovets) to “WOOOAAAHHHHH!!!!” (Gaborik to the Blue Jackets). I like how the page is “Presented by Graham.” I don’t know who Graham is, but I hope someday he figures out how to turn off his caps lock key.
The second star: The St. Louis Blues would like you to know what Kevin Shattenkirk looked like when he was 8
I love this. It’s your mom breaking out an embarrassing photo of you to show to your friends, only if that involved roughly 136,000 people. The tie flopping over the arm is a nice touch.
The first star: Angry Sens Fan
Oh, what’s that, Toronto Maple Leafs? You think you can just come to Ottawa, have your fans take over the entire building, and then smoke the Senators 4-0 in front of a national television audience? Well, think again, because Angry Sens Fan is NOT HAVING IT! (And yes, he’s even better animated.)
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 it’s justified.
The issue: The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators made everyone wait around for an extra hour on deadline day for a super top secret late-breaking trade.
The outrage: It ended up being for Martin Erat.
Is it justified? Yes. Don’t do that, NHL teams.
The trade itself was actually a decent deal for fans to chew on. Not a blockbuster, but an interesting swap involving a good player and a top prospect that’s provoked some reasoned debate over which side got the better end of it. If it had been announced with all the other deals, it would have been fine.
But no, they made us all wait. And that wait, combined with the cone of silence and reporter lockdown that went with it, had hockey fans salivating. What could possibly be so big that it would require this level of secrecy? Could it be Ovechkin? Backstrom? Oh my god, the Predators aren’t allowed to trade Weber yet, are they?
And then we found out it was Martin Erat. Some intern’s computer had probably just crashed while they were finalizing the press release.
After a very long day of mostly underwhelming deals, this was like that one episode in every season of Survivor where they put a covered plate of mystery food in front of the starving contestants, then lift it up to reveal a piece of toast. It was just cruel. Do not taunt us, NHL.
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 is journeyman Marc Bergevin. A third-round pick in the 1983 draft, Bergevin made a 20-year career out of being a dependable defenseman. He never won an award or made an all-star team and averaged fewer than 10 points a season, but he could usually be counted on to provide a steady presence on your blueline.
As a player he was probably best known for two things: scoring one of the most inexplicable own goals in sports history, and getting traded a lot. Seven times, to be exact, including the rare feat in 2003 and 2004 of being dealt on trade deadline day in back-to-back seasons.
Those were his final two seasons in the league and his value wasn’t exactly high — he cost a ninth-round pick in 2003 and then a seventh-rounder in 2004 — but he still had to pack up and move hundreds of miles away from his family just to play a handful of games in a new city.
Did that experience have any sort of lasting impact? Perhaps even some residual bitterness? Maybe so. Because even though it’s years later and he’s no longer playing, when the 2013 NHL trade deadline rolled around, Bergevin apparently decided to just take the whole day off from his current job.
Great hockey debates
In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have plagued a generation of hockey fans.
This week’s debate: After another player suffered a gruesome injury on a race for the puck, should the NHL modify its icing rules?
In favor: Yes, they should. There’s a long history of players getting hurt on icing calls. In a league increasingly concerned with safety, changing the icing rules would be a simple way to protect players.
Opposed: No, they should keep the rules as they are. The race for the puck on an icing play is one of the most exciting moments in hockey.
In favor: It is?
Opposed: Sure! Whenever you’re leaving an NHL game, what’s the one thing fans are always talking about?
In favor: Goals? Fights? Big saves?
Opposed: Right, icing! Fans love icing!
In favor: I’m actually not sure that’s true …
Opposed [eyes glazing over]: The puck sliding down the ice … Two guys racing after it … One of them reaching out and awkwardly poking at it … The whistle blowing … Everyone kind of milling around while they blare “Gangnam Style” in the arena for the ninth time …
In favor: That sounds kind of …
In favor: … the complete and total opposite of exciting.
Opposed: So exciting.
In favor: I’m not sure you actually know what that word means.
Opposed: OK, fine. Look, most of the time, icing is actually incredibly dull. And if you want to focus on the 99 percent of icing calls where nothing happens and nobody cares, go right ahead. But at least acknowledge that sometimes, every once in a while, icing really does lead to an exciting and memorable play.
In favor: Such as …
Opposed: Mainly whenever some guy’s leg explodes.
The final verdict: It’s time for the NHL to move to hybrid icing. And also, people who talk about how exciting icing is should know that they generally sound kind of creepy and weird.
Trivial NHL-related annoyance of the week
In which I will complain about things that probably only matter to me.
You may have seen the video of an NAHL announcer losing his mind over a penalty call last week, shouting “it was a clean hit” over and over again in a comical display of mindless homerism.
But as ridiculous as the clip is, don’t get too carried away about mocking the guy, because there’s a good chance your hometown announcer is almost as bad. For some reason, hockey’s become a sport infested with broadcasters who think that their job description involves openly rooting for the home team while screaming a lame catchphrase into a microphone.
There have been exactly two hockey announcers in history who could get away with this sort of nonsense: Rick “May Day” Jeanneret and Mike “Scratch My Back With a Hacksaw” Lange. That’s the entire list. Everyone else from the past 20 years is just doing a bad impression of those two guys. Watching a local broadcast on Center Ice these days is almost unbearable, and lord help you if you ever have to listen to a game on the radio.
And yes, I know you agree with me when it comes to all the other teams but think that your local guy is somehow the exception. He’s not. Stop pretending like he is, because you’re only encouraging him. (We’re all looking at you right now, Bruins fans.)
It’s time for hockey fans to grow up and admit the truth: Your favorite team’s announcer is a blatant homer, and his shtick is tired and annoying. (Um, except for Joe Bowen. Joe Bowen is awesome.)
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.
This week’s depressing CapGeek page is Roberto Luongo’s contract because, as a wise man once said, it sucks.
It’s not the overall cap hit, since $5.3 million for a top-10 goalie is actually pretty reasonable. But the deal’s ridiculous length — it lasts until Luongo is 43 years old — seems to have made it untradable to any team that’s not in the middle of a full-blown goaltending crisis. Which, as of right now, would be … nobody.
The bottom line here is that Mike Gillis tried to hold out for the perfect offer last summer, and it backfired. He may not be able to do much better this offseason, unless some franchise out there has a complete meltdown and decides to lose its collective mind when it comes to goaltending and …
Enjoy Philadelphia, Roberto.
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?
After the Maple Leafs beat the Senators 4-0 in Ottawa on Saturday, Don Cherry kissed Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. This isn’t the first time Cherry has kissed a Maple Leaf, but it resulted in the predictable complaints: As a national broadcaster, the CBC spends too much time focusing on the Toronto Maple Leafs and not enough time on the other Canadian teams, of which there are … I don’t know, four? Four sounds about right.
But there was bigger news from Saturday’s broadcast: For reasons nobody’s quite clear on, Don Cherry spent his Coach’s Corner segment sitting on the left. He never sits on the left. This is the mirror image of the way the universe is supposed to work. It would be like the Columbus Blue Jackets acquiring a big-name star from the New York Rangers. It’s just against the natural order of things.
Luckily, equilibrium had been restored by the time Kadri showed up for his postgame smooch. Don Cherry was back on the right half of your screen, the way the hockey gods intended.
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.
For this week’s clip, we’re heading back to November 16, 1997, to learn something new about the NHL rulebook.
• OK, apologies right off the bat for the crummy picture quality here. Kids, this is recorded off of something called “VHS,” and back in the mid-’90s it was all we had. It was a horrible time. Now you understand why us old people are always so cranky.
• So here’s what’s happening: It’s late in a game between the Avalanche and Rangers at Madison Square Gardens. The Rangers are up 4-1, so the game is pretty much decided and the two teams are just playing out the string. The puck comes to Patrick Roy. He decides to get … creative.
• “He’s out of his mind,” says John Davidson, in the same casual tone you’d use for saying “We’re out of milk.”
• In fairness, I’m pretty sure this phrase came up at least once in every game of Patrick Roy’s career.
• Yes, a goaltender carrying the puck over center really is a penalty in the NHL. Specifically, it’s Rule 27.7, “Participating in the Play Over the Center Red Line.”
• No, no hockey fan has ever seen this rule actually called, before or since.
• Can we just take a moment to point out that this is a terrible rule? Would anyone object if goalies could jump up and join the offense the way they sometimes do in soccer? Wouldn’t it be worth it just to see if Mike Smith could skate that far without brushing up against somebody and back-flipping the rest of the way down the ice?
• Anyway, I thought the spinorama was a nice touch.
• This play isn’t really doing a ton to help that whole “Wayne Gretzky couldn’t back-check anyone” reputation, is it?
• Two fantastic reaction shots coming up. First, we get referee Paul Devorski trying not to laugh as he explains the penalty to a perplexed Avalanche. I always thought Paul Devorski looked exactly like Al Bundy, and kind of assumed that everyone else would call him “Referee Bundy” when they watched his games. It was kind of depressing when they invented the Internet and I came to discover that nobody else agreed with me.
• Next up we get an extended shot of Avalanche coach Marc Crawford as he weighs the pros and cons of a career change. This shot is completely priceless. You can actually watch in real time as the desire to live slowly seeps out of his body.
• Between bouts of hysterical laughter, Davidson isn’t quite sure what to make of all of this. I guess he must have been sick the day they covered this at J.D.’s Famous Goaltending School.
• I like the part Davidson decides to hum along, and he appears to go with “Teddy Bear Picnic” as his musical selection. That’s always the first tune that comes to mind when I think about ballroom dancing.
• Davidson also makes a vague reference to New Year’s Eve. I think the implication here is that when he’s had a few too many, John Davidson likes to go out and break obscure NHL rules.
• Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking: That was fun, but what was it like in Swedish? Don’t worry, YouTube has you covered. “Step-pang pahst center ahss … ”
• Of course, the best part of this whole incident is that it’s not even close to being the craziest thing Patrick Roy’s ever done at center ice.