THE CROSBY SHOW

 

You know how I’m always saying “don’t blink because you might miss something”?  Well, I should really start practicing what I preach.

For the first time since the World Cup, I had a chance to sit down and watch a hockey game.  Yes, you read right.  While the NHL seems more concerned over where the next All-Star game won’t be played, it’s business as usual in all of the other hockey leagues, and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), comprised of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) is no exception.  The league showcases the best of the up and comers, so to speak.

There’s a young man by the name of Sidney Crosby who you may have heard a lot about.  He’s been touted as the next one (by the Great One himself), the one who will carry the pro hockey circuit into the next era, whenever that may be, whatever they may call it.  At the tender age of 16 he walked away with most, if not all of the CHL’s yearly accolades, everything from scoring champion to rookie of the year, and followed it up with an equally impressive campaign last season, capped off with a silver medal for Canada in last year’s World Junior Championship Tournament.  This season, he’s again leading the pack in the ‘Q League, even after having missed a handful of games with a minor knee injury.  When the kid plays you can be sure he’ll be good for at least a point or two per game.

As you might imagine, then, it was with great pleasure I sat down to watch hockey for the first Saturday night in eons, as Rogers Sportsnet featured Crosby’s QMJHL team the Rimouski Oceanic going head to head with the Gatineau Olympiques, again a force to be reckoned with this year from what I understand.

Here’s where the blinking comes in.  Before I even had a chance to pay the pizza delivery guy and sit down in front of the tube with the definitive Saturday night main course in hand, before the game was even five minutes old, the kid had connected on three scoring plays, and by the end of the first period had tallied four assists.  At this point I’m thankful instant replay exists.  Crosby, partnered with “the other guy” Rimouski drafted in the first round in 2003, Francis Charette, helped their Oceanic team pound the ‘Piques by a final score of 7-3.  Patrick Roy’s protégé Jean-Michel Filiatrault was equally as impressive, turning away 28 shots in the victory.  It wasn’t one of the usual Saturday Night tilts we’re used to watching, but nonetheless it was something other than one of Spielberg’s finest for a change, and was enough to make one long for the good old days when the NHL was still this innocent thriving new exciting league.

So as the young Crosby continues to woo the fans and make opposing goaltenders and coaches alike wonder “how’d he do that”, a bigger question begs an answer.  What next?  You don’t even have to look at the scouting reports to know whenever they hold the next draft in the NHL, this kid will go first overall.  But what if there isn’t a draft?  What if this whole lockout mess actually lasts as long as some have predicted and the NHL declares an impasse?  The word on the street is agents who represent Sidney Crosby will challenge the league at the highest court level necessary and push for unrestricted free agency, before he even has a chance to attend his first NHL training camp.  It will be kind of a “what have you done for me lately” situation, where essentially you weren’t there for me when I needed you, why should I be there for you?  Open the floodgates and may the highest bidder win.  Seem too good to be true?  We’ll see.  Whatever happens, whatever you do, get out and see this kid play if you can, before it costs an arm and a leg to do so (and before you’re reduced to buying “standing room only” tickets!).  Believe all the hype, as he really is something special to watch.

I FOUGHT THE LAW, & THE LAW WON?

Without the usual distractions of the NHL regular season, we’re starting to see some progress on a few major court cases involving some well known players.

The whole Mike Danton situation ended abruptly with Danton pleading guilty to the charge he hired a hit man in an attempt to murder his agent David Frost.  The U.S. Justice System came down real hard with a sentence of 7 1/2 years, and will not stand in the way of Danton’s request to transfer to a Canadian institution.  Wherever he serves his sentence, his career in hockey is essentially over.  U.S. District Judge William Stiehl had this to say about the whole ordeal: I do not believe in over 18 years on the bench I have been faced with a case as bizarre as this one.”

In what we thought could be a potential final word on whether or not he will go to trial on a vehicular homicide charge and five misdemeanor charges, lawyers involved in the Dany Heatley case reported they are nowhere close to coming to a plea agreement, which would indicate Heatley will be left to face the music.  Adding injury to insult, he recently took a puck in the eye playing overseas for SC Bern of Switzerland.  When it rains it pours.  Heatley faces a potential of 5-20 years if convicted on any of the six charges against him.  Hasn’t this guy suffered enough, really?  I’d like to think he’s at the very least learned his lesson with respect to driving over the speed limit, having lost his fellow team mate and friend Dan Snyder, and having lost half of last season due to injuries sustained in the crash which claimed Snyder’s life and almost his own.  Now some spunky lawyer is trying to stir the pot with an alleged history of traffic violations, most notably a speeding ticket in Kentucky.  Give me a break.

Montreal Canadiens legend Serge Savard recently pleaded not guilty to not one, but two drunk driving charges, after allegedly being involved in two separate minor crashes.  Now I know Savard was only part of eight Stanley Cup winning teams in Montreal, and two more as a general manager, but I have a question.  Was a breathalyzer test not an option here?  In any event, Savard is to appear in court on March 7, 2005.

And from a financial perspective, if this doesn’t prove the NHL’s case of the league losing money, nothing will.  Creditors of former Ottawa Senators owner Rod Bryden have accepted a proposal which would require Bryden to pay back only $600,000 out of the nearly $100 million he owes creditors and investors of the NHL team and arena, which is more than they would have received had Bryden declared bankruptcy.  The “performance of the business was actually substantially better than we had forecast,” Bryden said. “But players' salaries and the Canadian dollar just blew that all away. It turned out to be just a dreadful period for a Canadian company that relied on Canadian revenues and had to pay export (U.S.) dollars.”  Take that, put it in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Goodenow.

LOCKOUT TIDBITS

Proving there’s no shortage of hockey memorabilia, and people to buy it, some lucky fan paid the sum of $575.96 US for Bobby Hull’s false teeth when they were auctioned on eBay in October.  Note to self: my false teeth are worth more and they have one less tooth!!

EA Sports have simulated the season we’re missing in their online feature “What Might Have Been”.  Check it out now, the results may surprise you (but don’t forget they’re based for the most part on last year’s rosters):

http://www.easports.com/games/nhl2005/season.jsp

Speaking of which, I will finally get around to reviewing the game if and when I can break myself away from Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, or if and when we actually have a season, whichever comes first.

Is there really no way we can convince Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman to get together for some words, to break the ice, have a cup of coffee, and maybe start getting something, anything, worked out?  Maybe we could stage a lock-in: lure them to the main concourse of any one of the 30 NHL arenas, hide the beer, lock the doors and throw away the keys until they come up with something of any substance.  It really must be said even though it’s probably already graced a sports headline somewhere, if these two can’t get it together, they both must go, period, I don’t care how serious the issues are.  There’s no negotiation without communication.

Try as I might, I just don’t see how the players receiving lockout pay of $5,000-$10,000 per month is such a bad thing.  Maybe now they can learn to live on a level closer to you and I, even though it’s still more money than I take home bi-monthly.  What I do have a problem with is this money is tax free, unless the player sits on the seven member executive committee.  So basically, Trevor Linden’s check is taxed, but virtually every other player who resides in Canada is home free provided they meet certain criteria.  If I hear of any player complaints, just remember this: I will welcome any tax free donations.

I wonder how many more players will migrate overseas before the lockout ends?  Any bets?  Anyone?  Anyone?

It seems Chris Chelios is determined to be at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, one way or another.  Whether it will be as a hockey player or as part of the U.S. Olympic Bobsledding team remains to be seen, but just a word of advice: you won’t get on the podium if you can’t keep your crew from crashing the sleigh.

A wise man once said “I went to go see a fight and a hockey game broke out”.  I wonder, then, what the late great Rodney Dangerfield would have to say about the whole lockout situation, God bless his soul.  This is just one of the many things I think about when there aren’t any games to watch.

And finally, in an attempt to let all of the hockey starved fans know they still exist, Molson launched a very clever television ad which shows fans sadly singing the song “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” with a fade to black caption “Hockey please come back”.  Almost brings a tear to my eye every time I see it.  Marketing is everything, isn’t it?  I for one question their choice of song, but you have to believe this lockout hurts them in the pocketbook just a tad.  They needn’t worry, if the lineups at the Beer Store are any indication.  If anything it just means we can afford to drink more.  Just remember to hide the car keys folks, please and thank you, at least until the following morning. 

On a sad note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to the late Sergei Zholtok, arguably the best Latvian hockey player ever to lace up the skates.  Known as “Zholi” by many of his teammates, past and present, Zholtok was playing in a game between Riga 2000 and Dinamo Minsk when upon leaving the game early due to fatigue, he collapsed in the locker room.  He had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in January 2003, and an autopsy later proved he died of heart failure.  Zholtok, who had a career-best 26 goals for the Montreal Canadiens in 1999-2000, was a member of the Latvian team that won silver at the 1994 world championships.  Throughout his illustrious yet short NHL career, he scored 111 goals, assisted on 147 and drew 166 penalty minutes in 588 NHL games with Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Minnesota and Nashville, where he finished last season after a trade from Minnesota in March.  He will be greatly missed.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.  Happy Holidays!!!

 

More Puckin' Around...