VANCOUVER -- Items that may grow up to be columns, Vol. XV, Chapter 7:
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: To be kinder to NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan -- for a while, at least -- due entirely to the emotion of his Hockey Hall of Fame acceptance speech Monday night.
It was lump-in-the-throat stuff, as these things tend to be, but the ex-Devil, ex-Blue, ex-Whaler, ex-Red Wing, ex-Ranger, in his reflections on his Irish dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, on his much older brothers’ generosity in letting him join in on their pickup games, on the brotherhood of NHL players and their need to take care of each other -- all so obviously from the heart -- gave us a real window into the soul of the league’s discipline chief. It was a reminder that he’s a lot better man than the lopsided impression of him formed by those who never dealt with him as a player, and who see him now only as holder of the most thankless job in hockey.
BEST BEHAVIOUR: Good on Chris Chelios, the greatest American hockey player of all time, for mentioning the lockouts (“Nobody won”), for apologizing to teammates he may have alienated through the work stoppages, and for paying homage to Ted Lindsay and Carl Brewer and, yes, Bob Goodenow for fighting the good fight on behalf of players.
He pretty much had to divide his thank-yous into four parts because of the odd way he got to the NHL, and the three lengthy tenures he had with Montreal, Chicago and Detroit. It was a long but great speech. But heck, they were all great.
Geraldine Heaney apologizing to her husband for all the grief he took at work because her shot was harder than his, and thanking her parents for never saying “Girls don’t play” ... Penguins GM Ray Shero graciously saluting the rival Philadelphia organization on behalf of his father Fred, recognizing the many old-time Flyers who came to the Hall to pay tribute to their coach, who famously said, “Win together today and we will walk together forever” and was proven right ... and arguably the world’s most decorated hockey player, Cranbrook’s Scott Niedermayer, letting down his famous reserve just a bit with the most formal of the speeches.
If you could watch it all without wiping away the odd tear ... well, you wouldn’t have been watching.
CANADIAN EXCHANGE: Inadvertently gave CFL readers a case of the vapours with yesterday’s mention of Montreal Alouettes QB Troy Smith making $525,000 US. Uh, oops. That was last year’s NFL salary. He’ll make $140,000 with the Als in 2014. First mistake, ever. I feel shame.
WALLY-SPEAK: When BC Lions GM Wally Buono talked about his philosophy of “burning the ship” in cases where there are questions about a veteran’s ability to contribute late in his career, we trust he’s not talking about Korey Banks. If you thought the old guy had lost a step, you might have changed your mind watching him sprint 61 yards downfield to catch Saskatchewan RB Kory Sheets and knock him out of bounds at the B.C. 4. late in the second quarter of Sunday’s Western semifinal loss. It only postponed a Rider touchdown by one play, but it could have been a game-changer ... if the Lions could have figured out how to cover Weston Dressler in the endzone.
That said, the secondary is getting a little long in the tooth, and more vulnerable than in the past to the big play. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of Dante Marsh, Ryan Phillips or Banks left out of the plan for 2014.
IT FIGURES: Not that either was projected to win a medal in Sochi, but the continuing struggle of Coquitlam’s Kevin Reynolds with a new pair of skate boots and 2013 worlds rookie Kaetlyn Osmond of Edmonton with a hamstring injury dims the figure skating outlook for Canada at the Olympics -- if nothing else, in the new team competition that precedes the individual skating. Depth, and strength in every discipline, were Canada’s hole cards. But neither Osmond, who was a shocking 8th at the worlds in London in March, nor Reynolds, 23, who was fifth, has competed in a Grand Prix event yet this season, and time is running out for their programs to be battle-tested prior to Sochi.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Tony Johnstone (@Tony.Johnstone56), the 57-year-old world traveler from Zimbabwe who was Nick Price’s International team co-captain at last month’s Presidents Cup, tweeted some interesting observations on the world’s No. 1 golfer after Tiger Woods’s third-place finish last week in Turkey.
Put them together and the narrative went something like this:
“Last week Tiger 74th driving acc., 49th GIR (greens in regulation). Finished THIRD. And some people still insist long game more important in scoring. Dream on” ... “A well rounded game IS ideal but give me a guy with DECENT long game and a GREAT short game every time rather than reverse” ... “Short game will always differentiate the CHAMPIONS. No matter how well you hit it, no short game, no wins” and finally, on a reader’s suggestion that Woods isn’t as great a putter as he once was: “I don't think he reads them as well as a few years ago but at 80% he's still the best putter out there. Makes my head spin!”
DOUBLE-TALK: Loved Gary Bettman’s defence of fighting in hockey, saying it was a “thermostat” to keep the temperature of games down. Just once, don’t you wish an NHL owner/executive/commissioner had the guts to speak the truth: “Fighting is good business, why would we get rid of it?”
OVER TO YOU, IGOR: With Ilya Bryzgalov not yet on the premises, looks as though the Edmonton Oilers’ unhappy 2012 No. 1 overall pick, Nail Yakupov, had to turn to his agent, Igor Larionov, to translate the words “Play me or trade me” for Oiler GM Craig MacTavish. The kid’s unhappy with his ice time, the Oilers are unhappy with his cavalier attitude to his own end of the rink, so now Larionov is called in to read the riot act ... but to the Oilers, by the sounds of it, not to his client. Evidently, paying dues and learning the game are not part of the deal any more for today’s ingenues. Surprising, considering how honest a player Larionov was, in his day.
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