Category Archives: General Hockey

Saturday catching-up post

First game of the Claude Noel interim era on Thursday. I went — first win I’ve seen in person in its entirety since….um….several decades ago? (Actually, November 7 against Carolina. So just in the last decade) It was a pretty boring affair, as I recall (I went out carousing after the game, so most of my memories of it are seen through a thick haze of beer, karaoke, and cupcakes), not many good scoring chances by either team, neither team really dominating. The most exciting moment was probably Umberger’s empty net (!) goal scored from his stomach in the dying minutes to make it 2-0. Dallas rather quickly answered back to make a thrilling game of it for the last minute, but Mason held on. So, not exactly a 180-degree turnaround for the Jackets in the post-Hitchcock era, but a promising enough start, I suppose.

Buffalo tonight. I’m going, so I had some hopes that Snowmageddon might keep some of the drunken WNY hordes at bay. But this is Buffalo we’re talking about, so no. I think I need a drink already…

In other news, former Jacket O-K Tollefsen is now a Red Wing, so we’ll be seeing more of him (assuming he’s not hurt when the Jackets and Wings meet).

There’s also some sad news in the hockey world today. You’ll recall a few months ago I posted a link to John Buccigross’ excellent piece about the relationship between Leafs GM Brian Burke and his son Brendan, a student manager with the Miami hockey team who had come out publicly as gay in the macho world of hockey. Sadly, Brendan Burke and a friend were killed in a car accident in Indiana yesterday. Condolences to the families and the Miami hockey program.

Some reading for a rainy Sunday

I just finished reading Gretzky’s Tears by Stephen Brunt. It’s a stand-out among hockey books. My review (as posted on Goodreads):

Stephen Brunt is one of my all-time favorite sportswriters, and has been for years. I always loved his columns in the Globe & Mail, enjoyed Searching for Bobby Orr very much. He’s a very skilled writer and very smart, able to weave in wider social and cultural context to writing about sports.

This book is no different. He discusses the events leading up to the Gretzky trade. At this point, there aren’t really any revelations — I think anyone who has paid attention to hockey since 1988 knows that Gretzky was sold to LA because Peter Pocklington was having money problems. The PR line at the time, that Gretzky asked to be traded to the Kings so his new wife could continue her acting career, was discredited soon afterwards. But Brunt’s perspective on the trade is still welcome and fresh, because he does provide a lot of background information on what went on from people involved, like Bruce McNall, or Peter Pocklington’s PR man.

And he goes beyond just a retelling of the trade itself into looking at what it meant in terms of the direction the NHL took post-1988, what it meant in terms of how Canadians viewed hockey and the NHL, and so on. There’s some really insightful writing in here about the meaning of sports in contemporary culture. He also explores the unraveling of the fortunes of both Bruce McNall and Peter Pocklington in more depth than I’d personally read before.

Brunt’s pretty cynical about the post-Gretzky NHL and American expansion in general. I suppose that leaves a bit of a sour note for me, just given that he implicitly at least would deny my favorite team the right to exist. Although his wider point about the illusory nature of NHL expansion in the U.S. is taken.

The chapters at the end about Gretzky’s role in Phoenix do seem a bit rushed and not as artful as the rest of the book. But I’d highly recommend this to any sports fan as an essential work in understanding the contemporary NHL and how it came to be as it is circa 2009-10.

Unlike many hockey books originating in Canada, this one seems to be pretty widely available in the U.S. I picked up my copy at the Borders on Kenny Rd.

Another hockey book I’ve been wanting to read turned up today the the Barnes & Noble/OSU Bookstore, where I was ostensibly shopping for a gift for our holiday exchange at work, but instead came home with Bob McKenzie’s Hockey Dad for myself. This one is of course of above-average interest for me, since Bob’s son Mike plays for St. Lawrence. As I believe I’ve noted here before, I’ve seen the senior McKenzie in the stands at some Saints games, and, memorably, in the corridor at the University Inn first thing in the morning, the last time I was up in Canton. Looking forward to reading this one.

Montreal Pre-Game Odds & Ends

Random thoughts:

So, I did manage to stay awake for the rest of last night’s game. Jackets did get another goal to make the score look somewhat respectable, but really, that was not a respectable performance by any stretch of the imagination. They were just bad. But it happens in hockey. It’s a long season, and every team is going to lay the occasional egg. No time to dwell on it, though, as the Jackets play again tonight in Montreal. The Habs are another team behind where they might have been expected to be at this point, but as we’ve seen of late with the Wings, Preds, and Rangers, that’s no reason to take them lightly. Also, this is the only game on the schedule tonight, and is being shown nationally on TSN and RDS in Canada, so no doubt the Canadian-born Jackets will want to put on a good show for their family and friends watching at home.

The Jackets move on to play Ottawa on (American) Thanksgiving, but won’t get to face off against former Jacket Pascal Leclaire. He is out for a month with a broken cheekbone, the result of being hit by the puck while he sat on the bench. I always did like Leclaire, and I still think he has some real talent, but the guy has just been snake-bitten by injuries throughout his entire pro career.

I was intending to take in a film tonight, but given that I’m still a little hobbled by this virus (although greatly improved over yesterday), I’ll be staying in to watch the game. Hoping for a better one than last night. Got myself psyched up for a game in La Belle Province by watching Les Boys III today. Okay, so maybe it didn’t psych me up all that much. It was an okay movie, but about half an hour too long. The first movie in the series was pretty funny and enjoyable, though, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend searching it out.

Having spent the last couple days at home, in between my hours of judge show watching, I’ve had lots of time to surf the web, and dug out some worthwhile hockey stories:

After all the sturm und drang about Hitchcock’s coaching style after Filatov went back to Russia, there have been a couple of stories in the past couple days that point to Hitchcock having a good effect on young players. NHL.com on Rick Nash and his growth into the captaincy in Columbus and Tom Reed in the Dispatch on the blossoming of Rusty Klesla.

Meanwhile, speaking of the prodigal Filatov, he’s happy to be back with CSKA and playing well. But he’s still saying the right things (publicly at least) about Columbus.

And not Jackets related, but this Buccigross piece at ESPN about Brian Burke’s son Brendan, and his decision to come out publicly, is a must-read. And it speaks well to the character of Enrico Blasi and the program he’s built at Miami, so there’s something in there for the Ohioans.

And it sounds like something interesting might be happening on Judge Mathis, so I leave you with those thoughts. à bientôt.

Off-season hockey books and other Toronto tidbits

I was up in Toronto for a few days earlier this week. Mostly work, but I did fit in an awesome Tragically Hip concert at Massey Hall, some visiting of friends, and of course some shopping. Although Amazon and other on-line sources now make it possible to acquire pretty much any book from any place, I still enjoy going to bookstores in Canada to find new books on hockey that haven’t filtered down here yet. Most new hockey books come out to coincide with the beginning of the season, so this is an off time for them. Although I hadn’t been in Canada since my trip to Calgary last March, so the Fall 2008 titles are still new to me.

There were some newer titles that struck my fancy a little, but they were all still hardcovers in the $30 range, so I decided to wait on these ones until they’re in paperback or remainders. Bruce Dowbiggin’s The Meaning of Puck was the most tempting, as I’ve enjoyed his other books and his journalism in general, but I deferred. I’ll probably pick it up on my next trip up. The Rocket by Benoit Melancon, a meaty looking cultural studies tome about Maurice Richard and his cultural impact in Quebec was similarly tempting, and is on the list for later. Not much else really struck my fancy this time.

The books I did end up buying were older titles. Chris Robinson’s Stole This from a Hockey Card about Doug Harvey caught my eye a couple years ago at Pages Books, but it was at the tail end of the trip when I’d already spent too much, so I didn’t get it. Made sure to pick it up this time. I’m a fan of Bill Gaston’s fiction, so his Midnight Hockey, which was on remainder at Book City, found its way into my ownership. I’d seen Mark Anthony Jarman’s hockey novel Salvage King, Ya! at the Kingston Chapters many eons ago, but I barely read fiction as a grad student, never mind paid $20 for a brand new novel, so I passed it up and it slipped my mind. Found it in a used bookstore this time, and I’m about halfway through reading it — takes some getting into, but I am quite enjoying it.

The Leafs have obviously been out of action even longer than the Jackets, so not a whole lot of buzz around them in Toronto these days. More people wearing Jays gear than I’ve seen in well over a decade, and lots of Toronto FC presence as well. And of course lots of Balsillie/Coyotes talk. Even a friend of mine in Waterloo who detests hockey was talking about that. She opined that since Toronto has the Leafs, the Niagara Peninsula has the Sabres, and “I suppose people in Windsor must like Detroit” that London would be the best home for the erstwhile Coyotes. Okay…

It was also nice that in Canada hockey is on channels that are actually available in hotel rooms, unlike Vs., which I think I’ve found in hotels twice. So I skipped a dinner with colleagues in favor of takeout shawarma and Game Six of Pens-Caps. What a fun series that was to watch, even as someone who is pretty much neutral on those two teams! Sounds like Game Seven was a bit of a dud, but I was en route back to Columbus and missed it. Tried to listen on XM, but they had the Pittsburgh feed, and I loathe Mike Lange with the white hot intensity of 1000 suns, so that was a no-go. Can’t say I have a lot of interest in the teams that are left — I’ll probably cheer for Carolina as the last remaining “non-traditional” team insofar as I cheer for anyone.

On that note of playoff ennui for those of us without a rooting interest left, I’ll leave you with a recommendation to check out this right-on Roy MacGregor column about the ever dragging hockey playoffs.

Um…what?

You just know this is going to wind up in some Fraser Institute report about how pointy-headed int-y-leck-shuls have been wasting tax dollars…

On the reading list

I was relatively restrained in the purchase of books on my recent trip north of the border, not least because I was flying this time and had to be reasonable in what I could pack (this also contributed to my bringing ZERO alcohol back with me. Boo.). But as is my wont when I return to the land of my birth 1993-94, 1995-96, and 1997-2002, I did pick up a few hockey books, two of which even have a Jackets connection. They are:

  • Future Greats and Heartbreaks by Gare Joyce, which relies heavily upon access to the Blue Jackets’ scouting staff.
  • King of Russia by Dave King, the first-ever CBJ head coach, although the book is about his time coaching in Russia.
  • Cold-Cocked: On Hockey by Lorna Jackson, which looks to be the sort of book I’ll either love, or hate so much that it makes me angry. I’m hoping for the former, since it did cost $19.95 — in real money, not American pesos!

I haven’t started any of them yet, as I’ve been slogging through my remaindered copy of The Secret Mulroney Tapes for a week and a half now. But once I do get them read, I’ll report back if any are particularly worthwhile.

A plethora of random stories

I set up an alert for “hockey” on my Google news page, and it’s been leading me to all kinds of random goodies. Some stories to read on Hockey Day in Canada: