yankee hockey

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

Posted in Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, post-season, stanley cup, Washington by yankhockey on May 5, 2009

What a boon for the NHL to have Ovechkin and Crosby playing each other. It helps that the leagues two biggest stars are playing like the leagues two biggest stars. On Monday the two both had hat tricks, only the fourth time in NHL history that opposing players had hat tricks in the same game in the playoffs. The match up goes beyond this series though, it’s cultural. This is a revisit to the old Summit Series that pitted Canada’s best against the Soviet Red Army teams. Believe me, Don Cherry isn’t the only Canadian who would fight anyone who said that Ovechkin is a better player. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of Canadians who think Ovechkin is better, I know a couple myself, but the entire country would love it if Crosby showed him up this post-season.

The problem is that Crosby is so hard to love. Ovechkin is the best thing to happen to the NHL since Gretzky. Every time he opens his mouth the most charismatic thing you could possibly imagine rolls out of it. When he’s on the ice his joy and enthusiasm is infectious. Crosby, on the other hand, can never quite get it right. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great – nay – amazing player. There are times when he is even the best player in the league, but as much as Ovechkin shines, Crosby whithers. During the game, in which he matched Ovechkins three goals with three very impressive goals of his own, he complained about how long it took to clean up the hats after Ovie’s hat trick. Clean up the hats? Are you kidding me Crosby? If that had happened in Pittsburgh it would have taken an hour to clean up all the hats people would have thrown. People would have left their seats, gone to the souvenir stands, bought all the hats, and then gone back to the seats to throw those.

There is a very real feud between these two, and it makes for great copy. There is a difference in how the feud is handled between the two players though. Ovechkin keeps it on the ice, Crosby brings it to the media. What this does is make Crosby seem petty and immature. Clean up the hats? Let the man have his moment in front of his fans Crosby. In the last couple years the image of Crosby the whiner has begun to fade. He hasn’t taken as many dives, he hasn’t chirped at the refs as much, and he’s played through adversity. This most recent incident makes him seem worse then ever.

In the end though, this is going to be a great series. Even if the Caps go on to sweep it in Pittsburgh it’s still a lot of fun to watch. Some people have said that it would have been better if this series had occurred during the conference final. I say that would certainly amp up the drama but the league is better served with where it is. See, this series is attracting sports fans, not necessarily hockey fans. People are tuning in to see the most dynamic pair of players in the league take it to each other, and it’s been an exciting thing to watch. Once this series is over, regardless of who wins, a lot of those people who never gave a shit about hockey before will be interested enough to continue to follow the player that makes it to the next round. People who have been attracted to the playoffs by this series will hopefully stay for the whole thing. That’s one extra round of front page news that the NHL wouldn’t normally get, so I say be glad it’s happening in the second round.

Meanwhile the Ducks have decided that they want to take down the Western Conference top teams in a row. They beat the number one Sharks and now sit one game up on Detroit. With Vancouver now one game up on Chicago (not that that series is over by a longshot), the Ducks sit in a position where it is very possible for them to go, literally, 1-2-3 and into the Stanley Cup series. The problem Detroit is facing (besides really missing Brian Rafalski) is that the Ducks are not intimidated by them. Columbus may have seen them six times during the regular season, but the playoffs are something else entirely. These are the defending champs and perennial favourites. The Ducks don’t care, they keep playing the same game they want to play. Not only that, they are making the Red Wings play their game, they are dictating the pace. Add to that the incredible Jonas Hiller and you got yourself one helluva team to beat.

Like I said before though, the Red Wings aren’t the Sharks. The Red Wings aren’t intimidated either. They have, like, 200,000,000 combined playoff games between them. They’ve won more cups then the Ducks have years of existence. The Sharks went belly-up four games in, the Red Wings will be fighting tooth and nail until that final horn sounds.

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THE SEASON THAT WAS

Well folks, the end of the season is upon us, and the reason for the season is about to start, so what better time then now to look back on all the significant events that have transpired through 2008-2009 in the NHL.

Injuries Galore:

There are injuries every season, but has any season seen an IR list like this year? It started small with Erik Johnson of the Blues hurting his knee by getting his foot stuck between the brake and accelerator of a golf cart during spring training. The knee required surgery and he was out for the season. Then Burnaby Joe Sakic ended up hurting his back big time, missing a significant chunk of the season. And then, with his return on the horizon, he gets his hand stuck in a snow blower, requiring surgery to repair it. Sakic is hoping to play the last three games this season. I had believed that this would be his last season. I think now he’ll come back, he wants to end it on a full season. But the Avs trouble didn’t end there, their young star Paul Stastny ended up getting injured not once… but twice! The first time missing more then 20 games, the second time… well he’s still out. Mike Richards, he of post-season glory and expensive off-season contract, ended up breaking his wrist early in the season and missing a lot of games. Then, in his long anticipated first game back… he broke his other wrist, out for the rest of the season.

In the goalie category the league lost it’s two best goaltenders long term to injury. Martin Brodeur tore a tendon in his elbow and lost 16 weeks to injury, the longest period of time he’s been out in his career. On the other coast Roberto Luongo suffered a pulled groin muscle, and after reaggravating it a few weeks later trying to come back early, ended up missing more then two months. Will it hurt his Vezina chances? Maybe. And then Ryan Miller goes down at the most inopportune time, leaving Buffalo without a solid netminder, and out of the playoffs. And I think we’re all done talking about DiPietro and his injury problems. How’s that fifteen year contract going Long Island?

In the Sharks category… who hasn’t been injured? Their entire D-corps has been out at one point or another, their starting goaltender went down… hell, I’m surprised HP Pavillion hasn’t been placed on the IR. The worst of it has been happening recently. That’s what we call a case of BAD TIMING.

Record Breakers:

Brodeur came back into the spotlight by winning his 552 game, breaking Patrick Roy’s all-time record. I’m sure New Jersey was expecting to celebrate that earlier in the year, they should be glad they got to celebrate it at all. In Washington Mike Green managed not to just break the team goal scoring record for consecutive games… he managed to break the league record (for defensemen). Green is a phenomenal offensive player… will it be enough to garner him a Norris Trophy? Also in Washington, Alexander Ovechkin became the first player to score 50 goals three times in a Capitals uniform, further justifying his “Greatest-Player-In-The-Game” status.

Melrose, we hardly knew ye:

In the most celebrated coaching hire in decades (at least, if you work for ESPN), Barry Melrose started the year behind the bench in Tampa Bay. After trying to prove to both the fans and the players that old school, hard-working hockey is better then flash-and-dash hockey for about a week, he was fired and allowed to go back to hockey analysis where he really shines. Meanwhile new coach Rick Tocchet has managed to keep them in the Tavares hunt, apparently to management’s great satisfaction.

The trade that wasn’t:

For a year… A YEAR… all I heard about was how the Panthers were going to trade Jeremy Bouwmeester. Oh how the excitement built up as the trade deadline came close. Oh how the fans of teams in the hunt held their breath trying to imagine Bouwmeester on their blueline. What’s that? The Florida held onto him for their playoff run? And now they aren’t even in the top eight with only a few games left to play? And they’re going to lose him for nothing in the offseason? Way to go Florida… way to go.

Toronto institutes a “No Stanley Cup Ever” program:

Brian Burke, fresh off riding another GM’s players into the Stanley Cup, left Anaheim and moved over to Toronto where he immediately began to trade off players. The thing about Burke is, he hates prospects. Just ask Vancouver where his handy work left them hard pressed for the kind of young talent most other teams have in their line ups. Unfortunately for both Burke and Toronto, there isn’t a Stanley Cup winning team already in place for him to leech off of. You know what, as long as he can build a decent US Olympic team I’ll forgive him anything… not sure Leafs fans will though.

Wait a minute… penguins can’t fly!:

Oh, how much joy I had when I thought the Penguins were going to miss the post-season. Alas, you just can’t stop a team with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, no matter how much the rest of the team might try. Still, it is better for the league to have this team in the playoffs. Just please please please not another Stanley Cup appearance… I don’t think my delicate constitution could take that.

To celebrate, or not to celebrate:

Don Cherry stuck yet another foot in his mouth (how many does he have in there now… fourteen?) when he started complaining about Ovechkin’s exciting, over the top goal celebrations, and lauding Crosby’s stoic “Oh, did I just score? How intriguing.” nothing celebrations.  We all get that you enjoy things that blend into the background quietly Mr Cherry, especially your clothing (want some more examples). Look Grapes, anyone who watches Ovechkin score a goal… or a linemate for that matter, and doesn’t get excited for the game of hockey is either dead or a xenophobic loud mouth. And to think, because he’s on the CBC, Canadian citizens pay his salary.

Well, there’s been plenty more including a great Winter Classic, some incredible rookie sensations, a few veteran comebacks, and even a fight or two. But there is one event that we should not, ever, let slip past our notice this season.

Colleen Howe, Mrs Hockey, passed away at the age of 76. They say behind every good man is a great woman, and never was it more true then in this case. Mrs Hockey not only supported her husband emotionally, she supported him professionally too, acting as his manager. She was instrumental in getting hockey players the kinds of competitive contracts they have today. When she began as Gordie’s manager he was the third highest player on the team, despite being by far the best. Thanks to the negotiating skills of Colleen, the Red Wings were forced to give him the raise he deserved. She’s been honoured more times then I can list, and her death is likely the reason that the Hockey Hall of Fame will, from now on, be allowing women to be honoured. The passing of Mrs Howe is a sad and tragic event for anyone who loves hockey, and so it is with great regret that I make it the final moment of note this season.

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES C’MON!

Posted in Players, stats, Washington by yankhockey on March 26, 2009

We’re back! After a week off Yankee Hockey is rested, rejuvenated, renewed, and ready for action. And what kind of action? I’ve spent the entire week, a week leading up to the post season with lots of great story lines hearing only one repeated over and over and over again. That story is the fierce criticism, or defense, of Alexander Ovechkin’s celebration upon scoring his 50th goal.

For those of you fortunate enough to have escaped this story, here’s what happened: After scoring his 50th goal Ovechkin dropped his stick and mimed that it was too hot to pick up. It was something a teammate (Green or Semin I don’t remember) suggested to him. Since then the question on everyone’s minds is “How will my team do in the playoffs?” while the question being posed by media everywhere is “Was Ovechkin’s celebration over the top?”

Let’s end that debate right now, hell yes it was. Of course it was over the top, he used his stick as a prop to celebrate a goal which in the conservative world of hockey is very over the top. It’s over the top even in the liberal, me-first world of the NFL, enough that they charge a penalty for that kind of behavior. It’s also, however, totally innocent. The man scored 50 goals, he’s the first one in the league to do so (maybe only?) and he’s done it three times now which is an incredible feat. He’s the best player in the league. Proof? This is like the fourth or fifth article I’ve written about him already. Sidney Crosby maybe has two or three, along with Broduer and Luongo.

Ovechkin has never once in his entire career done anything out of selfishness. This is a guy who’d likely take a teammate’s stick and drop it like it was burning him if a teammate scored fifty. He loves the game, he loves to score, and his much maligned celebrations are simply a product of that. I wish every player in the league loved to play the game as much as Alex. Alex is the type of guy that, if he wasn’t good enough in the NHL, he’d spend his entire career in the ECHL making barely enough to live on and having to work fast food in the off season just so he could play the game.

The thing about hockey is that it has a long history of stone-faced stars. You can bet Maurice Richard didn’t even smile when he scored his 50th goal… of course the fact that hockey players have no teeth may be one of the reasons. A lot of the old school guys, and by old school guys I mean specifically Don Cherry, think that celebrating goals is childish and  selfish. They are dead wrong. Celbrating goals means that you are proud of what you have accomplished, excited to have done it for you team and fans, and enjoying your the time you are spending on the ice which is exactly how grown men being payed to play games should act.

Having said all that there is a time and a place. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are done by three+ goals. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are up three+ goals. Those kinds of actions certainly scream a “me first” sort of attitude. Ovechkin’s goal was neither of these things. That doesn’t mean it’s totally innocent, however. If I was the Tampa Bay Lightening watching Ovechkin drop it like it’s hot I’d certainly want to pop him one. Oh hey! Guess what? That’s perfectly within the rules of the game. Wanna know why they didn’t? Cause he would kick their collective asses. You see, he’s not just a goal scorer, no sir. He’s a big guy who plays a complete game, and that includes dropping someone to the ice if need be.

If goal celebrations like that become an epidemic then the league will certainly do something about it. The league might support players being excited that they scored, but they are uninterested in showy theatrics like that. They allow Ovechkin to do it because he is the most charismatic man ever to play the game, but if he does it again or other players take his lead expect penalties to be called.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get a chance to hear his response to the criticism, it’s timeless Alex Ovechkin:

“It’s a big number, I think for everybody. If I get it, why [can’t I] celebrate? If you win the lottery — a million dollars — you go to the bar and drink a lot. I scored 50 goals, I just celebrated.”

yes you did Alex, yes you did. And your stellar play, charming personality, and endless wit make you just about everyone’s (Crosby and Cherry excluded) favourite player.

COAT TAILS

Posted in Boston, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Players, predictions, Washington by yankhockey on March 17, 2009

Martin Brodeur’s recent record breaking performance has led me to think about the records sitting on the other side of the puck. The list of all-time points leaders is topped by two significant names; Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Gretzky tops the list by nearly 1000 points with 2857 points in just 1487 games. For those of you counting that’s nearly two points a game for an entire career. Messier comes in a distant second with 1887 points in 1756 games. The current player closest to that number is Joe Sakic with 1641, and he’s a year at most till retirement.

So who can give Gretzky a scare? Which player playing today is going to supplant the Great One on the point throne? The answer, or course, is no one. Gretzky scored over 200 points four times, only one other person (Mario Lemiuex) has even come within one point of getting there. But someone could certainly take a run at Messier’s coveted number two. So let’s check the line-up.

Sidney Crosby:

He’s 21 and he has 384 points. If the Penguins can keep him surrounded with players who can turn his passes into goals, or give him the feeds he needs to score, then it’s unlikely that the torrent pace of points will stop. The one thing Crosby needs to worry about is his health. He’s had some injury problems, and if those problems turn into an annual occurrence it will severely stunt his numbers. However, modern medicine being what it is, it’s likely that even with injuries he is capable of a long career, so don’t expect 200 points in a year, but do expect him to be knocking at the 2000 point door at the end of his career.

Evgeni Malkin:

22 years old and he is knocking on Crosby’s door with 288 points. This is his best season however and he is handily beating “The Kid” in the points department, and I’m thinking that’s going to be the way of things as long as these two are playing together. Two reasons: 1) he stays healthier, and 2) he’s a better goal scorer. Both of these players seem to feed best off each other, whether it’s on the same line, or competing within the team. If the Penguins can’t hang on to them both (and I see no way they can) it may mean a significant drop-off in points. The other thing I see in Malkin’s future is a trip home. Europeans tend to have shorter North American careers, and with Russian money being almost as good as American money these days there’s nothing much to stop him from playing at home for the same wage.

Paul Stastny:

This wunderkind was having an awesome career until injuries dragged him and point partner Joe Sakic through the mud. Still, with genes like this (his father Peter ended his career with 1239 of his own points), he’ll certainly make a run at the points record. He’s 23 and his career is poised for the upswing, making his 185 current points a small percentage of his eventual total.

Marian Gaborik:

Ha ha, just kidding. If he even manages 800 games in this league I’ll be surprised.

Alexander Ovechkin:

He’s a little older then Crosby, and his point totals are barely more at 399, but Ovechkin seems to me to be the biggest challenger to Messier’s numbers for three reasons: 1)He stays healthy, 2) he keeps getting better every year, and 3) he’s done it with absolutely no supporting staff. Crosby at various points has had Mario Lemieux, Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa, and Evgeni Malkin to raise his game. Ovechkin has had Mike Green, Alexander Semin, and Sergei Federov who are all good to great to used to be great players, but not nearly on the level of talent Crosby has had to work with. The other thing about Ovechkin is he loves playing in the NHL. He loves American media, he loves American culture, and he would love nothing more then to win the American championship. He’ll be in the league for a long time, and if at any time Washington manages to get another star for him to play with he may even skirt the 200 point mark (not really, but he’s certainly capable of 70+ goals which hasn’t happened in far too long).

Of course, the real threat to Messier’s numbers, maybe even Gretzky’s numbers, was Bobby Orr. Orr had 915 points in only 650 games. That is almost a thousand less games then Gretzky played, and a lot of those games were being played while he suffered from horrendous knee injuries.  His knees kicked him out of the game at the young age of 30, and in those final three years he scored only 45 points in only 36 games. That means that from the age of 18 to the age of 26 he scored 871 points in 624 games, or 1.4 points per game. Messier’s was 1.07, Gretzky’s was 1.92. However, Orr’s best years were ahead of him. If not for his knee we may be talking about Orr’s record tonight instead of Gretzky’s. Also, he was +124 one year… that’s the most insane number I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

TAKES YOUR BREATHE AWAY

Posted in Players, Washington by yankhockey on February 19, 2009

As I said in my last post, the whole point of hockey, of sports in general, is entertainment. It’s not about collecting stats, it’s not about breaking records, it’s not even about winning championships (though… granted those tend to be quite entertaining), it’s all about playing a game and making it enjoyable to watch so that fans will pay money for the honor of relaxing for a couple of hours and feel content that their money was well spent. In that regard, I have never seen a better player then Alexander Ovechkin. I have seen a lot of great players live; Pavel Bure, Mark Messier, Luc Robitaille, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thorton, Jarome Iginla, Roberto Luongo, Mika Kipprusoff, Evgeni Nabakov… but none of them offer me the pure hockey pleasure that I get every time I watch Ovechkin.

The reason I feel the need to go on and on about Ovechkin like this was the goal he scored Wednesday night against Montreal. If it was the first time he’d scored a goal that was nothing but amazing we’d be impressed, but he’s done it over and over and over again, each time being just as entertaining as the last. Well, take a look at the goal yourself and see what you think:

I’ve embedded the one with commentary from John Buccigross and Barry Melrose because Melrose says something very true, it’s the play off the wall that’s the most impressive. Not to say the goal itself isn’t awesome, especially when you watch it at different angles. At first it looks like he just pushes the puck along with his body into the net, but when you look at it from head on you see that the puck goes into the net long before Ovechkin skirts the crease, and that it’s the defenseman who knocks the net off, not Ovechkin. So not only does he perform an mind blowing spin-o-rama pass to himself off the wall, he manages to flip the puck over Carey Price while on his back, and at the same time changes his direction from into the net to across the crease! It’s like a ballet it’s got so many complex moves.

At the end he mentions Phoenix as being his best goal. That Phoenix goal was like Kennedy being shot, hockey fans everywhere know exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first saw it. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, allow me to show you this:

It almost hurts to watch. That’s the magic of Ovechkin, he makes your jaw drop almost every time he has the puck. So I thought it would be fun to go through some other stunning goals and talk a little about what makes them great.

Rick Nash Dekes Out the Entire Coyotes Team:

This goal demonstrates the reason I love Rick Nash. He’s the size of the Incredible Hulk, but he’s got the hands of a surgeon. He makes the Coyotes look like amateurs. Every turn of his stick makes you intake a little more breathe until he finally scores and you get to exhale in one long “wow!” Incredible goal that belongs on highlight reels from now until the end of time.

Pavel Bure Hits the Booster Jets:

Just watching Bure take speed to another level is impressive enough, but then the stick-to-skate-to-stick move he pulls? Forgetaboutit. That was like the Usain Bolt 100m dash of the hockey world right there. he was so far ahead of everyone he took the time to put a little dazzle on his goal.

Do You Believe In Miracles?:

Do I even need to explain this goal on a site called Yankee Hockey? US college players, Soviet Red Army team, Eruzione scores in the third to win. Maybe the most exciting goal of all time.

Peter Forsberg Goes for Gold:

Maybe not the most exciting goal ever if you are only looking for something flashy, but consider the context. Sweden going for their first Olympic gold in their own country against a powerhouse Canada team. Young Peter Forsberg, not yet a household name, comes in and squeeks one by for the win. They made a postage stamp in Sweden to commemorate this event. Also impressive was Tommy Salo who’d never be able to live up to this moment again, especially a couple of Olympics later when he let in a goal against Belarus at the blue line.

The Goal:

It’s “The Goal”. There’s almost no topping this. Arguably the best player to ever play the game, at the top of his game and at the defining moment of his game. Nothing says hockey like

There are plenty of more goals out there that have stunned hockey fans from around the world, these are just the few that have stunned me. If there are any goals out there, dear readers, that have taken your breathe away, please let me know and I’ll try to highlight them in a later post.

CAPTAIN BLOOD

Posted in Retired Jerseys, Vancouver, Veterans, Washington, What Going Right by yankhockey on December 17, 2008

I would really like to delay this post, maybe skip today and do a special Thursday post, or wait until Friday’s, but with the Mats Sundin soap opera supposedly ending on Thursday there is just too much about to happen to delay today’s post.

I want to delay today’s post because the topic hasn’t occurred yet. Unless you’re reading it after seven on Wednesday the 16th of December in which case it’s certainly already happened, but not for me now in the present… Ok, temporal mechanics make everything more complicated so I’ll just stick with it hasn’t happened yet.

Tonight, before the Canucks take on the Oilers in Vancouver, the most worthwhile event to take place so far this year in the NHL will occur; the retirement of Trevor Linden’s number 16. For those of you unfamiliar with Trevor Linden he is possibly the most significant player in Canucks’ history. Yes, I’m aware of Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, and Kirk McLean. They even had Mark Messier for a moment. But none of those players can hold a candle to Trevor Linden in Vancouver.

Trevor Linden was the second overall pick (after Mike Modano) in the 1988 draft. He quickly won the hearts of the fans with his skill, but more importantly, his heart and spirit for the game. At age 21 he was made their captain. In 1994, thanks in large part to his stellar post-season play and leadership, he brought the Canucks to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the NY Rangers 3-2 (both goals being Linden’s). He gained the nickname “Captain Canuck”.

A few years down the road there were problems for Linden in Vancouver. New coach Mike Keenan didn’t take to his presence and made things difficult for Linden. Then they brought in Mark Messier, who only a few years earlier had been instrumental in beating the Canucks for the Cup. Linden was forced to give up his ‘C’ to Messier, an act many fans saw as sacrilege. Then came what is still known in Vancouver as “The Trade”.

In 1998 Linden was sent to the Islanders for Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe. This was a different Canucks team now. Bure wanted out, Linden and McClean were gone, and the shuffle would cost the Canucks in the short run. After a bunch of disappointing seasons finishing out of the playoff race, Keenan was out, Marc Crawford was in, and Markus Naslund was captain. Meanwhile Linden found himself captain again in Long Island, where he once again was a fan favorite. Still, his heart belonged to Vancouver, a city he adopted as his own. The charities he began there he continued to run, he continued to visit hospitals there, make appearances where he was needed like a super-hero. To Vancouver fans he was still a member of their family, still Captain Canuck.

The Canucks were doing well again, with Naslund-Bertuzzi-Brendan Morrison making up the highest scoring front line in the league, the West Coast Express. In 2001 Linden was playing for the Washington Capitals after coming over from the Montreal Canadiens, four teams in only four years. Having trouble finding his scoring touch in Washington, the Capitals were happy to trade Linden, something the Canucks took advantage of. Canucks GM Brian Burke sent a first round pick toward Washington, and in exchange got Linden back in Vancouver. To say Canucks fans were excited would have been an understatement, Captain Canuck was back in town!

Back in Vancouver his scoring touch returned as he began to light the lamp with more regularity then he had in years. You could tell he was playing the game where he was meant to be. He played five more seasons with the Canucks, setting records for goals scored, assists, games played, and playoff points. The highlight of his return may have been game seven of the 2006-2007 playoffs against Dallas. In a hard fought and stingy series (Turco shut out the Canucks three times) Linden came out skating in that seventh game, scoring two goals, including the series clincher. He was the hero of the Canucks, as if the fans needed to be reminded.

After a 2007-2008 season where he put up small numbers, and which everyone agrees he was under-utilized, Linden retired, announcing it in the dignified and humble manner he had always held himself during all the years he was playing.

Linden was more then just Captain Canuck, he was respected league wide. He was made president of the NHLPA, a title he held for nine years which still hasn’t been refilled. He has gotten accolades not just in Vancouver but around the league for his charitable work. There isn’t a player or coach in the league (well, maybe Mike Keenan) who wouldn’t praise him on his leadership abilities, not to mention his hockey skills.

Linden loved the game. That’s what he brought more then anything. Every team he played for he got outscored by other players. While Bure was scoring 60 goals, he was scoring 30, while he was struggling in Washington, Peter Bondra was scoring 81 points. Still, regardless of where he played people loved and respected him. The reason is he played with heart. You hear that a lot, especially from hockey fans. You want a guy who plays with heart. You wanna know why Boston traded Joe Thornton? He didn’t play with heart. You wanna know why gritty guys who are missing teeth and can’t score a goal to save their lives get played over talented AHL scorers? They play with heart. Heart is a good commodity to have in the NHL and Linden had it in bunches.

Vancouver isn’t a team with a lot of history. If you don’t count their very sad 7th Man promotion (which has already been discontinued for reasons of stupidity), they only have one number retired; Stan “The Steamer” Smyl. Of all the players that have played for them, other then Linden, only two other names come to mind for possible future  honors; The Russian Rocket Pavel Bure, and former scapegoat and holder of all their points records Markus Naslund. Linden deserves the honor more then either of them. More even then Stan Smyl, though Smyl certainly should be up there. Linden was the very spirit of Vancouver hockey, even when he was no longer playing in Vancouver. And don’t think that just because he is retired that that has changed at all. Vancouver fans still hold a torch for this guy, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’d go so far as to say that Linden is to Vancouver what Gordie Howe is to Detroit, or Bobby Orr is to Chicago. Linden is that guy in Vancouver, the guy you tell your kids you saw play, the guy whose jersey you still wear long after they are gone, the guy who you think of when you think of hockey. This jersey retirement isn’t a promotion, it isn’t a gimmick, it’s exactly what the entire process of retiring numbers was created for, honoring those who have done what no other player could ever do again. So congratulations Trevor Linden, and Vancouver fans everywhere.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

I’m sorry all your loyal Canadian (not Canadiens) fans out there. This argument has to stop, and I know you won’t like the result. Alexander Ovechkin is better then Sydney Crosby. I mean, like, WAY better. Crosby is a phenomenal player, he’s incredible. He reminds me very much of the man he used to play with, Mario Lemiuex, who is certainly in the top ten all time. But Ovechkin is just incredible. He’s more exciting, he’s more dynamic, he’s a bloody powder keg that can skate like Bobby Orr, shoot like Joe Sakic, hit like Scott Stevens, and stun you like a modern day Maurice Richard. I watched his team play the Islanders last night. He scored a gimme goal earlier in the game which looked like it would be the game winner until the Islanders tied it up late. Then in overtime he pushed his way just below the face-off dot and let loose a powerful and sneaky backhand that just went off the post and out. “Wow,” I thought, “What a play.” Then, less then a minute later he was back in. He slid into the middle and snapped a shot into the upper part of the net I just couldn’t believe. And the scary part is… he does that kind of stuff all the time! It’s not lucky or a fluke, he’s good. He’s really good. I’m willing to put forth that he is the best. Sorry Crosby, you’re just not that good.