Dear Hockey Fans Of The Year 2060,
Adam Proteau here. In ancient times, I wrote for The Hockey News. And if for some reason I’m still writing for THN as you’re reading this, your most urgent priority is to locate my 88-year-old ass, arm me with an MP3 player that has some Magnetic Fields and Richard Thompson on it, then delicately place me on an ice floe and shove it out to sea.
Anyway, the purpose of this letter isn’t to ensure somebody puts me out of my misery one day. Rather, it’s to provide an idea of some hockey-related philosophies from yesteryear, so newcomers to the sport can comprehend what the game’s gatekeepers were thinking all those years ago.
But first thing’s first: let me apologize profusely for any controversial statement made by John Tortorella over the past 18,250 days or so.
I thought he might have exhausted his penchant for preposterousness a few weeks before I wrote this when he said, “(T)hat’s why our game is more violent right now, because I think guys hide behind (the NHL) rulebook.”
But who’s kidding whom? In the decades since then, the one-time Rangers head coach probably has accused the league’s chief disciplinarian of being a musical-theatre-loving ladyboy, or Freddy Meyer VI of deserving 75 horsewhip lashes for not decapitating Vinnyclav Lecavalier-Prospal Clone No. 14 during an off-ice brawl in 2036.
Here’s hoping Tortorella finally realized all he needed was love, in the same way I’m sure the hockey world eventually realized that, to severely reduce the possibility of devastating facial injuries, all the NHL/NHLPA needed to do was quit pandering to its players’ libertarian leanings and mandate the use of visors.
That’s right, hard as it may be to believe, there once was a time when industry observers faced little more than ridicule and raspberries for suggesting it was crucial to protect the finite amount of top-end talent hockey has to offer.
Odds are that player pool was watered down again once Gary Bettman got his way and expanded the NHL to 32, then 34, then 35-and-a-half teams (I’m guessing the city of Phoenix got a sort-of second shot once their former franchise moved to Kansas City in 2014).
To that end, belated congratulations to the Seattle Lattes, Houston Y’allers, Wilmington (Vt.) Whereisthats, Winnipeg Re-Jets, and Quebec Morediques on being awarded new NHL teams.
It’s just a shame that, combined with a steadily rising tide of injuries, expansion’s domino effect decimated the quality of the American League and ECHL to the point they became glorified beer leagues. I just hope that gave Chris Chelios somewhere to play for a few more seasons before the Long Beach senior’s residence finally caught hold of the codger and forcibly removed him from an ice pad for the final time.
I’d also like to pass along pre-emptive condolences to any and all NHLers who had their career prematurely ended – or their life altered in a more serious and lasting manner – by some brainless on-ice act. What can I tell you, fellas? A handful of us tried to persuade hockey’s movers and shakers that they were on the wrong track, but the seductive emissions of commerce and a historically deep-seated disregard for players’ well-being were mountainous obstacles to overcome.
A couple other items before I wrap up: I’m beyond sorry Wayne Gretzky never returned to the game after he agreed to serve as Tiger Woods’ marriage counselor-in-residence. I deeply regret Sean Avery becoming head of the NHLPA and commissioner Dion Phaneuf succeeding Bettman; perhaps we could’ve avoided the lockout of 2040-50, perhaps not, but I’m sure that had more than a tad to do with it.
Finally, I wish Toronto had gotten that second team after all. Or wait – it’s still on the NHL’s ‘radar,’ isn’t it?
I knew it. Some things never change.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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