IS PATRICK KANE THE BUTT OF A TRANS-CANADA JOKE, OR WHAT?
You want some laughs, check out La Rue De Rumeur in Edmonton and Toronto.
The Edmonton Sun's always riveting columnist David Staples is trying every which way to figure out whether King Kane can become an Oiler.
But Staples has been around long enough to know that the headlines always are bigger for Leafs stories.
Therefore, a few thousand miles away, Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox invites us to wonder if Kane will come to Hogtown-on-the-Lake next fall.
The big joke is that a month from now the buzz will flicker out like a wet candle and we'll be wondering whether Ovie can catch The Great One.
Still, when the topic is Kane-going-anywhere, it's a more fun summertime sport than swatting mosquitoes in the evening breeze.
WHY MCDAVID ALWAYS WINS OVER MATTHEWS IN THE BIG DEBATE
My Ottawa-based super sleuth and disaffected shrink, Mitch Miller, has an arresting take on Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. See what you think:
"Watch how a guy handles himself on the ice. He's usually the same off the ice. Selfish on the ice; same off the ice. Loyal on the ice, same off the ice."
Miller did an impromptu poll of two groups of fans: 1. Those who live outside Toronto and 2. Those who live in Toronto.
His question was simple enough: If you were starting a team and could choose one of McDavid and Matthews, who would you choose?
"As predicted, everyone who lives outside Toronto chose McDavid. What was surprising was that everyone I know in Toronto -- diehard Leafs fans -- also chose McDavid.
"The player who makes his teammates better is a better teammate. And the better teammate is the player to build a franchise around!"
Winner: McDavid. Again and again!
THE BLACKHAWKS REALLY AREN'T THAT BAD -- OR ARE THEY?
Media attempts to bury the Blackhawks before they play their first game of the 2022-23 season are neither surprising -- nor valid -- for that matter.
Granted, the near-term outlook is somewhat to the left of flowery but a couple of senior blokes will have something to say about it. You may have heard of them -- Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
My roving analyst Alan (Call me Catskill) Greenberg has been fixing his electron microscope on the volcano-ized Windy City skaters. Read his fair and square review:
"Granted that it will be difficult to overcome the losses of Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Brandon Hagel, Dom Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Erik Gustafsson, Calvin De Haan and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen.
"That said, the acquisition of Max Domi, Andy Athanasiou and Colin Blackwell are calculated risks which may pay dividends. With Domi on the top line with Kane and Toews, Slapsy Maxie may fulfill his promise as a first-round pick in 2013.
"A comeback year for Petr Mrazek in goal -- not as impossible as some may think -- will go a long way to establish credibility. The addition of Jack Johnson crowds the defense which already has a serviceable group led by Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy.
"Rookie coach Luke Richardson is in a challenging position, taking over a team with a multi-year rebuild. Then again, Cool Hand Luke may add a reasonable new voice. Chi has two first-round picks in 2023 -- one is conditional -- and that provides hope for the intermediate term. The Hawks have $7+ mil in Cap space, and that figure will go higher if and when the Kane and Toews contracts come off the books.
"The United Center Faithful will face a few frustrating seasons. Then again, a superb coach such as Richardson could be competitive and fool a lot of the skeptics."
YAYS AND BOOS:
YAY TO ALEX OVECHKIN for declaring that his goal is to win another Stanley Cup with Washington and not to break any Wayne Gretzky records.
YAY TO PHIL KESSEL: The old boy got himself another job; this time in Vegas and for a year at $1,500,000. As the song goes, "Who Could Ask For Anything More?"
BOOS ARE ON VACATION.
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE '72 SUMMIT SERIES NEWS
Paul Patskou's Hockey Time Machine will zero in on the CBC producers of Summit '72 on September 14. Paul's show will feature three producers with fascinating stories to tell. Both Summit '72 and The Hockey Time Machine are worth a serious look.
THE BIG QUESTION: SHOULD PITT BE FEARED AS A CONTENDER?
The big answer is YES! Darn right, they should be a threat. What's more, Penguins-keeper Irad Chen explains precisely why. Take it away, Irad:
Pitt will be a Cup contender not for one but two more seasons. Sidney Crosby has become a better player; he now plays a better two-way game. Geno Malkin still is good for a point per game and Kris Letang -- I've followed his off-season training this summer -- is in the best shape of his career. That's quite a foundation.
Then, add to that a few formidable forwards -- Guentzel, Rust, Rekall -- each good for at least 35 goals plus a healthy Zucker with his extra added grit and you've got plenty to like up front and behind. OK; one concern; in case of injury on the attack, there's no Evan Rodrigues to fill in the gap.
What's really interesting is how Ron Hextall reshaped and improved what already was a solid defense. Jeff Petry, Ty Smith and Jan Rutta are plenty for which to root, especially with a Rutta!
And, let's face it; Mike Sullivan is one heckuva coach. He guided the team to 103 points last season despite key injuries while maintaining his up-tempo system.
As always, goaltending is an issue; but how big an issue remains to be seen. Sure, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith often have been De-Worst.
Jarry is entering the final year of his deal and is young enough to become an A-1 stopper. But even if he's a B-2, this well-balanced club can carry him far into the final. Remember, you heard it here first!
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* Kyle Turris retiring!! It's hard to believe his 13 NHL years went by so fast.
* Kiefer Bellows got himself another season with the Islanders.
* It wouldn't be a stretch to say that this will be the make-or-break year for Brian's kid.
* You have to love summertime; nobody's beefing about the refs.
* Will someone please sign Sam Gagner? There are plenty of goals on his stick.
* Good for the Coyotes. Their new home has a name, Mullett Arena. The Mullett Family has done plenty to advance hockey at Arizona State University.
* Neat NHL.com piece by Adam Kimelman on John Tortorella. When asked about what John thought about coaching while working at ESPN, Torts told Adam, "I missed it (coaching) terribly."
* Torts to Kimelman about Tony DeAngelo is just so perfectly John: "The thing I love about Tony is I may have to tame him at certain times."
* When Adam mentioned that the Flyers are picked to land in subterranean depths, Torts shot back, "We've got one motivation staring in our face. Everybody thinks we stink. We make our own bed!" (You just have to love the guy. Guaranteed, Philly will!)
* Two classy vets likely won't be in the NHL anymore, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara.
INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE -- HOW THE RANGERS ALMOST 'STOLE' JOHNNY BUCYK FROM BOSTON
Boston's legendary Johnny Bucyk is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Rangers center Earl Ingarfield is not.
So, how come the Blueshirts almost "stole" the Ukrainian left wing from Beantown in an even-up trade in the 1966-67 season?
Rangers historian George Grimm knows and explained how in his must-read book, "We Did Everything But Win." I'll let Grimm unravel the mystery in his own words:
Grimm: "Bruins brand new GM Hap Emms needed a center and his opposite, Emile (Cat) Francis, wanted a left wing to play alongside Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert."
The Bruins had come to New York and Francis quickly nabbed Emms and talked deal. Francis told Grimm: "I spent four hours with Emms before the game and when I was finished with him I had made a deal for John Bucyk. I was gonna trade him Earl Ingarfield. They needed a center and I needed a winger. Cat knew he was robbing the Bruins; rookie GM blind. Bucyk was one of the NHL's all-time power forwards and the balance wheel with Bronco Horvath and Vic Stasiuk on Boston's famed "Uke Line." Ingarfield was a solid center between Andy Bathgate and Dean Prentice but, long-term, not in Johnny B's class."
Francis: "So we shook hands on it, but Emms said, 'As far as I'm concerned I made a deal with you. I'll call you tomorrow at noon. I'm new here, but if (Bruins owner) Weston Adams turns this deal down I promise you that I'll quit at the end of the year.' In other words, he was saying that his word was no good.
"I went home that night and couldn't sleep. I kept thinking if I could put Bucyk on the line with Ratelle and Gilbert would I have a powerhouse or what? But Emms called me the next day at Noon and told me the owner turned the deal down and he quit at the end of the year.
"Now if I ever got Bucyk to play with Ratelle and Gilbert Boston never would have won a (1972; beating the Rangers) Stanley Cup, I'll tell you that."
Bucyk helped the Bostonians to two Cups and finished his career with 1,369 points in 1,540 games. He also won two Lady Byng Trophies, was a perennial all-star and is in the Hall of Fame.
Ingarfield -- a good pal of mine -- finished his career with Pittsburgh and Oakland. He scored 179 goals and 226 assists over 13 NHL seasons.
Had William Shakespeare read the above, his comment to Cat Francis would simply have been: There's much virtue in if.
WHO SAID IT? "The biggest favor I'll do for Petr is kick him in the ass and wake up his brain!" (ANSWER BELOW:)
DIDJA KNOW? THE NHL PLAYERS' ASSOCIATION WAS NOT THE 1ST LEAGUE HOCKEY UNION:
Nor was Ted Lindsay's abortive attempt to launch a stickhandlers' own representative group. The genuine first attempt was organized months before Uncle Sam entered World War II.
Believe it or not, the principal team behind it was the New York Rangers. Here's how it happened:
In April 1941 -- after much quiet leg work was done -- former NHLer George P. Geran announced that there was a players; union. It was called the Association of Professional Hockey Players of America, (APHPA). Its home base was 32 Broadway in Downtown Manhattan and its "Officers" all were familiar to hockey fans, especially in New York since they all had been members of the Blueshirts 1940 Cup champions.
Future Hall of Fame defenseman Art Coulter was president and the members of the club's famed Bread Line -- Alex Shibicky, Mac Colville and Neil Colville -- were, in order, Vice President, First Vice President and Treasurer. The organizer, Geran, was listed as Secretary.
In a letter to potential members, Geran said that "The press and public are wholeheartedly in sympathy with our success. League recognition and cooperation will be forthcoming."
The budding APHPA got strong support from media giant, New York Times sports columnist John Kieran. "The feeling here," wrote Kieran, "is that the hockey players, officials and club owners should get together and put it over in style. To me, it doesn't seem that there could be any argument about it."
In the end the APHPA never got off the ground for two reasons; 1. The majority of owners (then seven) opposed the union; 2. World War II.
Gerand's four chief officers shed their Rangers uniforms for khaki. Coulter enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard while the Colvilles and Shibicky were in the Canadian Army.
By the time World War II ended the APHPA was just a memory. Chances are, not a single member of the present Players' Association had ever heard of those pioneer unionists.
INTERESTING HOCKEY PERSONALITIES: AUTHOR-HISTORIAN ERIC ZWEIG
Eric Zweig calls his latest book "my best" and he won't get an argument from me on that. It's called "Engraved In History -- The Story of the Stanley Cup Champion Kenora Thistles." The Owen Sound, Ont. resident has an impressive list of literary credits, although his history of the Toronto Maple Leafs is my personal favorite. A voracious and meticulous researcher, Zweig touched on the following topics in our exchange:
HOW HE GOT INTERESTED IN HOCKEY: I was seven years old when my father took me to my first game, at Maple Leaf Gardens on December 30, 1970. It was Toronto against the California Golden Seals. I guess I was a fan ever since and the Leafs were definitely my team. I started playing hockey two years later and in the summer of 1973 I spent a week at the Roger Crozier Hockey School near our family cottage and it immensely improved my skills.
HIS FAVORITE HOCKEY WRITERS AND RADIO-TV GUYS: Since we were a Toronto Star newspaper family, I read columns by Milt Dunnell, Frank Orr and Jim Proudfoot. On TV, Bill Hewitt and Brian McFarlane did most of the Leafs games I watched. They were my favorites. I got to know McFarlane pretty well during my own hockey career. Star baseball writers had a bigger impact on me. I was a big fan of Wayne Parrish when he covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star. He was the only writer I showed any of my work to when I was first getting started.
GETTING TO WORK ON HIS FIRST BOOK: I had become enamored of Frank and Lester Patrick and Cyclone Taylor. I was thinking about how the Patricks and Taylor's careers overlapped and what was going on in Canadian history at that same time -- and got the idea for a novel. Two years later "Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada" was published. It was a modest success and the woman who edited it would later become my wife. But I still didn't have a job in 1993 until I was hired by the Hockey Hall of Fame as a lowly "guest associate" for two years.
HOW HE GOT INVOLVED WITH THE NHL OFFICIAL GUIDE & RECORD BOOK: Peter Jagla, now a bigwig at the Hall of Fame, knew Dan Diamond who had re-designed the NHL's old guide & record books into a large-format version. Dan knew of me from "Hockey Night" and hired me full-time when he got the contract to do the first edition of "Total Hockey." I worked with Dan until 2018 and it was great. We were always very small (company) and we worked really hard when we had work to do. Through my wife's publishing connections I started writing non-fiction children's books about hockey and hockey history. Then I got some opportunities to do books for adults
ZWEIG'S REACTION TO MY FAVORITE BOOK OF HIS, THE MAPLE LEAFS: I had high hopes for that book and I enjoyed doing it and am happy with the job I did. But it didn't sell anywhere near as well as what I had hoped for. I knew, for example, that my biography of Art Ross -- which I'm extremely proud of -- was probably going to be for a fairly limited audience. But a book on the Maple Leafs for the team's 100th anniversary season, should have been bigger. The toughest part of writing it was what I had to omit. I got it down to about 145,000 words by the end. It's a 450-page book, but I've never heard anyone complain that it's too long.
THE CHANGING STYLES OF RESEARCH OVER THE YEARS: It always was possible to find anything, but it was just so much harder. The internet has changed everything. When I started writing, I had to visit libraries and sometimes travel to other cities to look up stories on microfilm. Now so many newspapers have been digitized. I can sit at my desk and find almost anything I need from anywhere it exists. And if I can't find it, a quick email will usually generate a response.
WHY THE THISTLES BOOK IS THE BEST HE'S DONE: I'm fascinated by early 20th-century hockey history. When the Thistles won the Cup in 1906-07, it was the first season in Canada when players were officially allowed to be paid. Even though the terms are a tiny fraction of what they are now, there's already so much internal politics and back-stabbing that anything that's going on in hockey today was already going on 115 years ago. Anyone who's a fan of hockey today would be interested to see how much they can relate to the hockey back then.
ERIC'S BOOKS IN THE WORKS: I have two other books out this fall. One is the fifth book in what eventually will be a six-book "Hockey Trivia" series for kids. They're always fun to do and have sold WAY better than any books I've done for adults. But I'm very excited for the other adult books I have this fall which is "Hockey Hall of Fame: True Stories." It's for Firefly Books. Basically, it tries to uncover the true stories behind the myths we've heard for years and years. If the Thistles book isn't my best work, then this one is!
THE DOLEFUL DEPARTURE OF JOSHUA HO-SANG
When he skated on Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum ice as a rookie, Josh Ho-Sang looked like the second coming of Mike Bossy. His peripatetic moves instantly warmed the hearts of Islanders Nation and the sky seemed the limit for this rare talent.
But nowadays Ho-Sang is about as far away as you can get; he's in the KHL, making a buck, of course, but a big-league career is virtually out of the question.
And if you ask me what went wrong, I will draw the blankest of all blanks.
But I do remember having lunch with an MSG Networks colleague during the summer right after questions began being raised over Ho-Sang's future on the Island.
Frankly, I was very hopeful and expressed optimism to my colleague.
Whoops! My colleague shook her head and then shook it again.
"He's done as an Islander," she shot back with such finality that I swallowed my optimism and finished my chocolate ice cream soda.
P.S. My colleague was 100 percent right.
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Oilers assistant coach Ted Green on trying to motivate the often difficult Petr Klima. (Thanks again to Glenn Liebman's "Hockey Shorts.)