6 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON
1. RANGERS: Forget about the Avalanche and Panthers. The Blueshirts now have more of everything where it most counts. And it starts in goal.
2. BOLTS: Now that Steven Stamkos has become Tampa Bay's all-time scoring leader, he qualifies as "The Superstar's Superstar."
3. LEAFS: Any team that wants to be considered a serious Cup contender never should lose, 8-1. (Unless it's to the Champs.).
4. PANTHERS: If Jon Huberdeau beats Connor McDavid for the scoring title, that makes Jonny the better all-around player.
5. PENGUINS: Forget about Tristan Jarry; Casey DeSmith should be Pitt's goalie from now and through the playoffs,if they want a 2d round,
6. MINNY-ST.LOU: Here's a dandy first-round matchup -- Wild vs. Blues. They're tied for 2d in the Central. Series should go 7 games.
AUSTON MATTHEWS VS. RICK VAIVE: A FASCINATING COMPARISON
When Toronto's goal Vesuvius -- alias Mount Matthews -- broke ex-Leaf Rick Vaive's single-season goal-scoring record, it was only fair to get Rick's response. And it is a good one since Vaive points out how much easier it is to score in today's firewagon hockey than in Ye Olde Clutch and Grab Days.
"Everything has evolved since my era (1979-1992)," Vaive explains. Here are a few of his details:
1. Equipment is lighter these days and high-tech skates add speed to the attackers more than ever.
2. Taking out the red line makes the game even faster.
3. Composite sticks are better than the old, straight-blade wooden ones. Composites make it easier to snap a shot quicker and get a lot on it. Plus:
Vaive: "You can't hook a guy all the way down the ice anymore the way it used to be when I played. You can't crosscheck anyone in front of the net. Then, again, I can't say it's easier to score, because goalies are better and their gear is bigger."
I'M JUST SAYIN':
* Ottawa not only needs a new owner, but it could also use a new ice palace; and not in distant Kanata.
* I've done telecasts in Kanata and that burgh seems closer to the North Pole than Downtown Ottawa where a new arena belongs.
* Is Alex Ovechkin's amazing season being underplayed? Sometimes I get the feeling that it is.
* Of all the classic scorers, Big 8 more resembles Maurice (Rocket) Richard than any of his contemporaries.
* I'm with Blackhawks beat writer Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times in his endorsement of interim coach Derek King.
* "King's patience, honesty and humor have helped the Blackhawks endure a difficult season," writes Pope. I hope ownership makes Pal Derek a full-time head coach.
* Colorado's reward for gaining the West's #1 seed is that coach Jared Bednar can give his stars a pre-playoff rest.
* And that's another reason why the Avs will enter the postseason as favorites to win The Cup. (Except, I still don't believe that they will.)
* Between-the-legs goals are becoming commonplace. Next, it will be The Michigan which will become matter-of-fact.
* Here's a classic song that fits the feelings of fans watching Connor McDavid at his best: "I Hear Music When I Look At You."
* If, as many netminding nabobs believe, Iggie Shesterkin is the NHL's best (Vezina Trophy) goaltender, then the Rangers also must rank among the Cup favorites.
* The Barkov-Huberdeau show in Florida is just as good as Edmonton's McDavid-Draisaitl weekly goal-scoring jubilee.
* One reason for the above is the top-heavy media coverage in Alberta compared to Florida.
* "You've got to watch Barkov all season to really appreciate how good he is," says Al Greenberg who's seen Barky all year.
* If the Cats get Aaron Ekblad back before the playoffs -- the injured ace D-man already is skating -- Florida will be a team you won't want to meet in the first round.
* Either the Lightning merely are playing possum or are losing the inevitable battle of two-Cup attrition.
* Bob Duff and Kevin Allen who write for the publication, Detroit Hockey Now, are two of the wisest scribes in Motor City.
* Both Bob and Kevin believe that Jeff Blashill should be ousted as Wings coach after the season.
* Duff offers one reason: "The team wasn't ready on many nights."
MIKE BOSSY'S OTHER LEGACY
The avalanche of tributes for Mike Bossy following his recent passing testify to his skill as a player and to his character as a human being. However, overlooked among all the accolades is the fact that Mike -- along with Barry Meisel -- authored a terrific autobiography.
Written in 1988, "Boss -- The Mike Bossy Story," was published at a time when the right wing still thought he could beat chronic back troubles and play again. But that was not in the cards. The amazing aspect of Mike's career is that he was an avowed non-fighter who somehow survived the fistic-filled Junior ranks.
Chapter 4 is appropriately titled, "Survival" and Bossy put it bluntly:
"The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was hell. I scored 309 career goals, made the all-star team three times, led the league in goals once and had my green-and-white Laval Nationals jersey Number 17 retired. "But that's not what I remember. I remember the premeditated violence that sickened and frightened me. Players deliberately attempted to injure their opponents every game. Goons constantly threatened to gouge out my eyes, or break my neck after I scored because, as the newspaper headline put it, "Stop Bossy and you stop Laval."
(In a later chapter Mike detailed his one NHL fight.)
WHO SAID IT?: "A mustache never lost a hockey game. Besides, they may make our guys look a little tougher?" (Answer Below.)
THE GROWTH OF HOCKEY IN UNUSUAL PLACES -- WHARTON SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is not what you'd expect to be a hockey hotbed. But when my old friend, Lew Klotz, told me about his grandniece, Eliza Rothstein, playing there I did a double-take. What's more, I contacted Eliza, who is going for her MBA at Wharton. What I learned is that, yes, hockey is everywhere and that includes the esteemed Wharton business school where I'd never expect to find stickhandlers in a million years.
"There's a large, student-run hockey program called Wharton Wildmen Hockey or WHL for the Wharton Hockey League," Rothstein reports. "There are ten teams and so many people want to join that there's a lottery system for those who want to play. I got lucky and got in this year which means I already have a spot for next year, too."
The co-ed, non-contact WHL has a "Skills Assessment Night" to weed out the ringers who usually wind up being either coaches or goalies.
"If you're too good at hockey, you're not allowed to play." Eliza adds. "In fact, this is the first time so many people here have ever played before. We skate either Sunday or Monday nights and I find it a very fun way to start the week."
A Hewlett, Long Island native, Eliza, 29, became a hockey fan after being taken to Islanders games by her father, Jon
"I skated a little bit as I was growing up," she remembers, "but this is the first time I ever played ice hockey. I'm a forward and this experience has definitely been a highlight of my first year at business school. It's a great way to meet people and there's tons of camaraderie."
I confirmed with Eliza that this WHL is another version of Beer League Hockey only on an academic level. "While everyone gets really into playing,." Eliza confirms, "after the games, we also get very into the beer-drinking games at the local pub."
PAT LAFONTAINE'S AMAZING COMPANIONS IN COURAGE (PART TWO)
(A couple of episodes involving his work helping sick kids inspired Pat LaFontaine to expand on his idea -- and he did. He's built his Companions In Courage to a "Can Do" project that keeps growing. In an exclusive interview, the Hall of Famer elaborated on his work.
You created a "Lion's Den" room for youngsters under treatment. What's the latest?
"We continue to strive to augment the 20 Lion's Den interactive rooms," Pat explained. "The Companions in Courage Foundation (wwwCiC16.org) has already built in children's hospitals. Not to mention the 400+ mobile XBox kiosks that we've distributed throughout North America."
Help also comes via big business:
"We provide technology in partnership with Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and others. It's had a profound effect on the healing process of most adolescent patients. During Covid restrictions we had to pivot and provide Chromebooks and tablets to isolated patients so they could stay connected to family, classmates and their heroes."
Companions In Courage also has begun creating inspirational content.
"What we have is called 'The Mane Event.' It's available on our YouTube channel (CIC16TV) Spotify and iTunes. These 15-20 minute programs feature people who've demonstrated courage to overcome challenges in their life. The stories are created to motivate and encourage patients to get well sooner."
The Pademic's effects have made LaFontaine's efforts even more impactful.
"Child Life Specialists at children's hospitals have been particularly impacted by the effects of Covid. Most parents had not been able to even visit their children. That means that the burden for pet, art and music therapy has fallen even harder on Child Life. We're looking to do some things to recognize these heroes of the hospital and to maintain their spirits!"
(MONDAY'S SEGMENT CONCLUDES WITH PAT'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES WORK WITH THE NHL -- PLUS.)
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Minnesota North Stars g.m. Lou Nanne on letting his players grow mustaches.