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Fischler Report: One Pal Goes, Another Pal Comes

This week on the Fischler Report, Stan Fischler discusses Bruce Boudreau's hiring in Vancouver, Gary Bettman's press conference last week and shares his thoughts on a few other teams around the league.
Bruce Boudreau

In this complicated hockey journalism business, we try to walk the straight and narrow path and stay objective.

Remember the operative word is try.

But that's tough to do when friendships are made between columnists - such as me - and players, coaches and general managers.

One of my best friends for the past decades has been Travis Green, now former coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Another good pal just happens to be Bruce ONE PAL GOES AND ANOTHER PAL COMES

In this complicated hockey journalism business, we try to walk the straight and narrow path and stay objective.

Remember the operative word is try.

But that's tough to do when friendships are made between columnists - such as me - and players, coaches and general managers.

One of my best friends for the past decades has been Travis Green, now former coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Another good pal just happens to be Bruce Boudreau, current bench boss in B.C.

I unabashedly admit that I began rooting hard for Vancouver ever since Green got the Canucks gig.

Ben Kuzma's piece in The Hockey News Annual enthused me no end. He picked Travis's team to finish fourth in the Pacific Division right behind Vegas, Edmonton and Calgary; each a formidable sextet.

But nothing worked.

The additions of Oliver Eckman-Larsson and Conor Garland from Arizona looked good on paper as did the return of Elias Pettersson. On the ice it was another story. Disappointing. Sad, to me, even more so for Green.

I cringed as the losses piled up alongside the rumors that my buddy was as good as bye-bye. And then it happened. Travis got the gate along with his g.m. who might very well have been the real culprit in the whole ugly mess.

Meanwhile, I'd been in touch for the past two years with Buddy Bruce. He and his lovely wife, Crystal, were developing a Junior team in Hershey and I helped a bit with a story here and there.

Cousin Brucie and his frau neatly built the Hershey Cubs and I figured that would be the rest of their life's work. But Baron Boudreau kept insisting that he wanted another shot at NHL coaching.

The cynics scoffed and, candidly, I admit I never thought it would happen.

From my catbird seat, it appeared that the NHL had passed him by; and that was that.

But, holy moley, Double B is back in the saddle again. He opened with wins over L.A. Boston and Winnipeg!

This much we know about The Man; he's got all the NHL experience in the world; he's got a rich sense of stickhandling humor that works with hockey players and he's super motivated.

Whether that will soup up the pathetically disappointing Petterson; not to mention the rest of the under-performing gang, long-term, remains to be seen.

My, personal, all-continent scout, Gus Vic, offers this Canucks report: "They'll respond well to Bruce short-term, but the playoffs are a long-shot”

Right now, a Vancouver Province headline says it all: NOTHING'S BORING UNDER BOUDREAU!

The Maven, for one, is rooting for him! And hoping Pal Travis gets a new gig right away.

THE COMMISSIONER WILL COMMISH

When questioned late last week on his future as boss-of-all-NHL-bosses, Gary Bettman told it like it is:

"I plan on being here for a long time!"

Period. Exclamation point. Close quote. End of story for those who thought otherwise.

This may disappoint a tiny bloc of journalists who'd like to see a new face running the show from the NHL's spanking, new headquarters in Manhattan's Hudson Yards. But I've got news for them - in Brooklynese:

It ain't gonna happen! No way!!

There are several reasons why Gary Bettman will remain Commish as long as he pleases and that's because he pleases his employers; ergo - the owners.

Ergo again: Bettman, 69, puts money in their pockets. And, if you don't believe me, ask Jimmy Dolan, who runs Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers.

Jimmy D will tell you that his Blueshirts have achieved an all-time value as reported by Forbes magazine.

The long-running finance magazine has estimated the Rangers valuation at a record $2 Billion Dollars. And the Toronto Maple Leafs - no surprise - are closing in on the $2 Billion mark as well.

With conspicuously few exceptions, team values have skyrocketed under The Commish who built the league now with a record 32 franchises. And may I add that the two newest clubs - Vegas and Seattle - are smash hits in their respective burghs and will remain so for the duration.

Let's face it; with all due respect to Frank Calder, Red Dutton, Clarence Campbell, John Ziegler and "The Interims," Bettman is the best leader the league ever has had with his 30th year at the helm soon to arrive.

No need to list all reasons why the owners admire him but it's worthwhile mentioning that the latest, record-breaking ESPN and TNT tv dollar deals rank among most-pleasing.

Also, the manner in which Bettman steered the Good Ship NHL through the Covid crisis remains a fabulous feat; and still continues.

No less important is that Bettman has ably shared duties with his superbly able Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and as a double-duty-dip, it's been a splendid friendship-blendship.

Commish Gary's message to both fans and critics is very much onside:

"I don't know why anybody would think I was going anywhere!"

Just for the heck of it, I checked this out with someone privy to the NHL inside. His comment went as follows: "Gary just loves his job and he's staying for as long as he wants!"

The bottom line: This is one Commissioner with the right to say, "I'm here to stay!"

I'M JUST SAYIN':

1. If I'm Chris Drury, I trade Al Georgiev for another forward and bring Keith Kinkaid as number two between the pipes. KK can be A-1.

2. The Coyotes future is in Tempe, Arizona where a new arena will be built. The Yotes can find an interim arena if the Glendale politicos don't wise up.

3. Have you noticed how the Oilers have faded? G.m. Ken Holland sure has; and just might be worried about the mantra: Stop Draisaitl-McDavid and you stop Edmonton. A deal in the works? Perhaps.

4. Right this minute, I'll take Nathan MacKinnon over Draisaitl.

5. Nice to see old pal, Zach Parise, finally illuminate the red light for the Islanders. They could use a few more from J.P.'s kid.

6. It's tough being a Sabres fan once again. Still my pal, Alan Greenberg, sees a flicker of life. "Both Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo have more points now than all last season." (Well, that got a half-smile out of me.)

7. The NHL Players' Association still may see the light and reject participation in the Olympics. I'd bet that if the yes-or-no vote was put to a secret ballot involving all union members, the answer would be NO-GO!

WHO SAID THIS?

"I made up my mind that I was going to lose teeth and have my face cut to pieces. It was easy." (ANSWER BELOW.)

ANOTHER GOALIE DOWN - WHO'S NEXT?

The retirement of superior goalie Ben Bishop is yet another case this young season of netminders going down like ten-pins in a bowling alley.

We've reached the point where third-stringers become first-stringers overnight. Matter of fact it happened to the Devils on Saturday eve when Akira Schmid of Bern, Switzerland played his first NHL game.

With that in mind, it's hard to believe what the goaltending situation was like during the Original Six era. That was the time when a goaltender such as Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games - and without a mask no less.

Ironically, a form of two-goalie system actually had been created earlier when Rangers coach Frank Boucher was blessed with two equally good netminders, Charlie Rayner and Sugar Jim Henry.

Rangers historian George Grimm - We Did Everything But Win and Guardians of the Goal - noted that Boucher was 'way ahead of his time in 1945-46, switching Henry and Rayner in alternate games.

"Then," Grimm recalls, "Boucher swapped his goalies like forwards by five-minute intervals." And Rayner loved to tell the tale.

Rayner: "Frank switched us every third line change or so. Unfortunately, the Rangers had only one pair of goalie gloves. When I skated off the bench and Sugar Jim came on the ice, we'd meet at the blue line so we could exchange gloves in front of 15,000 fans."

Grimm points out that the two-goalie experiment ended almost as quickly as it started. New York's farm team in New Haven needed a puck-stopper and Henry was sent down.

A year later Sugar Jim got the Rangers crease back when his buddy, Rayner, was injured. Eventually, Henry was traded to Chicago for winger Alex Kaleta and - of all people - goalie Emile (The Cat) Francis.

By that time Boucher had once and for all abandoned his two-goalie system. But Rayner continued to make history; this time - I kid you not - on the power play.

"Boucher knew I did a lot of shooting and skating in practice," Rayner once revealed, "so he decided to try it in a game. But I'd only come out half-way to the blue line. It happened four or five times and that was it."

Still, on February 1, 1947 in Montreal, Charlie rushed the puck up ice into the Habs zone and tried to score a goal.

"Rayner tried it a couple more times," Grimm concludes, "but each time to no avail."

(ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Hall of Famer Johnny Bower on deciding to be a goalie.)

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