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Loose Change: Chalk talk

The National Hockey League can be called a lot of things (“archaic”, “self-destructive”, “unreasonable”, “insular”, “ignorant”, “reactionary”, “obstinate”, “detached”, “inflexible”, “incompetent”, “nepotistic”, “dim-witted”, “short-sighted”, “narrow-minded”, “financially-pungent”) but “boring” isn’t one of them (although technically it was one of them, only three short years ago – the other adjectives have simply caught up).

Following the NHL is like watching a train wreck, piled onto a car crash, jammed into a massive explosion. The league will never be short of stories to follow. Seems the league constitution has a clause requiring someone to be in jail; going to jail; facing suspension; financial ruin or just causing some sort of general noteworthy disturbance. There’s always an obscure story happening within its ranks.

And thank god for that. Otherwise it’s just another “inspiring” story of how our beloved Jimmy overcame his painful dependence on Fruit Loops to fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL one day, and I mean “one day” literally. He was called up by Phoenix late in the pre-season to play a shift-and-a-half against a loose collection of assorted freaks from the traveling Moscow Discount Circus. The Coyotes lost, Jimmy fought the bearded lady and was pummelled.

While rival leagues waste time covering smaller issues like scores and breaking records, the NHL devotes its time to the forgotten stories, the stuff that only seems to make news in a place like this.

Again, thank god for that.

Where else could you find a juicy story like this latest one: According to an unnamed source who plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the new team owners are so meddling, one of them actually had the audacity to invade the team’s dressing room, while in Europe, and began drawing up plays (or play some Hangman – the source described the handwriting as “atrocious”) to help the team through its funk.

This tale has some really juicy angles.

First off, which of the supposed owners was it? Reports say it was Len Barrie, but perhaps is was in fact Oren Koules, the movie magnate. Maybe he was just storyboarding Saw 12: Pretty Much Out of Ideas.

Or maybe it was Barrie? (the co-ownership equivalent to the Professor on Gilligan’s Island). He did play some hockey a while back so that instantly qualifies him. That, and the fact he signs everyone’s fat checks. Europe is, after all, the place that put the few in feudal.

And where was coach Barry Melrose during all of this? Would he not see this as a breach of his authority? Could he have not done something? What’s a mullet good for if you’re afraid to use it?

Of course everyone is denying the validity of the story except for Mistress Cleo (who thinks “they need to drive harder to the net and use more eye of newt”). No one in their right mind would break the indomitable hockey code and speak ill about their teammates. In hockey circles, doing so is referred to as “throwing someone under the bus,” which makes you think of the poor souls that must have been sacrificed in the early days of the league to create this unbreakable and obviously barbaric system in the first place.

Ultimately no one is talking and the Lightning still haven’t got their act together, which, funny enough, is a good thing. Say an intrusive owner had barged into the dressing room and say he had diagrammed something on the board (a revolutionary take on the neutral zone trap? a unique recipe for zesty chilli, perhaps?). What if Tampa Bay had gone on a nine-game winning streak after that? This would have been just the tip of the iceberg.

Before you know it, Jeremy Jacobs would be dragging his hammer and chisel into the Bruins dressing room to show the boys what he had taught Napoleon about flooding the zone when he was a boy and Jacobs was exhibiting the first signs of his soon-to-be-legendary scowl.

Almost a dangerous precedent set there.

Tampa, you dodged a major bullet. Coaches, seize back that chalk.

The NHL? Never a dull moment.

The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at


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