We’re just 13 days away from Christmas Eve, and by now you’ve probably made your requests, dropped all your hints, and written your letter to Santa. Now it’s time to sit back and dream of all the cool stuff you’re hoping to find under your tree on Christmas morning.
And maybe you’ll get everything you hoped for. But let’s face it, the odds are against you. Chances are you’ll just end up being bitterly disappointed, like always.
Luckily, you’re a hockey fan, so you’re used to it. History is filled with examples of hockey fans getting excited about something that seemed like a lock to bring joy and happiness, only to be let down in the end. So to help you get in the right frame of mind for the holidays, here are five examples of hockey sure things that turned out to be massive disappointments.
By contrast, the NHL hasn’t had to fine any coaches in months [everyone warily eyes Patrick Roy]. Then again, it’s not as if the league can exactly gloat about how well mannered its coaches are. In fact, the league has a long history of meltdowns, tantrums, assaults, and flat-out cheating behind the bench. Here are 10 such notable incidents from NHL history.
Iron Mike Tries to Fight the Timekeeper
So Mike Tomlin might get fined for briefly stepping onto the field? Big deal. In the NHL, coaches charge onto the ice to try to pummel the official timekeeper.
Well, OK, not all coaches. Actually, only one: Mike Keenan, who attempted the feat back in 1990.
When the first sportsbook report hit my inbox Monday, the question "How did your book fare in the NFL?" was answered with "great." The same question, in the next email, was answered with “horrible.” These extremes alternated throughout the day, and a pattern quickly emerged. The square books made a killing, while the sharp books got killed.
The biggest game on this week’s NHL schedule will be one of the last: Sunday night’s matchup between the Senators and Red Wings in Ottawa. While there will probably be better contests, there won’t be a more emotional one, as the game will mark the first time that longtime Senator captain Daniel Alfredsson will play in Ottawa since signing with Detroit in the offseason.
That signing was a shock at the time, and it has led to an ugly divorce between Alfredsson and the Senators, with both sides accusing the other of putting money ahead of loyalty. All of which leads to the inevitable question: What kind of reception will Alfredsson get from Ottawa fans?
In an era when fewer and fewer players spend their entire career with one team, Alfredsson’s situation is far from unique. In just the past decade alone, we’ve seen several high-profile stars return to the city where they made their name. Some got a hero’s welcome. Others got something very different.
What should Alfredsson expect? Let’s look at five possibilities, as helpfully demonstrated by other stars from recent years.
The Hockey Hall of Fame formally welcomed five new inductees Monday night — players Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer, and Geraldine Heaney, and coach Fred Shero in the "builder" category.
With the Class of 2013 now official, we can start looking ahead to 2014 and beyond. So here are a dozen names eligible for next year’s vote, and my best guess at their chances.
Eligible since: New in 2014
The case for: Hasek was the undisputed best goalie in hockey for a long stretch in the late '90s, and he belongs in the discussion as the greatest of all time. He won six Vezina Trophies as the league’s best goaltender and is the only goalie in NHL history to win multiple MVPs. He has the highest career save percentage in history. He single-handedly won the gold medal for the Czech Republic in 1998. I could keep going, but it would be overkill.
The case against: He didn’t become a full-time starter until his late twenties, so his career totals in counting stats like wins are less impressive than you might expect. His style could be called “unorthodox" if you were being polite, or “completely insane” if you weren’t. He played professionally until he was 46, making you feel bad about never using your treadmill.
Odds he gets in next year: 97 percent, only because there’s still a 3 percent chance he launches another comeback before then.
Odds he gets in eventually: 100 percent
Bottom line: He’s a lock. Have fun deciphering his induction speech.
Eligible since: 2010
The case for: For a time, Lindros was the most feared player in hockey. He won the Hart Trophy in 1995, and there was a time when winning even one Hart all but guaranteed induction — of eligible winners since 1924, only two aren’t in the Hall of Fame. He also played in six All-Star games. Despite playing his entire career in the dead puck era, Lindros's 1.14 career points per game lands him in the top 20, and every eligible player ahead of him is in the Hall except for Kent Nilsson (who played in the high-flying '80s).
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith joined an exclusive club Saturday when he did this against the Detroit Red Wings:
That makes Smith one of just 11 goalies in NHL history to be credited with a goal, and one of just six to do it by actually shooting the puck into the other team’s net. So today, let’s take a look back at those other historic goalie goals, along with a few notable near-misses.
Tomas Hertl's first goal of the evening sent Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist packing. After his second, he stole a happy glance up at his mom and girlfriend. The Sharks were dismantling the Rangers and it was starting to get late when the young Czech rookie scored again. Still, no one at the SAP Center (née HP Pavilion) minded even when it took arena crews a few extra minutes to corral all the hats and remove them from the ice. It was only the 19-year-old's third NHL game, after all, and who could resist that wide smile?
Those who stuck around were generously rewarded a few minutes later with Hertl's fourth goal. (Those who stuck around and weren't the New York Rangers, I should say.)
If Allen Iverson played hockey, he would have scored this goal. Steel yourselves, children's hockey coaches everywhere, to lose thousands of kid-hours going forward in the pursuit of this goal. The only thing more fun than seeing it was sitting next to Larry Brooks in the press box while he watched this goal.
"That's something I don't have in my bag," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said.
On the first day of the government shutdown, the Washington Capitals arrived in Chicago, looking to bring a momentous occasion to a screeching halt. Though the organization has long since dropped the ’90s look — a jersey featuring the Capitol building and two crossed sticks — the Caps, backed by a scorching power-play unit, had every intention of playing spoiler. Not that Blackhawks fans are particularly adversarial with this altogether random opponent. When the second Stanley Cup banner in four years is raised to the United Center rafters, one assumes a storied rival would be on hand. But such is the new normal in a realigned NHL featuring more conference crossovers.
The last Blackhawks banner raising, in 2010, was soured by a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the team shoehorned into every ceremonial slot in Chicago since before I can remember — not that we had many before the Rocky Wirtz era. The 2010 home opener is something of a blur now, and Hawks fans sincerely hope the Wings enjoyed their sendoff to the Eastern Conference, courtesy of a floater from Brent Seabrook.
Here are 10 vaguely connected thoughts from six hours of opening-night hockey.
The good and the bad of pregame ceremonies
The first game on the schedule came to us from Montreal, so you know there had to be a pregame ceremony. And indeed, the new season was welcomed into existence by this:
I know I can lose my Canadian passport for saying this, but that was awful, right? It was a ceremony involving the Habs and dimmed lights and a torch, so we’re all supposed to nod reverently and pretend that it was fantastic (and most Montreal ceremonies are). But that one didn’t work.
The basic premise was apparently “What if we made every Canadiens player awkwardly hold a torch at center ice while everyone stared at them for 30 seconds?” As it turns out, a player in that situation has only a handful of options:
• Stare straight ahead like a badass (P.K. Subban)
• Try to stare straight ahead like a badass and fail (Alex Galchenyuk)
Last month, Teemu Selanne made a pair of important announcements. The first wasn’t a surprise: He is returning to the Anaheim Ducks for another season. But the other was at least somewhat unexpected. This will be his final season.
Yes, after 21 seasons, Teemu Selanne will finally hang up his skates next spring. That’s crushing news for hockey fans, who almost universally love the guy and have spent the last decade in a state of collective denial over his eventual retirement.
One fun part of any sport’s preseason is getting a first look at the bookmaker odds for various player props. It’s always an interesting insight into what the oddsmakers think about who’ll be the season’s statistical leaders and award winners, not to mention what they expect the betting public to think.
And while it can be fun to argue over the odds assigned to various players, there’s a part of me that’s always found it more interesting to look at the players who get left off the lists entirely. In betting terms, they make up “the field,” a nice way of saying “everyone else who we couldn’t even be bothered to put on this list.” If you’re the sort of fan who appreciates an underdog, it can be fun to go through the various props and try to figure out whether anyone who got snubbed could actually win.
And that’s all well and good if you’re the sort of person who enjoys happy stories. But what about the other 99 percent of us? What about the fans who want to see a good old-fashioned debacle? Luckily, the NHL seems like it should have plenty of those to offer up too.
As we head toward opening night, here are some of the story lines that are simmering now, but have the potential to boil over some point during the season.
Last night, television sets across the continent were tuned in to a depraved world of unimaginable violence, horrifying bloodshed, and an almost total absence of morality on the part of everyone involved.
Or, if you wanted something a little less intense, you switched away from the Toronto-Buffalo preseason game and watched Breaking Bad instead.
Yes, the Maple Leafs and Sabres got a little bit rowdy on Sunday. The game was the second half of a home-and-home that hadn’t actually featured all that much bad blood. Sure, there had been a few scraps, because this is the preseason and it’s practically mandatory that every game feature several meaningless fights between guys who are about to be cut. But the overall mood had been almost chipper, even including some comic relief in the form of a novelty shootout attempt by Paul Ranger during Saturday night’s game.
The NHL exhibition season has begun, which means in some sense, a new year of hockey has finally arrived. So it’s apparently time to come up with a few New Year’s resolutions — those little things we could all do to make ourselves better fans.
After all, is there anyone in the hockey world who can really claim to already be perfect? Oh, right, this guy. Man, he ruins everything. I hate him. [Adds “stop being jealous of perfect people” to personal resolutions list.]
But the rest of us still have room for improvement, and now seems like as good a time as any to work on it. So here are a few suggested New Year’s resolutions for hockey fans to consider. Pick one or two. Pick them all. Or pick none of them and just berate me in the comments. [Adds “stop being thin-skinned about the comments” to personal resolutions list.]
Wait, where were we? [Adds “stop overusing that distracting third-person device” to personal resolutions list.] Right, the resolutions. Here are 10 suggestions for your consideration.
NHL training camps are beginning to open around the league, and that means that after months of trades, signings, hirings, firings, wild speculation, and unfounded rumors, we can finally declare the 2013 offseason over.
How closely were you paying attention to the summer’s news? Take this handy quiz to find out.