Friday, September 06, 2002

Who Da Man? LCS Hockey released their player ratings extravaganza this week. It just might come in handy when we start the Puck Hog hockey pool. Details to come...

Wednesday, September 04, 2002


The Toronto Sun is running a series of articles from 30 Septembers ago. Enjoy!

Team Canada is finally starting to roll.

Now that's good news for Canadians and bad news for the Soviet National hockey team. Team Canada, the pick of the National Hockey League, tied its eight-game world series of hockey 1-1 last night at Maple Leaf Gardens with a 4-1 win over the USSR.

What the Canadians displayed was a complete reversal of form from the 7-3 loss to the Soviets Saturday night at the Montreal Forum.

Team Canada coach Harry Sinden made numerous changes after the humiliating defeat in the opener, intending to stop the Russians with a more physical game and aggressive forechecking.

And Team Canada did just that as for 40 minutes the Soviets were baffled by the strong bodychecking and positional play of the Canadians. In the last period, superior conditioning or not, the Soviets could not cope with the awesome attack of the Team Canada forwards.

It was simply this -- in Game 1 the Soviets won because Team Canada did not play its game. Last night the USSR was forced to try to adapt to the Canadian style for the entire game and could not do so.

Phil Esposito scored the first goal on Tretiak, who made a total of 32 saves, when he stole the puck from the skates of defenceman Vladimir Lutchenko in front of the Soviet goal. Espo turned from the backhand to the forehand and beat Tretiak at 7:14 of the second period.

The Soviets finally responded emotionally to the aggressive play of the Canadian forwards as Valary Kharlamov, the Soviet star of the first game, was given a 10-minute misconduct for bumping referee Steve Dowling after the latter assessed a minor penalty to Ganady Tsigankov at 18:54 of the second period.

Early in the third at 1:19, Park sent Cournoyer into the clear and the Montreal Canadiens right winger shot one through Tretiak's legs.

However, the big red machine did not quit as it scored a power-play goal by Alexander Yakushev at 5:53 to threaten the Canadian win.

That's when Peter Mahovlich nearly brought the roof down at the Gardens as he scored one of the finest goals anyone will see at 6:47. While killing a penalty, Phil Esposito passed off the boards to Mahovlich inside his own centre line. The Little M went in on defenceman Eugeny Poladyev, faked a slapshot, went around him and deked Tretiak.

Not to be outdone, the Mikita-Frank Mahovlich-Cournoyer line started to buzz and the Big M banked one off the left post to put the game out of reach at 8:59 of the third.

Tony Esposito, who stopped 19 shots, many of which were dangerous, and Phil Esposito were selected the best Team Canada players while Tretiak was chosen the top Soviet.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

No more Eskimo puck: Friends and teammates of Inuit hockey player Terrence Tootoo, believed to be the first Inuit Canadian to play professional hockey, say an overwhelming sense of shame likely drove him to commit suicide.
This day in hockey history: 1991 - New Jersey Devils are awarded Scott Stevens from St. Louis as compensation for Brendan Shanahan.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Jack Ludwig, in his wonderful book the Great Hockey Thaw, describes the antics of Czechoslovakian born Stan Mikita, some 30 summers ago, teaching nice Canadian kids to swear in Russian, at one of the Canadian practices.Ludwig quips, "To curse the USSR guys out good and raw, Stan chose as his # 1 expression, Rooski chooyu! [ungraciously translated 'Russian p-p-p-p-penis']."

Practices were reasonably well attended. Cournoyer explained that he couldn't make 9 AM practices because his body didn't "wake until ten". Phil Esposito would me missing occasionally too. Ludwig describes the panting sweating and sagging throughout the early workouts and many players looked a little chubbier than usual. Gary Bergman rejoined after Game 1, "That thing you saw dragging five feet behind me was my ass". Still, even the likes of Jacques Plante, sorrily underrated the Soviets. "They're not used to playing against this kind of competition" he ventured, "And won't be able to keep up the pace".

Conversely, the Russians were in top physical condition. Some things were so unusual that nobody could miss them: the USSR goalie warm-up for instance. The Russians worked on a precise rhythm; first shots at the goalie's left pad; then an equal number at his right; next they moved upstairs to the glove, then middle then low. Then his stick became the target. The forwards zoomed in at full clip while the defense aptly cleared the lose pucks from in front of the net. No one tried to beat the goalie during the drill, but every player was working for him.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Summer of '72

From the horror at Munich to the suspense of the Summit Series, it was one of the most unbelievable times in sports

By GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

George is right when he says "Thirty years ... where have they gone? Thirty years of emotional moments that will never fade from my memory."

"The story actually began a few weeks earlier in Munich, Germany.

It began the night the underrated team of the Soviet Union, led by spectacular goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, thrashed Team Canada at the Montreal Forum in the opening game of the Summit Series.

I was in Munich that day, covering the 1972 Olympic Games and decided to go to bed instead of staying up most of the night to watch the game in a CBC truck.

My son and his pal, Canadian butterflier Byron MacDonald, had a different idea. They wanted to see the Montreal game and watched it in CBC's mobile.

The game finished around 4 a.m. Munich time and the two boys were making plans to return to the Olympic Village.

Byron was a member of the Canadian swim team, while my son, George Jr., missed making the team by a fraction of a second. However, he still was allowed to stay in the Canadian quarters.

It was quite a hike from the CBC truck to the main gates of the Olympic Village, so the two young men decided to climb over the wall. Not 50 metres from them, a gang of gun-toting terrorists did the same thing. Neither the boys, nor the terrorists were seen by anybody."

George Jr. was a helluva swimmer. Also a butterflier, he wasn't large in stature but developed a barrel chest flying up and down the diminutive pool in the basement of our highschool. That school turned out a few notables such as Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe & Mail and David Frum, ex-Bush speechwriter, of "axis of evil" fame, [well, at least according to his wife, Michelle]. The school, in the best English tradition, [eerily captured in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels with her description of the Hogwart's induction ritual] was divided into houses. I shared the same house as George Jr., Crawford House, but needless to say, didn't see eye to eye with his foray into coaching hockey. Haven't really thought about those days much but strange parallels abound. What started in Munich 30 summers ago culminated in 9/11. The families of the murdered Israelis still struggle today with the Olympic Committee for a memorial honouring their loved ones and the families of those who died at WTC are only beginning their fight.