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Evan Grossman

About Evan
Evan Grossman comes to NHL.com after six years as a sports reporter for the New York Post, where he was the Islanders beat writer from 2001-2006. Among Evan's memorable assignments at the tabloid were Shawn Bates' penalty shot against the Maple Leafs in the 2002 playoffs, walking with Phil Mickelson on Sunday at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and countless hours waiting in the Yankee Stadium parking lot for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

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E-mail your comments at: nhlblog@nhl.com

Recent Posts
Who wrote the Book of Love?
Mr. Hockey goes to Hollywood
Why do you always call me 'Meat'?
Thrashers rate as NHL's top surprise

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Who wrote the Book of Love?

Well, the O.J. Simpson television special and the 400,000 copies of his book If I Did It, Here's How It Happened have been sent to the incinerator after some media types came to their senses about the whole thing.

I'm hoping that the books are tossed into the proper receptacle for recycling, but if the publishers wanted to save some trees they could publish the following tomes and keep the same cover page they had originally planned for the O.J. book. Basically, The Juice was going to tell us how, hypothetically, he did something everyone already thinks he did.

For example If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Darcy Tucker could be a new book about how he could have supposedly submarined Michael Peca in the 2002 playoffs. The two have oddly become fast friends in Toronto and have amazed observers how they've let bygones be bygones since Peca joined the Leafs this summer.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Alexei Yashin is the story about a player who was largely invisible for the first five years of a 10-year, $90 million contract and who hasn't really made a positive impact on the Islanders until this season.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Mike Milbury is the story of a former NHL general manager who allegedly traded Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen in exchange for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, arguably the biggest heist since Danny Ocean and the boys ripped off those three Vegas casinos.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by the Toronto Maple Leafs is a mind-blowing tale about a flagship hockey franchise that's allegedly managed to go 40 years without winning a Cup.

"If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Chris Pronger tells the story of an elite defenseman who asks to be traded, perhaps part of a series penned by other disgruntled former Oilers like Mike Comrie.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Martin Brodeur is a book, which would actually be Marty's second release this year, of a kleptomaniac goalkeeper who made a career out of stealing games.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by the Buffalo Sabres is the story of a team that's been running from the fashion police ever since trading in the classic blue and gold for red and black, a crime they finally atoned for this season with their new throwback uniforms, even if they're worn as the third jersey.

If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Dale Hunter is the story of a gritty forward who allegedly pounded Pierre Turgeon in one of the all-time heinous cheap shots, even worse than Tucker vs. Peca.

And last but not least, If I Did It, Here's How It Happened by Barry Melrose is the heart-wrenching story of a man's downright refusal to obey modern-day hair laws by sporting a mullet, which has been outlawed in these parts about as long as coveting thy neighbor's wife.

Jive Turkeys

In honor of Thanksgiving this week (my favorite holiday of the year, with my deepest apologies to Yom Kippur, also known as Judgment Day), I will respond to and share with you all some of the mail I've received in the last week. I'll admit, it was a slow start to get the Gross Misconduct feedback going, and after the first blog I received only three letters, one of which came from Mom saying how much she enjoyed the blog.

Haven't gotten any more emails from friends of family since, leading me to believe that a) they stopped reading after the first installment, or b) the world is in constant agreement with everything I say, thereby nullifying any kind of response. A shout-out to my fans in western New York, by the way; it's always nice when Mom forwards me the results she finds when Googling my name.

Anyway, without further ado, some of the nicer notes we got (hate mail doesn't get published, unless you're super-creative):

Evan, You rock! I don't have much else to say, but I loved your entries! Keep 'em coming! -- Crazycar (Sharks Fan)

P.S. I know he's not nearly well-known enough for your blog, but you gotta admit "Pickles" is a great nickname we have out here for Marc-Edward Vlasic! That's gotta be my favorite this season.

Dynamite drop-in, Crazycar. "Pickles" rules, and no 19-year-old, stud defenseman gets under my radar (that kind of makes it sound like I'm blogging for a dating site, doesn't it?). Some other suggestions for his San Jose teammates are "Half-Sour," "Relish," and "Dill."

In response to how to say "losers" in French, we got these:

"Perdants." Winners give "Gagnants" ou "Vainqueurs". Hope that will be useful. Hope you the best. - Nicolas, from Nantes, France

Congratulations, Nicolas on being the first overseas correspondence to Gross Misconduct. And here I thought the only French people that mattered were in Quebec.

I only want to say that the French word for "losers" is "perdants," but when we talk hockey we use "losers," like in the phrase: Les Flyers c'est des losers cette année. Merci! -- Christian Hamel

I really hope that doesn't mean something that's unprintable. This, after all, is a family website.

Just curious if you ever heard of "The Rocket," the Maurice Richard movie? It's certainly better than Youngblood (honestly have you ever seen a sword fight in a hockey game in real life?) and up there with Slap Shot as one of the greatest hockey movies ever. By the way if you can understand French or can read subtitles you should watch Les Boys also. - Geoff

My French is limited, as has been well documented here. Sorry, but outside of hommes, sortie and now perdants, I think I'd have a tough time following "Les Boys," which I can only assume is a movie about a girls' hockey team.

I believe Mr. Grossman forgot about an excellent hockey movie, the recent bilingual film "The Rocket/Maurice Richard," which excellently portrays not only hockey, but in fact the culture and society of Québec in the first half of last century. The hockey in the movie, however, is accurate and thoroughly believable, thanks to endless consultation with Canadiens players and coaches of the era, as well as old broadcasts of games, and the talent that players such as Vincent Lecavalier and Sean Avery (who was cast in a very appropriate role) lent to the movie. If you have not yet viewed it, I would highly recommend it. The French sequences are subtitled if you are not bilingual. - Unsigned

Since it's come so highly recommended, I'm going to have to check it out. Nothing better than settling into a nice movie with my French-to-English dictionary in hand.

Posted by Evan @ 11:43 a.m.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mr. Hockey goes to Hollywood

I was ecstatic to read this morning about a Gordie Howe movie in the works. I was happy on so many levels, because as far as I’m concerned, there have been maybe two good hockey movies ever made. I liked Youngblood a lot and for my money, nobody is ever going to write a better puck flick than Slap Shot.

The Gordie Howe Story is said to centralize on the short life of the World Hockey Association and the legendary NHL career of “Mr. Hockey.” Former Hartford Whalers’ managing owner Howard Baldwin is going to executive produce and David Kelley, who is the son of former HFD coach Jack Kelley and also wrote and produced “Mystery, Alaska,” is also on board.

But before preproduction moves another inch forward, I need to make a plea to the producers right here and right now. Please don’t make the same mistake that so many failed sports movies have made in the past. Get someone believable to play Howe.

Pretty please, with a cherry on top.

Too many times, sports movies bomb because the script is lame (if you saw the sequel to Slap Shot, you know where I’m coming from). The second most popular cause of death among low-grade sports flicks is casting the wrong people as athletes. Case in point, Marky Mark was simply unbelievable in the recently released Invincible. The slow-motion shots of the kid who wasn’t cool enough to be in New Kids on the Block with his brother Donnie, made me think I was sitting through a slapstick comedy. Not to mention the writers concocted a lame finale to the Vince Papale story, an underdog tale I thought couldn’t possibly be ruined. But it was. They lost me at hello.

So before Hollywood can botch another movie, one that seems like it has the potential and a ready-made storyline to be a classic, here’s my short list of celebrities I think can (and can’t) pull off playing arguably the baddest dude to ever lace up a pair of skates.

Clint Eastwood – He’s the baddest dude in Hollywood, so why couldn’t Dirty Harry play Mr. Hockey? Clint made Westerns cool, made leisure suits and .44 Magnums a hoot, and the old guy, if you squint your eyes, kind of looks like Howe did late in his career, but with teeth. He’s got the street cred. Now Eastwood just needs to learn to skate. Indeed, that would make my day.

Tom Cruise – (It is now several minutes after I just typed that. I must have blacked out from too many punch lines rushing to my brain at the same time.)

Kurt Russell – He can play or coach after nailing the Herb Brooks role in Miracle. OK, add that one to the list of great hockey movies, too. Perfect example of not ruining a great story with some tricked-out Disney foray into sports (um, how many Mighty Ducks movies are there anyway?). Russell made that movie great, because, “On this team the name on the front of your jersey is a lot more important than the one on the back. Again!” He can have the Brooks performance at the top of his resume, but Russell should be considered for this role for his equally brilliant portrayal of Wyatt Earp in Tombstone too. Priceless.

Rob Lowe – Not. Sorry to say, but Youngblood’s grown up to be the mild-mannered Sam Seaborn, a character better suited for the debate team than the hockey team.

Russell Crowe – If a Gordie Howe Hat Trick is when you score a goal, an assist and get into a fight, all Crowe needs to do is figure out the goal and assist part of the equation. The Aussie brawler, known to fling phones at hotel employees, and star of Gladiator (the one about the Romans, not the boxers) first graced the ice in the aforementioned Mystery, Alaska, when the residents of a small town take on the Rangers. Crowe was actually more believable as a hockey player than he was as the town’s sheriff.

Ryan Seacrest – No. No. No! Weaker than the new season of The OC, he gets nowhere near any hockey movie, in my opinion. But I would definitely buy a ticket just to see the host of American Idol try to go across the middle on say, Dion Phaneuf, a collision sure to bring new meaning to the insufferable salutation, “Seacrest, out!”

Two-handers -- There were only seven players in the whole league that were double-digit minuses for the season at the end of this week, six of whom play in the imperPHect, cellar-dwelling cities of Philadelphia and Phoenix. Once a two-way force, C Dave Scatchard was an eye-popping minus-10 through 15 games with the Coyotes, which was nothing compared to the minus-15 rookie teammate Enver Lisin lugged around. Other than the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, no player seems to have fallen from grace more dramatically than Joni Pitkanen (minus-12). Teammates Kyle Calder and Mike Richards were both minus-11 through 15 games, and Derian Hatcher was a league-worst minus-17 for the Flyers, who may be readying for an unavoidable firesale soon.

We are witnessing, before our very eyes, precisely why giving Rick DiPietro a 15-year deal may have been less than brilliant. Every goal he surrenders is magnified by the contract, fair or not; fans at the Coliseum are quick to turn on the antsy goalie, fair or not; and perhaps in a sign of pressure overload, a high-strung DiPietro got into a scrap with teammate Arron Asham at practice on Wednesday, which he followed with a stellar 32-save win at – where else? -- Philadelphia. It’s a lot to live up to, and nobody seems to be realizing that more now than DiPietro himself. Security, it seems, has its price.

Fight of the week -- Calgary defenseman Andrew Ference and Dallas agitator Matthew Barnaby threw punches for over a minute in a marathon scrap at the Saddledome, earning Ference praise from Flames teammates like captain Jarome Iginla.

“He said I’m the toughest hippie around,” Ference told the Calgary Herald.

As for the least toughest? Well here’s a Gross Misconduct classic. One of my buddies once got knocked out cold in a street fight, years ago. Standing there was a former hippie acquaintance of ours, a rather large guy -- probably the largest person on that particular block – who, upon seeing our friend get sucker punched told the assailant, “Peace, love and happiness. I’m just here to smile.” And then he bolted. Of course, I wasn’t there, but needless to say, when said friend woke up on the sidewalk, it was pretty much the last time he and the not-so-tough hippie hung out.

And last but not least, the Blockhead of the Week Award goes to the waiter this afternoon who actually asked me, when I ordered a bowl of chili and a side of spinach for lunch, “Do you want me to bring out the chili first and then the spinach as the main course?” Sure, and my friend will take his burger first and have his fries as the entrée while you’re at it, you nitwit. If that’s not two minutes for being stupid, I don’t know what is.

Of course the chili came out first anyway. Think I sent it back? Ha! I like mine without the loogies, thanks.

Posted by Evan @ 11:40 a.m.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Why do you always call me 'Meat'?

I’ve covered a lot of sports in my long and somewhat distinguished journalism career, but no sport has as much character to its subculture as hockey. Playoff beards, carpentry in the stick room, C’s and A’s are all unique to the coolest game on earth. But no aspect of the culture is as unique to the game as what can only be called “The Hockey Nickname”.

We used to joke on the Isles beat – Bottsie, Hahnsie and me -- how hockey is a sport where grown men call each other by nicknames more than they address each other by their real names. So we started doing it, too.

Hockey nicknames are a phenomenon unto themselves. Almost like learning a foreign language (covering hockey has also provided me with the knowledge that “Hommes” is the men’s room in Montreal and “Sortie” is the exit), picking up hockey nicknames in casual conversation is a skill. Like when Peter Laviolette first talked about one of his players using the name “Oakie,” it took me weeks to realize the coach was talking about Adrian Aucoin.

Almost as if by some unspoken and unwritten rule, understanding the hockey nickname has a simple formula for translation, kind of like a Hockey-to-English conversion table. It’s simple, and much easier than French. Generally, the hockey nickname is some sort of derivation of someone’s last name. In most cases, you simply shorten the last name and add either “ie” or “er”.

“Oakie” is a perfect example of this, taking Aucoin down to the first part of the name and adding the “ie” suffix. (For those of you in clear need of Hooked on Phonics, a suffix is a group of letters you tack on to the end of a word, rather than a prefix, which goes at the beginning of one.)

Anyway, about 99.9 percent of all hockey players go by a nickname, a moniker that they tend to go by their entire careers. Brendan Shanahan is “Shanny,” Jaromir Jagr is “Jags,” and Scott Gomez is “Gomer.” It’s easy. Now you try it.

Scott Niedermayer = Nieds

Chris Pronger = Prongs

Jean-Sebastian Giguere = Giggy

Me? Well they used to call me “Grossie” sometimes around Nassau Coliseum. Sometimes they would call me “Scoops”, which is a nickname often given to writers around the league.

If you’ve ever seen The Big Lebowski, you know what I’m talking about, when “The Dude” offers a crash course in the concept when he says, “Look, let me explain something. I’m not Mr. Lebowski; you’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude, so that’s what you call me. That, or Duder, His Dudeness, or El Duderino, if you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”

Sometimes, as "The Dude" explains, hockey nicknames can even be longer than your real name. People are obviously not into the brevity thing sometimes. Such as in the cases of Blakey, Batesy, Snowy, etc. The list goes on and on. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes your real name is way too complicated, which is why guys like Alexei Zhitnik and Zdeno Chara are known simply as “Z”.

For some reason, Steve Thomas went his whole career known as “Stumpy,” Bryan Smolinski is “Smoke,” and more recently, Evgeni Malkin is known in Pittsburgh as “Geno.” Say what?

If you’re from Sweden or Finland and your name is Mattias, you will be known as “Matty” by your teammates, just like if you were Henrik back home, you can look forward to a new life as “Hank.” If you come from a native background, you’re “Chief” in the room. Smith almost always becomes “Smitty”. Most of the time anyone named Sergei – from Nemchinov to Gonchar – becomes “Sarge” when they arrive in North America.

So with this knowledge in hand, you can now translate post-game news conferences around the league and you’ll know what it means when you hear Teddy talk about Yash, Ash, Silly, Witter and Marty.

But if you’re in Montreal and the conversation turns to French, you’re on your own and it might be time to head for the sortie.

Hockey nicknames might be juvenile. But when I hear in other sports names like “The Big Unit”, “Bambino”, “Giambino”, and “Twin”, I have to wonder ... what’s French for losers?

Two-Handers

Everyone knew they were going to score goals in bunches, but who would have expected the Penguins to have allowed 30 goals, tied with Ottawa for fewest in the Eastern Conference, going into this week? Think it has anything to do with their forwards getting back? Not bad for a bunch of kids, something floaters across the league should take note of.

Looks like Boston might want a mulligan on the trade that sent Andrew Raycroft to the Leafs, a deal fueled by the wild notion that Tim Thomas could carry the load after somewhat of a breakout season a year ago. Psyche! Thomas, though, seems headed down the path blazed by fellow flash-in-the-pans Jim Carey and Byron Dafoe.

Just finished lunch here at league HQ and I think in the future, the seaweed salad that’s been sitting out all day at the local salad bar might be something to avoid.

Posted by Evan @ 10:06 a.m.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Thrashers rate as NHL's top surprise

I was at a Halloween party in Boston last week and there was a dude dressed like a Viking, complete with one of those helmets with the antlers on top. It was obvious what he was dressed as, but when someone asked him what he was, he provided what turned out to be the line of the night:

“I’m Johnny Drama ... from Viking Quest.”

Hilarious. Deep. Creative. In the words of the guys from the Guinness commercials, “Brilliant!”

Not unlike that costume party, we’ve had our share of pleasant surprises though the first month of the hockey season. The kids have been the talk of the town in Pittsburgh, the Sabres have proven to be the mightiest of foes, and some once-great franchises like Detroit and Philly are struggling before our very eyes.

But has there been a bigger surprise than the Atlanta Thrashers thus far? Check that. Has there been a bigger surprise than the first-place Atlanta Thrashers?

After 12 games, who woulda thunk the Thrashers -- supposedly thin down the middle, shaky on the blue line and unproven in the cage – would race out to a seven-point lead over the defending champion Hurricanes? Wild stuff. Unexpected, for sure.

Every player on the ATL roster scored at least a point in the first dozen games, Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kozlov and even Mellanby have lit it up, and Lehtonen currently ranks among the league’s elite puckstoppers. They’ve been getting contributions from basically everyone, and in the immortal words of Johnny Drama, it’s all added up to one thing:

“Victory!”

Where are the new boys?

There’s a great scene in the movie Bull Durham when Crash Davis delivers one of the classic monologues in the history of the spoken word. As a way for you to get an idea where I’m coming from, what I’m all about, I’ve come up with my own set of beliefs, sort of an appetizer for where this blog is headed.

This is going to be a place for fun, for the wild ramblings in my head to find a place to chill out. It’s going to be a place not unlike a little Nova Scotia watering hole where guys who go by names like Sumo and Puke hang out, where everyone really does know your (screen) name. It’s going to be open hockey, cyber-style, where helmets and visors are not required, but strongly recommended.

Well, I believe in the rink.

The puck.

The Zamboni.

That there’s an art to taping sticks.

That I am the world heavyweight champion of Playstation hockey, doesn’t matter what year.

That there is no smell as foul as the palm of an old glove, that “the face wash,” is one of the all-time most annoying things you could do to someone.

That dressing rooms from Thunder Bay to Tampa Bay all smell exactly the same.

That the greatest sound in the universe is of a puck clanging off the post right before the goal horn sounds. That every great line needs a name and that few will ever top classics like “The French Connection,” “The Legion of Doom,” and recent favorites like “The Mattress Line.”

I believe there should be a constitutional amendment outlawing the instigator rule. That pucks should be able to be played off the protective netting. That Canadian money is a lot cooler than American bills. That it takes more guts to block a shot than you think.

I believe in dynasties, playoff beards, morning skates and pond hockey.

I believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. That Brett Hull’s skate was in the crease. That sinking a double-eagle is far better than a hole-in-one.

I believe in gamesmanship, makin’ it look mean and playing ‘til the sun goes down.

And I believe in long, passionate playoff games that last three days.

Two-Handers

Shouldn’t Vancouver GM Dave Nonis like the fact that he can attempt to sign Sidney Crosby, for example, as a free agent when he turns 25? Makes sense to us that the GM who should be most upset the Pens could lose their young stars to free agency is Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero.

According to sources, RW Nathan Horton, after a recent fourth-line demotion by head coach Jacques Martin, wants out of Florida. Same goes for Montreal’s Sergei Samsonov, who was also seeing fourth-line duty. Say what you want about him, but in all the times Alexei Yashin was moved down to a fourth line, he never once wanted off the Island. Not like the Isles would have been able to move him and his gi-normous contract anyway.

How fast do you think Neil Smith sent the Flyers a resume last week? And does his employment history include the infamous 40-day cameo running the Islanders? Just asking.

The Blackhawks recently snapped a shutout streak of 240:56, which was not the longest dry spell in franchise history. The Hawks went a remarkable 621:42 without a goal in 1929, a drought that included eight consecutive shutouts. That season, the Blackhawks were shut out in 20 of the 44 games they played, but even more unbelievable is that goalies didn’t wear masks for another 30 years.

Posted by Evan @ 9:36 a.m.



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