The Penalty Box is off to a fast start this season, as readers eagerly parade into the sin bin to have their say on the first few Crashing the Net installments of the 2007-08 season.
This past week’s Opening Faceoff on the “Heavenly Heroes” – the individuals CTN would want to see form a team for a game of never-ending shinny in the afterlife – generated its fair share of commentary.
Yet, there is always room for more writers/readers in the CTN
Now, on to this week’s mailbag:
Adam Graves a living saint? Did you forget about a little slashing incident in the ‘92 playoffs to a certain Mario Lemieux? Don't try to say that wasn't intent to injure. He knew the Rags only chance (that still didn't work) was to take him out. Not very saintly.
-- Chase Sampson
Chase, thanks for the note and, to answer your question, CTN did not forget. That game was one of the first games CTN ever covered as a professional journalist. CTN was a wee lad of 24 and CTN was, as a co-worker here is fond of saying, scared spitless to be at the Garden and to be covering a game featuring so many bold-faced names. So, CTN is intimately familiar with the hit of which you speak. Fans will argue forever about the intent of Graves’ hit -- just as they will argue forever about the clean nature of many of the game’s most famous hits. But, to CTN, that hit has very little to do with who Adam Graves is as a person. Many players have injured other players in the heat of battle. Yet, that does not mean that those players are “bad” people. All CTN knows is that Adam Graves is the nicest, most genuine hockey player CTN has had the pleasure of meeting. CTN knows that Graves will be first in line at the gate to hockey heaven. And, CTN knows it would be a true blessing to be able to join Graves there if deemed worthy one day. CTN appreciates your animosity toward Graves because of the circumstances, but, in the end, can not abide by the viewpoint.
No Ray Bourque on defense? How do Lukowich and MacInnis rank ahead of him? Not worth checking out in my book.
-- Pete LeBlanc
Well, Pete, it is most fortunate then that it is CTN’s Heavenly Heroes and not Pete LeBlanc’s Heavenly Heroes that we are discussing. But to answer your question more specifically, it should be obvious that there was certain criteria used in picking this team. CTN would not be fool enough to suggest that Lukowich is one of the best six defensemen to ever play the game. Nor would CTN suggest that Gerry Cheevers was the second-best goalie. How about Mike Eruzione as one of the four best wings in history? CTN thinks not. That was not the point of this exercise. Rather, it was about the players CTN would like to watch in heaven. Those were the ones that made the cut in last week’s piece. As a child and into the early part of adulthood, CTN was based in New England and watched Ray Bourque extensively. CTN believes that Bourque is an elite defenseman, but not of the deified status he enjoyed in most New England precincts. Bourque’s high-risk, high-reward game never really intrigued CTN. But that is clearly a matter of personal preference. Obviously, CTN has some respect for Bourque, naming him to the opposition team in this week’s Opening Faceoff. But CTN does not hold Bourque in the same light as you – and many others – clearly do. The beauty of all of this is you could pick your own team and it would probably destroy CTN’s selections. But, you know what? CTN would have a hell of a time watching his boys give it a go! Thanks for the note, Pete and send me your team anytime.
Outstanding piece. Can’t beat that list. As Reg said to Dickie Dunn: “You captured the spirit of the thing…”
-- Sammy Radford
Sammy, thanks for the compliment. In Slap Shot, Dickie Dunn actually says, “I tried to capture the spirit of the thing.” Then, Reg Dunlop, the coach, tells him that he did. But CTN gets your point and is pleased as punch that you think so. And, by the way, for you Slap Shot fans out there, CTN thought about putting Gilmore Tuttle on the squad, but just couldn’t find the room. He was one of the last cuts, let’s say.
I liked almost all of your picks for shinny with the stars, and look forward to see who will be manning the other end of the rink. But thought I would "put in a good word" for a couple of deserving players (I assume Gretz will make it, so I'm not even gonna mention him).
Borje Salming: One of the original Europeans to penetrate the NHL. Gotta give him some credit for that... but also a dynamite hockey player, with my beloved Leafs. He was the kind of guy who would go down to block shots near the end of a meaningless 8-1 game. He knew only one way to play the game and that was hard. He probably had more to do with Europeans being accepted as equals in the N than anyone else, and was LOVED in Toronto, and still is, for no other reason than he was a joy to watch.
Vladislav Tretiak: He wasn't the most exciting goalie to watch (never left his crease) but goodness knows he could stop them as well, if not better than anyone in history. He was dominant worldwide. He has FOUR Olympic medals (three golds). He is also the first Russian to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame without having played a single game in the NHL.
Maurice Richard: I wasn't fortunate enough to see him play, but my old man went to a lot of Habs games growing up and despite the fact that I grew up a Leaf fan, to hear my father speak about watching Maurice Richard, you'd think he was talking about Pele or Muhammad Ali. And heck, the NHL even named a trophy after the guy. Gotta say, I'd pay a lot of loonies to watch this guy in a pond hockey game.
Anyhow, love the blog/column. Keep up the good work.
-- Andrew McGillis, Barbados
Andrew, thanks for the kind words and the suggestions. As you know by now, Tretiak made the opposing team, as did Gretzky. Salming was a great choice, but CTN did not see enough of him to have a special affinity for him. Therefore, he did not engender the emotion necessary to be a part of the opposition. And, Maurice Richard, what can one say? CTN thinks you summed it u perfectly how special he was. Even fans of teams that loathed the Canadiens could not help but respect Richard. He probably should be on the opposing team of every hockey fan’s dream team, except of course for Montreal fans. He will be on their dream team, without a doubt.. In fact, it should be a de facto honor that he captain the opposition. This should not be negotiable. Thanks again for such a great letter.
How could you off Mario Lemieux, but have Messier? I also noticed that Gretzky was left off also? Was that to leave them in the superstar stratosphere? Or, did you believe them to be unworthy? Why not add Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin to the mix? After all, those two are supposedly billed as the next faces of hockey. I was just wondering. Also, another question. With Pittsburgh's "slow" start where do you think the team will end up? Last year, they didn't hit their stride until after the All-Star break. Thanks for reading this and keep the column coming.
-- Crystal, Scottdale, Pa.
Crystal, CTN has Messier on the CTN team and not Mario because CTN enjoys watching Messier play the game more than Mario. It really is that simple. It doesn’t mean that Mess is a better player than Mario or that Mario is not good. He is among the game’s greats and is probably the first-line center on the opposition team I named today. But Mess played a meaner, more straight-forward game than Mario and that is the game that appeals to CTN. Call CTN a Neanderthal if you must, but if you look at the team I named last week, there are very few “skill” guys on there. In the end, it is all just a matter of personal preference. As for Crosby and Ovechkin, neither has a large enough body of work to be included in the august group CTN selected, at least in CTN’s opinion. And, in regard to the final question, I think the Pens will be alright. They pulled out of a similar hole last year without the experience they have entering this season. So, they will have the skill and the mental fortitude to make a serious run. CTN thinks goaltending will determine how far the Pens will go. They will score more goals than they are now, but if they can’t keep the puck out of the net, they are doomed.
"Calgary scored five unanswered goals to knock the Wild from the ranks of the unbeaten." Unbeaten? As far as I remember an OT loss counts as being beaten. GO KINGS!
You caught CTN, Jeremiah. CTN prides himself on his vocabulary, yet CTN made this mistake by not adding the necessary “in regulation” to the sentence. For shamed. It is a faux pas worthy of a gross misconduct penalty. But, fortunately for CTN, that particular punishment has been wiped clear from the rulebook. Thanks, though for keeping CTN on its toes, Jeremiah.