Truth be told, Hall of Fame Weekend is one of my favorite parts of a season that has a lot of favorite parts.
As an addicted history buff in all things, not just hockey, I'll never turn away from the chance to read any hockey history that comes my way. That's a strong thread here at NHL.com. This week alone, we dug into some pretty important historical stories that actually weren't related to the Hall of Fame. Most fans know Red Berenson as the hockey coach at Michigan, but you may not realize he was a pretty fair NHL player in his own right. John Kreiser looked at one of the NHL's unforgettable nights when Berenson scored 6 goals against the Flyers at the Spectrum. No easy road there.
Shawn Roarke had the rare pleasure of chatting away with the great Bobby Orr for a story on the 30th anniversary of his retirement. Lordy I feel old!
For those too young to remember Orr, get thee to YouTube or some such place and see what sheer, unadulterated talent looks like — the kind of talent that changed the way the game is played.
The third story we looked back on was the blockbuster deal between the Bruins and Rangers that sent Phil Esposito to Madison Square Garden and Brad Park to Boston Garden. At the time, the deal turned the NHL on its collective ear. Esposito's comments on the trade to our Evan Weiner -- "I said, please don't say it's New York, please, because if you do I am going to jump out the window! (Don Cherry) says, 'Close the window!'" -- still make me laugh.
And of course there are the actual Hall of Fame inductions, where Igor Larionov, Glenn Anderson, Ray Scapinello and Ed Chynoweth will be inducted Monday. Be sure to check out our full coverage from Toronto, where Dan Rosen and John McGourty will be pounding their laptop keyboards to oblivion.
Reading John's piece on Larionov, took me back to another Hall of Famer, Peter Stastny, especially a comment like this.
"The game of hockey is so fast, but sometimes you can slow down the game when you know what is going on. You can think the game four or five moves ahead. (KLM line members) all had that experience. Even when you are playing against bigger, stronger opponents, there is a split second to make a decision to make a perfect play. My game was based on that. Your decisions should be right and every pass must be on the stick of the receiving player."
Talking to Stastny during his time in New Jersey was always a treat because of his precise use of language to describe how the game should be played. Larionov is from the same school.
The induction of Ray Scapinello is so well deserved. During his time as an NHL linesman it just seemed there was never a big game that he and the great John D'Amico didn't do. One of my lasting memories of watching hockey was Rangers' analyst Bill "The Big Whistle" announcing the officials, who often included "Ray Scap-IN-ello."
Scapinello has plenty of stories to tell and is the subject of even more. John McGourty's profile was approaching Biblical proportions, so I snipped a bit and stole one of the tales for Ice Age. There is no honor among thieves and editors.
"I had some fun with Ray one night," former NHL Referee-in-Chief Scotty Morrison recalled. "We had just hired Mike Cvik, the 6-foot-8 linesman, and I paired him with Ray in Mike's first game in Toronto.
"I get to the game and Ray asks me if I did it on purpose and says he's not going to stand next to him at center ice when the officials line up for the national anthem," Morrison says amidst laughter. "I tell Mike to stand his full 6-10 on skates and stand right next to Ray."
By all accounts, Scapinello knew when to be serious and when to have fun. He was good friends with the late Al Wiseman, the former NHL director of security.
"Al would always pocket the disposable salt-and-pepper shakers after the meals on Air Canada because they were great for outdoor barbecues," Morrison said. "Al and Ray were flying together and Al got bumped up to business class. Ray asks the flight attendant if they can play a joke and she wants to know what it is. Ray tells her to demand the shakers when she takes his tray. She does and Al leaps from his seat and pokes his head through the curtain and he's yelling at Ray for setting him up. Ray is crying he's laughing so hard and so is everyone around him."
Good times, good times.
Let me rephrase that -- Jim Croce once sang
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
Perhaps Capitals forward Alex Semin should take that advice the next time he's quizzed about Sidney Crosby. Semin was quoted by Yahoo! Sports as saying:
"What’s so special about (Crosby)? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else. "I think that if you take any player, even if he is dead wood, and start promoting him, you'll get a star, especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill."
Folks, this is what's known as bulletin board material, and the Pens are going to take advantage of it.
"Is he talking about the youngest guy to get 100 points in the history of the National Hockey League?" Pens coach Michel Therrien told reporters. "Is he talking about the youngest guy to win the Hart Trophy and lead the league in scoring? Is he talking about the youngest captain in the National Hockey League to bring his team to the Stanley Cup Final? That’s all I have to say."
"Everyone’s free to say what they want," Crosby said. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Whether it’s always necessary to share it with everyone, that’s up to them. It’s up to the person to decide that. It depends on your personality. If guys feel they need to say that, their entitled to that. Not everyone’s in the same boat."
To be fair, Semin's English is rudimentary and he answered the questions from Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports via a translator, so perhaps we have a case of something getting lost in the translation.
"I believe he wanted to say that there are many world-class athletes in the NHL and that if one is marketed over the other - then they are regarded as super special," Caps owner Ted Leonsis wrote in an e-mail to ESPN.com. "We all have high regard for Sidney Crosby — he is a historic and world-class player. And he is certainly one of the best players in the world."
The last piece of the puzzle — Judging by the terrific start of the San Jose Sharks, you can say General Manager Doug Wilson made all the right moves this summer.
One such move was signing Rob Blake to a revamped defense corps.
"We just want him to be Rob Blake from minute 1 to minute 60 and show up again the next day. He wasn’t brought in to be a complementary piece. He's a go-to piece. His minutes and his ability to make an impact on the game have spoken for itself."
-- head coach Todd McLellan
"We’d been trying to acquire Rob for the last couple of years now," Wilson told our Eric Stephens. "One of the things that we really like was his right-hand shot from the point. With Dan Boyle, we’ve got two those guys when it’s a rarity to find one. As soon as it was July 1, we were on the phone.
"I think it’s just the right fit. Great players often need to have the opportunity to win to get the best of them."
As Eric points out, the Sharks are built for now with longtime standouts Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo in place and Vezina Trophy finalist Evgeni Nabokov in goal.
"We just want him to be Rob Blake from minute 1 to minute 60 and show up again the next day," coach Todd McLellan said. "He wasn’t brought in to be a complementary piece. He's a go-to piece. His minutes and his ability to make an impact on the game have spoken for itself.
"We had no interest in bringing in a free-agent defenseman just to be a complementary piece. Rob is a very important piece and will continue to be that throughout the year."
Well said — The great Mike Emrick is being honored this weekend with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a broadcaster.
Can't be impartial on this one, as I have been honored to call "Doc" a friend for more than 20 years now. Suffice to say, they don't come any better.
This opinion from Kevin Paul Dupont in The Boston Globe sums the essence of Emrick's greatness up pretty well.
"In an era when the urge increasingly is to turn down the broadcast cacophony (PLEASE!), (Mike) Emrick keeps the listener/viewer engaged and entertained. He hooks us with his knowledge of the sport, the wealth of his vocabulary, the urgency in his voice that underscores the drama or poignancy of the moment. And he does it without yelling at us. Thank the hockey gods. Just as (Igor) Larionov proved time and time again, grace, touch and timing are essential in the hockey biz, and Emrick was every bit the equal of the star Russian in those three departments."