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The Opening Faceoff: Shinny with the stars, Part 1

by Shawn P. Roarke /

One of these days the Ship of Gold
will carry me to my reward.
Out of this world it will take me
to hear the horns of Jubilee.

-- Clutch, Ship of Gold

No, CTN is not planning to die anytime soon. But as loyal readers know, Clutch is omnipresent in CTN’s musical rotation and the vastly underrated Elephant Riders CD was in the disc player earlier this week. In listening to Ship of Gold, the second track on the disc, CTN started thinking about the eternal reward. Mind you, it was not in a morbid, CTN-is-gonna-die-way; but, rather, a wonder-what-the-afterlife-is-like way.

The result of all these ruminations as CTN marched down Broadway toward the NHL digs was that the afterlife – at least for hockey fans – probably has a pond hockey element to it. A big ol’ continuous game of shinny for your viewing pleasure seems fair enough, no? Hackers like us can play during the breaks in action, but the prime-time action is reserved for those that really know how to play the game.

Why, you wonder, are you reading about CTN’s musings on the afterlife? Because, my friends, CTN’s fertile imagination made the jump from Clutch’s Ship of Gold to the team CTN would most want to watch upon reaching the big hockey barn in the sky. And CTN thinks that it’s interesting enough to share with the masses.

There are a few rules for selecting this team. The players can be retired or active, living or deceased, star or scrub. NHL experience is not even a necessity. It’s the team CTN wants to watch, so he gets to pick it. We will, however, limit it to the standard 20-man roster that governs NHL play these days. If a player has played for more than one team, CTN lists the player in the uniform CTN wants to see him in.

So without further ado, here is CTN’s Heavenly Heroes. In next week’s edition, CTN will name the players that will be on hand to play these Heroes in the never-ending pond hockey contest.

Gerry Cheevers, goaltender, Boston Bruins When CTN closes his eyes and thinks about hockey, Gerry Cheevers’ famous stitch-pattern mask is the first image that usually jumps into mind. CTN grew up on the Bruins and Cheevers’ mask – frightening in its symbolism – captivated a young CTN and drove him toward the tools of ignorance for the first time.

Martin Brodeur, goalie, New Jersey Devils Simply the best goalie CTN ever has seen. His smile alone would be enough to put him on this team. But he also has the chops. CTN could watch Brodeur flash his glove – like a cobra strike – all day long.

Bobby Orr, defensemen, Boston Bruins Nobody did it better. It’s that simple. CTN has only seen Orr in highlights, but it is clear that he was – is – a once-in-a lifetime talent.

Brad Lukowich, defenseman, Dallas Stars He looks like a hockey player and can play the stay-at-home game well enough. More importantly, he could provide the soundtrack for this never-ending game of shinny.


Nicklas Lidstrom, defensemen, Detroit Red Wings Is there a better way to spend three hours than to watch Lidstrom dominate a game? Imagine Lidstrom’s brilliance without the confines of boards.

Eddie Shore, defenseman, Boston Bruins – The man synonymous with “Old Time Hockey,” thanks to Slap Shot, Shore plays the kind of blood-and-guts game that CTN finds exciting.

Scott Stevens, defenseman, Washington Capitals – Was he better as a New Jersey Devil? No doubt. Was he more entertaining as a Capital, when his hair-trigger temper could be lit under the most innocuous of circumstances? You bet your life.

Al MacInnis, defenseman, St. Louis Blues – MacInnis firing that devastating one-timer over and over will bring a smile to anybody’s face, except maybe the opposing players – who might think this afterlife thing isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Cam Neely, right wing, Boston Bruins – CTN’s favorite player, hands down. Watching Neely barrel down the wing in black and gold was heaven on earth for a teen-aged CTN. Watching him barrel down the wing again, on two good legs, will be a treat of immense joy.

Terry O’Reilly, right wing, Boston Bruins – Good enough to be Happy Gilmore’s favorite player, O’Reilly is good enough to be among CTN’s legends. In fact, CTN still dons No. 24 in tribute to the “Tasmanian Devil” and his pugnacious style.

Gordie Howe, right wing, Detroit Red Wings – “Mr. Hockey” needs to make no case for inclusion. He is a natural here. CTN has read enough hockey history and heard enough stories to know that watching Howe patrol his wing will be a treat. Too bad there are no corners to go into on the pond, though.

Adam Graves, right wing, New York Rangers – The closest thing to a living saint that the NHL has known, the selfless Graves will be in great demand in the afterlife. But he still will have time to get together with the boys and play some shinny.

Mark Messier, center, Edmonton Oilers – A young Messier, so full of menace and mayhem, was an unstoppable force in Edmonton, the true heart of that dynasty. He’ll fit right in with this group.

Jacques Lemaire, center, Montreal Canadiens– Not everybody realizes Lemaire was a pretty darn good pivot back in the day before he became a pretty darn good coach with the Canadiens, Devils and now the Wild. Plus, nobody will have the bling Lemaire will bring to the party with his 11 Stanley Cup rings.


Joe Thornton, center, San Jose Sharks – “Jumbo Joe” took enough stick from fans in his early career in Boston that all his good fortune now is well-deserved. Despite all the talent amassed on this team, Thornton might be the best passer among the bunch.

Rod Brind’Amour, center, Carolina Hurricanes – The definition of a two-way center, Brind’Amour is a hockey purist’s dream. If you love the fundamentals of the game – positioning, skating, faceoffs, body checking – Brind’Amour is the guy to watch.

Luc Robitaille, left wing, Los Angeles Kings – Nobody enjoys the game more than Lucky. And why should they? Robitaille beat all the odds to play the game he loved at a high level. No wonder he smiles all the time.

John LeClair, left wing, Philadelphia Flyers – While Cam Neely is the best power forward CTN ever has seen, John LeClair was a close second. A member of the truly terrifying “Legion of Doom,” LeClair teamed with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg to stir fear in the hearts of opposing defenders. In a nutshell, he’s CTN’s kind of player.

Reg Dunlop, left wing, Johnstown Chiefs – Before you start the e-mail to bash CTN’s brains in, CTN knows the fictional Dunlop was a center with the Chiefs in Slap Shot.. But CTN thinks we’ll all agree that Reg would move to the wing to play with these boys. Plus, his main job wouldn’t be on the ice. Instead, he would be counted on to keep the boys loose in the room.

Mike Eruzione, left wing, Team USA – What American boy of a certain age (35-50) can’t close his eyes and picture Eruzione, the captain, scoring the goal that eventually defeated the big, bad Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics? CTN can and has the goose bumps to prove it. What better place than heaven, by the way, to believe in miracles?

So there it is, CTN’s Heaven’s Heroes. Stay tuned next week for the players that will combine to provide their afterlife competition.

The Opening Faceoff | The Breakaway | The Penalty Box

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