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Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: A Thanksgiving USA Hockey Roast, and How to Make the Expansion Draft Fun

Sean McIndoe chooses the holiday to settle the already settled USA vs. Canada hockey debate, has an expansion draft idea, and remembers Gretzky's time on the cartoon show ProStars.
Photo by John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor's note: Welcome to Sean McIndoe's weekly grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter. Check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave Lozo as they discuss the events of the week.)

Three stars of comedy

The third star: Ben Bishop's birthday cake—You may remember the Lightning goalie getting a few teeth knocked out last month. Apparently, so did the team's kitchen staff.

Thanks for all the Birthday wishes! Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!! And thank you to the Lightning kitchen staff for the cake— Ben Bishop (@Benbishop30)November 23, 2016


The second star: Jake Guentzel's family—The Penguins prospect scored his first NHL goal just a minute into his debut. His family was there to see it. They were adorable.

Jake Guentzel's family can NOT even believe it. What a reaction. — Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar)November 22, 2016

The first star: The Las Vegas Placeholders—The NHL has a long history of ridiculous expansion screw-ups, so it takes a lot to stand out. Vegas managed to pull it off.

Well there you have it… the Las Vegas Place Holder Vegas Hockey. Welcome! — Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn)November 23, 2016

I'm trying to figure out what my favorite part of that whole debacle was. Gary Bettman getting booed? Bettman having to awkwardly stall? Bettman clearly being furious about the whole thing? There's too much to choose from. That unveiling may need to skip the mandatory waiting period and become next week's classic YouTube clip.

Debating the issues

This week's debate: American hockey has continued to make progress over the years. But has the US surpassed Canada as the world's dominant hockey nation?

In favor: Well, let's start with the obvious: The US has all the Stanley Cups. Winning the Cup is what the NHL is all about, and Canada hasn't pulled it off since 1993. There's a whole generation of fans who've never even seen a team north of the border win it all.

Opposed: Sure, you have all the Cups – but you've been winning them with our players. The fact that the Cup has stayed in the US over the last two decades is interesting, but it doesn't tell us much. It's as much a fluke of geography as anything.


In favor: True. But speaking of players, we have the reigning MVP.

Opposed: Yeah, for the very first time in history. Enjoy it while it lasts, because Connor McDavid looks like he's ready to take over for the next decade or so.

In favor: Yeah, he's pretty good.

Opposed: He's more than good – he's ready to assume the mantle as the consensus best player in the world. Right now, that's Sidney Crosby. Who took over from Mario Lemieux. Who took over from Wayne Gretzky. He took over from Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe, and Maurice Richard. Hey, do all those guys have anything in common?

In favor: Very funny. Yes, the best player in the world has always been Canadian. Point granted.

Opposed: Best players, plural. There's a reason why Canada dominates best-on-best international tournaments, including five of the last six. Meanwhile, Team USA has only won one, and that was over 20 years ago.

All Canada does is win. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

In favor: Yeah, I can't really argue that either. You guys rolled through this year's World Cup.

Opposed: How'd that tournament go for America, by the way?

In favor: Shut up.

Opposed: Sorry, low blow.

In favor: OK, but America also has… man, I don't know. We produced Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel?

Opposed: Neither of whom comes close to McDavid.

In favor: We have good goaltenders?

Opposed: Carey Price says hi.

In favor: Honestly, this is a tough case for me to make. I'm not sure I can really give you any good reasons why anyone would think America is even close to Canada when it comes to hockey.


Opposed: Yeah, there really isn't even an argument.

In favor: So wait… why are we even having this debate? Usually these things are tied to some sort of current news story, but this time we sort of skipped that part. Why do this now?

Opposed: Uh, no reason.

In favor: The timing is just weird.

Opposed: No idea what you mean. OK, let's wrap it up.

In favor: [looking at calendar] Wait a second…


In favor: Hey, it's American Thanksgiving this week! Nobody in the US is even reading this!

Opposed: Um… is it? I had no idea.

In favor: You picked your spot to trash America because you know they're too busy eating leftovers and trampling each other at Walmart to notice. This entire thing has just been a setup for you to get a cheap ovation from Canadians who are bitter about being stuck at work today.

Opposed: Let's see if it worked.

All of Canada: [polite applause]

The final verdict: You suck, America!

(Note to editors: Remember to replace this section on Monday morning, like we agreed.)

Obscure former player of the week

The NHL's newest franchise finally has a name and a logo. On Tuesday, the Vegas Golden Knights were revealed to the world. That news kicked expansion talk into overdrive, with everything from history lessons to mock drafts popping up.

Now that everyone has expansion on the brain, let's use this week's obscure player slot to honor a guy who made some history while playing for a pair of them: journeyman winger Bob Kudelski.


Kudelski was picked by the Kings in the 1986 supplemental draft after a college career at Yale. He made his debut a year later and played 40 games over two seasons, scoring just one goal. He blossomed into an NHL regular in his third year, and had scored 20 goals for three straight seasons heading into the 1992-93 campaign. That's where his expansion odyssey began.

Kudleski was actually never picked in an expansion draft. But just a few weeks into the 1992-93 season, he was traded to the brand new Ottawa Senators. He'd play well there, scoring 21 goals in 48 games, but it was the 1993-94 season that saw him really break through. He was scoring at a 50-goal pace midway through the season when the Senators traded him to another first-year team, the Florida Panthers. That deal came just two weeks before the 1994 All-Star Game, one Kudelski had already been picked for (putting him an exclusive club that now also includes John Scott).

His scoring slowed with the Panthers, but he still finished the season with 40 goals. That career year would end up being his last full season in the NHL. He played just 39 games over the next two seasons, scoring only six goals, and then retired in 1996.

While Kudelski's career may not have been especially memorable, his expansion travels did help him get into the record book, and it's a spot he'll probably never relinquish. That 1993-94 trade came at a time when Ottawa had played more of its schedule than Florida, and it resulted in a weird quirk: Kudelski finished the season having played in 86 regular-season games, tied with Jimmy Carson for the most in NHL history.


Trivial annoyance of the week

Speaking of the Vegas announcement, you have to give them credit for one thing: They almost kept it under wraps. The name and logo did leak, but it was only a few hours before the official announcement, and these days that's not bad. We've seen new uniform designs leak weeks in advance, so credit to Vegas for almost making it all the way to the finish line.

Here's the thing. As a media member, I like scoops. But as a fan, I don't like having surprises ruined, especially ones I'm about to find out about anyway. That's why those Twitter accounts in other sports that insist on spoiling draft picks a few minutes before they're announced are so annoying, and why we should be thankful we don't have to deal with that in hockey (yet).

All of which is a way to get us to some bad news: The actual expansion draft is probably going to suck.

Not too many fans seem to have caught this detail, but next summer's expansion draft won't be some sort of live event, with Vegas making its selections as fans around the world watch in real time. Instead, the team is going to submit its picks to the NHL on June 20, at which point the league will sit on them for a day before revealing them on June 21.

Really. That's how they're doing it. It says so right in the rules.

You can see why the league might be doing it this way. Unlike most expansion drafts through NHL history, this one involves just one team, so there's no need to go back and forth. The Knights can just look over the available players, make their picks, and hit send. The pick order doesn't matter, and teams that lose a player don't have to revise their lists. It's not even really a draft, if you want to get technical.


So sure, you could do it one day and hold onto the results for a while. Maybe the NHL is even planning some sort of fancy reveal beyond a boring press release. You'd hope the league is planning something like that, but this is the NHL, so who knows.

When Gary hears the word fun. Photo by Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

But chances are, lots of names are going to leak early. Assuming that players are informed in advance that they've been picked, that information will get out. Maybe not all of it, but enough that there won't be much suspense for fans. The odds of all of this staying quiet for 24 hours has to be close to zero.

What the NHL should do is have the Knights reveal their picks live, one at a time, preferably on TV so we can all watch and applaud, criticize or mock. Maybe that's not optimal for the players, who'd find out they have a new home a few minutes before the fans do. But that happens with trades, too. It's rough, but it's life as a pro hockey player.

The NHL hasn't had an expansion draft in over 16 years. For a whole generation of hockey fans, this is their first time witnessing one. The NHL could have had a lot of fun with all of this. But right now it sounds like its decided that, once again, boring is better.

Classic YouTube clip breakdown

Last week's Grab Bag included a long rant about the NHL's ongoing failure to market its stars. But let it never be said that hockey players never get a big marketing win. For example, we recently found out that Wayne Gretzky is going to be on The Simpsons.

That's big news. OK, sure, Gretzky's been retired for almost two decades, but we'll take what we can get. And in honor of Gretzky's upcoming animation appearance, let's look back at some of his previous cartoon work, as we head back to 1991 for a reminder of how much fun ProStars was.


  • OK, for all you younger readers who missed out on this show the first time around, this is ProStars, an actual Saturday morning cartoon that ran in the early 90s. It featured Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson, who'd go around solving crimes and inspiring small children. It was awesome. This clip is the first few minutes of the series' third episode, "The Perbots of Dr. Lobe."

  • It's OK if you misread that as "Perv Bots" the first time. I did too.

  • We start with the show's intro sequence, which involves the title twitching while various cool words randomly slide into the frame. I'd make fun of it, but this is how pretty much every TV show in 1991 started. The intro to 60 Minutes back then was just a ticking stopwatch with the word "Informative!" zipping by in a teal lightning bolt font.

  • If the theme song sounds familiar, it's because it's essentially a note-for-note ripoff of Queen's "We Will Rock You." If the theme song doesn't sound familiar, good lord, how young are you? Do your parents know you're accessing the internet?

  • By the way, this theme song was replaced a few episodes in by a new version. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, but if you liked the second ProStars theme better then there's something wrong with you and I hope I never meet you.

  • Gretzky's first appearance is him deking his way to a goal against the Jets. That's future NHL coach Randy Carlyle skating into the frame, by the way. This would be his only appearance on a TV show aimed at small children until all of his post-game media scrums when he was coaching the Maple Leafs.


  • Apparently, the second best Gretzky highlight they could find involved him curling in the neutral zone against the North Stars. Then he uses a puck-boomerang to murder a robot. Also, he's shooting right-handed here even though he shot left in real life, and this always really bothered every hockey fan.

  • Fun fact: That three-way fist bump at the end of the ProStars opening was the only punch Wayne Gretzky ever threw in his entire career.

  • This was always my favorite part of every show. Gretzky and Bo would do a little live action intro that never included Jordan because he big-leagued them. They each had a catch phrase. Bo's was "Bo knows cartoons," which referenced his famous Nike ad. Gretzky's was "Yeah! - which referenced his complete lack of charisma.

  • After our intro by Bo and Wayne, who are totally in the same room and not recording this in separate studios, our story begins. We start at Mom's Gym, where the characters lived. They'd also sometimes visit Mom's Juice Bar, where they'd eat, or Mom's Basement, where they'd write the Grab Bag.

  • Our opening scene features Gretzky and Jackson engaging in some sort of martial arts combat. Gretzky tries to hit Jackson in the face with a hockey stick, but it's cool because Kerry Fraser is reffing so he doesn't see it.

  • By the way, the voice actor who sounds nothing like Wayne Gretzky but is playing him anyway is the same guy who was The Tick, and also Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Don't say this column never teaches you anything.

  • Jackson loses his bat and Gretzky loses his stick, and… look, the next 20 seconds is going to get awkward. You'll see what I mean. Is everyone cool if we just skip it? Good, let's do that.

  • This mean lady who keeps yelling and insulting everyone is Mom, by the way. I think the ProStars writers may have been working through some issues.

  • After some random violence and a "Jerry Cucumber" reference that makes everyone uncomfortable, we finally get to this week's mission. A sniveling man appears on screen, brags about how much smarter he is than everyone else, and promises world domination while giggling evilly. That's Dr. Lobe. Or, as hockey fans would later come to know it, "every Gary Bettman press conference ever."

  • Dr. Lobe introduces the Perv Bots, and challenges the heroes to compete at his "personal Olympics." Jackson and Jordan are down, but Gretzky's concerned that it's just going to end with him sitting on the bench while some defenseman gets to shoot instead.

  • There's a child hostage involved, because nothing was too dark for Saturday morning cartoons in 1991, and one duffel bag full of gadgets later, they're on their way. That's where our clip ends, but you can watch the rest of the episode here and here.

  • I don't want to give too much away, but one of the Pro Stars gets hurt, one quits to play minor league baseball, one becomes a terrible coach, and they all get locked out by Dr. Lobe over and over again until everyone loses interest.

Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at