Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: Kendall Coyne – The Team USA star had a unique take on throwing out the first pitch in Chicago.
The second star: The Minnesota Wild – It's all about the cup.
The first star: This photo – I don't know the context. I don't want to know the context. I don't want the date, or the explanation, or the uncropped photo. Leave the memories alone, don't change a thing.
Outrage of the Week
The issue: The Vegas Golden Knights hosted their first ever playoff game on Wednesday. And with the eyes of the hockey world fixed on them, they decided to kick things off with a pregame ceremony featuring a conquering knight, a choreographed sword fight, a futuristic drum squad and a giant helmet. The outrage: Uh, guys, we realize you're new here, but this is the NHL playoffs, not some amateur-hour rehearsal space for your live action role playing club.
Is it justified: First things first. We didn't get the full ceremony on the Canadian broadcast, but I found out about it pretty quickly when a bunch of you started tweeting at me. I've never been completely sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but "guy who must be immediately notified when something ridiculous is happening in an NHL pregame show" would have to be high up on the list. So thanks for that.
The awkward pregame ceremony has been kind of a staple around these parts, especially down in the YouTube section. We've covered the Mighty Ducks' dancing candles and frozen guitar man, and the time Olli Jokinen transmogrified from feline form to collect his Panthers' teammates. And we definitely covered the reigning king of terrible pregame shows, the Ottawa Senators' crazy naked Spartan man.
So yeah, the Knights going all Medieval Times on us was going to be worth some attention. It was apparently a version of what they've been doing all year, but many fans were seeing it for the first time. If you missed it, you can watch the abridged version below. (For full context, here's a longer version filmed from the stands.)
Good lord. That was so tacky. So cheesy. So cringe-worthy.
That was so good.
I'm sorry. I know that may not be the take you came here expecting to see. But I thought that was fantastic. It worked for me. Forgive me, hockey gods, but I'm on board.
Look, if you want to see the playoffs treated like sacred ground, where everyone speaks reverently in hushed tones about the honor of competing for the Stanley Cup, then you can get that in Montreal, or Toronto, or Boston or half a dozen other traditional markets. And it's great! I love that stuff. Show me a montage of black-and-white highlights that starts off with Foster Hewitt welcoming me to the playoffs and I'll drop a newborn baby to switch it over to fullscreen mode.
But not everything has to be like that. There's a time and a place to have a little fun, and the Golden Knights are it. They're the new guys. They don't have 100 years of tradition and ghosts to pay their respects to. And as a reminder, they're in freaking Las Vegas. None of this makes sense. There's no reason their pregame ceremonies should either.
This wasn't the Senators' disaster, for a few reasons. For one, Ottawa's thing came out of nowhere, and didn't fit with anything the team had really done before. But more important, the Senators' guy was a mess—his mic didn't work, his helmet fell off, he had his lines written on the back of his shield. People laughed at the idea, sure, but it was the execution that made it legendary. Meanwhile, the Knights took a concept that fit with the team's identity, and they pulled it off reasonably well.
Will the whole thing hold up well in the years to come? Maybe not. The Ice Man sure didn't. But then again, I'm old enough to remember a time when San Jose taking the ice from the jaws of a giant shark head was seen as unfathomably silly, and now it's one of the league's better traditions. We'll have to wait a decade or two to see where this one lands.
But in the meantime, I'm in. And I'm looking ahead to who I want to see the knight battle in future rounds. The Sharks are already throwing shade, so now I need to see a round two matchup that starts off with a valiant knight fighting a great white at center ice. I feel like I'd enjoy seeing him fight a jet plane in round three, and I'm going to mark out before the opening game of the final when he sends all our kids to therapy by beheading a live penguin.
Let's do this, hockey fans. It's OK to have a little fun now and then. Vegas, baby.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
The Winnipeg Jets are back in the playoffs, and are heavy favorites to beat the Wild in their opening round series. That would be the first series win for a Winnipeg Jets team since 1986-87, which seems like a good place to find this week's obscure player.
The 86-87 Jets are one of my favorite 1980s teams. The roster featured one future NHL GM (Jim Nill), two future head coaches (Randy Carlyle and Paul MacLean), one current college head coach (Brad Berry) and one guy you think was a future head coach (Ron Wilson, but the other one). It also included Obscure Player alumni like Mario Marois, Bill "Builder Lego" Derlago, and one of the obscure greatest goaltender trios ever in "Pokey" Reddick, Daniel "The Bandit" Berthiaume, and Steve Penney.
So this week, let's grab another name off the roster: forward Perry Turnbull.
Turnbull played nine NHL seasons, but he's probably best known for what happened before any of them. In 1979, Turnbull was the second overall pick of what's often considered the greatest draft ever. That year's double-cohort led to a stacked class that featured future Hall-of-Famers like Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, and Michel Goulet. But the Blues used the second pick on Turnbull, a big center who'd just scored 75 goals in 70 games in the WHL.
He debuted in St. Louis that year, scoring 16 goals, then busted out with three-straight 30-goal campaigns. That wasn't eye-popping back in the high-flying 80s, but it wasn't bad, and kept him away from the dreaded "bust" label. Not so lucky: Doug Wickenheiser, Montreal's first overall pick in the 1980 draft. He shows up in this story because in 1983, the Habs traded him to St. Louis for Turnbull. Turnbull didn't adjust to his new home all that well, scoring just six goals in 40 games, and was sent to the Jets in the offseason for Lucien DeBlois.
He had 20 goals in his first two seasons in Winnipeg before a disappointing and injury-plagued 1986-87. But he returned in time to make a brief appearance in the playoffs, making him one of the few players who can say he saw second-round action with the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets traded him back to the Blues in the offseason, and he played one last NHL season there before heading to Europe.
Debating the Issues
This week’s debate: Your team had a disappointing season. Does the roster need more good players?
In favor: Um… yes? Wait, is this even a debate? We missed the playoffs by a mile, of course we need more good players.
Opposed: Actually, no we don't! The players we have are fine. They just need to try harder.
In favor: They what now?
Opposed: Try harder! Once they do that, everything should be great.
In favor: Seriously? The same bunch of guys who wet the bed all season long just need to try harder and everything will be fine?
Opposed: Well, OK, it's not just trying hard.
In favor: Thank you.
Opposed: They also need to compete better. And be mentally tougher. Also, more grit.
In favor: Those are all just different ways to say "try harder."
Opposed: Oh oh oh! They also need to be hard to play against.
In favor: I'm sorry, but do you actually believe this? You really think that success in the NHL just comes down to effort level, and whoever wants it more will win? That in an era where the game is faster and more skillful and better coached than ever before, with results that are driven by elite talent, you think the answer to a terrible season is to just roll up your sleeves and try more?
Opposed: I do, yes.
In favor: Are you five years old?
Opposed: I am not.
In favor: Then who exactly are you?
Opposed: Oh, that. I'm the GM of your favorite team.
In favor: Right. I thought you sounded familiar.
Opposed: Yep, the roster I assembled isn't the issue. That part's all good. Once those players start trying harder, everything will be fine.
In favor: I see.
Opposed: Please don't fire me.
In favor: Hey, quick question: didn't you justify pretty much every trade you made over the last few years by saying you were changing the culture and adding more heart? So isn't getting players who try hard also part of your job?
Opposed: Whoops, look at the time, got to go.
The final verdict: "Just try harder" is a thought process for children, and Opposed loses the debate.
Opposed: Also I'd like to vote for a rule that gives me a point for losing.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
The playoffs are here. Let's get weird.
- Yes, it's time for our quasi-annual tradition of kicking off the playoffs by breaking down a classic FOX Sports hockey intro. This one's from May 7, 1995, which was the first year of FOX's NHL deal. It's one of their first crazy intros, so it doesn't quite hit all of the notes we've come to know and love—for example, the announcer occasionally manages to use a noun without clipart of that object streaking across the screen. But it covers most of the bases, so let's dive in.
- "Fox is doing fine…" Strong start. I always like my sports broadcasts to start off like they're a spouse who's angry at you but won't tell you why.
- We get about 20 seconds in, and we've already seen two staples of mid-90s Fox broadcasts: A soundtrack from a 1970s adult movie, and dancing Sergei Fedorov. Poor Sergei. They had him come in one day and dance for like five seconds, a they used that footage on absolutely everything for the rest of their NHL contract. It shows up multiple times in this clip alone. No wonder he signed with Carolina and Anaheim and then to Columbus. He was desperately searching around for a market where nobody watched hockey and he could escape this clip.
- Bad news for Dallas, who we're told will have to go to Motown without top gun Mike Modano. "I sure hope Modano can eventually make it to Detroit," wishes a Stars fan on who would later regret not being more specific.
- "Mike Vernon's here to plug the leaks." Tell that to Patrick Roy's face.
- Huh. Apparently you couldn't say "hell" on Fox Sports NHL broadcasts in 1995. But somehow you were still allowed to say "Tugnutt."
- I'll just leave this here:
- Our Sabres/Flyers preview sees the sound effects guy go into overdrive, as he starts putting Batman-style punching noises on everything. Does it work? Of course it does. But for the record, "the Roadrunner Pat Lafontaine" wasn't a thing. That name was already taken, FOX. But I'll give them a break, since they're new at this. Hey, at least they're pronouncing all the names properly, right?
- Whoops, spoke to soon, as Pavel Boor-hay and the Canucks face Mike Keenan for the second year in a row. Oh well, Vancouver fans mutter, what's the worst that Keenan could ever do us?
- Also, did they just hit us with a "Bubba Brett Hull"? That also wasn't a thing, but damn, it should have been.
- After a little casual 90s misogyny, one more Fedorov twirl, and a final assurance that FOX is doing fine, really, don't worry about it, because if you cared then you wouldn't even have to ask so just drop it, we're off to the best part of any FOX intro: The bizarre special effects montage featuring lightning bolts, exploding players, and this image from your next few weeks of nightmares.
- We cut to some highlights from the previous night's action, including the Capitals taking a series lead on the Penguins, which I'm sure ended well. We also get a reminder that the Nordiques existed, and Dave Maloney's hot take that it's time for the Rangers to bench Mike Richter. Uh, Dave, Richter and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup last year, I'm pretty sure they're not yanking him for Glenn Healey one game into the playoffs. (They did, and they won the next game 8-3, because even retroactively I'm wrong about everything.)
- We also find out that Eric Lindros is injured. But Denis Potvin doesn't think that will be a big deal, because—if I understand him correctly±the Flyers can turn it into a Motor-Vader. I'm with him, that sounds pretty intimidating.
- [Goes to change "Weeks since John Davidson appeared in a YouTube section" sign to zero.]
- [Realizes the sign has been at zero since 2014, shrugs, goes back to watching video.]
- Was anyone else watching Davidson on the monitor directly behind Davidson and waiting for him to start yelling about how the show is about the elderly, or is that just me?
- Next it's over to St. Louis, where Mickey Redmond is breaking down the similarities between the Blues and Canucks. Brett Hull and Pavel Bure are both elite scorers, Curtis Joseph and Kirk McLean are both excellent goalies, and Brendan Shanahan and Trevor Linden are both power forwards who could someday rebuild a last-place NHL team into a contender within two years and/or decades.
- Redmond throws it to Detroit, where… wait, why isn't Mickey Redmond doing the Detroit game? This is weird.
- Anyway, we're reminded that the Red Wings haven't won a Cup in 40 years, and are then shown a list of longest Cup droughts: Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and Boston. And at this point the video abruptly ends, because I smashed my laptop over me knee like Bo Jackson.
- But don't worry, I'm not mad. Not at all. I'm doing fine.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org .