Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: Paul Maurice has a plan – Like all great coaches, he knows how to light a fire under his players with some harsh but well-timed advice about how best to strategically approach the defensive [goal is scored] OR DO THAT.
The second star: The Golden Knights' pregame ceremony – A knight fought a jet. They actually did it. A knight. Fighting a jet.
Look, I know it's not for everyone, but we've been over this. I'm in. I can't wait for the Stanley Cup Final when the knight has to either fight electricity or the alphabet.
The first star: Dustin Byfuglien has had it with you two – Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say Ryan Reaves was wrong about who the strongest player in the league is.
Be It Resolved
This week was the anniversary of one of my favorite goals in NHL history: Steve Yzerman's double-OT laser beam to beat the Blues in Game 7 back in 1996.
It's one of the most important goals in NHL history. It spelled the end of the Wayne Gretzky era in St. Louis, may have allowed the Yzerman era to continue in Detroit, and indirectly birthed the legendary Red Wings/Avalanche rivalry. And it was a thing of beauty. Let's watch it again.
Did you catch it?
In addition to a fantastic goal, something happens in that clip that you never see anymore. Go back and watch again and see if you notice it.
It happens at the 0:12 mark when we see the Red Wings pouring off the bench to celebrate. You see the players go by, on their way to establish a pilearchy. But then you notice a guy in a suit shooting by, moving almost as fast as the players.
That's Scotty Bowman, the Red Wings coach. And when we next see the celebration pile, Bowman is right in the middle of it.
That used to happen in overtime. Not all the time; even back in the day, coaches typically chose to do the fist pump on the bench move. But occasionally, one would get so excited by an overtime winner that he'd hit the ice and go join the pile.
That needs to come back.
So be it resolved: From now on, playoff overtime goals don't count until the coach has made it from the bench to the celebration. Give him a reasonable amount of time—I feel like 20 seconds would be fair. But he's got to hop the bench and get to the pile by then, or else the goal is waved off.
Lord knows, we wave off goals for a lot less these days. At least let's get some entertainment out of the deal. It would be especially fun in the early days of the rule, when a coach forgot until his assistant frantically reminded him that he had eight seconds left to get to the pile and the backup goalie had to help him along with a roller derby push.
You're with me, right?
Cool, because there's one more thing: if it's Game 7, the other team's coach is allowed to hit the ice and try to stop his opposite number from getting to the pile with an open-field tackle. Look, don't act like that's a dumber way to decide a game than with a shootout. I want to see Barry Trotz stiff-arming Jon Cooper at the blue line with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Make this happen, NHL.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Today is the anniversary of a neat NHL record that was set in 1986 and still stands: the fastest playoff overtime goal. It came in a Stanley Cup Final game between the Flames and Canadiens, and saw Brian Skrudland score the winner just nine seconds into overtime.
I wanted to use the game for this week's obscure player, but I'm not sure Skrudland really counts. We could go with one of the two Mikes who assisted on the goal, McPhee and Lalor, or the Hab who sent the game to overtime with the tying goal in the third period, Dave Maley. But instead I'm going to go with the player who picked up Montreal's first goal that night, mainly because I always really liked his name. This week's obscure player is Gaston Gingras.
Gingras was a two-way defenseman who was drafted in the second round of the loaded 1979 draft, one pick ahead of legendary trade chip Brent Ashton. He debuted with the Canadiens that year, playing a half-season before settling into the lineup. His first stint on Montreal lasted until 1982, when he was traded to the Maple Leafs for future considerations that turned out to be a second-round pick in the 1986 draft. You read that correctly: the Habs traded him for a draft pick they wouldn't get to use for four years. It was basically the Sam Pollock move, only without involving a first overall pick or a good player.
Gingras lasted two years in Toronto before being sent down to the minors for most of the 1984-85 season. The Leafs then traded him back to the Canadiens in 1985 (still a year before the Habs got to use the draft pick they acquired for him), and he spent two more years in Montreal. That included the 1986 Cup run; Gingras had two goals in the Final, including the opener in the clinching game.
Montreal traded him again in 1987, this time to the Blues in a deal for the aptly named Larry Trader. He played two years in St. Louis and several more in Europe, and even had a brief ECHL comeback as a 39-year-old before hanging his skates up for good in 1999. He still shows up in the occasional old-timer game; his son played NCAA hockey, and Olympic figure skater Jennifer Robinson is his niece.
New Entries for the Hockey Dictionary
The Winnipeg Wait Out – We might as well name it now, because we know it's coming.
The Winnipeg White Out is one of hockey's best traditions. And we're seeing plenty of it this spring, as the Jets roll through the most successful playoff run in the city's history. That's good; no fan base deserves it more. Here's hoping we get to see what a White Out looks like at a Stanley Cup parade.
But there's one problem with the Jets' run. As we're constantly reminded, the NHL is a copycat league. One team wins, and all the others immediately try to figure out how they did it and copy them. The Ducks or Bruins win with toughness, everyone tries to get tough. The Kings go big, everyone else goes big. The Blackhawks or Penguins focus on skill, so now it's a skill league.
And that's going to be a problem if the Jets win it all, because of how this team was put together: Patiently. Like, agonizingly patiently. Kevin Cheveldayoff has been painstakingly putting this roster together piece-by-piece since 2011. He almost never made trades and rarely waded into free agency. It was draft and develop, always with a long-term view. Even when the team went six straight years without winning a playoff game, Cheveldayoff stuck with the plan and the team stuck with him.
And it worked. Honestly, in hindsight the whole approach played out just about perfectly.
But now that the Jets are Cup contenders, you can bet that every GM in the league is rooting them on. As we've covered exhaustively in this space and others, we live in the era of timid, risk-averse, crybaby GMs who think their jobs are too hard and want everyone to just leave them alone and stop expecting them to actually do anything.
But there was a problem: The few GMs who were willing to be aggressive were the ones who kept winning. Jim Rutherford made a blockbuster trade for Phil Kessel, and then won two Cups. Stan Bowman was one of the league's most active traders, and he won three. David Poile made a blockbuster move or two every year, and he built the Predators into a Presidents' Cup winner. What's a poor GM who just wants to be left alone without any pressure or expectations to do?
And then along come the Jets. Finally, a team builds a winner without many headline-grabbing moves.
That's great for fans in Winnipeg. But for the rest of us, well, get ready to see a whole lot of GMs pointing at Winnipeg and saying "See, that's what I'm doing too."
Your favorite team never makes the playoffs, never plays a game that matters, and doesn't seem all that interested in getting better? Hey, you have to be patient. Look at Winnipeg. Their long-term plan took seven years, so you have to give us at least that long.
It will be nonsense, of course—not many teams draft and develop anywhere near as well as Winnipeg, and that's the whole point. But it won’t matter. You're going to hear all about it. And it will probably buy your favorite team's useless GM an extra few years of sitting on his hands.
Welcome to the era of the Winnipeg Wait Out. As in, "Hey, all you impatient fans, just wait. You know, like they did out in Winnipeg." It's going to be awful.
(But yeah, the White Out is still awesome, and always will be. Now I'll just take a big sip of water and head to the YouTube section…)
Classic YouTube clip breakdown
- There seems to be some confusion as to what exactly we're about to watch. The YouTube description says it's from the early 90s, but some of the comments suggest it's actually from 1987. That seems to fit better with the highlights, so let's go with that.
- Anyway, let's all enjoy a song about how great it is to be white.
- Uh, wait, that came out wrong. Although in my defense, so does a lot of this song. It's going to get awkward. You've been warned.
- So our clip begins and the music kicks in, although not loudly enough to drown out some guys randomly talking in the background. But that's OK, because it quickly becomes apparent that we're getting an attempted parody of the classic 80s anthem "Everybody Have Fun Tonight (Everybody Wang Chung Tonight)." I'm on board. There's no way this could go badly.
- We get a few quick highlights, before cutting to a studio filled with dozens of enthusiastic Jets fans. Several of them have pom-poms and everything. They're quite the intimidating bunch.
- Wait, did that graphic that zoomed across the screen say "White Lightning"? Is it possible that this video predicted the team that the Jets would face in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, five years before that opponent even existed?
- Uh, please tell me they just said the Jets were "good in white," and not "good and white." I'm pretty sure they did. Let's just skip ahead.
- Most of the video consists of extended shots of the Winnipeg crowd in full whiteout mode. This reminds us of two points that we've raised before. First, 80 percent of sports fans in the 1980s wore giant Elton John tinted glasses. And second, it's still weird to see a hockey crowd where everybody isn't wearing the home team's jersey. People are just wearing shirts and sweaters and normal clothes. I'm not sure when we decided that couldn't be acceptable attire for an NHL game, but here we are.
- "It's time to celebrate," our fans sing, "We're going all the way." We then get an awkward edit to cut out the part where somebody adds "to Phoenix."
- Hey, since we're kind of on the topic, we all agree that the Jets should be allowed to wear white at home during the playoffs, right? OK, just checking. I've always loved the White Out, and it still makes for a great visual, but it doesn't really make sense when it's the other team wearing white on the ice. Would anyone object if we let the Jets wear white, if only in the postseason? Good, motion carried.
- "White is right." Um, OK.
- I don't know why, but I can't think of anything more Canadian than an NHL scoreboard just flashing the word "FANTASTIC" over and over.
- I'm not actually sure what's going on with the earphones-clad mascot in this video. He's obviously not the current Jets mascot, Mick E. Moose. But he doesn't seem to be the classic old one either, since he doesn't have Benny's red nose. I don't know if this is some early prototype, or if there was a different one back in the 80s, or if this guy is from whatever TV or radio station put this video together. I also don't know why I'm so bothered by the fact that he's not wearing pants. I kind of just want this video to be over.
- Oh, speaking of disturbing mascots, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why there was a white banana wearing sunglasses in the back row. It turns out that he's from a McDonald's ad, and, uh, you really don't want to know any more than that. Trust me. This whole video is awkward enough without knowing how that guy turned out.
- On that note, we close with a few fans either singing along or just shouting at the cameraman to leave them alone, and then a quick shot of the nicest car anyone from Winnipeg has ever owned.
- And that's it. Our singers appear to be launching into a second verse, but somebody wisely pulls the plug on the whole deal and we fade to black. A black out, if you will. Which is appropriate, because that's the level of drunk I'm going to need to get to forget I ever saw this.
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.