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THN.com Blog: Choking on the cliches

Leafs GM Brian Burke is usually great for a quote, but

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Leafs GM Brian Burke is usually great for a quote, but "truculence" has become a cliché in short order (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

Are you like me? Do you cringe and/or grind your teeth any time you hear cliches and done-to-death buzzwords? Well, since the NHL doesn’t have much in the way of news to comment on, I figured we could take another periodical look at the verbal junk that passes for insight both inside and outside the hockey world and break that junk down to its nonsensical essence.
 
Aren’t particularly fond of that idea for a hockey blog in late July? Hey, it is what it is.
 
Moving Forward: Far and away the most widely overused cliche of the moment, this phrase usually is employed as utterly superfluous sentence-beginner (or ender). So instead of an NHL GM or coach saying this:
 
“We want to build a team that competes for the Stanley Cup each year.”
 
You get this:
 
“Moving forward, we want to build a team that competes for the Stanley Cup each year.”
 
See what I mean? No need to tell us which direction you’re headed. You’re just wasting two words’ worth of lip movement and expended breath. Unless you’re blindfolded at the edge of a cliff, we’ll assume you know the right way to move.
 
And, anyway, is it always the right thing to do to move forward? What if you’re standing less than five inches from the business end of an industrial meat grinder? Perhaps the proper thing to do there would be to move sideways for a little while at first, then forward.
 
Whatever the case, ‘moving forward’ is mind-sapping crap. How crappy? That brings me to my next cliché.
 
Time Will Tell: Yes, everybody, time will tell how crappy ‘moving forward’ is in the pantheon of dumb-ass catchphrases.
 
I often see TWT used at the end of columns or news stories, presumably when the writer can’t figure out another way to finish his file. Basically, it’s a tool to say, “I don’t have the slightest clue how this topic is going to evolve” without being so explicit about it.
 
But – and I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate here – what if time doesn’t tell? The human race has had a lot of minutes and hours to figure out the Egyptian Pyramids, Keith Richards’ longevity and the reason Mark Messier cannot only have just one Lay’s potato chip, yet here we are in 2009 and time has been extremely reluctant to divulge any useful data in any of those areas.
 
The moral of this story? Time will tell. Unless it does not.
 
Truculence:
Congratulations go out to Brian Burke and my colleagues in the Toronto media for taking a pretty cool word like this – and in less than a year, turning it into the designated in-joke each time the Maple Leafs acquire a new player.
 
Clearly, the majority of the humor here comes from the dichotomy between Burke’s high-falutin’ lawyer language and the blue-collar aggressiveness he values in many of his players.
 
However, it’s been 10 months since Brian Burke made that particular funny. Either he comes up with something new, or we find a different tri-syllabic word to amuse ourselves with.
 
It’s Always Nice/Great/Tough When…: This is more of a subtle platitude, used by NHLers thusly:
 
Reporter:
So tell us, player who broke Darryl Sittler’s record for points in a game, what went through your mind when you notched your record-breaking 11th point tonight?
 
Player:
Aw shucks and gosh-golly-gee, it’s always nice anytime you get 11 points in a game.
 
Reporter (mumbling to himself as he walks away):
I figured that part out already, you freaking stooge. That’s why I’m standing in front of your dressing room stall and not the stall of your teammate who played four shifts all night and finished minus-4. But I’m sure if I asked him about his performance, he’d tell me, ‘It’s always tough anytime you’re not contributing the way you’d like.’ Which is why I’m not going over to talk to him now.

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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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