Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
If Eric Lindros is ever going to make the Hockey Hall of Fame, Monday’s vote is his best opportunity yet. Now in his seventh year of eligibility, ‘The Big E’ has seen 19 players get the green light to Hall induction since 2010 while the selection committee said no to him.
This year’s list of first-time eligible players is lean, with Miikka Kiprusoff, Roman Hamrlik and Wade Redden the top names. All are considered long shots to get 75 percent approval from the 18 members of the selection committee. So then maybe 2016 becomes a make-up year for candidates who were previously passed over.
Lindros is at the head of that leftover class. He was among the best players in the game for the first half of his injury-riddled career, winning the Hart Trophy with 29 goals and 70 points in a lockout-shortened 1994-95 – that prorates to 52 goals and 125 points over a full 82 games. He finished in the top 10 in Hart Trophy voting four other seasons, all with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Thursday, April 21, marks the 65th anniversary of Bill Barilko scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs, which technically means we can commemorate that memory with a senior moment or two.
Back in November, I wrote a feature in the print edition of The Hockey News telling the tale of the Hamilton, Ont., family who claimed it had possession of Barilko’s Cup-winning puck. Harry Donohue was a 16-year-old in attendance at that 1951 game against the Montreal Canadiens and he hopped on the ice after the overtime goal and fished the puck out of the net. Here’s a link to that story entitled Harry’s Puck.
The gist of the feature is the Donohue family were preparing to loan that puck to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014 when they found out the Hall already had a puck designated Barilko’s Cup-winning puck. But, as was pointed out in the November story, the Hall of Fame’s Barilko puck was a Spalding-made puck, used in NHL games from 1920 to 1942. The Donohue Barilko puck has an emblem that was used in NHL games from 1950 to 1958, which fits the time period of that seminal moment in hockey history.
Because the goalie plays the most important position in hockey, it stands to reason puckstoppers dominate our list of the top 10 NHL debuts in the calendar year of 2015. Four goalies made our list of the top 10 NHL debuts in the past 12 months, spread over two seasons, of course. In reverse order, here are the best first NHL game performances in 2015.
10. Mike Condon, Montreal. After stealing the backup job from Dustin Tokarski, the 25-year-old Massachusetts native was almost perfect in his Oct. 11 debut in Ottawa. Condon stopped 20 of 21 shots in a 3-1 Montreal win. He allowed just a second-period goal to Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
9. Bryan Lerg, San Jose. The feel-good NHL debut of the year has to belong to the 29-year-old Livonia, Mich., native. His first big-league game after eight seasons in the minors came April 9 in Edmonton. Lerg registered eight shots on goal that game and scored the game-winner on a pass from Logan Couture.
8. Mackenzie Skapski, New York Rangers. Filling in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist, the 20-year-old Abbotsford, B.C. native allowed a goal to Matt Moulson just 14 seconds into the game. He was perfect the rest of the way, stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Feb. 20. Read more
Think for a moment about the pucks out there that have mass appeal because of their exceptional time stamps on hockey history. There are the individual milestone ones – the Wayne Gretzky puck breaking Gordie Howe’s scoring record, Mike Bossy’s 50-in-50 puck, dozens more like that.
But what about the pucks marking seminal moments in the game? Paul Henderson’s winner from the 1972 Summit Series? Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal that won the 2010 Olympic gold? The Bill Barilko puck would have to be in that category as well, largely due to the mysterious disappearance of the Stanley Cup hero that same summer he scored his
Cup-clinching goal. His body was eventually found 11 years later, but the mystery doesn’t end there.
The famous puck that bore a hockey legend is in dispute. Is it the one that’s been on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame since it opened in 1961? Or has it been more humbly
showcased on the Donohue family’s mantel nearly 65 years after Barilko won the Maple Leafs Lord Stanley’s mug?
If a league is only as good as its worst team, there’s never been more parity in the history of the NHL.
Heading into Monday night’s games, the Calgary Flames currently stand in 30th (and last) place with 22 points in 26 games. Never before in an NHL season has a last-place team had more than 20 points on Dec. 7, which is about the one-third mark of the season.
Two previous last-place teams in the shootout era had 20 points on Dec. 7. The 2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2007-08 Washington Capitals were cellar-dwellers after 26 and 28 games respectively. And on three occasions last-place teams had as many as 19 points.
Parity, of course, can have a variety of definitions, but the quality of the lowest-place team is one of them. The 10-14-2 Flames have actually done OK lately. They have six straight wins on home ice and points in six of their last nine games overall.
Remarkably, Calgary is just five points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand on the Arizona Coyotes. And the Flames are within six points of a dozen other NHL teams.
The documentary Swift Current was a big hit at the Rendevous With Madness Film Festival in Toronto earlier this month. “The house was packed,” one observer said afterwards. “And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
The film, which will reach a mass audience on Global on November 21, profiles the life of Sheldon Kennedy, the former NHLer who for years as a teenager was sexually assaulted by junior coach Graham James in the 1980s. It chronicles his decision to go public with the allegation in 1997 and follows his tumultuous emotional struggles in the ensuing decade and his subsequent rise to the point he received the Order of Canada in 2015.
If you don’t know the Sheldon Kennedy story, it’s about as griping as real-life adventure gets. The Elkhorn, Man., native was also 17 when the Swift Current Broncos bus went off the TransCanada Highway in 1986 and killed four teammates.
If you are familiar with the Kennedy saga, you see the story pushed further along to the good work the 46-year-old is doing today.
These are the salad days for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Its list of inductees the past four years is a who’s who of NHL superstars from the turn of the century. The 15 players inducted between 2012 and 2015 represent a four-year run of inductees the Hall has never seen before.
In fact, I rated the top 10 induction classes from 1966 to this year and found each of the past four years to be worthy enough to be on that list. I picked strictly the post-expansion era because that’s when the HHOF reduced the number of inductees each year from unlimited down to three, then later four in the players category.
While this weekend’s Hall of Fame celebrations – and Monday’s induction ceremonies – are an opportunity for hockey fans to reflect and appreciate the exploits of these greats, there’s also a wedge of bitterness to go with all those sweet memories. After all, this crowning achievement in their careers also serves as a reminder we’re no longer blessed with watching them play.
This year’s class of Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Pronger and Phil Housley rates as the third best class of all-time, by my assessment. But this is one of these subjective evaluations when I don’t mind being overruled by the savvy eye of the everyday hockey fan – yourself. Let us know what you think.