Jason Kay is the Editor in Chief of The Hockey News and has been with the brand since 1989. No, that's not a typo. Born in England, raised in Toronto, he arrived in his home and adopted land as a baby in 1967, just in time to see the Maple Leafs win their last Stanley Cup. A stay-at-home defenseman once upon a time, Kay knows his NHL dreams are long dead, but he hasn't given up hope of winning the Brier.
Jean Beliveau was a household hockey name before he ever reached the NHL, much like Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Eric Lindros have been more recently.
That fame multiplied when he finally broke into the league full-time with the Montreal Canadiens in 1953-54 and subsequently lived up to expectations. And then some.
The following is a portrait of the young NHLer, as published by The Hockey News in our Feb. 5, 1955 edition.
WILL THIS GREAT AMATEUR BE A GREAT PRO?
By Vince Lunny
Montreal, Que. – The road to hockey’s graveyard, otherwise known as the bushes, is paved with the bones of maverick recruits who came into the National Hockey League as sure-fire prospects and wore out their welcomes almost before they soiled their uniforms.
In the light of this great truth, Jean Beliveau of the Canadiens is unique. Now in his second season, Beliveau has more than justified the unprecedented ballyhoo that heralded his debut as a full-fledged professional.
I attended a game recently between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs that was about a 6.9 on the entertainment/intensity scale.
It wasn’t a snorefest, but it wasn’t the most riveting contest I’d ever witnessed and the typically reserved Air Canada Centre crowd was, typically, reserved.
Fleetingly, I wondered if we’d see a fight – something that would energize the building in a low-scoring affair. I quickly realized the odds of that happening were slim and none, and slim had just slipped out the side door for a butt.
This was the Red Wings, owners of one lonely fighting major on the season, versus the kinder, gentler Maple Leafs, who’d tussled four times in 20 games.
Was that absence of a fight threat a good or bad thing? Depends on your perspective. The industry experts we polled, as a group, expressed some concern over the declining trend.
At the beginning of the 2006-07 season, the second in the so-called “new” NHL, The Hockey News proclaimed on a cover that goons were dying.
The game had changed. There was a crackdown on obstruction and an emphasis on wide-open play. One-dimensional fighters were having a difficult time cracking lineups. Some teams didn’t even carry fight-only thugs.
And the numbers bore out the perception. The previous campaign, there were 0.38 fights per game, down from 0.64 the year prior to the lockout and the lowest level since the late 1960s.
Artrurs Irbe’s surprise appearance on the Sabres’ bench as their emergency goalie on Tuesday brought to mind his colorful NHL career, his adventurous puckhandling skills and that brilliant run he had in the 2002 playoffs for Carolina.
Based on that Cinderella performance, plus some of the other upsets he anchored as the backstop in San Jose, the now 47-year-old goalie coach for Buffalo sneaks onto our list of the NHL’s top 10 European goalies of all-time.
The hypocrites have taken over the asylum.
Connor McDavid gets hurt in a fight and there’s a groundswell of finger-waving, tongue-cluckers wondering why the most talented player in junior hockey is trading knuckle sandwiches with someone he should be battling on NHL 15.
Seriously? This is exactly what we want. Minus the broken/fractured/bruised metacarpal, of course.
Since Jeff Carter was moved out of Philadelphia in 2011, he’s been a critical component of two Stanley Cup winners, won an Olympic gold medal, banked tens of millions of dollars and gotten hitched. Life is indeed sweet for the 29-year-old center.
But the question we’re asking today is who won that deal between the Flyers and Blue Jackets three-plus years later, based on the results of that swap, and the subsequent package Columbus received for the then disgruntled Carter.
Here’s our re-assessment of the transaction in the latest installment in our series of re-opened cold-case files.
The United States has produced some wonderful players over the years, legitimate Hall-of-Fame-caliber superstars who have earned honored member status.
What that nation can’t boast, however, is an NHL torch-carrier. In the modern era, the United States has failed to develop an undisputed face of the league in the Wayne Gretzky/Mario Lemieux/Sidney Crosby/Bobby Orr/Maurice Richard/you-get-the-picture mold.
The only American to win the Hart Trophy in the modern era was Brett Hull (a native of Canada) in 1991. The Golden Brett is one of the greatest pure goal-scorers of all-time, but even in the season he won the league’s MVP award, he finished 32 points behind Gretzky in the Art Ross Trophy race.
Wednesday signaled the beginning of a “new era” in hockey. Perhaps you’d heard?
If you’re a puck fan in Canada, it was tough not to be aware of Sportsnet’s plans to turn every day into Hockey Day. And who can blame them? After committing $5.2 billion over 12 years to the NHL, they’re all in.
The first manifestation of their game night production was, overall, solid. We could quibble and nitpick, but we won’t. We enjoyed the experience. If nothing else, they deserve praise for effort, for being willing to experiment and take risks.