Backchecking: Russian star Sergei Makarov speaks (very) softly but carried a huge stick

Sergei Makarov (Allsport /Allsport)

By Denis Gibbons

Terry Crisp bent over backwards to show Sergei Makarov respect when the great Soviet winger came to play in the NHL for Calgary in 1989. One day the Flames coach was drawing up a play on the board, illustrating to Makarov how to position himself. Suddenly, Makarov grabbed the chalk, crossed everything out and started making his own diagrams.

“Tikhonov bad guy, good coach,” he said to Crisp (in reference to the late Soviet bench boss). “You? Good guy, bad coach.”

Crisp, who had led the Flames to a Stanley Cup the year before, said Makarov, who played in the Soviet Union on the KLM line with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov, probably had more talent than anybody he had ever coached. Read more

Backchecking: Tommy Soderstrom

The Hockey News
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

By Ty Dilello

When you think of Tommy Soderstrom, the first thing you remember is the big Jofa helmet and cage he wore. This was a goaltender who never put tape on the blade of his stick and was known to keep his whole body inside his net when the play was away from him.

The seemingly quirky Swedish netminder, though, felt he was incredibly normal. Former teammate Kevin Dineen once said, “He’s the most relaxed goalie I’ve ever seen. Nothing rattles him.”

So maybe the quirk about this goalie was that he was normal, which is abnormal for a goalie. Read more

No one took care of the garbage like Wally Hergesheimer

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After walking out on the Rangers coaching job for a similar stint with the Bruins in 1950, Boston coach Lynn Patrick never failed to zing his former team nor its stars.

One of Patrick’s favorite foes was an unobtrusive little guy who wore No. 18 for the Rangers and never caused trouble, except to enemy goaltenders. Wally Hergesheimer, who died at age 87 on Sept. 27, was that target. “Hergesheimer,” snapped Patrick after the diminutive right winger had potted a pair, “is nothing but a garbage collector.”

By contrast, Wally’s manager, Frank Boucher, smelled nothing but roses, laughing off Patrick’s rip during the 1952-53 campaign with the perfect squelch: “ ‘Hergy’ was my leading scorer (26 goals) last year and will do it again. I’ll take that ‘garbage.’ ” Read more

Jamie ‘Noodles’ McLennan still has the best seat

Jamie McLennan featured

As a player always slotted as backup goalie, Jamie McLennan used to enter each season wondering how much work he’d get. During his NHL career that began in 1993 and ended in 2008, his games played in a season ranged from nine in 2006-07 with Calgary to 38 in 2000-01 with Minnesota. All told, McLennan appeared in 254 games (80-109-36 record and 13 shutouts).

“I’m very proud of it,” McLennan said. “I had some success and pitfalls. I am well aware it wasn’t Hall of Fame worthy, but I was a backup goalie who hung around for a long time.”

Today, as a hockey analyst with TSN and the NHL Network, McLennan is still viewed as a backup by some. With Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger the go-to guys at TSN, McLennan gets duty on That’s Hockey and That’s Hockey 2Nite on TV and co-hosts Leafs Lunch for two hours a day on TSN Radio. That’s on top of providing color commentary for 36 regionally broadcast games for the Ottawa Senators. Read more

Once a rugged power forward, Willi Plett still making living with his hands

Jared Clinton
Willi Plett (Steve Babineau/NHLI/Via Getty Images)

When Willi Plett retired from the NHL, he did it on his own terms. In his early 30s at the time, it wasn’t that he was too old or that he couldn’t keep up. And he wasn’t too battered and bruised from playing his hard-nosed style. Rather, Plett didn’t want to continue his career when his heart was no longer in it. Read more

Backchecking: Allan Bester

The Hockey News
(Photo by John Mahler/Toronto Star)

By Richard Kamchen

Fans of Allan Bester can be forgiven if they assumed the ex-Toronto Maple Leaf netminder had become a twitching mercurial recluse in retirement. Who wouldn’t after experiencing the trauma of being a fish under siege in the Leafs’ barrel during Toronto’s dark days in the 1980s? Don Cherry wasn’t exaggerating much when he quipped Bester had seen “more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada highway.” Bester rountinely faced 40-plus shots a game as his introduction to the NHL.

“For years I’d been stopping pucks in my sleep and punching my wife in the face,” Bester jokes.

Read more

Backchecking: Pete Dawkins

The Hockey News
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By Randy Schultz

Following his graduation from West Point in 1959, Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins received an invitation to participate in a Detroit Red Wings practice.

Dawkins had played hockey growing up in Michigan and was good enough to make the West Point varsity team. He got the invite through a friend, went to practice, warmed up with the Wings and then played in a scrimmage.

“When I lined up to take the faceoff,” Dawkins says. “I looked to my right and Gordie Howe was my right winger.”

Read more

Backchecking: Mike Krushelnyski

Ronnie Shuker
Mike Krushelnyski (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)Mike Krushelnyski (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Despite its recent run of success, Los Angeles wasn’t always a prime destination for NHLers. These days, it’s atop the list of preferred places to play for many free agents, but there once was a time when it was a league backwater that had won all of bupkis and had zero NHL neighbors.

So you can forgive former King Mike Krushelnyski for not wanting to go there when his lawyer called him Aug. 9, 1988.

“He said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I’m like, ‘Why?’ He goes, ‘You better sit down,’ Krushelnyski said. “There was some talk of trade prior to that, and I said, ‘I’ll go anywhere except L.A.’ ”

At the time, Krushelnyski, now 54, was on top of the hockey world, having won his third Stanley Cup with Edmonton and entering the peak of his career at 28 years old. ‘The Trade’ changed that. The Oilers shipped Wayne Gretzky along with Marty McSorley and Krushelnyski to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, a trio of first-round picks and a whole heap of California cash.

“The press got the trade all wrong,” Krushelnyski jokes. “ ‘Gretz’ went for the three first-rounders, Marty went for Gelinas and I was the guy that went for the 15 million bucks. Let’s clarify that right now.” Read more