Grant Fuhr a man at peace as he prepares tell-all book

Matt Larkin
Grant Fuhr

It’s a dark, frigid morning during Toronto’s cruelest winter in 20 years. Anyone awake is annoyed about it, unable or unwilling to string two sentences together. Except a Hall of Fame goaltender named Grant Fuhr, who saunters into the Westin Harbour Castle hotel lobby, fashionably late, with the cheerful Zen of a monk. Maybe it’s his surgically replaced knee, made of titanium, that keeps him from hurrying anywhere. “He sets off all the alarms at the airport,” says his fiancée, Lisa.

Or maybe Fuhr glides along with such tranquility because he simply has life all figured out.

What he’s about to do is daunting in theory. After years out of the public eye, he’s resurfacing to make about a dozen major media appearances in a row. Breakfast Television, TSN radio, and so on. He’s promoting a soon-to-be released autobiography. It’s a tell-all, meaning he’ll account his best days backstopping the Edmonton Oilers dynasty and his adventures in golf, but he’ll also face the harder parts of his life head on. That includes his battle with cocaine use, which led to a lengthy suspension during his playing career.

Some people would be jittery resurfacing to be thrust in the spotlight for 12 straight hours, but not Fuhr. He’s one of the sport’s all-time best money goalies, remember. He has five Stanley Cup rings and a Canada Cup. And when the camera or microphone is in his face, Fuhr, now 51, laps up the pressure, no problem. He answers questions on anything, from his playing days to Canada’s 2014 Olympic team, with such little hesitation that he’s, well, goalie-like in his reaction time. “This is fun,” he says. “I haven’t done this for years.”

Maybe Fuhr is so comfortable with the attention because he attracted so much of it during his career. He was a highly coveted goaltender coming out of junior, drafted eighth overall by the Oilers in 1981. An athletic netminder who modelled himself after Tony Esposito, he was a perfect fit on the most high-octane offense the game has ever known, because the team’s style was familiar to him. “I loved playing for a run-and-gun team,” he says. “I got lucky enough that when I was playing junior in Victoria, that was the first time I’d seen a run-and-gun team, so with junior and the training, my progression to the NHL was playing the same style of hockey. It was comfortable for me.”

Fuhr battled for time with Andy Moog, which he believes made him a better goalie, and became Edmonton’s primary starter for most of the 1980s, especially during the playoffs. Fuhr played a crucial role in four of the five Cups he won with Edmonton, including an incredible 1988 run in which he went 16-2 en route to the Oil’s fourth Cup in five years. Wayne Gretzky called Fuhr the greatest goalie in the history of the game,

Fuhr played in six All-Star Games, won the 1988 Vezina Trophy and was acrobatically sensational for Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup, too. But he wasn’t just a star for what he did on the ice. He’s not the first black player in NHL history, but he is the first black superstar. “You notice it more now,” Fuhr says. At the time you just treated yourself as a player, first and foremost.  Obviously with Willie O’Ree and Mike Marson, Billy Riley, Tony McKegney, all those guys playing ahead of me, you didn’t really think of it that way. So I just feel pretty fortunate to have ended up in a spot where I could be successful.”

He is also remembered for being suspended by the NHL for a year in 1990 for using cocaine throughout the mid to late 1980s. The league was aware Fuhr had been clean for a year, but punished him for conduct “dishonorable and against the welfare of the league.” He earned early reinstatement by February 1991 and played a key role in another deep Oiler playoff run. “My only hard feelings out of the whole thing was it was probably about two or three years late, but at the same time, you make a mistake and you’ve got to pay the price,” Fuhr says. “We were just young and got caught up with the wrong crowd. It was a young, dumb mistake.”

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Teemu Selanne takes one final lap – and brings Jiggy with him

Ryan Kennedy
Selanne-Giguere

Warning! The following video will make your eyes a little misty. Teemu Selanne ended his regular-season career last night as the Ducks beat Colorado 3-2 in a shootout, but the real fireworks came after the final buzzer when the Finnish Flash was named as all three stars in the game.

Selanne passed out three sticks to fans in the crowd and soaked in a wondrous ovation before being congratulated on an incredible career by the officials and then the Avalanche players. But Selanne had one more great moment left for the night, grabbing former Anaheim goalie J-S Giguere – who also looks to be retiring from Colorado – and taking him for one more spin around the ice:

Giguere, of course, has his own history with the Ducks.

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Hall Monitor: Andreychuk’s 640 goals will get him in

Brian Costello
Statue of Dave Andreychuk hoisting the Stanley Cup for the Tampa Bay Lightning

They unveiled a statue of Dave Andreychuk just outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum the other day. Maybe one day, they’ll roll out the red carpet at the Hockey Hall of Fame for him.

If it were strictly about numbers, Andreychuk would be in the Hall already. He first became eligible in 2009 and has been overlooked five times now. And why is that?

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Will Brodeur be able to find a team willing to sign him?

Ken Campbell
Brodeur

If he does indeed play in the NHL next season, Martin Brodeur won’t be the first player in NHL history to risk hanging on for too long. Playing for the Colorado Avalanche in the late 1990s, Jari Kurri was a shell of his former self. Heck, Wayne Gretzky only had nine goals in his last season. That used to be a good week for him.

Brodeur said over the weekend that he’s “80 percent sure,” he’ll play another NHL season. Here’s hoping the other 20 percent somehow wins out.

This is not a slam against Brodeur. Actually, Brodeur is one of the most charming, engaging and accommodating athletes I and others in my business have ever encountered. Whether he plays again or not and even if he does so poorly, his legacy and place in the Hockey Hall of Fame are secure. There’s nothing Brodeur could do in New Jersey or anywhere else that will tarnish that.

And he has earned the right to go out of the game on his own terms, even if they don’t turn out to be his own terms. We all just assume that a guy who has won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezinas and has almost $82 million in career earnings should be satisfied with that and retire when everyone thinks he should.

But that doesn’t take into account two factors. First, with a few notable exceptions (Jean Beliveau was one), even the greatest, most levelheaded athletes in any sport are unwilling to admit the obvious. Everyone sees the reality and they probably do too, but they’ve risen to the top of their profession by having unwavering confidence in their abilities. Second, those who have never played at the NHL level can’t appreciate how difficult it is to leave. Whenever a player retires, he doesn’t miss the games or the training or even winning championships. The hole the vast majority of players have in their lives is created by the loss of the daily contact they have with their teammates.

And give Brodeur credit for being realistic. He acknowledges, “There are teams that have zero need for a guy like me.” He also realizes that even the New Jersey Devils might not want him. And how can you criticize a guy whose motivation is to play one more year so that his five-year-old son will have memories of him as an NHL player?

And if those were his only requirements, that would be fine. The Florida Panthers could sign him for one year as a marquee attraction and Roberto Luongo’s backup behind a maturing, but still struggling team. Nothing wrong with that. But not only does Brodeur want to play where he still has a chance to win, it looks like he wants to play about 40 games a year. He’s started 36 games for the Devils this season and said he doesn’t want to sit more than he has in 2013-14. That’s where there’s a disconnect here.

Putting it kindly, any team that is in a position to contend probably won’t be interested in Brodeur, who is 44th among goalies who have played 20 or more games this season in save percentage. Most of them are set with a workhorse No. 1 guy who would have to play 60-plus games. And if you’re that close to winning, are you going to entrust your goaltending to a 42-year-old whose performance and statistics have been trending downward?

The problem here is this has the potential for a world of awkwardness. The Devils will likely be put in a situation where they’ll have to cut ties with the all-time greatest player in franchise history, particularly if they want to keep Cory Schneider long-term.

The only thing potentially more embarrassing for Brodeur than being exposed would be for the summer to pass and for nobody to be interested in signing him.

Neither one is particularly palatable. So here’s hoping Brodeur joins Teemu Selanne in the ranks of the retired after this season. Hey, at least it will make for one hell of a Hall of Fame class in 2017.

Decorated Hasek could/should have been the best goalie ever

Brian Costello
Atlanta Thrashers v Buffalo Sabres

Dominik Hasek is moving up to the penthouse where he’ll hang out with a half dozen hockey greats.

The Buffalo Sabres announced today they’ll be retiring Hasek’s No. 39 Sabres jersey in a ceremony next season. He is being inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame Saturday.

Hasek, 49, is one of the most decorated goalies in NHL history and is the only stopper to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in back-to-back seasons (1997 and 1998).

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Will Robitaille help open the Hall of Fame door for Rob Blake

Dallas Stars v Los Angeles Kings

Critical analysis is part of our job in covering hockey. From time to time, The Hockey News is critical of the selections or omissions made by the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Doug Gilmour, Pavel Bure, Igor Larionov, Cam Neely were left standing at the altar multiple years before finally getting in. Others, like Eric Lindros, Phil Housley, Tom Barrasso, Guy Carbonneau, are still waiting. And then there’s the list of players who received induction when we thought they weren’t exactly worthy.

It’s all part of the business of critical evaluation.

One thing the Hall of Fame does I can’t ever argue with because it’s a healthy practice. It regularly turns over personnel on its 18-member selection committee. The committee has a stipulated limit for length of service.

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Dineen, Slaney among four new additions to AHL Hall of Fame

Brian Costello
The Dineens

It would be an understatement to say Bill Dineen has had a lifetime in hockey. He’s had several lifetimes in hockey. Some of them are named Kevin and Peter and Gord and Shawn and Jerry.

The Dineen family patriarch was today inducted into the American League Hall of Fame along with three others – three-time Calder Cup champion coach Al MacNeil, prolific scoring defenseman John Slaney and four-time Calder Cup goalie Bob Perreault.

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Hall of Famer Paul Coffey in hot water after “discriminatory slur”

Ken Campbell
Paul Coffey

The one thing we do know is that Hall of Famer and five-time Stanley Cup champion Paul Coffey was recently suspended for three games by the Greater Toronto Hockey League for a new Hockey Canada rule governing “discriminatory slurs.” Much of the rest of the story is shrouded in mystery, since all the parties involved have closed ranks and no one is speaking about it.

What thn.com can confirm is Coffey, who coaches the Toronto Marlboros midget ‘AAA’ team, was involved in an altercation last Friday during a playoff game against the Mississauga Senators. Read more