By Dan Marrazza
South Florida is known for a lot of things.
Sunny weather? Sure. Beaches? Definitely. Large retiree community? It’s always been there.
Although South Florida has the reputation for being a popular place to retire, it’s the only area of the United States where 43-year-old hockey players remain active.
Jaromir Jagr, perhaps you’ve heard about. Darius Kasparaitis, Jagr’s former teammate with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers and fellow member of the 43-year-olds club, you may have forgotten.
Although it’s been nine years since he last played in the NHL and seven since he finished his professional career in the Kontinental Hockey League, Kasparaitis has resumed training from his Miami home in preparation of taking one last kick at the can with the Lithuanian national team.
Sources tell thn.com that the NHL is scrambling to find a way to the solve a potential debacle that has materialized over a women’s hockey showcase game at the Winter Classic in Boston.
As was reported by Bob McKenzie of TSN earlier this week, part of the Winter Classic festivities were to include a game between the Montreal Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Boston Pride of the first-year National Women’s Hockey League. The game was to be comprised of two 15-minute periods and was to be played prior to the game between the Canadiens and Bruins alumni teams on Dec. 31, the day before the Canadiens and Bruins face off in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxoborough, Mass.
In 13 years as Editor-in-Chief of The Hockey News, I’ve made a ton of suggestions on how to improve the game. You’d almost think I didn’t like it.
The truth is, I feel it’s part of my job to help stimulate conversation and debate. While hockey is still pretty darned fantastic, nothing is perfect.
What follows is a list of various things I’ve suggested, conceived, advocated or supported during my baker’s dozen years in my ivory tower.
By: Dan Marrazza
When you bring up the name Mike Danton to people in hockey, a lot of different thoughts are conjured. None of them are pleasant.
The thoughts center on Danton’s involvement in one of the ugliest episodes in the sport’s history, when he hired a hitman – who turned out to be an undercover police officer – in a failed murder-for-hire plot that targeted his controversial former agent, David Frost.
When the whole sordid episode concluded, Danton was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, of which he served 65 months. Although only 24 at the time his NHL career was halted, and it was clear the hockey world preferred to forget Danton ever existed.
In the early days of hockey at the Olympics, Canada was represented by the team that captured the Allan Cup. In 1947, that was a club from Quebec, the Montreal Royals. But the Royals winning the championship created a predicament for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which led to one of the most unlikely stories in Olympic hockey history.
The issue with the Royals representing Canada, said Jim McAuley, an Ottawa-area sports historian, was that several of the players weren’t considered amateurs. Some on the Royals were actually earning pay for their play on the Allan Cup championship team, which wasn’t allowed per Olympic rules. As such, Canada considered not sending a team. That’s when Dr. Sandy Watson stepped in.
“(Watson said) we can create a team and represent Canada at the Olympics,” McAuley explained. “That’s what their intention was. He went to his authority and they told him, ‘OK, go ahead, try and put this team together.’ They made a commitment to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association that they would go and represent Canada.”
After tryouts in Ottawa — which included some players eliminated as they had played pro before — the Canadian Olympic team made up of RCAF Flyers was selected. But before the team headed head to St. Moritz, Switzerland, where the Olympics were held in 1948, they wanted to gel more as a unit. They set up a few exhibition contests, and the result was awful. Read more
During what is now a Hall of Fame career, Nicklas Lidstrom garnered so much respect that he earned the nickname, The Perfect Human. Not The Perfect Hockey Player. Not The Perfect Defenseman. The Perfect Human. People called Chris Pronger lots of things during what is now a Hall of Fame career, too. None of them is suitable for publication on a website that might be viewed by young people. Many of those words begin with the letter ‘F’.
It was not easy to play the game the way Lidstrom did, but he made it look that way. Playing the game and preparing for it the way Lidstrom meticulously did and maintaining a ridiculously high standard on and off the ice presented its fair share of challenges. But it’s also not easy going to the opposing rink from the time you’re a kid and knowing that you’re going to be the most hated guy there. But like Lidstrom, Pronger embraced his role and status. Lidstrom wore the white hat and Pronger donned the black, and both of them managed to do it while becoming two of the most dominant defensemen of their generation.
You still have almost a year to prepare for the World Cup of Hockey and that might seem like plenty of time, but there’s so much to do. I mean, we haven’t even started debating whether Andrew Ladd or Jaden Schwartz should be Canada’s fourth-line left winger or who would be the best fit on Connor McDavid’s line for the North American YoungStars. Securing that second mortgage to buy tickets will take a while. And if you can’t do that, the NHL and NHLPA want to make sure you’re aware you’ll be able to watch it on computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, so you still have time to pick up one of those. If you figure out what those things are.
Separated by only a couple of hours and about 150 miles, two of the greatest players of their generation were born on this day in 1965. So, Happy 50th Birthday to Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy.
Google tells me that Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe were born on precisely the same day. So were Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. But the best parallel we can make for two people of bound by precisely the same birthday and excellence in the same craft are B.B. King and Charlie Byrd, who were a couple of pretty decent guitar players.