Thursday, December 31, 2009

The ten most popular DGB posts of 2009

2009 was the first full year of this site's existence. When the year began, this site was just a tiny niche blog that 99.9% of the hockey world had never heard of. And in just twelve short months, it's become a tiny niche blog that 99.8% of the hockey world has never heard of. I call that progress.

Along the way we introduced Chris Durno to the world, were named "Story of the Year" by Puck Daddy, brought the phrase "Dammit, Pronger" into the hockey lexicon, and were praised by Damien Cox as "prolific" and "local". Oh, and Brian Burke threatened to sue me. Good times all around.

The year featured 150 posts. Some were big hits. Some... not so much. Still, they were all fun to write.

Here's a list of the ten posts that were the most popular over the last twelve months. Have a look if you missed them the first time, want to go back and read them again, or if you're just stuck at work over the New Year and want to waste some company time.

  1. The NHL's suspension flowchart - Blogging rule of thumb: When Wil Wheaton tweets about you, you've made the big time.

  2. A review of NHL 10 - This one was especially fun since dozens of angry posters on video game forums didn't realize it was a joke.

  3. The Maple Leafs secret facebook feed - Fun fact: a Google search for "maple leafs facebook" bring back this page as the top result, ahead of the team's real page.

  4. Brian Burke mic'd at the draft - This one turned out to be especially popular with Ranger fans.

  5. The archive of Brian Burke tweets - Although Eklund is now reporting that some of these may not be real.

  6. Etiquette tips for the Jason Spezza wedding - This was funnier five months ago when people remembered who Jason Spezza was.

  7. Dany Heatley meets with Kevin Lowe: The secret transcript - Admit it, you can picture Pat Quinn doing that, can't you?

  8. Fun with Google "Similar Images" - Check out my mad Photoshop skills, yo.

  9. How to fight when you don't want to fight - Despite being over 20 months old, this one is still popular.

  10. An open letter to Kyle Wellwood - After Wellwood appeared to criticize the Leafs for giving up on him, I wrote him a polite and thoughtful note to address his concerns.
A sincere thanks for all your support in 2009, and here's hoping for more fun in 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Top 20 Maple Leaf moments of the decade - The top 10

This is the second half of the Top 20 Leaf Moments of the Decade list. If you missed it, the first part of the list can be found here.

10. Stumpy wins it - April 22, 2000

Game Five of the 2000 first round series between Ottawa and Toronto was a strange one. The first 55 minutes were deadly dull, with the Leafs mailing in a half-hearted effort and the Senators nursing a 1-0 lead by playing a perfect (i.e. boring) road game.

Then Steve Thomas scored with five minutes left to tie it. And then all hell broke loose. The two teams turned up the tempo to close out the third period, and then went on to play an end-to-end overtime period that featured a dozen scoring chances.

That's when the Leafs unveiled one of the most dastardly trick plays in recent sports history: Sergei Berezin passing.

As an added bonus, Thomas and Berezin reacted to the game winning goal by performing a WWE-style double clothesline on each other.

9. PING! - April 13, 2001

You already know what goal it is just from the headline, don't you?

In the four-pack of Leaf playoff wins over the Senators, the 2001 series was actually the only one where the Senators had home ice advantage. Well, not so much "home ice advantage", since that implies that you get to play some games in front of fans that are actually cheering for you. But the Senators were the #2 seed in the East that year, and were expected to beat the lowly #7 seed Leafs.

Didn't happen. In fact, it didn't come remotely close to happening, as Curtis Joseph shut out the Senators in each of the first two games and the Leafs completed a four-game sweep back in Toronto (giving the Senators the distinction of not scoring a single post-season goal in their own arena). And it all started with a tight Game One that was tied 0-0 midway through the first overtime.

Don't worry, Sens fans. There's brighter days ahead in this rivalry. (I'm sorry? What's that? Oh. I've just been informed that there are, in fact, not brighter days ahead.)

8. Tie Domi fights a Flyer fan in the penalty box - March 29, 2001

I wrote about this one back in September as part of the Top 10 Leaf Fights of All-Time post. I included a transcript of what's going through this Flyer fan's mind:

"Hey, Domi just sprayed water on me, which technically ends my month-long streak of not bathing! I think I'll bang on the glass and try to look tough when I know he can't reach me. Hm, I wonder if this glass can support 300 lbs of cheesesteak and loneliness? No, apparently it can not. Oh god, I'm going to die. Also, I just soiled myself on national television. Go Flyers!"

Domi never really got the credit he deserved here. While he did enough to defend himself, he somehow resisted the urge to go Rob Ray on the poor slob. And that should count for something, shouldn't it?

By the way, how perfect is the "Dunkin Donuts" ad placement in the penalty box?

7. Sundin's milestones - October 14, 2006 and October 11, 2007

Mats Sundin was so good that he actually broke Darryl Sittler's all-time Leafs scoring record twice in the same game. He was credited with a second period assist against the Islanders and held the record for about a half hour before officials revoked the point (Sundin hadn't actually touched the puck).

No problem. Sundin came out in third period and scored a goal of his own. That gave him 390 goals and 917 points as a Leaf -- breaking both of Sittler's franchise records with one shot.

While the moment was clearly important in terms of history, the goal came in the late stages of a blowout against the Islanders and was a fluke shot that wasn't really worthy of the moment. Then again, what's the guy supposed to do for a major milestone? Score a short-handed overtime hat trick goal on Hockey Night in Canada? Fine, if you insist:

(And in case you're wondering, I combined these two moments because they both represent similarly memorable milestones in Sundin's great career, and certainly not because I realized I still had 11 moments that needed to fit into a top 10 list. I don't know why you'd even think that. Look, why are we arguing? Let's change the subject: Hey, who wants to see a Finnish guy get his brains scrambled?)

6. Darcy Tucker destroys Sami Kapanen - May 4, 2004

This hit from the 2004 playoffs was undoubtedly the most vicious hit of the decade by a Maple Leaf, and quite possibly by any NHL player, period. Kapanen was so decimated by the impact that officials immediately whistled the play dead, and the rest of the shift never happened. Did you hear me? THE REST OF THE SHIFT NEVER HAPPENED!

No penalty was called on the play, although technically you could make a case for charging, boarding, and second degree manslaughter. The league reviewed the hit, and promptly suspended the Maple Leafs from ever participating in the playoffs again.

Um... is that guy in the front row wearing a bathing cap,a helmet, or amateur wrestling headgear?

5. Gary Roberts scores in triple overtime - May 4, 2002

Hey look, the Leafs and Senators seem to be involved in some sort of crucial post-season game. I wonder how this will turn out?

Wade Redden with his finger up his nose still makes me laugh every single time.

4. Sundin returns - October 14, 2008

Let's get this out of the way first: I wasn't a fan of the way Mats Sundin left Toronto. I stand by that. But that's history now.

But when Sundin made his return to Toronto as a member of the Canucks, everyone got it right. The Leafs, who honored their former-captain with a classy video. The fans, who gave him a loud and long ovation. The players, who refused to take the faceoff until Sundin had had his moment. And finally Sundin himself, who composed himself (barely) and then went on to score the shootout winner.

The only way this moment could have been better would have been if the fans had had the chance to thank Sundin when he was still wearing a Leafs uniform. Speaking of which...

3. Thank You Wendel - April 27, 2000

While you don't really associate Clark with the current decade, his last stint with the Leafs came at the end of the 1999-2000 season. He played 20 mostly forgettable regular season games and was scratched for the team's first playoff games. Pat Quinn inserted Clark into the lineup midway through the first round, and he scored the series-clinching goal against the Senators.

And then game one against the Devils:

2. Mats Sundin's last second goal against the Hurricanes - May 28, 2002

In the final minutes of Game Six of the 2002 Conference Finals, the Leafs found themselves trailing Carolina 1-0. For reasons nobody has ever been able to fully explain, Arturs Irbe was unbeatable in this series, and the Hurricanes were choking the life out of the Leafs on their home ice. As the seconds ticked down, the Leafs' miracle playoff run seemed doomed.

Well, not so fast.

This goal is notable for being the only known example of that horrible "behind-the-net" camera view that directors fell in love with in the first half of the decade actually working. It also gave us not only a memorable Bob Cole call ("... and the place goes crazy!") but also a legendary Joe Bowen meltdown that included him infamously screaming "You talk about heart and dedication!"

It all ended up being futile, of course. The Hurricanes won in overtime, eliminating the Leafs from a series they absolutely should have won. But for a few seconds at least, I doubt there was a goal during the decade that had Leaf fans screaming any louder.

1. Lalime's meltdown - April 20, 2004

It's probably fair to say that by the time the Leafs and Senators met in a 2004 first round series, the two teams hated each other. The Leafs were the corporate behemoth that kept kicking the smaller kids around the playground. The Senators were the small-market underdogs who were supposed to be scrappy and valiant but usually just wound up wiping snot from their noses while the sobbed about being picked on.

So with Daniel Alfredsson guaranteeing victory, Eugene Melnyk running his mouth, and the Senators vowing to finally "slay the dragon", the two teams met for the fourth time in five years. And with nothing settled through six games, it was on to Toronto for a final game seven showdown.

The hockey world was expecting a classic. Instead, they got a classic meltdown.

The Kilger goal was excusable. The first Nieuwendyk goal was awful. The third was almost impossibly bad, the kind of disaster you need to watch over and over again just to convince yourself it was real. And that's the goal we're going with as the #1 moment on the list.

There were probably more important goals scored this decade. There were certainly much better ones. But whether we like it or not, the Battle of Ontario defined the decade for both franchises, and no moment captured the rivalry more perfectly than this one: Leaf fans cheering; Leaf players celebrating; and a Senator slumped on his knees, defeated, and ready to quit.

Honorable mentions

There were a few on-ice moments that didn't make the final list, but deserve a mention. In no particular order:
  • The Leafs/Islanders bloodbath in 2002 - This was perhaps the most vicious series of all-time, but it's hard to pick an actual moment that stands out. Maybe Tucker's low-bridge on Peca?
  • The Leafs/Habs season finale in 2007 - Definitely one of the most memorable games of the decade, but it was rendered moot thanks the Devils laying down for the Islanders the next day. Besides, the only moment from the game that stands out was Andrew Raycroft giving up a horrible goal, getting pulled, and then not caring.
  • Ricard Persson hits Tie Domi from behind - But if Domi had better balance, the Senators would have won.
  • Alexander Mogilny scores his 1,000th point in the Leafs comeback against the Sabres in 2004 - Confession time: I have absolutely no recollection of this happening. Was I in a coma? This is bothering me. (Update: robviper to the rescue with a newly posted youtube video.)
  • Mario Lemieux returns to the NHL and scores three points against the Leafs - Hard to pick a moment where the Leafs got lit up, but any hockey fan had to enjoy this game.
And I'm sure I missed a few. Let me hear about them in the comments.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Maple Leafs team Christmas party

I received a tip over the weekend that the Leafs would be holding their annual Christmas party at a nearby establishment. I deployed some of my trusted DGB spies (now armed with video cameras), and they were able to infiltrate the proceedings and capture this exclusive footage.

(Thanks to Bloge Salming. Visit his site every day or Komisarek says you're next.)

Happy holidays, everyone, and here's hoping that you and yours get everything you asked for. Just like Phil Kessel.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ten signs that your team bus is on fire

Bus on fire
I hear the coach is on the hot seat
Yesterday saw a bizarre story out of Ottawa, where the visiting Minnesota Wild's team bus caught fire, incinerating all their equipment.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt. But what about next time? Are NHL teams really prepared to deal with this sort of dangerous scenario?

As with any fire, early detection is the key. So as a public service, I'm offering this list of ten signs that your team bus might be on fire, which I'd suggest NHL teams print out and post on all team vehicles.

  • The cloud of smoke billowing out from Ray Emery's seat smells slightly different than usual.

  • Everyone is pointing at your bus and yelling "Go Flames Go", but you don't play for Calgary.

  • Brendan Witt looked like he was carrying a propane tank right before you ran over him.

  • Carey Price has started smoking again. Literally.

  • You play for Edmonton, and for the first time since mid-October your wife isn't nagging you about how cold she is.

  • The steam that's usually coming out of John Tortorella's ears has now been joined by steam coming out of his eyes, mouth and nose.

  • For the first time in his hockey career, Jason Spezza is sweating.

  • You are attempting to drive away from the arena after a tough playoff loss in Montreal.

  • A few minutes ago you saw Kyle Wellwood stuffing his face with cookie dough, but now he's stuffing his face with freshly baked cookies.

  • You suddenly hear more sirens than Vesa Toskala at the Verizon Center.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Top 20 Maple Leaf moments of the decade - Part 1

Quinn and Ferguson
What has four eyes, no rings and one brain?
Oh, the 00's. What a terrible god-forsaken soul-crushingly awful interesting decade you were.

We had good times (cough, Quinn, cough), bad times (cough, Ferguson I hope you get run over by a cement truck in front of a daycare, cough), and cautious optimism. The decade had a little bit of everything.

Well, except for that big trophy thing. Can't remember what it's called. The Stanford something? It's probably not important.

So here's part one of a look a back at the top 20 Leaf moments of the decade. To keep it simple, we'll limit this to moments that happened on the ice. (Or, in limited cases, in the opponent's bench.)

20. Luke Schenn vs. Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy - Jan. 31, 2009

This wasn't the biggest hit of the decade, or the most entertaining fight. Not even close, really. But the moment did come to symbolize Schenn's potential, and his status as the centerpiece of the Leafs long-awaited rebuild. Finally, after years of JFJ-induced misery, there was hope. There was a future.

Of course, that was before Schenn regressed into a seventh-string press box denizen. But it was fun for a few months.

Watch it on youtube

19. Owen Nolan wins the "flu game" - Feb. 5, 2004

This game was one of the most bizarre NHL games in recent memory, featured the Leafs greatest comeback of the decade, and marks the first of approximately 18 appearances by the Senators in this list.

The game started off as a typical Leafs/Sens regular season matchup, which is to say the Senators were on their way to an easy blowout win. Midway through the second period, Ottawa was cruising with a 4-0 lead.

Cue the comeback! Oh, and also the explosive diarrhea.

Both teams were battling a severe flu outbreak, but the Ottawa strain was apparently worse. Halfway through the game, the Sens bench began emptying as players were making between-shifts sprints to the restrooms. This marked the first time the Senators had ever soiled themselves during a game that didn't involve Tie Domi making eye contact with somebody.

By the end of regulation the Leafs had tied the game, and Nolan ended it in overtime with a long range slapshot. Afterwards, when reporters went to Nolan looking for a sympathetic quote on the Senators illness woes, he responded with an infamous quote: "boo hoo".

18. Cory Cross scores in OT to beat Ottawa - April 16, 2001

This was probably the least memorable of the (many) overtime goals the Leafs managed against the Senators, since it came in the middle of a fairly easy four-game sweep in 2001. But it was actually a critically important goal.

The Leafs had won the opening two games, shutting out the heavily favored Sens twice in Ottawa. In game three, Curtis Joseph took yet another shutout into the third period as the Leafs lead 2-0. But then a potential series turning point: the Senators scored twice, including the tying goal in the dying seconds. With the game headed to overtime, Leaf fans had to wonder if this was the beginning of an epic collapse.

It wasn't. Journeyman defensive defenceman Cory Cross drilled home a rebound to win it, and in the process became the worst player to ever score an overtime goal for the Leafs (sorry, Gary Valk).

Watch it on youtube

17. Belak vs. Janssen - March 20, 2007

This just seems appropriate for #17, no?

Everyone remembers the circumstances leading up to this epic battle. Weeks earlier, Cam Janssen had sidelined Tomas Kaberle with an obvious cheap shot. Everyone knew that payback would be coming from Wade Belak, and everyone was right.

I'm not saying this was a long fight, but they dropped the gloves in March of 2007 and it just ended a few minutes ago.

Watch it on youtube

16. Travis Green's OT winner against the Flyers - April 21, 2003

A lot of fans have forgotten this overtime winner, and with good reason. The 2003 playoffs were the only ones of the Quinn era that saw the Leafs make a first round exit, and most fans have saved precious space in their long-term memories for the longer runs that marked the first half of the decade.

Here's a depressing thought, though: this happened in 2003, and the Leafs haven't had an overtime playoff win since.

15. Kaberle quiets the Devils - May 5, 2001

Sometimes, hockey games seem destined follow a predictable storyline. Game five of the 2001 series between the Leafs and the Devils was one of those times.

This was the first game after Tie Domi's elbow had sidelines Scott Niedermayer, and the Devils were vowing revenge. Every hockey columnist on the continent had already agreed on the storyline: Domi's cement-headed cheapshot had robbed the Leafs of their momentum, woken up the sleeping Devils, and all but handed them the series. The Devils were officially the good guys, the Leafs were the hated villains, and game five would be a lesson in hockey karma.

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell Tomas Kaberle.

In the dying seconds of a 2-2 tie, Kaberle managed to sneak one by Martin Brodeur for the game winner. (By "sneak one by", I really mean "shot the puck into a wide open net because Brodeur had been blatantly run over in his crease seconds before", but let's not get picky.)

The Devils would still get their revenge, winning the last two games to take the series in seven. But for one night, at least, Tomas Kaberle and the Leafs gave the hockey world a nice big middle finger to go along with their blindside elbow.

14. Daniel Alfredsson's hit from behind on Darcy Tucker - May 12, 2002

OK, this one will seem like a strange pick. But stay with me.

Until the moment that Daniel Alfredsson blindsided Darcy Tucker (then scored the game-winner seconds later), you couldn't really hate the Ottawa Senators. Oh sure, the "Battle of Ontario" was well into its third playoff matchup in as many years. But it was meaningless rivalry, one that only mattered to insecure Ottawa fans who spent their time hating everything related to Toronto (when they weren't desperately trying to move there).

If you were a Leaf fan, you couldn't hate the Senators. You could feel sorry for them, maybe. You could be bored by them, probably. You could go weeks at a time without even remembering they existed, certainly. But hate them? Why?

Alfredsson provided a reason to, if not "hate" the Senators, at least be mildly annoyed by them. And that made the rest of the decade a lot more fun.

Man, what a cheap shot. I sure hope somebody gets that guy someday.

13. Mark Bell kills Daniel Alfredsson - April 3, 2008

This hit not only served up some long-overdue payback for the Tucker hit, it resulted in the only highlight of Paul Maurice's stint in Toronto: his observation that Senators reacted to the utter destruction of their captain with nothing but "some purse-swinging".

Watch it on youtube
OK, now go watch it again on youtube, you know you want to

12. Darcy Tucker's kamikaze bench dive - April 20, 2004

This is the moment where Darcy Tucker went from "Hey, this guy is crazy in a wacky and fun sort of way" to "Slowly inch away from him while staring at the floor and avoiding sudden movements".

Read more about this moment

11. Sundin and Kaberle beat the Flyers in overtime - April 14, 2003

Much like Green's goal, this one hasn't really stood the test of time as being especially memorable. That said, it has to be on the list just based on the names involved. Mats Sundin executes one of his classic drives to the net, and Tomas Kaberle is in the right place at the right time. The two longest serving (and probably best) Maple Leafs of the decade combine to win a thriller.

Watch it on youtube

Coming early next week: The top ten. Feel free to speculate in the comments, name something I completely forgot about, and make me rewrite the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - Markov Salutes Jagr

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

For a few months now, I've been diving into my old Leaf tapes and posting clips on Youtube. It's been fun to hear from fans who remember some of these moments and hadn't seen them in years. And often, I get requests for memorable clips that have never found their way online.

But there's one clip that's easily the most wanted, accounting for almost half the requests I get. And it's not a goal, or a hit, or even a fight. It's the Markov Salute.

More specifically, it's Danny Markov's mocking salute to Jaromir Jagr, delivered moments after Gary Valk ended the 1999 Leafs/Penguins second round series. This was back when Jagr was making a big show of saluting after every goal, and Markov decided to throw one right back at him.

I finally found the clip. Watch for it, right at the end:

A few thoughts.
  • Danny Markov was probably insane.

  • No, scratch that. Danny Markov was definitely insane. This is the same guy who once attacked a mascot, shot a puck at a referee, and trash-talked the Senators bench after getting hit in the face with a slapshot. He was definitely insane. God I miss him.

  • Markov actually salutes Jagr three times. The first two are with a glove on. At that point he starts yelling down the ice, presumably to get Jagr's attention, and then gives him the glove-off version. I loved Danny Markov.

  • Um, is that Keith Olbermann?

  • You know, for a guy who never passed, Sergei Berezin assisted on a lot of Leaf overtime winners. He set up Garry Valk here, as well as Steve Thomas and Cory Cross. Those were presumably the only three assists of his career.

  • A great underrated hockey tradition: when a team wins in overtime and their goalie makes the lonely skate all the way down the ice looking for someone to hug. Curtis Joseph gets completely ignored for 190 feet, then Mike Johnson comes out of nowhere and flattens him. Good times.

  • Nice play by Jiri Slegr on the goal. One of the first things they teach you in defenceman school is "When there's a loose puck in the crease, always deliver a sliding dropkick to your goalie's groin."

  • Fans of other teams like to say that Bob Cole is secretly a Leafs fan. Maybe they're right, because apparently he also refuses to acknowledge the Leafs' 1994 Conference Finals loss to the Canucks ever happened.

  • Tough call for "Most Obscure Guy in the Pile" here, but I'm going to go with a 20-year-old Adam Mair, who makes an appearance a full three years before his rookie season. It's either him or Ladislav Kohn, who was always fantastic in Facts of Life.
So Leaf fans, here's your homework assignment for this week. Find some annoying mulletted dink who makes ten times as much money as you do, and give him a Markov Salute. You'll feel better about yourself. Trust me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Signs your hockey player husband might have sixteen mistresses

Lots of clutching and grabbing going on
They look cold.
You may not have heard, but apparently Tiger Woods has had a few affairs. No, really, it's been in the newspaper and everything! And at least count, 16 different women have come forward to admit to relationships with the married golf legend.

I happen to know that a large percentage of my readers are the wives of NHL players, and I'm sure many of them are worried: What if my husband is just like Tiger Woods? How would I know?

I want to help. So I've compiled a list of warning signs that you, the dutiful NHL spouse, should be watching for. Here's how to tell that your hockey player husband may have 16 mistresses:
  • You keep overhearing his teammates talking about whether he'll set the all-time scoring record, but he's a goalie.

  • Every time he sees an article in Us Weekly about Sean Avery breaking up with somebody, he circles it with a red magic marker.

  • The fire hydrant at the end of your driveway looks suspiciously like it's been run over by a zamboni.

  • Whenever he gets a penalty and the PA guy announces "two minutes for hitting from behind", the entire crowd chants "That's what she said".

  • He plays in the United States, and yet the media is interested in him.

  • In NHL 10, he has a 99 rating in "infidelity".

  • You've never heard of those 16 girls whose names are on the banners hanging from your bedroom ceiling.

  • Every time he yells out your name in bed, he checks a lineup card first.

  • When Sidney Crosby punched him in the groin, every woman in your section pulled out a cell phone and started making alternate dinner plans.

  • He refers to the local sorority house as "the waiver wire".

  • You keep getting sympathetic text messages from somebody named Lauren P. in Anaheim.

  • The red light and goal horn attached to your bed's headboard seem to need their batteries changed way more often than they should.

  • He's been working with Jim Balsillie on a new web site called

  • His latest "lower body injury" is chlamydia.

  • He's a hockey player who plays for a team that has at least 16 road games this year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Road woes: NHL players vs. moving vehicles

This post has been declared a 'Dany Heatley joke'-free zone
Tragically, the YMCA sing-along
never got past "Y".
Last night's game against the Islanders gave Leafs fans their first chance to get a look at Brendan Witt since he was run over by an SUV on Tuesday.

But while the incident was unique in that it was the first time a news story included "Brendan Witt" and "hit" but not "elbow" and "pending suspension", it wasn't all that unusual. NHL players haven't been having much luck when they step out onto the street these days.

Here's a look back at some of the recent incidents and near-misses involving NHL players and moving vehicles:

The victim: Kyle Wellwood
The incident: Narrowly avoided high-speed collision with twin brother during moped ride.

The victim: Shane Doan
The incident: After a tough loss, stepped out into street and was hit by one of the several dozen moving vans that circle the Arena at all times.

The victim: Andrew Raycroft
The incident: Was so upset after a tough loss that he jumped in front of the team bus -- but it went through his legs! Literally. The force of the impact evaporated his legs. Oh god, it was horrific!

The victim: Jonathan Cheechoo
The incident: Stopped too suddenly at a red light; was rear-ended by the hearse that follows him around carrying his goal-scoring ability.

The victim: Zdeno Chara
The incident: Carelessly stepped in front of a speeding commuter train, causing massive damage to the train and slightly wrinkling his dress shirt.

The victim: John Ferguson Jr.
The incident: Chased a ball into the street and was nearly run over by the short bus that takes him work every morning.

The victim: The Philadelphia Flyers
The incident: Various players suffered bruises after bumpy ride to airport caused by team bus attempting to drive with John Stevens still stuck underneath it.

The victim: Kyle Okposo
The incident: Filed police report after being run over by speeding oil tanker. The charges were withdrawn after a review of the video determined it was actually just Dion Phaneuf.

The victim: Steve Tambellini
The incident: After reviewing the team's salary cap situation during his first day on the job, briefly considered jumping in front of the Brinks truck that will be delivering Shawn Horcoff's paycheck for the next six years.

The victim: Jaroslav Halak
The incident: After a pre-season victory, was nearly struck while leaving the Bell Centre after inexcusably forgetting to always look both ways for cars in case the rioters have thrown a flaming one at you.

The victim: Bill Berg
The incident: Run over by truck driven by Pat Burns, who nonetheless continued to not know who he was.

The victim: Jason Spezza
The incident: Carelessly stepped in front of a vehicle, causing it to swerve uncontrollably, plunge off of a cliff, and explode into a ball of flaming wreckage on the rocks below. Luckily, it was the Senators bandwagon so nobody was on board.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Leafs vs Bruins: The highlights

Do you ever watch your team play a game that's so bad, you can't even get up the nerve to watch the highlights afterwards?

That happened to me on Saturday, when the Leafs laid an egg in their much-anticipated showdown with the Bruins. The team was flat, the Bruins dominated, and I ended up turning the game off halfway through. It was that bad.

I finally watched the highlights today, since I figured it couldn't have been as bad as I remembered it. And I was right. It was worse. Much, much worse.

Anyway, in case you missed the game, it went like this:

(Can't see this in RSS? Click here.)

Not one of the Leafs' strongest efforts.

Important note: If you like the sort of content you see on DGB, you need to be visiting Bloge Salming. It's all the Leafs and NHL humor without the annoying "reading" part.

Some of my favorites are here, here and here. But you should really go through the entire archives. Seriously, do it now. Now. Why are you still here? Go!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When teammates attack: Other teammate-inflicted NHL injuries

Hockey injury
The Florida Panthers' playoff
chances: an interpretive dance
Keith Ballard is the talk of the hockey world today, thanks to his bizarre slash to the head that left teammate Tomas Vokoun bleeding on a stretcher.

But while Ballard is certainly an extreme case, he's not the first NHL player to accidentally cause an injury to a teammate. In fact, over the past few years the league has seen several regrettable incidents. Here's a look at some that had the biggest impact.

The player: Jonas Gustavsson
The injury: Heart arrhythmia due to repetitive trauma to the middle of his chest
What happened: Cumulative effect from a full month of facing Jason Blake in practice every day.

The player: Joe Thornton
The injury: Damaged windpipe due to choking
What happened: Unaware of strict internal rules regarding team meals, new teammate Dany Heatley mentions the word "playoffs".

The player: Andrei Markov
The injury: Sprained MCL
What happened: Repetitive strain of constantly having to drop to one knee to hold a conversation with the Habs' various offseason acquisitions.

The player: Brad Boyes
The injury: Severe hoof damage across his back
What happened: Wandered in between Keith Tkachuk and the post-game buffet.

The player: Alexei Ponikarovsky
The injury: Lower back pain, swollen ankles, and gestational diabetes
What happened: Accidentally made eye contact with Luke Schenn.

The player: Entire Vancouver Canucks defence
The injury: Second and third degree sunburns to the back of the neck.
What happened: Were forced to play an entire game in front of Andrew Raycroft.

The player: Rick DiPietro
The injury: Multiple fractures, torn ligaments, internal organ failure
What happened: Teammate Brendan Witt turned on a rotating fan in the dressing room, causing a light breeze.

The player: Marian Hossa
The injury: Lacerations to both wrists
What happened: New teammate Patrick Kane introduced himself by saying "Wow, you played for Pittsburgh and Detroit? Can I see your Cup rings?"

The player: Marc Staal
The injury: Impaired vision
What happened: Learning the details of Wade Redden's free agent contract caused eyes to cartoonishly pop out of head, detaching both retinas.

The player: Daniel Carcillo
The injury: Concussion
What happened: During a heated debate on the validity of the inferential thesis, Carcillo argues for Gibson's "ecological approach" to the conception of perception, leading Riley Cote (a known advocate of Fodor and Pylyshyn's stance that affordances presuppose direct perception and therefore can not be used to explain it) to hit him over the head with a folding chair.

The player: Chris Neil
The injury: Two broken ankles
What happened: Instinctively leapt out of eighth floor hotel window after Chris Phillips mentioned that the bellhop kind of looked like Colton Orr.

The player: Chris Drury
The injury: Existential crisis
What happened: Realization that Sean Avery continues to pull incredibly hot women forced him to question the very existence of a just and merciful god.

The player: Mike Fisher
The injury: Broken jaw and fractued orbital bone
What happened: Tried to keep a straight face when Daniel Alfredsson delivered his "Go ahead and write it, I guarantee we'll win the Cup" quote.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One year of Brian Burke: A look back

Brian Burke
Rare footage of Brian Burke
speaking to the media.
This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Brian Burke being named general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's been an eventful year, with some highs and a few lows.

So break out the party hats and balloons, and let's take a look at some of the highlights of Burke's first year in Toronto.

November 29, 2008 - While outlining his strategy at his first press conference as general manager, Burke delivers his infamous quote about "proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence". Confused Leaf fans rush to their dictionaries, and are disappointed to discover that every one of those words means "terrible goaltending".

December 6, 2008 - Dave Nonis joins the Leafs front office, assuming the newly created position of "Vice President In Charge of Tampering With The Vancouver Canucks".

February 23, 2009 - Burke receives a call from Eklund alerting him that someone is impersonating him on Twitter. An enraged Burke immediately summons his lawyers and top advisors, loudly demanding to know who the hell gave Eklund his phone number.

March 4, 2009 - Trade deadline day. Despite high hopes that he could trade one or more of his top line players, Burke's plans are thwarted when he realizes other team's have actually seen the Leafs play.

April 6, 2009 - Burke names Ron Wilson the coach of Team USA's Olympic squad. Burke explains the choice by noting that Wilson has extensive experience, has coached internationally, and will have lots of time to work on gameplans since he'll be unemployed by mid-December.

April 14, 2009 - Burke surprises observers by emphatically declaring that he thinks the Leafs will make the playoffs in '09-10, although in fairness, he never specifies which millennium.

June 19, 2009 - In an effort to impress free agent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson during a visit to Toronto, Burke arranges the Leafs' dressing room to highlight the team's goaltending history. Gustavsson is impressed to see Johnny Bower's jersey hanging by the entrance, Terry Sawchuk's jersey hanging in a corner, and Vesa Toskala's jersey hanging from a bathroom stall toilet paper dispenser.

June 22, 2009 - At the NHL draft, Burke turns down a proposed Kaberle-for-Kessel trade by explaining to Peter Chiarelli that the he won't include a first round pick in the deal. Chiarelli responds "Oh, don't worry, you won't be trading a first round pick for Kessel", and then laughs like Emperor Palpatine for fifteen straight minutes until a confused Burke finally hangs up on him.

July 1, 2009 - With minutes to go before the noon deadline, Daniel and Henrik Sedin each agree to an extension with the Vancouver Canucks. They then throw open the curtains on their Stockholm apartment window, revealing Burke standing awkwardly in the street below holding a boombox.

July 25, 2009 - Dave Poulin's interview for a front office position is marred by an uncomfortable silence after Poulin compliments Burke on the incredibly lifelike replica of Richard Peddie's head he has mounted in his office.

September 18, 2009 - Burke completes the long-rumored trade for Kessel. While many observers criticize the deal for including two first round picks, Burke defends the move by correctly pointing out that the Leafs wouldn't have drafted anyone good anyways.

November 24, 2009 - Burke's son Brendan announces that he is gay, with his father's full support. Leaf fans are thrilled, recognizing this as the only chance they'll ever have to see Brian Burke take part in a parade.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ten reasons the Maple Leafs might fire Carlton the Bear

Carlton the Bear
Hit the bricks, loser.
According to Sportsnet, which is a mainstream media organization with strict editorial standards and would therefore not be wrong about something like this, the Maple Leafs have fired Carlton the Bear. (Update: Carlton himself denies it.)

And while this news may come as a shock to some, sources tell me it's actually been in the making for some time. In fact, Carlton's employee file lists ten problems that contributed to his termination.

Thanks to my spies at the ACC, here's a full list of the reasons behind Carlton's dismissal.
  • Timing made sense, since comprehensive no-movement clause given to him by John Ferguson Jr. finally expired.

  • Signature "look" of a dark blue Maple Leafs jersey and no pants was widely acknowledged to have been stolen from Larry Tanenbaum.

  • Lingering bitterness over that time he killed and ate Vesa Toskala's glove hand.

  • Was never quite the same after his long-standing franchise raw fish eating record was shattered by Kyle Wellwood.

  • Turns out it was his idea to get Alan Frew to record a song about the Leafs.

  • The Blue Jays got rid of BJ Birdie in 1999, and MLSE has seen how well that worked out for them.

  • Despite being a seven-foot-tall polar bear, still whimpered like a girl every time Colton Orr made eye contact.

  • During course of a typical home game, repeatedly violated MLSE's strict employee policy of never intentionally interacting with any fans, ever.

  • Team must respect clause in Jason Blake's contract stipulating that he always be the palest person in the organization.

  • The team has only five wins all year; obviosuly someone has to be held accountable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wendel Clark wants you to show some heart

Leafs fan
Hey cool, his fist still has little
bits of McSorley's skull on it.

Photo credit: Roger Hallett
Maple Leaf fans spend a lot of time talking about heart. We've celebrated the heart and soul guys who've worn the blue and white. We've had our heart broken by Kerry Fraser. And we watch the "All Heart" video every hour on the hour. Or at least I do.

Unfortunately, Leaf fans also know a little bit about heart problems. In recent years we've seen Luca Cereda's career-ending congenital heart defect, Pat Quinn's playoff arrhythmia scare, and Jonas Gustavsson's ablation. Only the JFJ-era teams seemed to escape heart problems, since Ferguson made sure none of the players he acquired actually had one.

This year, why not show a little heart of your own by helping out a great cause?

The Hockey for Heart tournament is the creation of Rob Weir. In 1993, Rob watched his father Roger die of a heart attack during a game of pickup hockey. Roger hadn't realized he had a heart condition. He was 46.

Rob launched Hockey for Heart in 1995 as a four-team tournament that raised $1,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Since then the tournament has expanded across Ontario and has raised over $890,000. Along the way, the tournament has had help from hockey royalty such as Johnny Bower (Roger's all-time favorite player), Darryl Sittler, Peter Zezel and Walter Gretzky.

Oh, and did I mention Wendel Clark?

Yes, Mr. All Heart himself is on board. He's been involved in the project for three years, and will be back this year for several tournaments.

This year's schedule begins in January and features stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton and ten more cities.

Wendel Clark wants you to help out. You know what you have to do.

Here's how it works: Teams or individual players can register for their local tournament. Everyone gets three games (no contact, no slappers, just a rec-level fun time). Players raise money through sponsorships, and the top fund-raisers for each tourney get to take the ice for a special game against a team of pros and celebrities.

And yes, that means that you personally could wind up sharing a rink with Wendel Clark. If that opportunity doesn't get your attention, I'm not sure what you're doing on this site.

How you can help:
  • Visit the Hockey For Heart web site for a schedule of tournaments locations and other details
  • If there's a tournament near you, put a team together
  • If you can't get a full team, sign up to play as an individual (they'll find a team for you)
  • If you know somebody who's playing, sponsor them.
  • And if there's no tournament near you, why not show your support via Rob's player donation page?
I know Leaf fans have heart. Let's take this opportunity to prove it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alexander Ovechkin's other excuses for not lighting up the Maple Leafs

Rare photo of Ovechkin not scoringSaturday night's game didn't quite go they way hockey fans were expecting. With Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps in town to play the last-place Leafs, a blowout seemed inevitable. When it was announced that struggling Vesa Toskala would start for Toronto, even the most die-hard Leaf fans was expecting the Caps to hit double digits.

It didn't happen. Instead, Ovechkin managed a goal but was largely shutdown by the Leafs during an upset 2-1 win for the home side.

Adding to the mystery was Ovechkin's bizarre post-game excuse: that he "couldn't breathe" due to the "atmosphere" inside the ACC. Yes, he really did say that.

Well, it gets even stranger. Because as it turns out, the ACC's suffocating atmosphere was only one of several excuses Ovechkin offered for failing to light up the Leafs as expected. Apparently the local papers didn't print them all due to lack of space, but I've reproduced the full list below.

  • Had specifically requested his special "too hot to handle" sticks for the game; instead, sticks were only slightly above normal temperature.

  • Entire Caps team was thrown off when, despite the tendencies they had noted during hours of film study, Vesa Toskala occasionally moved.

  • Paid too much attention to the fans in the ACCs' lower bowl, leading him to assume the pre-game moment of silence was still going on three hours later.

  • Was initially intimidated upon learning that the Leafs had spent $24M on their defence; had mistakenly assumed it might include some good players.

  • Found it hard to concentrate after suddenly getting that "Ovechkin-Laichs-Semin" joke.

  • Didn't want to single-handedly humiliate Ron Wilson and Brian Burke with completely unstoppable and dominating performance; saving that for Olympics.

  • Would have scored more, but Jonas Gustavsson kept making sprawling glove saves from the bench.

  • Has been scared to score ever since seeing this.

  • During pre-game chat, Jason Blake assured him that first-line wingers could float through games in Toronto with absolutely no consequences.

  • Hasn't quite adjusted to the NHL's brand new "Alexander Ovechkin can't just go around slewfooting everyone" rule.

  • Had heard a rumor that if the game went to a shootout, entire Leafs roster would embarrass themselves with a ridiculously demeaning attempt at rally caps.

  • Um, pretty much the same reason Lebron James doesn't dunk on the wheelchair basketball guys.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The 10 types of Leaf fans (and how to deal with them)

Leafs fan
Blake has how many years left?
If you're a Leaf fan, you're not reading this because it's too hard to make out the words when your eyes are encrusted by day-old tears of blood.

But what if you're not a Leaf fan? Well, two things. First, lucky you. And second, there's a good chance you'll still have to deal with one of us eventually. And that's bad news, because these days Leaf fans are probably the most pathetic and depressing group of people you could imagine.

We know it. And we know that it has to be awkward to run into one of us. After all, what can you say? What could you possibly do to make one of wretched souls feel better about this mess? How can you avoid accidentally saying the wrong thing and winding up with your picture on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper?

It's not easy. But there is a right way and a wrong way to approach a Leafs fan these days. And the crucial first step is to figure out what type of Leaf fan you're dealing with. After all, we're a pretty varied group.

I'm here to help. So I've created this handy guide that separates Leafs nation into ten distinct groups. Use this information to figure out what type of fan you've encountered, and then follow my advice to avoid making a bad situation even worse.

Mr. Mood Swing
Description - This guy's entire mood is based around the most recent Leaf game. Or period. Or shift. When they win, he's convinced everything could still be OK. When they lose, he's despondent. When they lose in overtime, he's not sure how to feel. Thanks, Bettman.
How to recognize him - The wall behind his television has a lot of beer bottle sized holes in it.
What to do if you see one - Assuming the Leafs recently lost (and let's face it, they did), pull the fire alarm and flee the building.

The Self Loather
Description - This guy hates himself, and wants to be miserable. He craves pain, since its icy sting is the only thing that reminds him he's alive. So naturally, he's chosen to become a Leafs fan.
How to recognize him - You'll find him in his natural habitat: writing positive comments on Damien Cox blog posts.
What to do if you see one - This is the only type of Leaf fan that you're allowed to discuss the most recent loss with. Also, make a mental note to buy him Leafs Abomination for Christmas.

"Truculence" Guy
Description - A small but tragic group. Due to an acute exposure level to off-season Brian Burke soundbites, they're no longer able to form a complete sentence without using the word "truculence". (Note: Every single Leaf fan went through this phase in September, but most have pulled out of it.)
How to recognize him - He owns a Colton Orr jersey.
What to do if you see one - Do not, under any circumstances, ask him what the word means. He doesn't know, and you might wind up getting your face Matt Carkner-ized.

"Just One Cup" Guy
Description - This fan has already cut a deal: he wants to see the Leafs win one Stanley Cup before he dies. Just one. This little Faustian bargain gives him a sense of inner peace since he knows he has time, and the laws of probability, working in his favor.
How to recognize him - He says things like "wait 'til next decade".
What to do if you see one - Ask him if he enjoyed Bill Simmons' "Now I Can Die in Peace", which he's guaranteed to have read.

"Just One Cup" Guy Who's Getting Older
Description - A subset of the "Just One Cup" Guy group, this Leaf fan is between the ages of 30 and 42. He's never seen the Leafs win a Cup, but always just assumed that he would some day. But now he's getting older, he's sore in the morning for no reason, and he has hair growing out of his ears. And he's starting to worry.
How to recognize him - Every time the Leafs lose, he does an hour on the treadmill.
What to do if you see one - Tell him you read a fascinating article about cryonic suspension.

The Youngster
Description - This Leaf fan is young. He vaguely remembers the Pat Burns era, has no memory of Harold Ballard, and is still getting used to not having Mats Sundin around.
How to recognize him - He doesn't have that beaten-down Mel Gibson mugshot look in his eyes that every other Leaf fan does.
What to do if you see one - Leave him alone. He'll be miserable like the rest of us in a few years.

The Bandwagon Jumper
Description - This guy is a diehard Leaf fans... as long as they're winning. He loved the Burns era, and was a big fan of Pat Quinn. He has no idea that Kirk Muller ever played for the Leafs, but he owns three Doug Gilmour jerseys. He swears he's a Leaf fan, but admits that he also has a few other favorite teams. He probably cheered for the Senators in 2007.
How to recognize him - Right now? You won't.
What to do if you see one - Stab him. Repeatedly.

The Fixer
Description - This guy wants the Leafs to win, and they would, dammit, if they'd just listen to him. He has the blueprint all laid out. And he wants to tell you all about it. In detail.
How to recognize him - He's probably posting a trade proposal thread at right now.
What to do if you see one - Listen patiently to his explanation of why a Stajan/Blake/White package could probably land Ilya Kovalchuk and a pick, nod pensively, then encourage him to phone a radio call-in show to reach a wider audience.

The Delusional Idiot
Description - This fan sincerely believes that the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup every year. No matter how bad things are, how thin the roster, how glaringly obvious the holes are to anyone who can breathe through their nose -- this guy is utterly convinced that ultimate glory is right around the corner. He thinks that nobody associated with the Leafs can do any wrong, and will never criticize the team. When the team wins two games in a row, this pathetic loser runs around shouting "Plan the parade!"
How to recognize him - You won't. He's a fictional character created by Howard Berger.
What to do if you see one - Tell him to say hi to the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Berger's limo driver.

The Realist
Description - This guy is a true blue fan. But unlike the unfair various stereotypes of the passionate fan, he's still able to view the world objectively. His longterm outlook isn't clouded by short-term emotional swings, but rather by a steeley-eyed realism based on a rational analysis of the Toronto Maple Leafs' current performance and chances for future success.
How to recognize him - He shot himself after the Calgary game.
What to do if you see one - Try to wait until after the holidays before you hit on his girlfriend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maple Leafs 80s night: a sneak peek

OK, hold up one finger for
every winning season.
On Saturday night, the Leafs will host the Calgary Flames. In keeping with the club's new Mandatory Pre-Game Ceremony policy, the game has been designated "80's Night".

Much like the recent Maple Leafs 90s Night, 20 former players will be honored during the pre-game skate. Fans can vote on their favorites from the decade by visiting a page on the Leafs' official web site that is also the #1 result if you run a google search for "unbelievably awesome moustaches".

But it goes without saying that a night this important will include far more than just a few retro jerseys. In fact, the night will feature several nods to the Maple Leafs of the 1980s. Here are just a few:
  • Allan Bester will be honored with a highlight video, drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff, and then immediately take Vesa Toskala's roster spot.

  • One lucky fan will win a 1982 AMC Eagle.

  • Brian Burke will reveal that his entire strategy for making the playoffs this year hinged on recording a 52-point season and finishing one point ahead of the Minnesota North Stars.

  • A special scoreboard video will celebrate the careers of blue chip Leafs defensive prospects like Jim Benning, Gary Nylund and Drake Berehowsky, after which Luke Schenn will proceed to center ice and hang himself.

  • Fans in the upper section will only have to pay $12 to get in. The other $288 will be paid on the way out.

  • In the spirit of every other Leafs/Flames game from the 1980s, fans will be encouraged to boo the hell out of that annoying little bastard Doug Gilmour.

  • For the entire game the ACC will only feature cheesy music from the 1980s, instead of only featuring cheesy music from the 1990s like they normally do.

  • Half-price hot dogs for all fans named "Mirko".

  • A random draw will be held to select one of the organization's talented young forward prospects, who will immediately be traded to the Habs for George Laraque.

  • MLSE president Richard Peddie will give a presentation titled "The Harold Ballard era of incompetent, meddling, morale-destroying ownership: Hey, good thing we don't have to deal with that anymore, am I right?"

  • Any Maple Leaf player wearing a jersey number in the 80s will be excused from all physical play and backchecking duties for the entire game.

  • Floyd Smith will remind everyone that trading your first round pick is probably a bad idea if you plan to finish last overall.

  • Nazem Kadri will appear via satellite to point out that, just like every other player the Leafs will ever draft from now on, he wasn't even alive in the 1980s. There will then be a moment of silence for the rest of us to ponder how old we suddenly feel.

  • The team will promise not to win a Stanley Cup for at least 25 or 30 more years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The NHL's top secret flow chart for handing out suspensions

The NHL's discipline policy has been in the news again lately. We've seen various incidents involving Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Richards, Curtis Glencross, Colton Orr and others, not to mention the OHL's season-long ban to Mike Liambas.

And as always, the NHL's suspension decisions have been criticized. It's the usual refrain: discipline is handed out haphazardly, almost randomly, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of consistency.

Nonsense. The criticism is unfair and unfounded. The NHL has a clear policy when it comes to suspensions, and the policy is followed faithfully. The league just hasn't decided to share it. So I'm doing it for them.

Yes, I have a copy of the NHL's discipline policy. And given recent events, I think it's only fair that hockey fans everywhere get to see it.

So here, straight from the desk of Colin Campbell himself, is the super top secret policy for handing out suspensions:

By the way, it should go without saying that this policy applies only in the regular season. There's a separate policy for the post-season, which can be found here:

There. So much for "random suspensions". Don't you all feel silly now?

Other DGB posts like this one:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leafs vs. Wings - My night at the ACC

Photography is hard.
Saturday night, I was at the ACC to watch the Leafs take on the Red Wings.

This was a big deal. While I did manage to make semi-regular trips to Maple Leaf Gardens, I've been living in Ottawa for the entire ACC era. I got to one game in the early days, but nothing since.

So this game marked only the second time in a decade that I've seen the Leafs play a home game. Unless you count every game they play in Ottawa. Which I do.

An occasion like this deserves a play-by-play. So here's an in-person breakdown of the Leafs first home win of the season.

6:50: We settle into our seats. The fans around me for this evening will include: "Guy who keeps yelling 'MONSTER' after every Gustavsson save"; "Guy who ends every sentence with the word 'yo' "; and "Guy who complains 'he cost us our future' every time any current or former Leaf is shown on the scoreboard"

And finally there's... well, there's really no nice way to say this... there's "nice young female Red Wings fan who doesn't seem to realize she's showing the entire section her butt crack every time she stands up". She's sitting directly in front of me, by the way.

On the bright side, the preceding paragraph was the first one in history to include "Red Wings" and "crack" but not "Bob Probert".

6:55 - True story: my phone refuse to connect to twitter from within the ACC. You win this round, Burkie.

6:58 - The Leafs show a clever pre-game video highlighting the eight-decade rivalry between the Leafs and Wings. It somehow leaves out Mike Foligno and Nikolai Borschevsky, but it does include a shot of Wendel Clark pummelling Probert, so I'll give it a B+.

7:00 - The Hall of Fame ceremony begins, with the introduction of various living Hall of Famers.

9:15: The Hall of Fame ceremony ends.

(I kid, I kid. Great ceremony. We all enjoyed every second of it.)

7:05 - Brian Leetch is introduced to the crowd. "He cost us our future!" protests the guy behind me, in his best Adam Sandler's mother voice. I can see his point. Maxim Kondratiev and Jarkko Immonen turned out to be awesome.

7:07 - The inductees drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. The Leafs are represented by Johnny Mitchell, in what may be the single best argument for maybe picking a real captain once and for all some time soon.

7:10 - The ceremony ends. All the inductees leave the center ice area, except for Brett Hull who circles around waiting for a breakaway pass instead of backchecking.

7:12 - Your referee for tonight's game: Kerry Fraser! I immediately start trying to figure out how many security guards I could fight off. Answer: zero.

7:15 - The game begins. Our seats are in the corner, four rows back of the glass. I'm literally a few feet from the ice, watching everything from the comfort of my seat. I feel like Vesa Toskala.

7:35 - The Leafs get on the board first, as Wayne Primeau beats Chris Osgood cleanly on a two-on-one. I'm not an NHL goaltending coach, but I'm pretty sure "getting beat clean by Wayne Primeau" isn't a good sign for the rest of the night.

7:42 - Gustavsson looks sharp tonight. "MONSTER" guy two rows behind me is already getting hoarse.

7:50 - I get to see Phil Kessel's first goal as a Leaf from about 20 feet away, as he swats home a Jason Blake shot that was going to go in anyways. This leads to an awkward post-goal celebration right in front of us, as Kessel apologizes and Blake pretends he doesn't care, then barely fights off the urge to smash his stick over Kessel's head as soon as his back is turned.

7:52 - Speaking of Jason Blake, is his "Come on Toronto, let's make some noise!" scoreboard appearance available as a standalone DVD? Because I'll buy it. Seriously, MLSE, name your price.

7:58 - The first period ends. Time to go figure out what everyone in the platinum seats is doing during intermission that keeps them from getting to their seats in time for the start of the next period.

8:03 - Fun fact: the restaurant below the platinum section serves a "Platinum Burger" that costs $38. It comes with foie gras torchon, sautéed shallots, and a picture of the starving African child you could have fed for a month with $38.

8:06 - People are walking into the restaurant, sitting down and ordering full course meals. During the first intermission. I'm seriously considering flipping over some tables.

8:11 - On the way back to our seats, we walk by the fabled platinum lounges. These underground bunkers can best be described as standard NHL luxury boxes, but without an actual view of the ice. For many hockey fans, that would be considered a problem. The folks at the ACC don't seem to notice.

8:15 - The teams switch sides for the second period, meaning Jonas Gustavsson will be guarding the net right in front of us. So if you're hoping to read any more close-up descriptions of goals, you're going to need to skip ahead.

8:27 - Jeff Finger scores to put the Leafs ahead 3-0. First Primeau, now Finger? If Rickard Wallin scores tonight, Osgood may hang himself.

8:32 - Every time Kessels on the ice, "He cost us our future" guy is borderline apoplectic. I'm desperately trying to think of a way to get within earshot and casually mention the Owen Nolan trade.

8:35 - Highlight of the period: Gustavsson freezes a shoot-in with his glove. After a delayed whistle, referee Eric Furlatt skates over to have an extended conversation with Gustavsson about delay of game rules. A few seconds into discussion, Gustavsson turns away, rolls his eyes, and pretends to be deeply interested in his water bottle. Furlatt keeps talking to the back of his head, leading to Mike Komisarek eventually coming over and subtley steering him out of the crease. As far as I know, Furlatt is still lecturing Gustavsson from Philadelphia right now.

8:50 - "MONSTER" guy is looking a little flush.

8:55 - Second intermission. Under advice from my doctor, I decide to stay in my seat.

9:17 - The Wings pull to within 3-1 on an early goal by Dan Cleary. I call the ACC game day staff and cancel my "Jonas, will you marry me?" scoreboard message.

9:28 - The Leafs restore the three goal lead when John Mitchell tips in a Phil Kessel shot. Wait, no, that wasn't accurate, let me try again: Phil Kessel's shot happens to hit John Mitchell's stick on the way into the net. Seriously, Mitchell had no idea. He stole that move from me, by the way. Except instead of going into the net, the puck ricochets into the corner. And instead of my stick, it's usually my groin.

9:32 - Gustavsson crosses the 30-save mark. "MONSTER" guy is no longer wearing pants.

9:36 - Despite a lifetime of attending live sporting events, I've never caught a puck or a foul ball. But my luck may be changing. Tonight, I caught Jason Williams' fibula.

9:45 - During the dying moments, Gustavsson skates over the Leafs bench, punches Toskala in the face, and returns to his crease in time to stop a 3-on-0.

9:50 - The final buzzer sounds, and Osgood storms off the ice. Or, more accurately, he storms over to the door leading off the ice -- and then gets rejected by an usher, who refuses to open the door because there's going to be a post-game ceremony and the Red Wings aren't allowed to leave yet. Apparently nobody told them.

So we get to see the entire Wings team forced to line up on the blue line to watch Gustavsson get "player of the game" honors. As Gustavsson awkwardly tries to figure out how to accept a trophy from Johnny Bower, the Wings look at each other with "wait, are we allowed to leave yet?" expressions on their face. High comedy.

10:00 - We file out of the ACC. After an almost ten-year absence, I've witnessed Kessel's first goal, Gustavsson's best game, and the first Leafs home win in seven months.

Is all of that completely, utterly, 100% due to me being there? No, of course not. The real percentage is probably only in the 80-90% range.

But let's not take any chances, ACC -- get those comped season tickets in the mail now. I'll be there for you. I'm all about the team.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Phil Kessel is amazing and that makes me sad

Maybe I'll pass to Blake.
Oh man, I crack myself up.
Phil Kessel made his debut for the Leafs tonight. You may have heard about it, since there were apparently one or two media stories about the whole thing.

The best line of the night came via twitter from @Archimedies, who observed that "Phil Kessel plays like an NHL10 Be A Pro". And he does. Specifically, he plays like me playing Be A Pro. I kept waiting for Kessel to stay on the ice for an entire period, score twice into an empty net and then start a fight with three seconds left to pad his PIM totals.

The Leafs' game plan for Kessel is apparently to play every second shift, generally ignore his linemates, and shoot at every opportunity from every angle.

And here's the thing: I don't think that's a bad plan.

Because even after just a few shifts, it was obvious that Phil Kessel is easily the best player on this team. His game sense is excellent. His release is lightning fast. He has that unteachable ability to drift into exactly the right spot at exactly the right moment.

No, he didn't score tonight. But if he plays like this every night, he'll get his 35 goals easily, and maybe a lot more.

And for those of us still aboard the Leafs bandwagon (or, as it will be known from this point on, the "Kessel Vessel"), that makes tonight a mixed blessing. Because the good news is that Phil Kessel is far better than any other forward the Leafs have to offer.

The bad news is that... well... Phil Kessel is far better than any other forward the Leafs have to offer.

Watching a talent like Kessel go to work, it's hard not to notice the skill gap between him and so-called frontline talent like Mikhail Grabovski or Matt Stajan. The contrast was unmistakable on virtually every shift. It was enough to make me want to take the pen I was using to write "Mrs. Down Goes Gustavsson" in little hearts on my three-ring binder and jam it into my eye.

In short, it's the difference between a true first line talent, and a guy who happens to play on the first line because, well, somebody has to. Kessel is the former. Everyone else on the roster is the latter.

And we knew this already, or course. But we could pretend. Not any more. Not with Kessel buzzing around, reminding us of what a good player actually looks like.

So yes, Phil Kessel seems like the real deal, an elite talent. But he brings the grand total of Leaf forwards in that category to one. And tonight was a reminder that the rest of the bunch aren't even close.

And that's why this team, even with a healthy Phil Kessel, still isn't good enough to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ron Wilson's 15-point plan for fixing the Maple Leafs

Ron Wilson
It could be worse.
[Checks standings.]
Wait, I was wrong.
OK, so maybe October didn't go quite as well as it could have.

But that's fine, because now it's November (when it matters). And while some might point out that the Leafs have already fallen so far behind a playoff pace that the rest of the season if essentially futile, I remain optimistic. Because the Leafs still have Ron Wilson, and Ron Wilson has a plan.

How do I know? Because I've seen it. DGB spies found it in his office in a folder labeled "super top secret" and they were kind enough to send me a copy. And because I know that loyal Leaf fans could use some reassurance that everything is under control, I'm reprinting it here.

Here's Ron Wilson's 15-point plan for getting the Leafs back on track:
  • Have goaltending coaches work extensively with Vesa Toskala on positioning. Specifically, how to position his ass on the end of the bench for the remainder of the season.

  • Reconsider season-long policy of having the team's penalty kill strategy organized by the NHLPA executive committee.

  • Keep reminding Brian Burke that coaching a team full of overmatched losers who suffer crushing defeat in every game they play will actually end up being invaluable experience once the Olympics start.

  • From now on, before every game each member of the starting lineup must eat a hair from Ian White's moustache.

  • Look through pockets of pants we were wearing on July 1, see if we can find the receipt for Mike Komisarek.

  • Get everyone's mind off of current slump by taking entire team to see the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster "2012", which is presumably the true story of the Leafs' next decent draft pick.

  • I don't know, maybe ask Luke Schenn to not suck so much this year?

  • Continue to send guys like Stalberg, Bozak and Tlusty to the minors if they don't perform, sending a clear and unmistakable message that roster spots on this team must be earned (assuming you're a rookie, and not a veteran third-liner, in which case don't worry about it.)

  • Practices will no longer include an intensive drill called "How to take a lazy, momentum-killing holding penalty at the worst possible time".

  • Continue with brilliant scheme of winning one game in October, two in November, four in December and so on. By the time foolish opposition realizes our plan, we'll have clinched a playoff spot thanks to 64-win April.

  • Send Jason Blake home from practice with suggestion that he get some well-deserved rest. Then, when he's napping, quietly move his bed into the 401 collector lane.

  • Have players spend time in soundproof hyperbaric chambers to better prepare them for the atmosphere during home games at the ACC.

  • New practice drill: pointing at Tomas Kaberle and yelling "Everyone be like him!"

  • Make sure Phil Kessel understands that despite mounting pressure due to fan and media expectations, it's actually completely fine if he doesn't score a goal on a particular shift as long as he remembers to come back and score two on the next one.

  • Work on resume.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The definitive guide to the Wendel Clark "All Heart" video

As long time readers know, I believe that the All Heart video is perhaps the ultimate artistic achievement humanity has ever produced. Last year, it made my list of the top Wendel Clark moments of all time. And in that post, I promised that some day I'd do a frame-by-frame breakdown of the entire video. Some day.

Almost a full year later, some day is here.

Thanks to a copy of the original video file, the power of Google, and a tireless work ethic, I've managed to source every clip in the entire video. Oh, I also had a detailed set of production notes from the video's creator. That part helped too.

So grab a cup of coffee or a cold pop and settle in, because we're going to be here a while. Ladies and gentlemen, the definitive guide to the greatest thing on the internet.

The history
Dan Christopher created "All Heart" several years ago. He spent six months of scouring through VHS tapes from ebay and teaching himself video editing software from scratch. Dan wrote a guest post last year where he explained how and why he created the video.

Bottom line: If Dan ever has buy his own beer on game night again, shame on you Leafs Nation.

The music
The soundtrack is supplied by Metallica's "Hero of the Day", from the group's 1996 album "Load". It is generally considered the second greatest heavy metal song of all time, trailing only "everything ever recorded by Guns N' Roses", which was tied for first.

Here's the song's bizarre official video, and here's the band performing a live version with a symphony orchestra. Yes, really.

The clips
By my count, All Heart contains over 60 different clips. And if you'd like to see each and every one of them analyzed at a Zapruder level of detail, you've come to the right blog.

0:00 - The opening shots are views of Wendel's farm in King City, Ont. Harry Neale's comments about the "heavyweight champion from Harvard" losing "a decision to the farmboy from Saskatchewan" is a reference to a 1986 fight between Clark and the Flames' Neil Sheehy, who had been a heavyweight boxing champion in college.

0:12 - Wendel puts on a Leafs jersey for the first time after being chosen #1 overall in the 1985 NHL entry draft. The old guy next to him is Harold Ballard. If you watch closely, you can see Ballard mouth the words "Dear Norris Division, you are going to die."

0:16 - The classic "dressing room shot", taken from the second greatest Wendel compilation of all time: the CBC's "Only the Strong Survive". (Don't miss the classic Demers/Brophy exchange at the end. God I miss John Brophy.)

0:21 - Two shots of Maple Leaf Gardens (a.k.a. "Wendel's House"), followed by the aftermath of an unidentified fight. Note that every Wendel Clark fight ends this way -- with Clark skating slowly off the ice, casually glancing around to see if anyone else wants any more, with a linesman nearby but afraid to touch him, and the Jaws of Life driving by in the background to help his opponent.

0:29 - Normally, the person carrying the puck is on the receiving end of the hit. Not Wendel, as this unfortunate Wings defenceman (Doug Halward?) found out.

0:31 - A happy Harold Ballard high fives a fan. Seconds later, the fan's hand turned into a cluster of vampire bats and flew away.

0:33 - Classic Clark fist-pump. Take note, Jason Blake.

0:34 - Clark hugs Vincent Damphousse.

0:35 - Clark body slams fellow rookie Jim Johnson of the Penguins. Fun fact: This was Clark's first ever regular season NHL fight.

0:37 - Clark vs. Behn Wilson. For those that don't remember him, Wilson was one of the greatest fighters of the 80s, and perhaps of all-time. This was one of the first times Clark took on a certified NHL heavyweight, and the result is an absolute beauty. If you've never seen it before, watch it now. If you have seen it before, watch it again. After this fight, Don Cherry told the world that Wendel was worth "a million bucks".

0:45 - Apparently bored with punching people in the face, Clark decides to turn Brad McCrimmon's kidneys into paste.

0:49 - Clark destroys Dave Barr of the Blues during the 1986 playoffs. Clark had five post-season fights that year.

0:53 - This is a quick shot from the memorable pre-season fight between Clark and Craig MacTavish. After pairing off with Clark, an overmatched MacTavish tried for a takedown only to have Clark roll through and then continue to maul him. The Oilers weren't happy about this one, with Glenn Sather accusing Clark of being "not very smart". Clark is rumored to have replied "Ask me again about which one of us is smart in 20 years when he signs Wade Redden as a free agent."

0:55 - Clark eats the soul of Dave Mackey. I wrote about this one here.

0:56 - Clark TKOs Washington enforcer Alan May in about three seconds. Full fight is here.

0:57 - A classic open ice hit delivered to Dino Ciccarelli.

1:00 - Clark crushes a young Scott Stevens.

1:01 - Clark beats up on one of the best hockey names of all time: Ed Beers.

1:02 - A one-punch KO on the Rangers' Mark Hardy. Full fight (complete with ridiculous Ranger homer commentary) is here.

1:03 - A 1992 scrap between Clark and Chicago's Jocelyn Lemieux. Clark had just returned from an injury and was rusty -- he couldn't get his arm free, allowing Lemieux to land several jabs early on. Then Clark does get his arm free. Then Lemieux's face explodes. The end. Full fight is here.

1:05 - Wearing the "C", Clark hustles across the ice at the Gardens. This clip may in fact be actual speed.

1:09 - Clark was named to the Campbell Conference all-star team as a rookie in 1986. Thanks to injuries he wouldn't play in another all-star game until 1999, giving him the NHL record for longest stretch between all-star appearances. Here's Clark, oddly wearing #15, being introduced during the pre-game ceremony.

1:13 - Wendel heads to the dressing room after a fight, presumably to wait for the homicide investigators.

1:24 - Clark sends Steve Smith through the end glass at the old Chicago Stadium.

1:30 - Clark has stitches. I don't know who gave them to him, but I'm sure the memorial service was lovely.

1:33 - One of my favorite clips in the entire video, as Gord Dineen pretends to want to fight Clark while hiding behind a linesman. That works brilliantly right up until the linesman gets fed up and leaves, at which point Dineen moves to Plan B: backing into the boards and turning his entire body horizontal. Interesting strategy. Full fight is here.

1:46 - Jeff Chycrun figures he can handle Clark since he's a full five inches taller. He would be wrong. It's actually amazing how often Clark's opponents ended up facing the wrong direction during a fight. Full fight is here.

1:50 - Clark's memorable obliteration of Mike Peluso, which I wrote about here.

2:00 - Wendel KO's Dirk Graham (yes, he was originally a North Star). This is quite possibly the greatest moustache-vs-moustache fight of all time.

2:01 - Clark TKO's David Maley (not to be confused with David Mackey).

2:02 - Ho hum, another Wendel TKO. This one is from 1993, and this time the victim is (future Leaf) Kris King. The full fight is here. And now it's time for three of the greatest Wendel moments of all time in rapid-fire.

2:03 - The infamous "waster" on Curtis Joseph. I named this the #12 Wendel Moment of All-Time, and there was nearly universal agreement that it should have been higher.

2:08 - Clark vs. McSorley. Quite possible the greatest fight of all-time. Almost definitely the greatest moment of Wendel Clark's career. Without question the greatest moment of my life (unless my wife is reading this, in which case wedding day, birth of what's-her-name, blah blah blah.)

2:14 - The Bruce Bell hit. Rumor has it that to this day whenever Wendel Clark sneezes, one of Bruce Bell's lungs explodes.

2:17 - Hey look, it's our old friend Gord Dineen from 1:33! Remember how he tried to ninja his way out of their first fight by going horizontal? Maybe he should have stuck with that, because he stays upright here and gets absolutely destroyed. You could always tell when Wendel was really mad at a guy, because he would make sure to hold his corpse upright while he pummelled him.

2:24 - In a great sequence, Clark annihilates Mark Howe and then gets jumped by Rick Tocchet. Hey Rick, you think you can beat Wendel Clark if he doesn't see you coming? Wanna bet? Full fight is here. (And check out Ron Hextall's bizarre stick slamming routine during the fight. When did he become the goalie from Blades of Steel?)

2:36 - Clark takes on the Stars' Mark Tinordi, who I seem to remember him fighting about 300 different times in his career. Clark more than holds his own, even though he practically has to jump to land a punch. Full fight is here.

2:40 - Guitar solo! Apologies in advance for any typos, as I'll be typing the next few lines with my middle and ring fingers folded in.

2:41 - Clark scores an overtime winner on Eddie Belfour, who of course executes the "losing goaltender sprint off the ice" move.

2:48 - Garth Butcher thinks he has Clark lined up during the 1993 playoffs. He's wrong, and no doubt has time to reflect on that fact as he rotates four feet in the air.

2:53 - Another OT winner, this time against Tim Cheveldae of the Wings.

3:00 - Wendel takes out a pair of Rangers on the same shift.

3:05 - Clark drops down to prevent a scoring chance. If any members of the current Leafs team are reading this, this move is called "blocking a shot" and it is in fact a legal hockey play.

3:06 - A patented open ice hit against a miscellaneous Hab. This was from Pat Burns' epic return to Montreal in 1993.

3:07 - Another one-punch TKO, this time on Rudy Poeschek.

3:08 - Note to defencemen: If Wendel Clark wants to go to the net, he's going. Trying to stop him is just going make it worse for everyone involved.

3:10 - Clark kills Bob Brooke, then decides to give him a proper burial beneath the MLG ice. The full fight is here. Fun fact: this fight happened in overtime.

3:15 - Wendel takes on future teammate John Kordic in a classic. This fight featured about 30 punches, including Russ Courtnall's ticket out of Toronto. The full fight is here.

3:19 - Clark takes on Garth Butcher in 1987, the first of two fights they had that night. By the way, Garth Butcher holds the all-time record for largest discrepancy in toughness between first and last name.

3:25 - The Wendel Clark/Kevin Maguire practice fight. I wrote about this one here. Notice how at one point Maguire ends up facing the wrong direction.

3:30 - Clark "fights" Slava Fetisov, in the same way that you might "fight" a mosquito that lands on your arm. I wrote about this one here.

3:43 - Wendel scores another OT winner, this one coming in that crazy comeback win over the Boston Bruins on New Year's eve December 30, 1989. The Leafs had trailed 6-1 but came all the way back, taking a 7-6 decision in overtime in perhaps the greatest Leafs win of the decade.

3:53 - Wendel Clark vs. Bob Probert, chapters I-IV. They had several memorable fights, most of which featured Probert being hit in the head so hard that years later he'd say things like "Yes, I would be interested in doing a figure skating reality show". The best of the series was the third fight, which I wrote about here.

4:08 - Todd Gill hugs Clark, creating a picture whose subtitle is "Two People Who Are Awesome".

4:09 - Somebody holding up a quote from the bible.

4:10 - I'll let Dan describe the final shot: "Clark in his captained, mulletted, post-murder glory." Amen.

And then, much like just about everyone who ever tried to fight Wendel Clark, we fade to black.

(In addition to all the help from Dan, a quick thanks to a pair of great resources:, and