Monday, August 31, 2009

The NHLPA fires Paul Kelly: The top secret transcript

Paul Kelly NHLPAThe big news in hockey today was the firing of Paul Kelly as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association. The move came in the middle of the night, after a lengthy closed door meeting among the NHLPA's player reps and executives.

TSN's Darren Dreger is getting a lot of credit for his coverage of the meeting via his twitter account. But while Dreger was left reporting from the hallway, DGB spies were actually in the room and have forwarded me this top secret transcript.

(The 30 player reps are seated around a table in a board room. NHLPA General Counsel Ian Penny rises to speak.)

Ian Penny: Hi everyone. As you know, we're here to decide the fate of Paul Kelly. Now this could a long night, so let's dive right into it. The first speaker is NHLPA Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove.

Buzz Hargrove: Hey guys, I won't go into a ton of detail but I think I've been pretty clear with all of you about where I stand. I think you need new leadership, and I strongly encourage you to fire Paul Kelly tonight.

Players (murmurs): Yeah.

Hargrove: And you guys should listen to me, because I've spent a lifetime fighting for guys just like you in the auto unions.

Players (louder): YEAH!

Hargrove: And that industry is doing great right now!

Players: ...

Penny: OK, you know what, let's change the subject. Maybe we should take a break and talk about some of the other items on the agenda. We have a motion from the Montreal Canadiens' player rep that... let's see, I have it written down here... "Be it formally resolved that the Canadiens suck." Wait, is the Montreal player rep here tonight?

Mike Komisarek: Yes, I'm here.

Kelly: I see. Yeah, I don't think we're going to bother voting on that.

Komisarek: Right, no need. Motion carried.

Chris Chelios: As an Executive Board member, I just want to say that I'm really unhappy with the flow of communications these days. Everything is so secretive. It wasn't like this when I broke into the league.

Penny: Absolutely.

Chelios: When I was a rookie, if the union had something to tell you, they'd sit down and write you a nice letter.

Penny: OK, thanks for that Chris.

Chelios: Then they'd tie the letter to a pigeon's leg and send it on its way.

Penny: That's enough, Chris.

Chelios: And three months later, if you hadn't died of Consumption, you'd take it to the village elder and ask him to read it to you.

Everyone: ...

Chelios: I'm old.

Penny: Yes, we got that.

Hargrove: Look guys, I think what Zombie Chelios is trying to say is that you're not happy. You're getting a raw deal here, every single one of you!

Robyn Regehr: Well, except for Horcoff.

Shawn Horcoff: Hey...

Hargrove: Well, yes, obviously except for Horcoff, but he has to play in Edmonton so he doesn't count. But the rest of you should be mad as hell. Let me hear it!

Shane Doan: We need more of a say on league matters!

Hargrove: Yeah!

Eric Staal: And get rid of this stupid escrow!

Hargrove: Yeah!

Chris Phillips: And lower the salary cap!

Hargrove: Wait, what?

Phillips: Sorry. Sometimes, in pressure situations, I forget which side I'm supposed to be on.

Matt Stajan: Hey guys, could I just say something?

Penny: Sure Matt, what's on your mind?

Stajan: Well... it's just that, I can't shake the feeling that we're making a terrible mistake here. The economy is going into the toilet, and here we are getting paid millions of dollars to play a kid's game. We may have some valid concerns, but the fans who pay our salaries aren't going to have any patience for us talking about taking a hard line. I know we're all athletes and by our very nature we're competitive. But these sorts of things shouldn't be about winning or losing. Let's take a step back, try to see the big picture, and work towards forming an honest partnership with the owners. That way... we can all win.

Penny: Wow. That was really moving. Well said, Matt.

Stajan: Gosh, thanks guys.

Penny: Mike, would you give him the special "Most Eloquent Speaker" award that we talked about?

Stajan: Wait, on second thought I...

Komisarek: (Gunshot)

Hargrove (under his breath): Truculence.

Penny: OK, enough beating around the bush. Let's put this thing to a vote.

Players: Yeah!

Penny: All in favor of firing Kelly, taking a hostile approach towards ownership, getting ready for a drawn out CBA battle, losing another season or more, alienating our few remaining fans, bankrupting the league and spending the rest of our lives working at Tim Hortons and wondering what the hell happened... say aye!

Players: AYE!

Penny: All opposed, say nay.

Stajan: (Gurgle.)

Penny: Motion carried! Great work everyone. I'll see you all at next year's annual NHLPA executive director firing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Win a copy of the 2009-10 Maple Leafs Annual

Maple Leafs Annual
To make it fair, Luke Schenn has
agreed not to use a stick this year.
When Alec Brownscombe contacted me this summer to ask if I'd like to contribute to the Maple Leafs Annual magazine, I had only two questions. The first was "Am I going to get Eklund cooties just from talking to you?" And the second was "When do I start?"

For those who missed the initial announcement, the Maple Leafs Annual is preview magazine put together by Alec and the folks at Maple Street Press. And they were kind enough to ask for a little help from their friends.

The result is a magazine that features a murderer's row of Leafs bloggers, the absolute best of the best from the Barilkosphere, including:
In addition, it also features:I received an advanced copy last week and I can tell you that this thing is really good. There's plenty of insight and analysis, the feature articles are excellent, and the whole thing looks sharp. No shoddy newsprint or cheap ads -- just 128 pages of super glossy, full-color, ad-free goodness. Alec and his team deserve a big thumbs up for this one.

The magazine is available now for pre-order. The first shipment going out this week, so get your order in now. It will also be available wherever magazines are sold in Toronto beginning in mid-September.

Win a copy of the Maple Leafs Annual
My contribution to the Annual is a piece on "The Ghosts of Truculence Past", a tribute to some forgotten Leafs from years gone by who would have made Brian Burke proud.

In the article, I make reference to someone I describe as "quite possibly the most truculent Leaf of all-time". But who? I'll send a free copy of the Annual to the first person who can guess correctly in the comments sections. (Those of you who already have an advance copy, no spoilers please.)

And no, it's not Wendel.

Update: We have a winner. Scroll through to comments to find out who.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Behind the scenes at the Team USA Olympic orientation camp

usa olympics hockey campTeam USA kicked off its Olympic orientation camp today in Woodridge, Ill. While the day included a practice that was open to the public, the first event was a private meeting between players and team management.

DGB spies were in attendance, and were able to obtain this top secret transcript of that meeting.

(Coach Ron Wilson blows a whistle and 35 players take a knee at center ice. Team USA General Manager Brian Burke steps forward to address the team.)

Brian Burke: I want to thank everyone for coming to our orientation camp. I'm just going to say a few quick words before I turn you over to Coach Wilson here. I want you all to know that it's an honor to be here today. We spent a lot of time deciding which players to invite, and you're here because we felt you were among the very best players that America has to... um... I'm sorry. What are you doing here?

Jeremy Roenick: Hi guys!

Burke: Jeremy, we've been over this. You're not on the invite list.

Roenick: I just assumed that was an oversight.

Burke: You retired two weeks ago.

Roenick: Sure, but I figured I could still help out. You know, be a mentor to the younger guys, maybe get a little PP duty here and there. Definitely handle the post-game interviews, that kind of thing.

Burke: ...

Roenick: Please help me. If I'm not on TV for three straight days, I get the shakes.

Burke: Jeremy, no offence, but you're part of the old guard. The last thing Team USA needs is some pathetic relic from Nagano clogging up the roster.

Mike Modano: Um...

Burke: I mean sure, if you hadn't retired we'd probably have given you an invite. But that would have just been out of pity. Behind your back, we'd all have been laughing at you.

Modano: Seriously, does he know I can hear him?

Roenick: Please coach, there must be something you can do.

Burke: Sigh... OK, I'm sure we can work something out. Hey Mike, would you please take Jeremy out back and give him that special Team USA welcome we talked about?

Mike Komisarek: Sure thing, boss.

(Komisarek and Roenick skate off the ice together.)

Burke: They'll just be a minute.

(A loud gunshot can be heard in the background.)

Burke (under his breath): Truculence.

Komisarek (returning to the ice): He changed his mind, boss.

Burke: That's a shame. Anyways, here's Coach Wilson to say a few words.

Ron Wilson: Listen up, team. From this point forward, you are part of the ultimate competition in all of hockey. As a team, we need to be focused every single day. So Brian and I have put together an official team banner. Every day when you come to the rink, you'll see it hanging to remind you of what we're playing for.

Entire team: Yeah!

Wilson: One team! One goal! One ultimate prize!

Entire team: YEAH!

Wilson: Brian, unveil the banner!

(Brian Burke unveils a banner with the Olympic rings, the Team USA logo, and the words "GO FOR THE BRONZE")

Entire team: ...

Chris Drury: Um... coach?

Wilson: Yes Chris?

Drury: Shouldn't that say "Go for the gold"?

Wilson: Gold? Are you insane? Have you seen the Canadian and Russian rosters?

Drury: ...

Wilson: Hey Brian, he thinks we can win gold!

Burke: Aw... that is adorable!

Wilson (exaggerated Canadian accent): Oh boy, eh, I hope Roberto Luongo doesn't get lit up by Ryan Callahan and Joe Pavelski!

Burke (exaggerated Russian accent): And surely comrade, our Malkin/Ovechkin/Kovalchuk line will be no match for the shutdown pairing of Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin!

Wilson: HA HA HA!

Burke: HA HA HA!

Entire team: ...

Wilson: Seriously though, you guys are going to get slaughtered.

Burke: Annihilated.

Wilson: I mean, has anyone here ever even heard of Tom Gilbert?

Scott Gomez: Not me.

Brian Rafalski: Me neither.

Tom Gilbert: Me neither.

Wilson: To be honest, we were kind of humoring you with the whole "bronze" thing.

Burke: One final note. As you know, 23 players will make up the final Team USA roster. But if you don't make the team, remember, we still have space for three players on the taxi squad.

Phil Kessel: You mean the three guys that will take part in practice, watch from the pressbox, and be available in case of injury?

Burke: No. I mean the three guys who will be responsible for making sure Patrick Kane doesn't suckerpunch any more senior citizens.

Patrick Kane: That took a lot longer than I thought.

Entire team: (Nodding.)

(Burke sees somebody skating over to the group out of the corner of his eye.)

Burke: Oh lord... What are you doing here?

Dany Heatley: Hi guys!

Burke: Dany, I already talked to your agents about this. You don't play for Team USA.

Heatley: But I want to.

Burke: But you can't.

Heatley: But I want to.

Komisarek: Just say the word, boss.

Burke: Not yet. Look, Dany, what's the problem here? Why don't you want to play for Team Canada?

Heatley: I have my reasons. And to be honest, I don't think I have any obligation to share them. I understand the curiosity, but just like my situation with the Senators, there has to be a certain right to privacy. As a seven-year veteran I think I've earned at least that much. And any sort of unfounded speculation and gossip about my situation is wrong and, frankly, irresponsible.

Burke: You make a fair point.

Heatley: By the way, did any of you guys bring your fiances on the trip?

Entire team: NO!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The NHL's secret plan to regain its popularity

Gary Bettman predicts the Phoenix
Coyotes' 2009-10 season ticket sales.
The NHL received some harsh news last week, with the release of a study that declared that interest in the NHL is dropping in Canada. Combined with the well-documented struggles of many American teams and a worsening economy, it would appear that the league is facing a potential crisis.

Luckily, NHL leadership is aware of the problem and has enacted several initiatives to face the issue. I've obtained a top secret NHL memo which outlines 15 strategies the league will be implementing to regain its popularity.
  • Kill off formerly popular "wacky neighbor" character played by Jeremy Roenick.

  • Reconsider plan to have entire 2009-10 marketing campaign managed by Dany Heatley's agents.

  • Effective immediately, Alexander Ovechkin plays for all 30 teams.

  • Make sure any league decision is in the best interest of the fans by constantly asking "What would the Toronto Blue Jays do in this situation?", then doing the exact opposite.

  • The next time NBC executives ask the league to play a crucial playoff game outside of prime time, Gary Bettman will look them straight in the eye and say "no" before immediately assuring them he was kidding, refilling their coffee cup, and scheduling the game for 3:00 a.m.

  • Encourage financial responsibility among star players by reminding them to insist on receiving their full change after cab rides.

  • Offer a boost to struggling franchises in Tampa Bay and Florida by having them play each other in this year's Winter Classic in Miami.

  • Encourage US fans to attend regular season games in person instead of watching them for free on TV by making sure the games are broadcast on a third-rate network nobody has ever heard of.

  • In the Western Conference, I don't know, maybe try letting somebody other than the Red Wings be good every now and then?

  • To better attract southern US fans, zambonis will now travel 190 mph, only turn left, and occasionally crash into the end boards and explode.

  • Have Gary Bettman give one of his "everything is going great" press conferences. Those always work.

  • Continue taking the advice of marketing consultants by changing uniform designs, swapping home/away colors, and encouraging teams to come up with new third jerseys every year. Because nothing builds fan loyalty like a fun game of "wait, which one of these teams am I supposed to be cheering for?"

  • Goaltenders must now twitter during shootout attempts.

  • In order to encourage success in the crucial New York market, pass a new rule forcing less-important teams to take on the Rangers' bad contracts via horrible trades (rule already enacted).

  • At all costs, avoid moving any teams into Canada's declining market, and instead keep them in places like Phoenix where hockey's popularity hasn't changed in 100 years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

After 16 years, a new wrinkle on Kerry Fraser's missed call

Kerry Fraser has just wrapped up his hour-long appearance on Leafs Lunch. And while his explanation of his infamous missed call on Wayne Gretzky hasn't changed, he did introduce a new wrinkle involving Doug Gilmour.

The interview, which was heavily hyped as some sort of epic confrontation between Fraser and Leaf fans, was an enormous dud. While 640 did get in a few shoutouts to PPP (and borrowed heavily from my Youtube clips of Brian Lewis and Don Cherry's reactions), host Brian Duff was more interested in giggling along with Fraser at cutting edge hair jokes.

But we did get at least one new tidbit when, for the first time that I'm aware of, Fraser told us what Doug Gilmour said to him immediately after the high-stick. According to Fraser, Gilmour told him that he was hit on Gretzky's follow through (which wouldn't be a penalty).

Duff immediately hammered Fraser with a devastating follow up: "Why would it matter what a player told you? Isn't it your job to see the play and call it correctly?"

No, just kidding. Duff accepted the explanation without question and moved on to the next call from a Habs fan.

Beyond that, Fraser is sticking to his claim that he didn't see the play. He repeatedly mentioned that the game looks different on the ice than it does from "up above", in an apparent attempt to explain how his version is contradicted by multiple replays.

At one point, he even told Duff that "you'll see that there was an obstructed view off the faceoff, and two big players were in my line of sight" -- a bizarre claim, considering the play didn't happen off of a faceoff. Apparently, being "on the ice" also warps space-time.

As a reminder, here's Fraser's "obstructed view" with "two big players in (his) line of sight":

"I'm honest," Fraser said. "I tell the truth." You be the judge.

You'll be able to find a podcast of the interview later today on the 640 web site.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - The final seconds of game seven against the Sharks

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

By the time the second round of the 1994 playoffs rolled around, the Leafs had seen their last four playoff series end in the following ways:

That all happened in just 13 months. When it came to ways to end a playoff series, Leaf fans had run the gamut. There was absolutely nothing that could happen that they hadn't seen before.

What's that, Sylvain Lefebvre? You say you have an idea?

Hm, OK. Yes, that's a new one.

If you missed it, that's Leafs defenceman Lefebvre deciding, for some reason, to fire off a 200-foot wrist shot as time expires. But instead of floating down the ice, his shot drills innocent bystander Peter Zezel point blank in the chest. The puck bounces past a confused Felix Potvin and into the Leafs' net.

The goal was ultimately meaningless, since the Leafs had a 4-1 lead at the time. But it still results in the most muted game seven victory celebration in the history of sport, with all six Leafs on the ice standing around and staring at each in confusion. (Years later, Paul Maurice would install this as the team's official defensive system.)

Here are a half dozen things I love about this play.

Felix Potvin's reaction
Watch as Potvin turns around to stare at Lefebvre, then goes into his post-game crossbar tapping routine, then stops and turns to Lefebvre again.

I would love to know what was said here. I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "qu'est que c'est the hell was that, tabernac?" I think Potvin briefly considered going Hextall on him.

The Sharks' celebration
Nice work by the one Shark in the middle of the screen (who may or may not be Jeff Norton) who does the exaggerated stick-in-the-air celebration. Even though his season is officially over, he's going to passive-aggressively milk this late goal for all it's worth. Life is all about savoring the small victories.

In hindsight, of course, he was right. This goal is the best thing that's ever happened to the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs.

The fallout
There wasn't any. Nobody even remembers that this play happened.

But while we're on the topic, here's a question: when you think of a recent example of a defenceman scoring into his own net, who do you think of?

It's Bryan McCabe, isn't it?

Why? How did this become the gold standard for NHL own goals? I know McCabe was a whiny stiff by the end of his time in Toronto, but he scored his goal during a mad goalmouth scramble at the end of a meaningless regular season game that the Leafs were going to lose in a shootout anyways.

Meanwhile, Chris Phillips scored the Stanley Cup winning goal into his own net while the other team was changing lines, and nobody ever mentions it. Doesn't that belong up there with Bill Buckner and Scott Norwood?

And yet McCabe's play follows him for life, and Phillips never hears another word of it. Is it because McCabe once had a funny haircut? We're all OK with this? I mean, just let me know and I'll play along...

The gambling implications
I don't know what the spread or over-under on the game was. But you know that somebody, somewhere, lost a lot of money on this play. I'm sure they laugh about it now, though. They'd probably give this whole post a big thumbs up. You know, if they had any thumbs left.

Kevin Collins
The highlight of the video is the frenzied reaction of linesman Kevin Collins, who storms onto the scene, waving his arms and demanding that everyone pay attention to him.

Veteran ref Terry Gregson seems ready to let the whole thing go, but not Collins. He's going to make sure the goal counts, dammit. Watch his reaction at 0:25 when the horn blows, and he starts shrieking "NO!" like the hero in an 80's action movie who just saw his child gunned down.

Now it would be easy to make fun of Collins here, since he's acting like the smarmy grade school kid who reminds the teacher that they forgot to assign any homework. But he's right. A goal is a goal, and this one needs to count.

After all, you can't ignore the rules just because you're in the late stages of a crucial playoff game, right Kevin? You have to be able to make the tough call against the home team. The rules are the rules, and you can't just take the easy way out and pretend you didn't see what was right in front of you.

Right Kevin?

(Breathes deeply into a paper bag.)

Now I'm angry. I need to see something completely ridiculous to make me feel better about my life.

Damian Rhodes' hair
Yep, that'll do it.

Hey, looks like somebody's been using his Head and Shoulders!