Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mailbag: If each team was a WWE wrestler and other important topics

It’s been four weeks since our last dip into the mailbag. In that time, Alex Pietrangelo became a Golden Knight, Taylor Hall became a Sabre, Joe Thornton became a Maple Leaf, Mike Hoffman tried to shake the weird feeling that there was something he was supposed to be doing, and literally every team in the entire league got a new goalie. We had a draft, the second day of which is still going on, and started to get just a little bit of clarity over when (or if) next season will start.

It’s been a busy month. Let’s see what weird stuff you folks managed to come up.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

Hockey players have notoriously boring, head-down, pucks-in-deep personalities. In the interest of finding the good and praising it, what is your all-time All-Personality team? Fun, funny, crazy, self-absorbed, and zany players qualify. Not necessarily the people you’d want to grab a beer with but the ones that might spice up a press conference or make a splash in the Twittersphere.

Let’s say this all-star team is a starting six (so you’ll have to find five skaters and can only pick one wacky goalie). Also, we are only counting what players did during their careers, so people like Don Cherry probably won’t make the cut. – Josh B.

You did say it’s an all-star team, so I’m going to try to find guys who were legitimate stars at some point. That rules out some true characters, like Eddie Shack, Gilles Gratton, Tiger Williams and Ron Duguay. Here’s my starting six:

Goalie: I mean, just about every goaltender is deeply weird, and it’s really just a question of how much of that they let out. Ron Hextall, Billy Smith and Patrick Roy all check the ‘crazy’ box you were looking for, and we could make a case for Dominik Hasek or Ilya Bryzgalov, not to mention the dozen guys who played the position before going on to successful broadcasting careers. But at the risk of being too predictable, I think we have to go with the obvious choice here and pencil in Roberto Louongo as our starter.

Defense: I’ll start with another obvious pick in P.K. Subban. He’s dialed the personality down a bit in the last year or two, partly because he took so much crap for it and partly because he hasn’t been as good on the ice, but he’s still an easy call here. The other spot should probably go to Brent Burns, and I could make a case for Chris Chelios, Rod Langway or even Chris Pronger. But instead, I’m going to sneak in a homer pick here and go with Al Iafrate, a four-time all-star who was also one of the craziest personalities ever. Fire up a dart, grab a leather jacket, hook up a mullet/bald spot combo, trim those sweet jean shorts, and give me a guy who was somehow the fastest skater and the hardest shot in the league at the same time while also being interesting.

Forwards: I’ll take Phil Esposito as my center. I can’t pass up a legendary player who was making terrible novelty pop albums in his spare time. I want Jaromir Jagr too; when you think of his personality, people remember him being the self-aware veteran in his later years, and that was great, but don’t sleep on his younger days when he was rubbing peanut butter on his groin and redefining the concept of hockey hair.

The last spot is tough. I’d love to find room for Alexander Ovechkin, and might have to if we do this again in a few years. Brendan Shanahan was occasionally hilarious, in addition to being a secret super-villain. Wayne Gretzky at least tried every now and then, even though he seemed to hate every second of it. Jeremy Roenick has a case, and you did say it’s playing career only so we’d ignore his recent transformation into a certified idiot. But I’ll go with a Team USA alumni in Brett Hull, a better player who never seemed to take himself or the league too seriously, whether that was cracking a joke or feuding with a coach. Even his son is funny.

If you could retroactively apply an NHL rule change to any other era in the game, what would you go with? (e.g. putting in the trapezoid in the 1980s, goalie pad sizes in the 70s, etc.) I feel like an easy one would be implementing Rule 48 several decades ago, but if you’ve got any else that stand out, I’d definitely be curious to see. – Rob R.

I think we have to exclude any safety-based rules here, otherwise we look like monsters. Obviously we’d want to go back and make helmets mandatory for the Bill Masterton game, or put in the breakaway goal pots for Mark Howe. Stuff like that and Rule 48 are the right answers, but they’re too easy.

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