By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, February 11, 2010 - 37 Comments
Can Crosby handle having the hopes of a nation on his shoulders?
He’s still capable of wonder—though wonder itself has been part of the sales package so long it sounds hokey to say. It was there in Sidney Crosby’s voice a couple of weeks ago, after he woke in Vancouver to the sight of crews putting the last touches on the athletes’ village. “Exciting,” “special” and “honour” cropped up in the ration of bromides he served up that morning to the microphones.
And there was a genuine flutter in his references to the athletes’ village, where any Olympic participant will tell you the good times truly roll. It turns out even a $9-million-a-year superstar and self-described “homebody” can get giddy about something like that.
Crosby is that rare athlete whose actual personality is more appealing than he would have you believe. At 22, he is inarguably Canada’s best hockey player, winner of a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, and a world junior championship. The ebullience that might induce has been pressed down beneath a lid of cultivated blandness. But one need only watch the home video footage of him currently airing in Tim Hortons’ commercials to catch a ray of the preteen enthusiasm that came before the script. And any fan who watches Crosby can see the part of him that is spontaneous, real and unabashedly animated by the tribal aspects of the game. He revels in the success of teammates. He takes offence on their behalf.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 5:58 PM - 48 Comments
So Don Cherry likes the idea of changing the name of some of the NHL’s year-end trophies, does he? Breaks my heart to say it, but I guess he is a bad role model after all.
Let’s not get distracted by broad notions of respecting heritage and preserving the old imperial spirit of hockey. Most of these trophies were given to the NHL specifically so that people’s memories would be preserved in perpetuity by means of some small token. The Norris Trophy was donated to the National Hockey League by the children of James Norris. The Art Ross trophy was a gift from Art Ross. The Hart Trophy, or the original one, came from David Hart. Not many people know who James Norris, Art Ross, and David Hart were, but if anyone does, it’s because of the generosity and devotion to hockey of themselves and their families.
It would be morally and spiritually unspeakable for the league to unilaterally annul these pledges and rename these objects, and the arguments given for doing so are asinine. We want to rename the Norris Trophy for Bobby Orr because… everybody already knows who Bobby Orr is? Memorials are meant for the people we all still remember, are they? Then why the heck do we call them that?
The heritage angle is relevant too, but it is only likely to confuse things. When the NHL locked out its players in 2004 and decided not to hold a Stanley Cup tournament, we were all outraged that a long tradition had been broken. But while we were lamenting for history, we weren’t quick enough to remember that the NHL doesn’t have any ethical claim at all to exclusive control of the Cup, and isn’t even its legal owner. That principle has now more or less been established by a court settlement, but in the meantime, the league succeeded in holding the Cup hostage in a labour dispute.
Now it wants to turn its other trophies, whose beauty and antiquity are the envy of all other professional sports, into cheap marketing trinkets. Unless you believe the conveniently anonymous NHL source who says the idea was to make the trophies more “relevant” to the players. If I said something that stupid to a journalist, I would insist on anonymity too. (þ: Staples)
By Andrew Potter - Monday, June 8, 2009 at 12:00 PM - 7 Comments
It’s one of the last symbols of male solidarity
We are now well into the last round of the NHL playoffs, with the Pittsburgh Penguins once again up against the Detroit Red Wings. Sometime this week, the Stanley Cup will be held aloft and carried triumphantly around the rink by an ecstatic group of players who haven’t shaved in months, and who now look like nothing more threatening than refugees from a Sam Roberts concert.
Most fans are familiar with the sporting world’s more amusing superstitious types, like the baseball player Wade Boggs, who famously ate chicken before every game, or the hockey goaltender Patrick Roy, who liked to talk to his goalposts. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby gave hockey purists conniptions after his team beat Carolina for the Prince of Wales trophy to make it into the final round: he picked up the trophy and carried it around last week, when even touching the thing is considered bad luck.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 12:41 AM - 0 Comments
It’s shinier in person.
That might explain why 17,000 Pittsburgh Penguin fans stuck around…
It’s shinier in person.
That might explain why 17,000 Pittsburgh Penguin fans stuck around tonight to clap eyes on the greatest trophy in professional sport—even as they booed the Detroit Red Wings for winning it. But the Stanley Cup got it’s proper reception when Henrik Zetterberg, the Conn Smythe-winning forward, took it out of Daniel Cleary’s hands. You could hear him up in the press box, hollering with joy as he hoisted the 35-pound bad boy over his head.
More than making you forgive the Wings their automatonic play, it was a scene to remind you that the Cup’s effect is universal. Swedes, Finns, Russians, Canadians and Americans alike understand the meaning of winning it.
“It’s just a great feeling I have right now,” beamed Zetterberg after the on-ice celebration, with the Conn Smythe perched beside him. Pittsburgh’s last-gasp effort was close enough to scare him, he acknowledged. But holding on for the 3-2 win was more than enough to make his year. “When I saw the puck behind the [Detroit] net, I looked at the clock and saw zero minutes and zero seconds, I was a pretty happy man.”
A number of things got settled here tonight. The age of wimpy Euro—or the Euro as addendum to a core of Canadian “leaders”—is officially over. To merely credit Nicklas Lidstrom as the first European captain to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug is to criminally understate the man’s impact through every shift of every game in this series. He is, in Pierre McGuire’s tired phrase, a monster in every respect. Zetterberg is dominant at both ends of the rink, never skirting the rough stuff, maintaining breakneck speed even as he’s clipped and smacked and head-hunted. Tonight, he scored one of the stranger Cup-winning goals in history by pulling the puck through his skates as he wheeled through centre, unleashing a shot that caught Pens goaltender Marc-André Fleury off guard; as it dribbled between his pads, Fleury sat back, knocking the thing in with his butt.
Tomas Holmstrom, another Swede, takes more abuse in front of the net than any player since Phil Esposito. Niklas Kronvall is an outright menace in the open-ice hitting department. Datsyuk stands his ground. So do Franzen and Filppula.
So Lidstrom had every right to claim his due when he appeared before the press horde tonight. Being the first Euro to captain a Cup winner is “something I’m very proud of,” he said. “I’ve been over here a long time. I watched Steve Yzerman hoist it up three times in the past, and I’m very proud of being the first European. I’m very proud of being captain of the Red Wings. So much history with the team and great tradition.” How can you argue with that?
Better yet that Lidstrom made one of those class-act gestures that would bring a tear to Don Cherry’s eye, handing it the Cup off first to Dallas Drake, a career plumber who toiled 15 seasons on four teams without winning a title.
Second thing: the Penguins are closer to championship form than their critics thought. Yes, they were at least a couple of good defencemen short of beating a team like Detroit. Yes, GM Ray Shero will have a devil of a time improving the team while staying under the salary cap—especially if he plans to keep Marian Hossa. But the spectacle tonight of the Pens storming back on the Wings for the second game in a row, almost tying it on a Sidney Crosby backhander with centi-seconds left on the clock, is proof enough of what’s going on here. They showed character, as well as youth and talent.
Finally, the “system” is back in hockey. It is hard just now to pinpoint exactly what Detroit’s system is. “Venus fly trap” might fit, given their capacity to lunge from a full-bloom, run-and-gun game to collapsing around their prey back in their own slot. Yet there was Lidstrom himself uttering the dreaded word, crediting coach Mike Babcock with selling his charges on a strategic formula that would limit offensive opportunities. Again and again tonight, Pittsburgh rushes fell apart in the neutral zone under Detroit’s patented high-speed checking. It’s not obstruction, per se. Just very rapid recovery.
That’s the good news: the Red Wings’ template requires very fast forwards, very mobile defence, great stamina throughout the lineup. And they execute it brilliantly. I’m one of those who complains incessantly about their robotic efficiency. But it must be a joy for their partisans to behold.
Almost as great a joy as that shiny old Cup in Henrik Zetterberg’s Midas-like hands. What lucky fans they are.