This might date myself a tad, but I recall where I was in 1994 on May 24th. I was at home in New Westminster, tightly clenching my hands together in a tightly clenched prayer style shape. What happened to make me do this? The Vancouver Canucks, the local NHL team here was in double overtime against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs in game 5 of a best of 7 series we were leading 3-1. If we scored, we went to the finals for only the 2nd time ever (the first time I too lived thru, but didnt really understand the severity of it at the time since I was of an age still in single digits, we would lose in 4 straight games in the finals that year to the New York Islanders). A B.C. boy by the name of Greg Adams, whom we obtained in a trade with the New Jersey Devils several years prior would score the eventual winner 14 seconds into that 2nd overtime on a backhander that he slipped by future Canuck Felix Potvin. We were headed to the Stanley Cup finals. It was monumental in this cities sports history. We eventually would lose in the finals to the New York Rangers in game 7 by a narrow 3-2 score, but that moment is to many in Vancouver, 1 of the cities biggest in sports history.
So imagine the shock to Canucks fans who have endured that once before, when 17 years later, we found ourselves on May 24th, in a Western Conference finals, with a 3-1 series lead, in double overtime at home...again. by now, every die hard Canucks fan, casual fan, fairweather fan & even some non-fans know how that game ended. It ended with 1 of the zaniest series clinching goals ever, as Kevin Bieksa knucklepucked a shot from the point past an unaware Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks. Of the 18000+ fans in attendace, 2 TV crews & dozen players on the ice, it seemed maybe a 1/2 a dozen people total were aware that after an Alex Edler dump in off the boards that the puck deflected off a stanchion & back out into the middle of the ice. 1 of those rare people, Kevin Bieksa. The Canucks defender moved in towards the puck that gifted itself to him & drove a hard slap shot towards the Sharks net that wobbled & skipped its way past a confused Niemi. Fans were so unaware of what was going on, they only reacted when the likes of Alex Burrows & Henrik Sedin, near the net reacted. Sharks players reacted, but far too late, even Kevins own teammates were not all aware of what was about to happen. Another generation of Canucks fans will remember that moment, regardless how the finals end. Its 1 of those moments that sticks with you. Just like Greg Adams in 1994 on the very same date.
Of course, after the win, while the players partied in the dressing room together, fans did the same, out in public on the streets of downtown Vancouver. Granville street was completely closed off to traffic, as fans poured out to high five other strangers, wave their towels & flags & yell any & all phrases they could think of to express their jubilation. I saw a faux greenman, I saw an even sadder imposter- a blue man, I saw 30+ Stanley Cups of all types roaming the streets, being hoisted high & I also saw 2 creatures (pictured below) that I still dont have an explantion for, dressed in Henrik Sedin jerseys, sporting what I can only describe as some type of weird egg type head gear.
A couple of observations. The crowd seemed quite content & happy. Never saw even 1 angry look from 1 person to another. Im sure there were some mild issues, but they were few & far between...unlike when I was in Edmonton during their Cup run where there was stabbings almost nightly it seemed. There was also sadly for us guys (and girls here wonder why the world over consider girls here "snobby") no Red Mile action like in Calgary during their Cup run. The boobs in this town refuse to come out. To be honest, the overall electricity & excitement of the crowd, while high, was still short of anything I have seen in Edmonton, Calgary or even Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. Will it be different if they win the Cup??? Perhaps. Starting June 1st, the Vancouver Canucks will try to do something they havent done in 39 previous seasons, 23 playoff appearances & 2 Finals appearances. Win the Stanley Cup. The oppnent, yet to be decided. Either the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that crushed the Calgary Flames hopes last time in 2004, or the Boston Bruins, the team that last lost a Championship to 1 of the Western Canadian teams in 1990 to the Edmonton Oilers. One thing is certain, Canucks fans probably are pretty thrilled, it wont be a team from New York.
This week, the class of the 2010 Hockey Hall Of Fame will be announced. On June 22nd, anywhere between 3 and 6 players will feel the thrill of having their names added to the elite list of hockeys best.
For the first time ever, women's players should be included, as the likes of Angela James, Cammi Granato, Cassie Campbell, Manon Rheaume, Dawn Mcguire, Riikka Niemenen, Katie King & France St. Louis might garner some attention. They will compete for 2 spaces alotted to womens players, with the 4 spaces allowed for NHL stars Joe Nieuwendyk, Phil Housley, Adam Oates, Eric Lindros, Pierre Turgeon, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Andy Moog, Doug Gilmour, Pavel Bure, Tom Barrasso & others.
So who will get in?
Who should get in?
Who really doesnt have a lot of hope?
Will get in
In my opinion, theres really 3 pieces to this puzzle that should be a lock. First would be 2 womens players. I dont see just 1 getting in because frankly, it would seem cheesy to only bring 1 in, as well, there is little to split between the two top womens players that are eligible.
American Cammi Granato, the Captain of the 1998 Inagural Olympic gold medal winning squad is first up. This superstar of the womens game will get in.
She is already a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame, The IIHF HOF, the HHOF seems like a reasonable step. If by some injust fluke they only take 1 female this year, she will probably be the one based on being more well known to fans & likely the committee as she still played till only a few years ago, being American, and having an Olympic Gold Medal.
Canadian Angela James, the first major superstar of modern women's hockey is next up. At one time, the highest scoring women's hockey player of all time, James was one of the biggest names in women's hockey thru the late 80s & early 90s. She has 4 World Championships, 12 National Championships, 8 National Championship MVP titles. A member of the IIHF Hall Of Fame with Granato, a member of the Canadian Sports Hall Of Fame & has the unique honour of having the championship trophy of the most notable womens hockey league the CWHL named after her. Before there was Hayley Wickenheiser, there was Angela James.
NHL star Joe Niewuendyk, will more than likely join the HHOF this year. With 3 Stanley Cups on 3 different teams, in 3 different decades. Joe shows that he had endurance & skill. Add in the Calder Trophy for leagues top Rookie that he won, an Olympic Gold medal, 4 NHL all-star appearances & the amazing NHL stats of 563 Goals & 1126 points & its hard to figure any way this Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1999 could be ignored. This top 20 all time career goals scorer is as close to a lock as there is this year for the men.
Should get it??
This is a murkier pond to wade thru. Legitimately, a dozen or so names from the list above belong. But realistically, only at most 3 more names can go in, as there is a cap of 4 male members annually (2 female)
Phil Housley- Although the all time points leader amongst U.S. born defensemen has no major awards or championships, it is hard to imagine the former career top scoring American (still 2nd to Mike Modano) not getting in... Especially when you realize he put these amazing numbers up during his 7 time All-star ladened career as a defenseman mostly. He is already a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame. It would be a sizable surprise if he doesnt add the HHOF to his amazing resume.
Adam Oates- If 16th on the career NHL points list doesnt wow you. How about 4 100 pt seasons, and 6th in career assists? Like Housley, Oates has no major awards or championships. What he ahs though is, consistancy over a 19 year career. With 12 seasons as a point per game or higher player, few have that level of regular production on their resumes. He also had 7 post-seasons where he was a PtPG or more player. In a word, amazing. This former 5 time NHL all-star should get in.
Might get in??
Eric Lindros- Once believed to be the next big thing in hockey, The Big E enjoyed a decent, but not amazing career as some had hoped. Injuries plagued the former Hart Trophy winner. But in the time he did play, he was a force. Going to 7 NHL all-star games, winning an Olympic Gold & Silver medal, as well as a Canada Cup and 2 World Junior Championships, he has lots of championships on his limited resume. Statistically, he doesnt register a lot of awe. Not in the top 100 in career goals or points, its hard to think of him as a dominant player. But he was. His first 9 seasons in the NHL, he registered over a point per game, also doing the feat 3 times in the playoffs. His shortened career may hinder his decision in this years voting. But for the next couple seasons, his name will get consideration almost every time, as the stats he put up whe he was playing...were impressive.
Pavel Bure- It seems silly to assume that a 3 time NHL top goal scorer wouldnt get into the HHOF. Yet, Bure is a bubble name to most. Once the most lethal scorer in the game, Pavel suffered continual injuries like Lindros. Forced to retire after 12 seasons, the last 2 only a combined 51 games, the Russian Rocket was cheated out of the chance to vault himself up into the career stats elites. Even with his shortened career, he still made it to 63rd in career goals. He has a World Championship, a World Junior Championship, 2 Russians Championships, 3 European Championships. A 6 time NHL all-star & the winner of the Calder Trophy, his resume certainly is full of success. Just not longevity.
Doug Gilmour- Just behind Adam Oates on the career points list by 6 pts & 1 spot is the man known as Killer. Gilmour is 55th in career goals, and 17th in career points. The former Stanley Cup winner has an impressive resume to throw into the ring. A Selke trophy for top defensive forward is something you rarely expect to see from one of the top 20 career points leaders, yet he has 1. Once nominated for the Hart Trophy, Gilmour played a tough gritty game that helped him to 9 seasons of a ptPG or higher rate. His playoff career stats are just as amazing. 188 career playoff points, puts him 7th all time. More amazingly, he did it in only 182 games. A career playoff PtPG player, Gilmour tallied 4, 20+ pt playoffs, including a 35 pt campaign in 1993. What might hold him back is his off ice life has been clouded with controversies.
Pierre Turgeon- A 500 goal scorer, and 30th on the all time points list. Turgeon has a decent resume statistically. Unfortunately, he doesnt have major awards or championships to pad the numbers. With 12 season of a ptPG or more, he will be considered. But the lack of major hardware will likely keep him watching the ceremonies at home.
Alex Mogilny- A member of the Triple Gold Club (World Championship, Stanley Cup & Olympic Gold) also has a World Junior Championship to pad the trophy case with. Best known for his 76 goal, 132 pt campaign with Buffalo in 92-93, Mogilny finished 65th in career points, after an injury shortened career. His 473 career goals gets him into 49th on the all time goals list. Much like his former linemate Bure, injuries prevented him from placing higher in the career marks. His trophy case however gives him a lot of consideration & maybe, if the HHOF is looking to add some european flavour, he might get in.
NO HOPE... this year
Dave Andreychuk- 640 career goals, 13th all time. all time leader in PP goals. 28th in career points & has a Stanley Cup. But never really was at the level of "great" for too long. Spent most of his 23 year career as a "very good" player.
Andy Moog- 4 time NHL all-star. With a Jennigs trophy. His 3 Stanley Cups with Edmonton gives him major championships. His 372 career wins puts him 14th all time in that stat, as well as his 68 career playoff wins puts him 10th on the all time list for that. Only thing missing from his resume that may hold him back, is major individual stats. Not in the top 20 in career GAVE, SPCT or SO will hinder his chances.
Tom Barrasso- 2 Stanley Cups, 1 Vezina, 1 Calder, 1 Jennings, 3X All-star, member of U.S. Hockey HOF. 15th career wins. 13th career playoff wins. Not in the top 20 in GAVE, SPCT or SO though.
Geraldine Heaney- The maximum 2 womens player quota is filled. But Heaney can start writing a speech for 2011 most likely. She was elected to the IIHF HOF along with James & Granato & is 1 of only 4 women in the IIHF hall to date.
Riikka Niemenen- Regarded the top felame hockey player not from North America will get some consideration in the near future, but with James & Granato on the list for this year, she will have to wait it out. The only non North American female in the IIHF Hockey Hall Of Fame
Cassie Campbell- the limit of 2 female players is reached with James & Granato. But Campbell will get her day someday...just not this time.
Manon Rheaume- Maybe the most well known female hockey player to NHL fans because of her 1 exhibition appearance, she too will have to wait till Angela James & Cammi Granato have been chosen to see her chance.
Dawn McGuire, Katie King, France St. Louis- they have to hope to get in very soon....before the next batch of names start coming thru like Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara, Karen Bye or Katja Riipi.
When the 2009-10 NHL season started, I can say with fair confidence, 1 of the teams in the finals was NOT on my radar. The Philadelphia Flyers.
While the Chicago Blackhawks were my strongest consideration for my Western Conference finalist, the Flyers to me were nothing more than a playoff spot filler. To me, the East ran thru Washington or Pittsburgh. With outside chances to Buffalo, Montreal and Boston.
That is all you really need to know of the Philadelphia Flyers right there. They have proven a lot of people wrong. Including me... 4 times now this season.
They made the playoffs on the last chance they could this season. They got in with a shootout win to eek into a playoff spot that I boldly told my friends in March there was no way they could win. Down the stretch this team, which seemed destined to a solid top 5 or 6 placing in the conference just weeks earlier, had plummeted & on some days, was out of the playoff race as teams like the New York rangers & Atlanta Thrashers kept poking their head into the final playoff spot momentarily. Yet, in the final week they fought back & dragged themselves to a do or die, winner take all affair with the NY Rangers on the very final day of the season. To the loser, a long frustrating off season of what could have been. To the winners, a date with the Atlantic division champs, New Jersey Devils. Hardly a great reward for such a triumph. The Flyers & Rangers played to a shootout. With Claude Giroux scoring on the 3rd shooter for Philly, it was up to unlikely hero Brian Boucher, an after thought to most analysts this season, and probably even that week, to make 1 more save. With the Rangers picking top end scorer Olli Jokinen, the challenge was going to be big. But Boucher did it & the Flyers would be moving on to the playoffs, proving me wrong once.
Playing against the Devils, after narrowly making it. I was confident the Flyers season would end here. They had to have emptied their gas tanks to get here. But the Flyers found a way to not just get by the Devils, they handled them quickly in 5 games. If anything, it seemed Martin Brodeur, and the Devils forwards were the ones who had run the gas tank to empty in the regular season. For a 2nd time, the Flyers proved me wrong.
In round 2 they got the Boston Bruins, a team I was less sure of, but still liked their chances over the Flyers. Where the Devils seemed to be struggling down the stretch behind the suddenly average goaltending of Martin Brodeur, the Bruins had young stud Tuukka Rask in net & he wasnt faltering. The Bruins rushed out to a 3 games ot 0 lead over the hapless Flyers. This series was over. So much for the cinderella Flyers. Then it happened. Something changed. The Flyers came into game 4 with a "we have nothing to lose" attitude, and guess what?? they didnt lose. With an OT winner from Simon Gagne, the Philadelphia Flyers moved from clinically dead, to on life support. But it was impossible to believe they were going to become the 3rd team in NHL history to return from a 3-0 deficit, right??? Game 5, they won as well, 4-0. In that game, their band aid solution starting goalie Brian Boucher (who took the role as #1 when Ray Emery went down 1/2 way thru the yr with a season ending injury) himself went down with an injury, meaning barely known Michael Leighton was thrust into the spotlight. From there on, it was the Leighton show. He would backstop games 6 &7 wins & the Philadelphia Flyers would make the Eastern Conference finals somehow. Proving me wrong for a 3rd time.
In the Eastern Conference Finals they faced another cinderella team, the Montreal Canadiens. While Michael Leighton was becoming a notable name in Philly, and really in tune hockey experts, the Habs had their own goalie of the moment backstopping them. Slovakian Olympian, Jaroslav Halak. With championship knowledge in his resume (he was on the Hamilton Bulldogs Calder Cup championship team a few yrs ago) & already having carried 1 underdog team to near greatness this year (Slovakia finished 4th at the Olympics, despite being on few if anyones radar going into the tourney, as a medal contender)Although the Flyers came in as the statistical "favorites", most people seemed to give Montreal the edge, myself included. With the exception of the game 3 in the series, the first game in Montreal, the Habs seemed dead in the water. Their gas tanks emptied like the Devils in round 1 & the Bruins in the last 1/2 of their series, and the Flyers just ran them over, finishing the series off in 5 games. Proving me wrong for a 4th time.
So here we find the Philadelphia Flyers, a team who driving down the stretch of the playoffs race lost 9 of 11 games thru March & early April, in the Stanley Cup Finals. More amazing is, with the exception of the 3-0 Bruins series lead, this team has won 12 of 14 games to get to this spot. Now, the Flyers face a team from the West that was expected to possibly be in this position, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Once again, goaltending for the visitor is expected to be strong. The Devils had Brodeur, the Bruins had Rask, the Habs had Halak. All have fallen to this sudden power house team. Will the Haws Antti Niemi falter too?
The Flyers are getting great performances from their top guys. The team is offensively being lead by Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne & Chris Pronger. The guys you expect to lead, are. With the addition of Jeff Carter, this looks more like a cup contending team than the 1 that limped into the post-season without Gagne or Carter. The Flyers have been getting good support offense from defenders Kimmo Timonen & Matt Carle, as well as forwards Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell. Tough as nails checking specialist Ian Laperriere is back in the fold, giving other hard nosed players like Dan Carcillo and Arron Asham some back up on the defensive side of the forward unit.
This team really should be proud of everything they accomplish, wiin or lose. This is a team who realistically wasnt on many experts radar for a Cup berth, and certainly werent expected after losing notable names like Gagne, Carter, Emery & Boucher thru the journey. Yet somehow, they are here. They SHOULD be proud, regardless of the outcome. But you look down that roster, with guys like Pronger, Laperriere, Richards and Carter & you realize that this team is full of guys who wont be happy losing. This team will fight right to the bitter end, even if they are down 10-0 in game 4 of a series they are already down 3 games to 0 in. Winning the Prince of Wales Trophy isnt even a consolation prize to this group. With the higly competitive league the NHL has created, where teams rarely have chances to develop a dynasty, this very well could be the 1 and only shot for many of these guys. They wont want to waste it.
I dont think the Philadelphia Flyers will win. I think Chicago is the better team and they want this just as badly. I am picking Chicago in 6 games. But if the Flyers do win, after all they have done this year in proving me wrong...it shouldnt shock anyone, most of all...me.
Canadagraphs Hockey Blogs
From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.