Category Archives: Mario Lemieux

Good Wood

Ron Green in Orillia sends along an interesting story from TheStar.com – Hockey Is In Tom Scanlan’s Bones  – about a fellow who bought game-used sticks once owned by the 42 players who scored at least 500 goals in the NHL. The sticks were up for auction last June from Classic Auctions in Montreal.

42 is a lot of sticks, especially when you attach the importance of the players who handled them. I have two that belong in this category – Wayne Gretzky and Jean Beliveau. He has 40 more than me, including the Rocket’s, which has me oozing with envy. I’ve always wanted one of Rocket’s sticks.

There’s a few in the 42 I can do without, starting with Mark Recchi, but all in all, it’s a beautiful pile of timber and good for the guy for being the winning bidder.

For the record, here’s the 42 men who’ve scored at least 500 goals, in order of ranking:

Wayne Gretzky - 894
Gordie Howe – 801
Brett Hull – 741
Marcel Dionne – 731
Phil Esposito – 717
Mike Gartner – 708
Mark Messier – 694
Steve Yzerman – 692
Mario Lemieux – 690
Luc Robitaille – 668
Jaromir Jagr – 665
Teemu Selanne – 663
Brendan Shanahan – 656
Dave Andreychuk – 640
Joe Sakic – 625
Bobby Hull – 610
Dino Ciccarelli – 608
Jari Kurri – 601
Mark Recchi – 577
Mike Bossy – 573
Mats Sundin – 564
Mike Modano – 561
Guy Lafleur – 560
Joe Nieuwendyk – 559
Johnny Bucyk – 556
Ron Francis – 549
Michel Goulet – 548
Maurice Richard – 544
Stan Mikita – 541
Keith Tkachuk – 538
Frank Mahovlich – 533
Bryan Trottier – 524
Pat Verbeek – 522
Dale Hawerchuk – 518
Jarome Iginla – 516
Pierre Turgeon – 515
Jeremy Roenick – 513
Gilbert Perreault – 512
Jean Beliveau – 507
Peter Bondra – 503
Joe Mullen – 502
Lanny McDonald – 500

Mario Bar

As a trucker in 1992 or ’93, I was delivering to a grocery distribution centre in Calgary and I noticed a new chocolate candy bar called Mario on the shelves. So I bought a box of 24 for 20 bucks or so, and decided to sit on it forever and see if it became valuable. After several days my ass was getting really sore and the bars were melting.

Today I looked on eBay and saw that single bars are selling for about 3 to 5 bucks, and one person has a box, like the one above, for $197 or best offer.

I also found this official looking announcement elsewhere as I was speeding wildly down the information highway:

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ — National Hockey League superstar Mario Lemieux will have his own candy bar, it was announced today.

The “Mario Bar,” announced at a press conference here today, is the first consumer food product to bear Lemieux’s name and marks the first time a hockey player is to be featured on a nationally and internationally marketed candy bar. Each “Mario Bar” will include a collector’s card with a photograph of and vital statistics on Lemieux. A select number of cards will feature an authentic Mario Lemieux autograph.

Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ center and the most valuable player of the past two Stanley Cup Championship series, has signed a contract with Pittsburgh Food & Beverage, Inc., parent company of D.L. Clark Company and Wayne Candies, Inc. The “Mario Bar,” a specially packaged version of the caramel Bun(R) Bar, is expected to arrive at retail outlets throughout the United States and Canada by early March 1993.

“I’m excited about having my own candy bar. It tastes great, has a connection to the city of Pittsburgh, and shows that major companies are recognizing the sport of hockey,” Lemieux said.

The growing popularity of hockey, with an estimated 45 million fans in the United States and Canada, and Lemieux’s stature as a superstar in the sport made the “Mario Bar” a natural, according to Ty Ballou, vice president of marketing and sales for D.L. Clark Company.

Ballou also noted that a limited-edition run of one million specially packaged Clark(R) Bars, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships, sold out as quickly as it was produced earlier this year. While distribution of that bar was limited primarily to the tri-state area surrounding Pittsburgh, Ballou expects the “Mario Bar” to be even more popular with consumers throughout the United States and Canada.

A sports celebrity tie-in is nothing new for Pittsburgh Food & Beverage, Inc. Its subsidiary Wayne Candies, Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind., marketed a similar, top-selling candy bar known as the “Reggie Bar” to honor Reggie Jackson during the height of his popularity in the 1970s.

Pittsburgh Food & Beverage, Inc., (PF&B) is the privately held parent company of the D.L. Clark Company and Wayne Candies, Inc. PF&B’s product mix includes the Clark(R) Bar, Bun(R) Bar, Black Cow(R) and Slo(R) Poke candies. The Pittsburgh-based food and beverage company also operates the Pittsburgh Brewing Company.

-0- 12/16/92

 

Big Numbers, Huge Numbers

Alex Galchenyuk scored again on Sunday as his Sarnia Sting edged the Oshawa Generals 3-2, this coming a night after his three-goal showing in Peterborough, and so while I should have been working, instead I used the boss’s computer and calculator and came up this: (with the help of Miss Vicki, who seemed to know what she was doing).

Galchenyuk has 20 goals and 49 points in 28 games, which, if Miss Vicki is correct, means that he’s on track for a 48-goal season, 119 points in total. That’s fine work for a guy who only played two games last year because of a knee injury. And who knows, maybe he’s just getting revved up and could finish with much more.

I gotta tell you. Keeping a watch on Galchenyuk is much more fun than my Gomez watch.

And before I continue down the junior path, it seems that ECHL players, which Gomez is one of right now, earn an average of $500 a week. With Gomez, that’s more like it.

A 130-point season for Galchenyuk would be great. I think we’d all be happy with that. But have a gander at these numbers:

Bobby Smith holds the OHL record for 192 points during the 1977-78 season, and Ernie Godden, playing for the Windsor Spitfires in 1980-81, scored a total of 87 goals! Godden would be chosen 55th overall by the Leafs, but only played five games with Toronto and that was it for the NHL. Maybe because he was small at 5’8 and 160 pounds, that his career screeched to a sudden halt.

In the WHL, Ray Ferraro holds the record for goals with 108, while Rob Brown (remember him?) had 212 points during the 86-87 season with the Kamloops Blazers.

And of course I save the best for last.

In 1983-84, Mario Lemieux managed 133 goals and a total of 282 friggin points.

Bonus stats!

In the 1971-71 season, Guy Lafleur scored just three less than Mario’s record, nailing 130 goals while with the Quebec Remparts. And Sidney Crosby’s best year with Rimouski saw him net 66 goals and 102 assists for 168 points.

 

September Was Canada Cup Time

 

It was always around this time, in early September, when those beautiful Canada Cups were held, when the Russians were still the enemy, when Sweden, Finland, and Czechoslovakia offered up National team excellence, and when the United States was becoming, slowly, a team to be reckoned with too.

It was when Alan Eagleson appeared to shine, demanding and getting his way about money, times, the choosing of officials, and maybe even deciding what kind of mustard and relish went on the hot dogs. He pounded desks and swore and bullied his way through five successful ventures, and as rotten a bastard as he was, he got the job done.

Sadly, it was discovered later, with the perseverence and fight of Carl Brewer and his partner Susan Foster, that these tournaments, along with the annual all-star games, were lining Eagleson’s pockets, making him a rich man beyond his wildest dreams. It was money belonging to the players, that should have been deposited into the NHL Players Association pension fund and wasn’t, and Eagleson would later be forced to set up shop in the crowbar hotel for his dastardly deeds. 

There were five Canada Cups, all in September, and each held special magic. These tournaments gave us supreme hockey, brilliant hockey, fast, back and forth, with drama and suspense, great goaltending and memorable goals, and if you were rooting for Canada, you celebrated four of the five times.

Canada won in 1976 thanks to the tournament-winning overtime goal by Darryl Sittler against Czechoslovakia. Myself and other E.B.Eddy workers in Hull, Quebec hid in the mechanic’s room where a television was stored, and we watched the final game with one eye on the TV and the other on the boss’s van that he’d drive around in. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch but we got to see much of it.

Many pick this team as possibly the best ever, and it’s easy to see why. Bobby Orr was the tournament MVP. Denis Potvin said out loud that he was as good or better than Orr in the series, and maybe he was. Larry Robinson, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur and a barrel full of other stars were in the lineup. Future Hall of Famers from top to bottom. We were proud in Canada.

Russia came back with a vengeance in 1981, clobbering Canada 8-1 in the final game, and the KLM (Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov) dazzled and made NHL teams drool at the prospect of getting these guys signed to a contract. That would come later.

Russia also boasted the brilliant Vyacheslav Fetisov and his partner Alexei Kasatonov on the blueline. These two despised each other but played like brothers-in-arms on the ice. And regardless of how powerful this five-man unit was, the Soviets also had an ace up their sleeves – the great Vladislav Tretiak in goal, who once again gave the NHLers fits as he had in the past. Tretiak was named MVP in this 1981 series and all in all, we weren’t so proud this time.

Canada met Sweden in the finals of the 1984 edition of the Canada Cup, and won two games to nil over Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Kent Nilsson and company. Gretzky, Michel Goulet, Paul Coffey, Mike Bossy and the rest of the ususal suspects proved too much for the Swedes, and the Canadians redeemed themselves from the previous 1981 embarrassment.

!987 proved to be maybe the most exciting of all the tournaments, at least in my eyes, and one of the most dramatic and memorable goals ever scored happened in the final game. On September 11th, the Soviet Union beat Canada 6-5 in overtime. Two days later, in Hamilton, Canada returned the favour and beat the Soviets by the same score, 6-5, again in overtime. And in Hamilton two days after that, Wayne Gretzky charged up the ice, passed it back to an open Mario Lemieux, and again, it was a 6-5 game, only the winner came with 1:26 seconds remaining instead of going into overtime.

I was in Leningrad, Russia, (before it was changed back to St. Petersburg) when the 1991 Canada Cup was held, and it’s an odd feeling to be sitting in a Russian home watching this tournament. Out hosts often cheered wildly for Canada, but maybe they were just being nice. But it wasn’t the Russians that Canada faced in the final, it was the U.S., and although the Americans managed to go so deep for the first time, Canada swept them in two games to win it again.

I miss the days of the Canada Cup very much. It was us against them, like it was in 1972, only without the initial shock of finding out that great hockey was being played elsewhere, and it offered the added bonus of the other European powerhouses involved. The Olympics now may present the same countries going head to head, but back then, European players still weren’t household names in North America the way they are now. They were still a curiosity, a mystery, and gawddam we wanted to clobber them.

The Canada Cups were a terrific time for hockey fans around the globe. It’s just too bad Alan Eagleson walked away with most of the money.

Habs Rebound And Sink Sens

The Canadiens win their second in two nights, and look out Toronto Maple Leafs, we’re coming.

Tonight it was the Ottawa Senators, with absolutely no help from Alex Kovalev, who fall to the Habs, and when you look at Montreal’s five games so far, only one was where they didn’t gain any points. So how can I be less than happy? How can I criticize?

I can’t.

I can, however, mention that PK Subban continues to make me nervous with some of his puck handling and ill-advised decisions, but how can I even be negative about this? He’s a rookie, with a only a few games under his belt last season and just five this year.

But CBC’s Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson were right when they pointed out that PK stayed on the ice for almost all of a power play with fresh and experienced defencemen biting at the bit to get out there. This is a big thing the young fellow needs to straighten out. Can’t have dissention within the ranks.

I know as a smallish yet shifty right winger for the Orillia Byers Bulldozers midgets that this can really piss off teammates.

PK is learning and we must be patient. He needs to be brash and colourful and daring, but until he sorts it all out over a period of time, he’s playing havoc with my nervous system.

The game was a see-saw affair, beginning with Brian Gionta looking like a shrunken Mario Lemieux the way he burst down on a clear cut breakaway and deked Sens goaltender Brian Elliot out of his jockstrap.

The Senators then tied it at one and in the second period scored two goals on just two shots that had visions of the old Carey Price dancing in my head. But our boys didn’t collapse. Jeff Halpern closed the gap, and then Andre Kostitsyn, playing the way we’ve begged and pleaded with him to play, scored a great goal late in the second after being set up by Tomas Plekanec. And in the third, Plekanec took the bull by the horns and scored his own beauty after a lovely Kostitsyn rush.

Good stuff. Plekanec and Kostitsyn getting it done.

Random Notes:

Carey Price got his first win at the Bell Centre in a long, long time. So long, in fact, that eight track cassettes were still around and Don Cherry was normal when he won last. Okay, maybe not that long. But it was last February, which is a long time ago.

Shots on goal? An amazing 40 to 19 for the Habs. How often does this happen? 

Next up – not until next Thursday when the New Jersey Devils pay a visit.

Keep it going, you crazy Habs.

Good Thing I’m A Habs Fan

Like Mario Lemieux, who had such a bad back he had to get a trainer to tie his skates.

I had a professional massage today by a massage therapist in daylight hours. (as opposed to a massage by a professional lady of the night.)

I did a huge number on my back and if I had skates, somebody would have to tie them for me. This massage therapist explained to me that when I picked the object up when the damage happened, my pelvis rotated like it should, but then it got stuck and couldn’t rotate back. So he’s putting it back in place over a period of several visits. He also said the damage made one leg an inch shorter than the other, which he fixed.

For others - Leaf fans or Bruins fans and such, this type of massage would hurt like crazy. Pain from the depths of hell. But because I’m a Habs fan? Didn’t hurt one bit.

Halak Now A Blues Brother And Price Becomes The Man

Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues? For a Danish centre named Lars Eller and young Calgary Hitman Ian Schultz?

I need to get my head around this one and it might take some time.

Is it possible that Carey Price will now become the goalie we thought he’d be after this vote of confidence from the Montreal brass? Or have we just become a basement dwellar to end all basement dwellars?

Thank you Jaro for almost single-handedly eliminating the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The team would have been gonzo in a big hurry without you, but you stood on your head as you were peppered and crashed into, and you turned a dismal season for the Montreal Canadiens into a raving success.

And for all that, you’re sent to St. Louis.

What did we get in return? A 21 year old centre named Lars Eller. And who is Lars Eller, you ask? Hey, everybody knows Lars Eller. He’s the guy who played 7 games for the Blues where he notched 2 goals and zero assists. And before that he was in Peoria, and before that he………never mind. It’s not important. It’s not what you’ve done before, it’s what you plan on doing now.

Ian Schultz is the guy who might make a difference. He was a co-captain with the Calgary Hitman so he has the leadership thing going. Of course, Tom Kostopoulos had the leadership thing too and he’s a Carolina Hurricane now.

In Schultz’s last season in Calgary, he racked up 55 points in 70 games which is more than decent. But most importantly, he’s a guy who plays with an edge who happens to have hands to go along with his grit. This is good. One thing the team needs and didn’t have was a real player who was also a real fighter. Georges Laraque didn’t fall into this category. And Travis Moen doesn’t either.

How great would it be to see a young fellow who knows how to score, dropping his gloves and causing havoc with the brutes of other teams. He has a chance to be an extremely important piece of the puzzle. I just hope it doesn’t take a few years before he finds himself.

The bottom line is, the Habs picked up two guys who might help, although Eller hasn’t exactly provided thrills and spills in his hockey career. But now we’re relying on Price in nets and frankly, he hasn’t cut it yet in the show. It makes me nervous. There will be no Jaroslav Halak to make things right again when the world appears to be ending.

I’ve had a quick look at the various forums out there to see what others are thinking, and it seems that many think it’s a good move for the Habs, and at least as many or more think it’s one of the worst deals in the history of deals. But I come back to what I think, and I remember what Halak did in the playoffs, and I remember the nerve wracking nights when Price was between the pipes.

And when the going got tough, it was Halak doing the job while Price cheered him on from the bench.

Maybe Price, now given the number one job, will be lights out every night and we’ll soon forget about Halak and carry on our merry way. The question, the really big question is, what if Price is hot and cold and mediocre and disappointing, on a regular basis? Or sometimes all of the above during the same game. Then we’re screwed. We can have a team of Gretzky, Rocket, Orr, Mario, Sid, and a dozen other beauties, but if the goaltending isn’t up to scratch, all it becomes is a team of stars that doesn’t make the playoffs.

I need to think about this more. I’m not a fence-sitter, but the Canadiens just gave up the goalie we relied on and they handed the keys to the car to the goalie we’ve scratched our heads over.

I’m just going to say, if the Canadiens are through dealing goalies and Price is the number one guy next fall, then I might have to start biting my fingernails again.

Here’s hoping Carey Price has grown up and is ready to be The Guy.

Why I’ve Decided Not To Be GM

There’s a reason why general managers make big bucks and have meetings in nice, warm places with palm trees. Because they have to make massive decisions that could turn out to be either brilliant or extremely lousy.

Montreal will have seven restricted free agents to deal with this summer, which means these players’ contracts are up and other teams can offer them wheelbarrows of money, but the players aren’t going anywhere if Montreal matches or ups the offer. Unlike unrestricted free agents who are simply free to go to anyone who wants them.

The seven restricted free agents Pierre Gauthier must consider are Mathieu Carle, Sergei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, Gregory Stewart, Tom Pyatt, and lo and behold, both goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price.

Forget about the other five; It’s the two goalies that’ll get blogs and radio talk shows and TV panels going long after the matter is settled.

Halak earns $800,000 and Price $850,000, and these salaries are about to double at the very least, very soon. And Halak is just slightly more than a year older than Price, so age isn’t a factor.

What will Gauthier do?

Halak, of course, was the second-coming in the post-season and Carey Price spent most of his time cheering his mate on from the bench.

This is what we know. What we don’t know is - Will Carey Price, at some point reasonably soon, become the all-star goaltender most, until recently, believed he would become? And will Jaroslav Halak continue his great play on a regular basis, proving to everyone that the playoffs weren’t just some kind of miraculous fluke?

No one knows. That’s the problem.

Gauthier has hinted that he may possibly keep both, which seems, when first thought about, the natural way of doing things. After all, imagine dealing Price and he blossoms into the next superstar and enjoys a Hall of Fame career all the while thumbing his nose at his former team, the Canadiens?

This is possible.

But imagine keeping Jaroslav Halak and he free-falls into just an ordinary mortal, and we sit back and wish we had Price.

Or this; Gauthier deals Price for a big, top-six forward who is a key piece of the puzzle and the Habs become much stronger.

Or how about, deal Halak, keep Price, and Price continues to be extremely shaky and Montreal ends up with lousy goaltending and doesn’t go anywhere for the next ten years.

I have my personal thoughts, and I know many out there, when they hear it, will tell me my mother, if she were alive, wears army boots. Or toss several colourful phrases at me, many of which begin with “F”.

Let Price go. I have only tiny faith in him at all at this time. Whenever it was announced he’d play during the year, I was nervous, like many, I’m sure. Rarely was he a rock between the pipes. He seems slow moving from one side to the other. He allows goals that superstar goalies don’t allow. Some nights he looked like he couldn’t make an AHL team, other nights he gave us beautiful hope.

He’s got a good glove hand, can handle the puck with the best of them, he’s big, and he’s young. But he’s had some absolutely horrendous games.

I also think, and I’m not the first to bring this up, that Montreal may have damaged the young guy somewhat. Take a guy off a small BC community, stuff his pockets with money, and tell him to take an apartment in downtown Montreal with the sights, sounds, women, and booze oozing from all corners, and expect him to behave like a mature human being. If the same was done to me, I’d probably be in jail right now, although I might have a bit of a smile on my face.

I know my wife likes him, and probably a million young women, They think he’s cute.

But cute doesn’t stop Mike Richards or Sid or Alex.

The Canadiens shouild have done what Pittsburgh did with Sidney Crosby – have Mario Lemieux and his wife take care of him, or Guy Lafleur, who lived at Jean Beliveau’s place when he first showed up in Montreal.

I’m glad I’m not general manager, and when I own the team, I’ll stick to what I feel I’m best at – stick boy and making sure the players’ wives are comfortable.

Sidney Insists He’s a Big Boy

“I’m not a crybaby and if you say it one more time I’m going to get my daddy or daddy Mario to hit you. I’ve got two daddy’s. Hah. That’s more than you. And they’re strong. So there. And pretty soon, when I’m bigger, I’m going to get my own place and move out of daddy Mario’s place because I’ll be big and I’ll make sandwiches and stay up all night maybe and I can have cookies anytime I want and nobody will make me have a bath if I don’t feel like it. It’s gonna be fun. I think I’ll do it when I’m 30.”

Hoping For A Warm And Fuzzy Habs Dressing Room

Saku Koivu had this to say recently about the difference in closeness between his new team, the Anaheim Ducks, and his old. “It’s more of a tighter feeling than in Montreal.”

And that says a lot. Because if it’s true, that the Canadiens weren’t a close group, then no wonder they lost big and looked dismal while doing it. You can’t win if you’re not a family, even a disfunctional family. The Edmonton Oilers, thanks to the documentary “The Boys on the Bus”, along with testimonials from Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr et al over the years, have described and shown us what a hockey family is. The Habs of the 1950′s were a close group, except for Jacques Plante maybe, but he was a goalie, and goalies can be whatever they want. Ken Dryden told us in “The Game” what a tight group the 1970′s Canadiens were. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the second-most successful franchise of the 1960′s, became a family and banded together because of one common denominator – their distaste of coach and drill sargeant Punch Imlach. Detroit bonded, possibly because of the tragic car accident involving Vlad Konstantinov, and have shown many times to be a close group. Now Pittsburgh, maybe with the help of Mario Lemieux’s mansion/party house, seems the same.

But the Canadiens weren’t?

Were the rumours of a divided dressing room true? Did players go their own way socially, or in small groups only, like we’ve heard? Was there friction in the room, including those who felt Koivu was a taskmaster as captain? Were the Kostitsyn’s moody? Did Kovalev upset players with his inconsistant play and puck-hogging, and what was the true relationship between him and Koivu? Did players roll their eyes when they saw how Georges Laraque was told to go out and stage fights? Did the players drive coach Guy Carbonneau out? Did owner George Gillett stick his nose in places he shouldn’t, and too often? And is the real reason players from other teams have no desire to play for the Habs because attitudes and chemistry are all out of whack?

When Guy Carbonneau was fired, he said that someday the truth would come out. What is the truth? Is it related to a divided room, with some players poisoning the air? And has the team been blown up and rebuilt because of the problems among players that may have been the biggest contibutor to their dismal performance?

We’ll hear soon enough about this group, because no team, probably in any sport, is scrutinized, categorized and analyzed the way the Canadiens are. Bob Gainey knows what harmony in the dressing is. I’m thinking he’s gone out and tried to find it.

Hopefully he has.