Category Archives: Wayne Gretzky

Pat’s Time

I worked in Hull, Quebec at the E.B. Eddy paper mill in the mid to late-1970s when Pat Burns was a local cop there.

I never met him. I just thought it was a good opening paragraph.

I’ll bet as a cop, Burns was a beauty. Tough as nails. No nonsense.  We saw how ferocious he was as a coach. Smart-ass punks would have stood no chance.

The ex-cop has now been chosen as part of the 2014 Hall of Fame gang, along with Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, and referee Bill McCreary.

Who knows why Burns wasn’t picked five or ten years ago? Maybe he’d ruffled some feathers before he passed away in 2010 from cancer.

This was a tough hombre who wouldn’t have stood for any guff from legends in their own minds who run various branches of hockey, including members of the HOF selection committee.

The bottom line is, he was a strong and successful coach who deserved to be placed in the Hall. There are plenty in there who are debatable choices, but not Pat Burns.

It was Wayne Gretzky, who owned the Hull Olympiques from 1985 to 1992, who convinced Pat to quit the beat and coach the Quebec Junior team full time. It worked out beautifully.

Of course it did. Because everything Gretzky touched back then seemed to turn to gold.

As a coach, when Pat Burns wasn’t raging, he seemed as likeable as can be in interviews, and by many accounts was popular and personable to everyone he wasn’t collaring or coaching or happened to be near when he was in a foul mood.

He admitted it was tough in Montreal with the pressure from media and fans, he didn’t always handle things in a cool and calm manner, and I’m sure at times, reporters would tread lightly after a tough loss. Would you want a pissed off Pat Burns glaring at you?

He was behind the Habs bench for just four years, his learning years as an NHL coach from 1988 to 1992, and was awarded the Jack Adams Award in 1989 for top coach in the league after taking the boys to the Cup finals before falling to the Terry Crisp-coached Calgary Flames.

(I wrote a letter to my sister in Calgary before that ’89 series had started, giving my prediction along with a little made-up series review which I titled “Pat Burns Terry to a Crisp”)

Next stop was Toronto, where he led the Buds from 1992 to ’96, and where he’d win the Adams in 1993. And from there it was four years with the Bruins (1997 to 2001),  where he’d earn a third Jack Adams Award, this one in 1998.

It sucked to see Pat Burns running the bench in Toronto and Boston. It always sucks to see a beloved Hab in those enemy uniforms.

Following Boston it was the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03 for Burns where he’d win the Stanley Cup, and then one final year after that with the Devils before being diagnosed with colon cancer.

A great career, successful almost everywhere he coached. And on Monday, November 17, 2014, eleven years after his final line change, we’ll see Pat inducted.

Late, but better late than never.

 

Cream Of The Crop

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Howe

Gretzky

The best ever? It’s been written and talked about forever.

I don’t care. I want to talk about it too. It’s cold and I don’t want to go out.

There’s no real definitive answer I think, but it can be broken down in stages.

Howie Morenz in the 20s and 30s. Maurice Richard’s name was added in the 40s. Gordie Howe and the Rocket in the 50s.

It was all Howe in the 1960s, although Bobby Hull’s name was tossed around by some, and Bobby Orr showed up in the latter part of the 1960s and into the 70s.

Then Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky came along and ruled the 80s and 90s.

Gretzky’s name comes up much more than Mario’s, but Mario, before he got sick, would take a back seat to no one and ended with 1723 points in 915 regular season games, including an 85-goal season in ’88-89.

Maybe Mario is underrated when it comes time to talk about the best ever. He was big and smart with hands of gold.

Sidney Crosby is great of course, but he’s not in this stratosphere. Not yet at least. I wonder if some would disagree about that.

Usually, it boils down to three guys when this topic comes up – Howe, Orr, and Gretzky.

My choice is Bobby Orr.

Although I would see Gordie Howe play a number of times over the years on television (once live at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-’60s), he never seemed to completely control the flow of the game the way Orr did, although I know Howe was in a league of his own in almost every department.

Orr’s two years older than me and comes from the same area of Ontario. We were worlds apart as players of course, but at least I can say I  played in many of the same barns as him, maybe against some of the same guys he played against in town like Midland and Huntsville and Gravenhurst. I feel some sort of Central/Northern Ontario connection in a way.

Bobby Orr was a minor league phenom and we were talking about him with envy when we were kids. We knew about him. We heard about his exploits. Parry Sound kids my age came down to Orillia to play and I think our teams played there too. And we watched his brother Ron when his Junior C Parry Sound team played in Orillia.

I saw Orr a few times in Orillia over the years, including a night at the Atherley Arms Hotel when he was at a table with friends and a guy with a few too many drinks in his belly came up to Bobby and was rude and vulgar, which wasn’t cool.

I also by chance walked by him and his wife Peggy in the Orillia park one day and said hi, and they both smiled and said hi back.

I saw him play when he was 16 in an exhibition game in Bracebridge. He was with the Oshawa Generals at the time, but on this night he suited up with the Orillia Terriors senior team against a Muskoka all-star senior team. Orr had the puck all night, and we could see other players – talented, grown men – laughing and shaking their heads at how good this teenager was.

Orr skated like no other defenceman, he had different bursts of speed, he charged the net and racked up points like no other defenceman, and he controlled the play like no other player on the ice. He was also strong and smart, and when it came time to drop the gloves, he could be nasty.

That’s a complete player to me. He did it all and cruelly it didn’t last long because of his bad knees (10 seasons in Boston and a short stint in Chicago). But what a player he was before his knees did him in.

Orr himself says Gordie Howe was the best ever. He played against Howe and watched Gretzky throughout 99’s career. But it’s Howe he chooses, as do many.

Howe wasn’t flashy like the Rocket, Orr and Gretzky, but every pass from him was on the tape, his shot was as hard or harder than any player in the league, he was as good or better a goal scorer as there was, and he was a mean hombre, the toughest player in the league. Punches that crushed noses.

No one dared fight him. He struck fear into the hearts of others, but they respected him. To go into the corners with him was never a good thing. His elbows were legendary.

And of course Wayne Gretzky. You need a fancy calculator and about an hour to tally his records. There’s a legion of players and fans who insist he’s the greatest ever. It’s been said often that in the heat of battle, he thought two or three plays ahead. It was ridiculous how he could rack up the points.

But I go with Bobby Orr. Orr had it figured out ahead of time like Gretzky did. It’s some sort of miraculous instinct. He was a better skater than Gretzky, there’s no comparison in toughness, and he collected reams of points even though he was a defenceman.

He also comes from my neck of the woods and from the same era, which is important to me.

The only Boston Bruin I was ever a fan of.

 

 

’98 Nagano – Canada – U.S.

Canada didn’t do well in Nagano ’98, finishing fourth behind the Czech Republic, Russia, and Finland, while in women’s hockey, the U.S. took gold and Canada silver.

But all I’m doing here is showing Gretzky, Roy, Yzerman and the Team Canada gang in action against the U.S. early on in the tournament, when Canada won 4-1, and which I thought you might enjoy because of seeing these guys again.

Leo The Really Good

The little boy you see in these two videos scoring all these goals is Leo, the son of a co-worker of mine.

Every time I ask how Leo did in any of his games, it’s always that he scored seven or ten etc.

Leo only just recently turned 5, and in the first video, you see him get twelve points in a game, and in the second, he notches his 100th goal of the season. He reached 103 that game.

This kid is going to be the new Gretzky or Lafleur or  Crosby.

Keep the video and check it out again in about fifteen years, when Leo Brodeur is in the NHL

Up For Grabs

The new catalogue is out, and our Winter 2014 auction at Classic Auctions goes online Tuesday, January 27.

Below is a small sampling of the nearly 1400 pieces up for bids, including game-worn jerseys from Butch Bouchard, Bert Olmstead, Henri Richard, Terry Sawchuk, Vladislav Tretiak, the Hanson brothers, and Sidney Crosby.

This is the kind of stuff I handle and write about every day.

Classic 1

Classic 2

classic 3

classic 11

classic 13

Classic 18

classic 4

classic 5

Classic 20

Classic 19

classic 6

classic 8

classic 9

Classic 21

Classic 12

classic 10

Classic 22

Classic 23

classic 14

classic 15

Good Read In The Star

Interesting piece in the Toronto Star that my boss sent me, regarding the costs of playing midget hockey in Toronto, the small percentage of kids who go anywhere, concussions suffered, the effect of global warming on rinks, and a whole whack of stuff.

Here’s the link – Is minor hockey worth it?

And here’s an excerpt:

The annual cost for a (midget) AAA player is between $10,000 and $15,000, not much less than the tuition for the University of Toronto medical school ($19,546).

The parents of Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks star, estimated their investment in his minor-league career, which he spent in the U.S., to be $250,000. Given his current salary of $6.3 million per year, it was a good investment. But the cost is high for all elite minor league players, while the odds of playing four seasons in the NHL are roughly 1 in 6,000.

Here’s another:

It is the lament of one Triple-A coach — the players are all skilled, he says, but they lacked creativity. Unlike Guy Lafleur or Wayne Gretzky, they hadn’t logged thousands of hours playing shinny. Instead they log thousands of hours in minivans; a game can be a three-hour commitment when factoring in commute times and dressing time, but it only yields 10-17 minutes of ice time for the player.

In 1972 we accused the Soviets of being skilled but mechanical. The Canadians, by contrast, had flair, we had heart. Now we are in danger of losing both.

Brandy’s Newest

My friend Brandy Saturley, a world class artist living in Victoria, has sent me her new Gretzky piece, along with info on her upcoming show in Edmonton.

So if you’re in the Edmonton area on Dec. 5th, stop in and see her incredible work. Lots of hockey images. Lots of Canadiana. She’s awesome.

MD3_2352

Invite_iconic

Canuck Days

Desaturated Cherry

Goalie’s Mask: Red, White, and Dryden. This piece is displayed, along side one of Ken Dryden’s masks, in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, with prints available at Goalie’s Mask. Proceeds go to The Hall.

Death of a Rookie (Rise of a Hero)

Saint Kanata

Keep On Dreamin’ In The Free World

Poppies For Louise

Plante Rises

The Number 9ine

The “EH” Team

Canada Is Sweet And Salty

New Canadian Rodeo

When Warhol Came To Canada

Mr. Goalie

He came to Powell River in 1997 when the Allan Cup was on, and I asked him if I could buy him breakfast the next day. He said sure, we did, we talked hockey, and then I gave him a tour of the area in my little Hyundai Excel.

A real nice fellow, this Western Canadian farmer dubbed “Mr. Goalie”. When I asked him who the greatest ever was, he didn’t even have to think about it. Gordie Howe could do everything better than anybody else, he said, including Gretzky, whom he never played against of course, and Bobby Orr.

Glenn Hall, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, was the goalie in nets for the St. Louis Blues when Bobby Orr scored his famous “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner in the spring of 1970.

Glenn Hall

Orr