Reasons Why the Team Didn’t Win Last Night

It almost makes me sick when I think about this.

The overall scenario is this. The Habs had been in a deep funk for a month, couldn’t win at home, and the guys who are expected to be in the forefront were instead sucking exhaust. Guys like Saku Koivu, who had fallen off the star cliff and had held on to his respect soley by his great leadership and personal good deeds around the city. I mean, everyone everywhere loves Saku Koivu. I do too, although not as much as my wife and Sophia Loren. Anyway, it’s great that everyone loves Saku, but the problem is, he’s forgotten how to score goals. But three games ago, the team played great and won in Philadelphia. Then on Saturday night, the team won again, and sacre bleu! (I don’t know the Finnish equivalent), Saku got two big goals.

Now the team is flying, but before you can sing that incessant Bell Centre sorry excuse for a song, this no name bunch of scalliwags, the Florida Panthers, come in to Montreal, and wouldn’t you know it,  scurry out of town with a 3-2 win. In the process, Montreal played with no enthusiasm, were booed throughout the night, and now they’re back to square one. (can’t win at home, back in a slump, Koivu not producing, etc. etc.)

So there has to be a reason. And this is it.

The Christmas party. During the big snowstorm a few days back, the team was lucky enough to be in Montreal with several days off before they played Florida. And they had a Christmas party.

And down the drain went the focus. Maybe a few wives don’t like each other and this caused complications. Maybe some players had too much to drink. Maybe cliques raised their ugly heads. Maybe getting more tail than usual back at the ranch wore them out. Maybe someone said something to the boss (Carbonneau). Who knows? Overall, they probably weren’t thinking as much as they should about the upcoming game.

Last but not least – the turkey at the Christmas party. Too much turkey causes listlessness, cramps, and an overwhelming desire to nap.

I say cancel Christmas parties for the team and reschedule them in July.

My Friend, Gary Lupul

Several Months ago, my friend Gary Lupul passed away. He was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, and a guy I was close to. The following is my column about Gary published in the Powell River Peak, July 26, 2007.

The last time I saw Gary was about a month ago, and he promised to come over to my house for a barbeque after he got back from seeing his daughter in Vancouver.

Now he won’t be coming. He’s gone, and there’ll be no more stories, no more happy visits, no more of a lot of things from this fantastic, down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky guy. A big hole has entered my life and it’s not going to go away.

Some athletes carry a distant persona long after they’ve retired from the spotlight. Some are almost unapproachable. Many have large egos, stroked from their years in front of cameras. But not Gary. This ex-Canuck connected with everyone, from every walk of life. He’d had his own hard knocks, and you could see in his eyes and voice that he had special feelings, a sort of kinship, for those who’d been through tough times. You could also see he was equally at home at the other end of the spectrum, and so he was everyman.

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When you were with Gary, you saw what his larger-than-life character could do. People couldn’t help but smile when he was around. They laughed because he was a really funny guy. He wanted to know how everyone was doing, from the kids to the job, to all of the family. He was interested in everyone, and it was genuine because he had such a huge heart. He was a hard one to go to a hockey game with because he couldn’t sit still. He was always up and about, saying hello to people, mixing with the crowd, and being his friendly self. I used to just give up wondering where he’d gone and watch the game, knowing he’d come back to his seat eventually.

When Gary was scouting in Ontario, he’d phone me from his car from time to time, telling me where he was, filling me in on some of the young guns he’d seen play, or that he was just passing through my hometown, Orillia, and how nice it was. And he always asked about my health and my life, because he cared and I truly felt this.

I watched him weave his magic around children. I saw all the time how much he loved Powell River. And he was puzzled that my team was the Habs and not the Canucks, who he never stopped loving and who were certainly part of his heart and soul.

Years ago, when I was having my own problems, before I remarried and got things back on track, and Gary had yet to get his scouting job with the Canucks, we would spend nights until dawn sharing our thoughts. They were marathon chats, just letting things out, and it was at these times when we really bonded. It wasn’t long ago, on one of those times when he phoned from Ontario, that we talked about how important those all-night talks were, and how grateful we both were for them.

Gary loved people so much, and he worried that because his personal troubles had cut his career short, he hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations. But in my eyes, and in all his friends’ eyes, he met every expectation. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. I’m really going to miss him.

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Peeing on Politicians (and the rest of those monied monkeys) )

Caring what happens to Brian Mulroney is not a priority of mine. For that matter, caring what any politician or self-perceived big shot does in the way of greasy behind-closed-doors shenanigans isn’t a priority either. However, watching any of them take a fall is great, unadulterated sheer blissful fun. Martha Stewart, Conrad Black, Richard Nixon,  Paris Hilton – it’s all side-splitting hilarity. I wish there were more of them. I need  good uplifting moments from time to time. They say that people take delight out of seeing the rich and famous take a fall. There’s something wrong with that? THEY DESERVE IT. Most of these people have nothing in common with the rest of us. They’re arrogant, self-centred, spoiled, greedy, and in the case of Paris Hilton, shallow and dumb. They feel they’re above the law, better than you and me, blah, blah, blah. Conrad Black inherited 8 million bucks from his father. He’s not better or smarter than us. He just picked a rich dad. Richard Nixon? His famous line, “I am not a crook” was the biggest piece of bullshit ever spouted by a President. And Martha Stewart thinks you and I should clean her toilet.

If the team wins tomorrow night against Florida, this will provide me with another good uplifting moment. If Michael Ryder popped two or three goals, ditto for another uplifter.

I’ve got the best neighbours in the history of neighbours. Rob and Patti Helm continue to help in many varied ways,  and add precious little moments to Luciena’s and my sometimes downlifting lives. Help with the roof, lending tools, offering advice, taping music, lending movies, and the list goes on and on. So I’m going to stick my tongue out, flap my fingers from my ears,  and say to the rest of you, “My neighbours are better than your neighbours, nah, na, nah, na, nah, na!

Fair warning to everyone. The indescribable and continuing “Fascinating Facts” is coming soon. It’s just my way of giving back to society.

I miss the old days of hockey. If there are 600 or so players in the NHL right now, 550 at least could come to my door and I wouldn’t have a clue who they were. But if the Rocket, Eddie Shack, Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, Yvon Counoyer, Dave Keon, Tim Horton, Gump Worsley, etc. came to my door, I’d know instantly who they were, invite them in for beer and they’d be treated like long lost friends. As long as they didn’t bring Conrad Black, Martha Stewart, and the rest of those sleazy and sad excuses for human beings.            

The Boys Win Big On Hockey Night In Canada

Sometimes the blog has to be serious, like now, because the team, led by Saku Koivu, pummelled the Leafs on a classic Saturday night tilt, and this win was big, really big, in so many ways. Koivu has been a target of trade rumours lately because of mediocre play, and he scored the first two goals. The team’s been in a horrific slump. Carey Price almost had his first NHL shutout except for a weak goal scored with four minutes left. (Of course, Toronto scored only because those singing fools at the Bell Centre decided to sing that ridiculous song with ten minutes left.) And the Russian brothers, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn played with great energy, racked up three points, and were a force to be reckoned with. This game made me very proud.

Speaking of the Kostitsyn brothers, some very creative guy wrote this on the official Habs forum, which I wish I would’ve thought of. “If the Kostitsyn brothers were put on a line with Mathieu Dandenault, they could call the line “a Dandy pair of Tits!”

One last thing before I eat some spaghetti and get ready to work a graveyard. My father, who has lived just north of Toronto for 87 years, phoned before the game and said he hoped Montreal would clobber the Leafs. The other day, my friend Mike, in Toronto, said “&$@% the Leafs,” and during tonight’s game, Tony B. in Powell River phoned and said what a great game and if the Habs blew it, he’d stop watching hockey. So my point is this: Just because you live near an NHL team, like my dad north of Toronto, and Mike in Toronto, and Tony near Vancouver, doesn’t mean you gotta cheer for the Leafs or the Canucks. How many times do I have repeat this, CANUCKS FANS?

What, They Won? Get outta Here!

The team won last night! Weird. Yep, they beat Philadelphia 4-1, and they beat them good, real good. Michael Ryder was a healthy scratch, and deservingly so because unless he’s shows me otherwise, he’s a bum who probably thinks he’s a star and has gotten lazy, thinking his really good wrist shot is gonna get him by without having to do anything else. It’s too bad because he’s a good Canadian newfie but he needs to be traded. And if he continues this shitty play for another couple of years, even with another team, he’ll be out of the league for good. Geez I should be helping Bob Gainey make the decisions. I also should be replacing Red Fisher as resident team writer. I also should have an apartment at the Bell Centre like Conn Smythe had at Maple Leaf Gardens. Why am I being punished like this?

The team plays Toronto on Saturday night. Will they win? Will Michael Ryder play? Will Marie Osmond faint? Stay tuned. This is big stuff.

Sandy The Vancouver Canucks Girlie Who Never Agreed That Todd Bertuzzi Looked Like Frankenstein

Every year Sandy and I have a bet on who will finish the season with the most points, Vancouver or Montreal. I won two years ago, and she squeaked in last year. I gave her a nice homemade trophy which didn’t bother me because I’m mature. So I have just one thing to say to you, Sandy. As soon as the Forum gods wake up, and as soon as the trade is made for Vincent Lacavalier, and as soon as Guy Carbooneau gets fired, and as soon as Michael Ryder, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and four or five others get traded, and as soon as the Habs hire me as their hockey writer, and as soon as I win the lottery, and as soon as Pamela Anderson comes to my door to borrow a cup of sugar, then you’ll be begging for tips on becoming a good, solid Montreal Canadiens fan.

But until then, I’m worried.

Conn Smythe Was Only Sort-Of-A-Nice-Man

Conn Smythe, after building Maple Leaf Gardens and a successful franchise, the Leafs, was offered the presidency of the entire league so the other owners would finally have him out of the way. But Smythe said no way was he becoming a yes-man to the owners. So they hired Clarence Campbell, a name you know, who was the definitive yes-man and a guy the owners, especially Smythe, could manipulate like a puppet. Years later, someone asked Stafford Smythe, Conn’s son who succeeded dad as Maple Leaf president, why they didn’t get rid of Campbell who would, from time to time, piss owners off. Stafford replied, “Where would we find another Rhodes scholar, graduate lawyer, decorated war hero, and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, who will do what he’s told?” So now think about the St. Patrick’s Day riot in 1955 in Montreal, when Campbell suspended Rocket Richard for the remainder of the season, plus all of the playoffs. Owners, especially Smythe, had been fed up with the Rocket causing havoc throughout the league and wanted him curbed. So you can bet your bippy that they had their puppet, Campbell, do their dirty work for them with that gigantic suspension.

When you see a single house being built that takes maybe a year to finish, think about this. Maple Leaf Gardens was built during the depression in five months. FIVE MONTHS! Smythe recruited several rich buddies to invest, and when the money fell short by several hundred thousand dollars, Smythe convinced the workers to trade twenty percent of their wages for shares in the Gardens. The thing got built and the workers’ shares, that were bought for a dollar a piece, quickly increased by a hundred-fold.

Smythe had a beautiful apartment built in the innards of the Gardens where he practically lived most of the time and where he called many Gardens employees to so he could fire them. I would have liked an office like this but I would have preferred the Forum. He also had his mansion, and a ranch where he raised prize racing horses.

Conn Smythe was instrumental in not giving in to the ideas of the players to form a players association (union) and managed to prolong it for ten years, mostly by convincing all the teams to trade the main instigators, like Ted Lindsay and Doug Harvey, to other teams. He was very proud of this accomplishment. He also lobbied for years to stop Harvey Busher Jackson, one of his players throughout the 1940’s in Toronto, from being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because he disapproved of Jackson’s drinking and womanizing. Smythe eventually quit hockey completely when Jackson was finally inducted in 1971. He also didn’t like Roman Catholics and was mortified when son Stafford fell in love with and married one.

Conn Smythe was a piece of work, but raised countless dollars for crippled children. So he was sort-of-a-nice-man. I’m sure Lawrence will say he was a nice man and there’s two sides to every story. And one last thing for Lawrence. In the 1920’s Smythe’s amateur football and hockey teams played big games up in Orillia, my home town, and always got pummeled.

What You May or May Not Be Reading Next

The team plays Tampa Bay in a couple of hours so it boils down to this. If they win, I’m gonna be upbeat and talk about things related to this and about all things interesting in the history of the world. However, if they lose, I’m going to tell you instead about the egotistical prick, Conn Smythe, who died in 1980, and who, if you’re not familiar, fought, fired, and dictated like an army major, which he was, to every single hockey person in the NHL in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Smythe is much more interesting than the 2007-2008 Montreal Canadiens.

So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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