Tag Archives: Edmonton Oilers

You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

In 1987, Brad Hornung was a speedy 18 year old playmaker for the Western Hockey League Regina Pats, and all was right in his world. He had ambitions to make it to the pros, and he very well might have. He seemed to have the talent, he had the bloodlines (his dad Larry had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Blues and spent 7 seasons in the WHA with the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and San Diego Mariners), and the young fellow was getting better and better. His family were his biggest fans, he was a hometown hero, and things were going along in a splendid way.

Until one night.

It was the Moose Jaw Warriors in town on a winter night in March, and Brad had the puck and was speeding into the Warrior’s end. But before he could make his play, he was hit hard and he crashed into the boards. Blood came pouring out, the crowd was silent, and doctors came charging onto the ice where they messaged the fallen player’s heart and did an emergency tracheotomy then and there.

Brad was taken quickly to the hospital, his life hung by a thread for days and days, and somehow he would pull through. But tragically, the damage was done. He had suffered a broken neck, his spine cord severely damaged, and he was permanently paralysed from the neck down.

The on-ice hit had left Brad a quadriplegic, but it hadn’t weakened his spirit. He remained a rock, and never ever blamed the player who hit him, although the player lived with grief and guilt for years after. In fact, whenever this player, whom I won’t name, played after that, fans would yell and call him killer and paralyser and other such nastiness.

Brad, the one who should have been the angriest of them all, wasn’t. He simply said it wasn’t the player’s fault and it could have happened to anybody.

He’s in his early 40’s now, and from his wheelchair has scouted for the Chicago Black Hawks and remains a loyal Regina Pats alumni member. He’s a story of strength and heart, and when I read about him in Roy MacGregor’s great book “The Home Team – Fathers, Sons, & Hockey,” I was touched by what a fine man this guy is, and was amazed at how he got on with his life without being able to move almost every muscle in his body.

Not only that, with the help of a tube, he’a able to use the computer, and guess what, he has a blog! This amazing fellow talks about junior hockey on his site Hornung On Hockey and you can see that a life-changing thing like being paralyser can’t keep a good hockey man down.

Don’t You Think The Coaches Could Have Spread Out A Little?

I want to tell you a very sad story, a story of pain and suffering, of heartache and frustration. I’m hoping this doesn’t ruin your day, but it probably will. Please be strong.

It was a while ago now, but I remember it clearly. I walked in to a Calgary Ticketmaster and asked about available tickets for the Habs in Edmonton. The lady looked at her book and said yes indeed, she had four, right behind the Edmonton bench. I don’t need to tell you that this was pretty well the best thing anyone has ever said to me. “Four seats right behind the bench.”

How could everyone have missed this? Poor suckers. Poor unfortunate and unknowing suckers who must sit higher up.

So my wife and I and the kids hopped into our minivan and drove up to Edmonton to see the boys play the Oilers, and we were going to be so close I could probably talk about the weather to Russ Courtnall or Ryan Walter as they skated nearby, and almost hear Patrick Roy chatting with his goalposts. It was going to be a terrific evening, a splendid evening, maybe the best evening of all the evenings ever spent.

We arrived at Northlands Coliseum during the warm up, and our seats were spectacular. Players were skating around and warming up just a few feet away. I felt sorry for those other fans higher up. They weren’t privileged like us, because we had the best seats in the house. Everyone was probably wishing they had seats like us.

How could I be so lucky? I patted myself on the back.

Close to game time, Oilers’ backup goalie Bill Ranford took his seat right beside my son, and I think my son looked at me like I was greater than Superman and Hulk Hogan. I’m sure I was. What other dad would find seats like this?

I immediately patted myself on the back again.

Then it happened. It all came crashing down. It still hurts when I talk about this, and when I think about it, it could have been different. Edmonton coach John Muckler, assistant coach Ron Low, and then a trainer all walked to the bench and took their places. Right in front of us. They even stood shoulder to shoulder so there wasn’t even a gap to look through. We had a great view of the stitching on their jackets. It was at that moment I think my kids stopped thinking I was Superman, and my wife started making divorce plans.

We didn’t see a thing except when play was far down at each end. I just think the coaches didn’t have to be so close to each other. A little space between them and we could’ve seen a few things in the middle of the ice.

Tickets were $35.74 each, along with restaurants and hotel. And I’m blaming the coaches. I figure Muckler owes me about $500.

 

Here's the sad evidence. I never noticed the part at the bottom that says "obstructed view" until about a month ago. Don't you think the coaches could have spread out a little?
Here's the sad evidence. I never noticed the part at the bottom that says "obstructed view" until about a month ago. Don't you think the coaches could have spread out a little?

Oh, Was There A Hockey Game Tonight?

I raced home for that? I avoided the score all evening because I was working and had recorded it? I did all that for that? 

BC Lions coach Wally Buono said during this ridiculous, unforgiveable display of shameful hockey by the Canadiens that “when you’re not meeting expectations (as a team) you should be criticized.” And that was before there was any score!

I agree with Wally. But I’m not going to criticize. There’s no sense. If the Habs don’t know they stunk the joint out, then it’s a lost cause. Better to let them sort it out themselves over a few beers after the game if they dare show their faces in public.

They began the game by handing on a silver platter to the Vancouver Canucks three goals when the Canucks were allowed to dance in at will like ringers playing kids on a frozen lake. And when the score began to take on a life of it’s own -somewhere around 4-1, I dusted off the fast forward button on the remote and watched in record time the hideous affair stretch all the way to 7-1.

Carey Price was left out to dry, especially on those first three, and with his mom and dad and other family watching in dismay, he and the team self-destructed, and a beautiful homecoming for Price turned into a horrendous nightmare that is sure to leave scars on the entire Price clan for decades to come.

It was an evening that should never be brought up again. Ever. That was more painful than the arthritis I had a couple of years ago.

Why did it have to be Vancouver? Why couldn’t it have been almost anybody else? The opposite was supposed to happen. It’s midnight and I can hear smirking for blocks around me. Right now, as far as hockey games go, that’s about as bad as it gets if you’re a Habs fan. Maybe I should check on how Sri Lanka and the West Indies are doing in cricket.

The team travels to Edmonton for a Saturday night clash with the Oilers. Will Price play and regain his earlier form, or is that just a distant memory now?

Will the team actually rebound and win in Edmonton, or will they get blown out again?

And how long will it take before I forgive them?

Random Notes:

Piss on the random notes.

Habs Play Two Good Periods, But It Takes Three

Sadly, the Montreal Canadiens will not be challenging the 1979 Philadelphia Flyers’ astonishing record of going unbeaten in the first 35 games of the season. They were on their way, mind you, but got stalled at game three. One little game has screwed up the whole record-breaking process.

Montreal played a great game at the Saddledome in Calgary Tuesday night. Yes, they lost 4-3, and yes, they had a letdown in the second period, but overall, they skated hard. I was proud of them. Fans got their money’s worth. For many of the Saddledomians, there were times when it was even more exciting than chuckwagon races.

Jaroslav Halak was in goal for the Habs, and as an official armchair quarterback, I think Carey Price should’ve been in goal. This was a big game, Calgary’s a strong team, and it’s only game three for gawd’s sakes. Price could’ve played in both Calgary and Vancouver, and then Halak could’ve stepped in in Edmonton Saturday night. Why not go with Price? He’s young, he’s in shape, he’s not burnt out, and he’s been hot. Why change? You think Ken Dryden or Jacques Plante only played two straight and then sat?

Three players earned their first goals in this game – Scott Gomez, Guillaume Latendresse, and Tomas Plekanec. The Gomez line, with Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, skated miles. They were part of the reason the crowd got their money’s worth. There’s going to be lots of thrills and spills this year with these three. Some good old fire-wagon hockey. Stay healthy, boys.

The Flames wore their old uniforms and it looked like Patterson and Peplinski out there. But on closer examination, it was only Prust and Pardy. And naturally, Montreal fans were scattered throughout, as will be the case in Vancouver Wednesday and Edmonton Saturday.  It goes without saying that when the Habs come to these western cities, it’s a big night for their fans. It’s a beautiful thing.

Of course, it’s much more beautiful when they win.

Random notes:

The Vancouver game is now getting into my territory, with Vancouver only two ferry rides away. It’s one of my big nights, a game I check first when the schedule comes out. It’s very important the Habs win this one. Not just for them and the standings, but for me. I need to have some bragging rights for a change. I’m a goldfish in a sea of carp.

Montreal has done very poorly in Vancouver, at least since 1996, winning just four while losing nine to the Canucks. I can’t stand it. This needs to be changed and I can’t think of a better time to start than Wednesday night.

A Hockey Contest To Help Kids. We All Want Them To Be Healthy

The following email was sent to me last night, and posting it here is a privilege. It’s the least I can do. Because we want sick kids to get better.

Hello Dennis,
I found your blog and was wondering if you could help me.
I have volunteered to help a friend to promote a hockey contest for kids who are affected by Colitis or Crohn’s. The contest is being held by a non-profit organization called Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (based in Vancouver). Here is a brief description of the info, but you can find more details at the URL listed below:
HOCKEY CONTEST: Skate with the Edmonton Oiler’s Fernando Pisani (Score for Colitis and Crohn’s national contest) Contest for Canadian kids 10-12 years old, who have been affected by colitis or Crohn’s and who loves hockey. Contest details here: http://tinyurl.com/lrxlkc
Would you be willing to share this information with your members?  Can you also recommend any other other online group where we could announce this contest?
 
Any help we can get to spread the word about this contest would be greatly appreciated.  My specialty is healthcare, and although I watch hockey games regularly, I certainly don’t have the inside knowledge of how to reach out to this crowd but it’s a worthy cause, so I want to do my best to get the word out.

Many thanks,
Natalie Bourre

You Want A Short Story? Here’s A Beauty

005

These are Russian lapel pins. Russians love their pins, and there’s millions of them floating around. This little display I have at home are hockey and 1980 Olympics pins, and of course, there’s a story here.

In 1991, I told my friends, a Russian couple living in Leningrad, which shortly after became St. Petersburg, to start sending me pins and I’ll sell them (three for five bucks) and raise enough money to bring them to Canada to see some hockey. I raised $4000, they came, and we saw two games in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and were invited to a closed practice in Calgary where this husband and wife met all the players, got their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, and at the practice, GM Doug Risebrough came up to our seats to say hello.

Now this is where I hope you keep reading. Just a week before this couple had even landed in Canada, after all the pin selling, after all the preparation, my first wife informed me she wanted a divorce. So the whole month the Russian couple were with us, my wife and I pretended all was well so we wouldn’t ruin their holiday. But I was a hurtin puppy, and when everyone went to bed, I stayed up and drank myself into oblivion.

Now, I hope you’re still reading, because the story takes another twist. Not long after the couple went back to Russia, a letter came saying that they were also getting a divorce.

Ten years later, I married this Russian woman.

The Carolina Hurricanes Have A Secret Weapon

It should be really interesting to see how the Canadiens rebound from their less-than-stellar performance against Anaheim when the Carolina Hurricanes blow into town.

 

The Hurricanes are no slouches so far this season, but they’re not setting the world on fire either. Led by Ray Whitney, Eric Staal, and Rob Brind’Amour, this team has so far garnered a 4-2-1 record for nine points. Montreal stands at 5-1-1 for 11 points, so they haven’t exactly left the Canes in their dust.

 

However, the Canes have a special weapon, like so many great teams in the past have had. Boston had Orr, Edmonton, Gretzky. Detroit, Yzerman, Chicago, Bobby Hull etc. etc.

 

Carolina has Sergei Samsonov.

 

You can’t really look at the numbers. Okay, so he has no points and is minus 3 after seven games. But I’ll just bet, by the time the season has wound down, this Russian forward will have accumulated probably four goals and two assists!   

 

You know, there was a time when Samsonov was a real player – when he was a fresh-faced newcomer in Boston. He had been a primo Junior star in Russia, and in his first year in Boston, he won rookie of the year. But it all went away, never to be seen again, like dinosaurs, or Milli Vanilli.

 

Samsonov was soon dealt to Edmonton where they paid this underachiever 7.05 million over two years, and of course, he underachieved. From Edmonton it became Chicago, then the minors, and now Carolina, where they’re giving the guy 7.6 million over three years.

 

Every good young player in the minors, and those in the NHL making much less than Samsonov, must wonder what kind of Houdini tricks this guy knows.

 

Samsonov was the ultimate failure in Montreal too. In his year there, 2006-07, he notched nine goals and 17 assists in 63 games. He had become the new Vladimir Krutov, which certainly would give Canucks fans something to shudder about.  However, there’s no word on Samsonov’s hot dog eating abilities, which Krutov was a force to be reckoned with during his short stay in Vancouver in 1989. He was labelled Vladimir Crouton.

 

Montreal really needs this game on Tuesday. Get back to their winning ways. Get back on track. Don’t let Samsonov score.

 

And I’d like to see Alex Kovalev explode. It’s time. He needs to have a big season, like last year.

Looking At The Standings Because It’s Interesting

Now that the dust has sort of settled on getting the season underway, it’s a little disturbing to see the Buffalo Sabres playing so well. They have the same record as Montreal – 4 wins and a shootout loss for nine points, for goodness sakes. Even with those George Jetson jerseys.

 

The Sabres will come back down to earth shortly. I’m sure they will.

 

There’s good news, though, and the good news is that the Philadelphia Flyers, the team Steve Downey plays for, hasn’t won yet in five games. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

The Florida Panthers are in Montreal Monday night to play the Habs. I know I say every game that the two points that night are extra important for the Canadiens,  so I’ll just say it again. These two points are extra important for the Canadiens. Gotta catch those Rangers.

 

Florida should be in Hamilton. Or Halifax, or Winnipeg, or Saskatoon, or Quebec City.

 

Why is there hockey in Miami, Florida?

 

I know there’s lots of snowbirds in Florida who are big hockey fans, but that’s not good enough. The team’s drawing only around 12,000 a game, and so now they’re giving away a pair of free tickets as long as you can show a Florida driving license. Miami people need to be at dog races and jai alai tournaments. Not hockey games.

 

Also interesting in the standings is Tampa Bay’s start. They’re winless after five games. And this with two new owners, the firing of coach John Tortorella, and the hiring of Barry Melrose. So it’s not going well for all concerned except Tortorella, who’s now providing reasonable thoughts on TSN. (Except for his prediction of who will win the Cup.)

 

Montreal sits in second place in the east with those bastard Buffalonians, with the Rangers leading with 13. But New York has played several more games than anyone else so the standings are slightly cockeyed. And there’s a handful of teams just behind Montreal and Buffalo, like New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

 

San Jose’s leading the west with St. Louis, Minnesota, and Edmonton hot on the trail. Both Edmonton and Minnesota are undefeated at 4-0.

 

And John Tortorella thinks San Jose will win the Cup.

 

 

If The Canucks And Leafs Went Head To Head, Would You Stay Awake?

Every good Habs fan hates the Leafs. It’s normal, like breathing, or liking Playboy magazine. The Leafs smell. They damaged the lining of our noses last year and the year before and the years before that. And nothing’s going to change this year or the next. Because they’re the Leafs.

 

Unfortunately, they often play well against Montreal, for whatever reason. Probably the only time they look like a team is when they play the Canadiens.

 

Maybe Charles Darwin, if alive, could explain it.

 

Then there’s the Vancouver Canucks. I live up the coast from Vancouver, in the heart of Canucks fanland, and the Canucks are another team that disappoints their fans most years. Lately they’ve been non-factors in any playoffs they’re involved in. They go through coaches, there’s been infighting with past and present ownership, and there’s the lingering odour of the Bertuzzi incident. The hockey has been boring for the faithful. Heck, even Mark Messier playing there was a non-event.

 

And I know from growing up back east that the Vancouver Canucks mean very little to many easterners. The games are usually on too late. Canucks players are generally not on the minds of eastern hockey fans. And people are busy hating the Leafs.

 

Other western teams have fared better with eastern fans. Edmonton had the Gretzky and Messier years, and Calgary had a couple of Stanley Cup finals with Montreal, losing to Patrick Roy and the boys in 1986, but winning in 1989. And so we came to know Calgary players a little more, like Al McInnes, Mike Vernon, Jim Peplinski, Tim Hunter, Theoren Fleury et al.

 

And they had that ‘Red Mile’ thing going when they made it to the finals again in 2004.

 

The Canucks have had none of the kinds of things Edmonton and Calgary have had, although they did make it interesting in 1994 when they came within a goal of winning the Cup that year against the Rangers.

 

So my question is; If the Leafs and the Canucks somehow by magic ended up in the Stanley Cup final, who would you cheer for? One team is despised, the other means very little to you. 

 

I say you have to go for the Canucks, only because they’re not the Leafs.  

 

Or you could go camping instead.

 

 

Days Off On The Road For The Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal players will get the odd day off on the road this season, and the key to all of this is where their odd day off will fall.

 

For instance, the team is in Tampa Bay on Dec. 30, and doesn’t have to be in New Jersey until Jan. 2, so they can have a New Year’s Eve party. And what better place to have a party than Tampa Bay? Although the last time they decided to do this, Ryan O’Byrne got his mug shot taken.

 

So maybe Tampa Bay isn’t a good place to have a day off.

 

In February, the team goes on a west coast swing, hitting Calgary on Feb. 9th, and they don’t have to play In Edmonton until two days later, and it’s only a half hour plane ride away. So they have lots of time to relax.

 

Is it better to relax in Calgary, or Edmonton? I’m going out on a limb here and saying it’s Calgary. Only because the alternative is Edmonton.

 

So if the boys want to hang out in bars and wear shorts and golf shirts, it’s good to have days off in southern states. If they love cold and snow and a short but dreary existance in the land that time forgot, then that would be Edmonton.

 

However, far and away, the best city to have days off in would be New York. By a country mile. It’s the most vibrant, most interesting, most colourful city on the planet.  It has something for every hockey player. Bars, steaks, women, music, sightseeing, street hip hop for the younger players to get down and boogie, and even serious window shopping.

 

I have a serious dislike for their hockey team, but the city’s great.

 

Ken Dryden said he loved New York because of all the museums he would spend time in. He soaked up the culture. He probably didn’t even go for a beer in Greenwich Village. So Ken Dryden doesn’t count.

 

Forget about Philadelphia, Ottawa, Denver, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and all the rest. These places are just more stops in a long line of stops. The answer is New York. And after that, maybe Miami. And Phoenix if they want to golf and vegetate.  And of course, the notorious Tampa. And Nashville would be good if any of the Habs like country music.

 

And the silliest question of the day is: New York or Edmonton. Which is the better city to have a day off in?