Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pat Burns is not ready to quit his battle yet


"As your life gets closer to the end, you realize that your body gets weaker, you mind works harder but your heart gets softer. You get closer to family, you get closer to God, and there are things that you realize along the way.” -  Pat Burns March 26, 2010

As we all know, former Montreal Canadiens coach Pat burns is in his third battle with cancer. He announced in January of 2009 that he had incurable lung cancer. Burns had been treated for colon cancer in 2004 and liver cancer in 2005.

I recently talked to a contact, who had been in touch with the Burns family in recently, and got an update on his health.

Burns continues to battle the incurable disease, but by opting not to seek treatment his health is rapidly declining. “He’s not doing well,” I was told.

It’s also reported that the three-time Adams Trophy winner, and his wife Lynne, have also sold their home in New Hampshire and are spending the summer in Quebec. The Burns family spent the past winter in Tampa.

The fact that he was healthy enough to travel back to Canada could be a positive sign that his fight with cancer is far from over. “With that kind of mobility, it sounds like he's still got some time with us,” my source added.

Then again, is anyone surprised that Pat Burns was going to take this on without a fight?

Burns last public appearance was on March 26, for the arena naming ceremony in his hometown of Stanstead, Quebec. A frail Burns spoke with a weak voice, far from the bellowing one that got players and referees attention on the ice.

There was concern the end was indeed near back in April, when the  58-year-old was rushed to hospital with pneumonia. He was released a few days later.

A grass roots movement, and several of his former NHL colleagues pushed to get Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame this summer, before he passed away.

“Pat’s been stricken with a terrible disease,” said former coach Mike Keenan, when I spoke to him earlier this month. “It was an honest attempt, and a very nice gesture for other members of the Hall to bring up his name.”

Unfortunately their public calls did not factor in with the selection committee enough, leading to criticism of the Hall of Fame by fans and media alike.

Three days later, the NHL and his former teams (the Canadiens, the Boston Bruins, The Toronto Maple Leafs, and the New Jersey Devils) donated $50K to the construction of the Pat Burns Arena.

photo: Canadian Press

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Cammalleri!: Likes the idea of a 2nd Toronto team


Just last week, Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri got some up front media exposure in Toronto. This week, he hit not one, but two Toronto-based radio stations. I know he’s a local boy, but are the Leafs really that non-newsworthy these days?

First up, his chat with TheFan590’s Eric Smith. Cammalleri, in a phone interview from his Montreal condo, discusses the Canadiens playoff run, the Halak deal, his training regimen and the BioSteel Pro Hockey Week, and the Kovalchuk situation.

For more info on the BioSteel contest mentioned, you can click this link at The Fourth Period for a chance to train for a day with Cammalleri and over another dozen NHL stars.

“We might even get Scott Gomez to come in on a flight from Alaska,” Cammalleri said. “But you didn’t hear it from me.”

Actually, the main site for the event does confirm Gomez as an attendee. P.K. Subban is also slotted to attend.

The Richmond Hill native then moved up the dial to AM640 with Bill Hayes to talk more on the BioSteel event as well as growing up as a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I had a close buddy that was a huge Habs fan,” Cammalleri said. “He was always Patrick Roy, and I was (Doug) Gilmour or Gary Leeman when we played on the streets.”

Eventually, both players he emulated went on to wear a Habs sweater, so we can’t be too hard on him now, can we?

Cammalleri also talked about the current Habs roster and going into training camp with great optimism.

It’s not a concern in the coming year(s) but he also acknowledged that he does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract. You’ll also notice his openness on what goes on in contract negotiations in theFan’s interview.

He also spoke openly on having another NHL team, or perhaps two in Canada.

“I think that would be tremendous. If we can get a couple more markets in Canada, I can’t see a downside to that,” he said. “I think we should have one (a second Toronto team) undoubtedly. I think that market could easily handle another team and it would be good for everybody.”

If that’s not enough of No. 13 for you: A quick write up on Cammalleri’s busy summer from

A push for the Habs captaincy: Hockey54’s Launy “The” Schwartz gives his reasoning to give the “C” to the Habs winger.

Lions in Winter also has a poll on the subject.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Before you eat those stadium nachos…


When Franke Selke took over the Montreal Canadiens, one of the first things he complained about was the smell  coming out of the Montreal Forum. “Clean the toilets! Nettoyez les toilettes!” were the words he muttered, as cited in the book “Lions in Winter.” It was done.

One has to wonder what the Hall of Fame builder would think in present day, after reading what the story published by ESPN on Monday. Thanks to my friend Mike McLaren for bringing this to our attention.

If you are about to eat, you may want to wait until after or just read this before you eat that next hot dog at our favorite sports arena.


The ESPN story outlines recent health inspection reports at stadiums/arenas in 2009 for the four major leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL).

For the health and germ conscious, you will really want to think twice as you dip your nacho into that cheese, while sitting down to cheer on your favorite team.

Best scores: All of Ontario based venues came with an impressive 0% rating, including the Rogers Centre, Air Canada Centre and Scotiabank Place. In Chicago, only Soldier field had any violations and were cited due to a lack of hot water.

Worst: Best to bring your own food to any Florida sporting event. Ditto for the Verizon Center in D.C.

The full article can be found here, but I’ve outline the NHL venues below. Arena
Phoenix Coyotes
Vendors with critical violations: 33%
Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors spotted an employee scooping ice with his bare hands instead of using scoops.

Honda Center
Anaheim Ducks
Vendors with critical violations: 3%

Inspection report excerpt: The only major violation was for not having chlorine sanitizer in the kitchen's dishwashing machine.

HP Pavilion at San Jose
San Jose Sharks
Vendors with critical violations: 20%

Inspection report excerpt: At one location, inspectors found Chinese chicken salad had warmed to 60 degrees, about 20 degrees above a safe temperature.

Staples Center
Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings
Vendors with critical violations: 11%

Inspection report excerpt: One stand dumped 9.5 pounds of sushi after inspectors found that it become too warm.

Air Canada Centre
Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs
Vendors with critical violations: 0%

Inspection report excerpt: No critical or major violations.

Bell Centre
Montreal Canadiens
Vendors with critical violations: 3%

Inspection report excerpt: Food found at an improper temperature.

General Motors Place
Vancouver Canucks
Vendors with critical violations: 9%

Inspection report excerpt: A sushi display cooler was malfunctioning, and the temperature of the sushi rose above safe levels. Inspectors also cautioned one stand regarding properly heating donairs, which have been tied to E. coli outbreaks elsewhere in Canada.

Pengrowth Saddledome
Calgary Flames
Vendors with critical violations: 14%

Inspection report excerpt: Utensils and equipment at one location were not being cleaned and sanitized properly.

Rexall Place
Edmonton Oilers
Vendors with critical violations: 25%

Inspection report excerpt: At one location, workers used contaminated cleaning items.

Scotiabank Place
Ottawa Senators
Vendors with critical violations: 0%

Inspection report excerpt: No critical or major violations.

Pepsi Center
Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche
Vendors with critical violations: 67%

Inspection report excerpt: At one bar, inspectors found phorid flies, sometimes called coffin flies, in a bottle of cognac.

BankAtlantic Center
Florida Panthers
Vendors with critical violations: 67%

Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors issued several violations for soiled ice bins and coolers.

St. Pete Times Forum
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vendors with critical violations: 88%

Inspection report excerpt: At one location with five critical violations, an inspector saw an employee handle dirty dishes and then put away clean dishes without washing his/her hands or changing gloves. The same location lacked soap at a hand sink.

Philips Arena
Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers
Vendors with critical violations: 35%

Inspection report excerpt: At a couple of locations, inspectors found food not being protected from contamination.

United Center
Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks
Vendors with critical violations: 0%

Inspection report excerpt: No critical or major violations. Chicago health inspectors inspect vendors while the stadiums are empty, when no workers are preparing or serving food.

TD Garden
Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins
Vendors with critical violations: 21%

Inspection report excerpt: Storing dishwashing chemicals on top of an ice machine resulted in a critical violation for one location.

Joe Louis Arena
Detroit Red Wings
Vendors with critical violations: 52%

Inspection report excerpt: Poisonous or toxic materials were stored atop items used to serve customers, posing a potential risk of contamination. Inspectors also found roaches below a soda dispenser at one location.

Xcel Energy Center
Minnesota Wild
Vendors with critical violations: 17%

Inspection report excerpt: Chicken strips for topping a Caesar salad were found at 105 degrees, when they should have been at least 140 degrees.

Scottrade Center
St. Louis Blues
Vendors with critical violations: 0%

Inspection report excerpt: No critical or major violations.

Prudential Center
New Jersey Devils
Vendors with critical violations: 6%

Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors noted that at one location, the person in charge "did not demonstrate adequate knowledge of food safety," and the sink lacked soap and paper towels, and there was no sanitizer solution.

HSBC Arena
Buffalo Sabres
Vendors with critical violations: 8%

Inspection report excerpt: Two critical violations for having a toxic chemical in an unlabeled spray bottle.

Madison Square Garden
New York Knicks, New York Rangers
Vendors with critical violations: 61%

Inspection report excerpt: At one stand, inspectors found "53 mouse excreta" (38 on top of a metal box underneath the cash registers in the front food-prep/service area and 15 on top of a carbonated-beverage dispensing unit).

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
New York Islanders
Vendors with critical violations: 0%

Inspection report excerpt: No critical or major violations.

RBC Center
Carolina Hurricanes
Vendors with critical violations: 67%

Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors cited one vendor after watching employees handle raw, breaded chicken while loading fryers and then handling cooked food without changing gloves or washing hands. The employees placed cooked chicken back in the same container used to pre-portion raw chicken before cooking.

Nationwide Arena
Columbus Blue Jackets
Vendors with critical violations: 9%

Inspection report excerpt: One of the stadium's critical violations was for employees' handling lemons, limes and oranges with their bare hands while placing them on beverage glasses.

Mellon Arena
Pittsburgh Penguins
Vendors with critical violations: 55%

Inspection report excerpt: In one of the arena's higher-end clubs, inspectors found a live cockroach on top of a soda dispenser holster behind the bar.

Wachovia Center
Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers
Vendors with critical violations: 15%

Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors found evidence of mouse and fruit fly infestations at one bar location.

Bridgestone Arena
Nashville Predators
Vendors with critical violations: 59%

Inspection report excerpt: Nashville inspectors, who also score vendors, gave the facility's lowest score -- 75 -- to a vendor with three critical and nine non-critical violations.

American Airlines Center
Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars
Vendors with critical violations: 40%

Inspection report excerpt: Expired milk, brown lettuce and employees caught drinking or eating while they were working in the stand accounted for some of the stadium's critical violations.

Verizon Center
Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals
Vendors with critical violations: 100%

Inspection report excerpt: Mice droppings, a critical violation in Washington, were found at at least 10 vendors.

Hungry now?

It should be interesting to hear a rebuttal from the four major leagues. Typically they will come up with some criticism of the report as over exaggerated. But when 12 of the NHL’s 30 venues have ratings of 33% or more, it will certainly make people think.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Radio chat and a day on the course for Habs Cammalleri


Michael Cammalleri tees off at a Pro-Am in Blaineville, QC ealier this month. photo: Vincent Graton/Journal Le Courrier

Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri talked to The Fan 590’s Jeff Lumby, Wednesday morning, on the Habs playoff run and the upcoming season.

The full interview can be found with this link.

Lumby (an admitted Habs fan stuck in Toronto) seemed emphatic on the Canadiens lack of size, notably up front.

Cammalleri’s response, and something he echoed all season was, “If Brian Gionta goes in the corner, and he’s stronger than the guy who’s taller than him, who’s bigger when he comes out with the puck?”

The Canadiens sniper also went on to reinforce his support of Carey Price, something he referred to earlier in the week on TSN.

Cammalleri was then off for a 7:50 tee time Wednesday morning, playing in the Canadian Open Pro-Am at St. George’s Golf Club.

RBC Canadian Open

An avid golfer, he commented to CityTV on his recent play, “My handicap is six. I used to be a better player, but I’ve been busy playing playoff hockey these days.”

Habs fans can only hope that his handicap is higher next summer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

These are busy days for Habs Gauthier


There’s still 78 days until the puck is dropped on the 2010-11 NHL season, and the Montreal Canadiens have continued to fine tune their roster and staff in preparation.

I’m still catching up from vacation time, but over the past few days, there has been a whirlwind of activity surrounding the Bleu Blanc et Rouge.

Just before last weekend, the Canadiens resigned forward David Desharnais and also signed Alexander Avstin to an entry-level deal.

Desharnais brings consistent scoring to the Hamilton Bulldogs and the signing of Avstin is KHL fallout from the folding of legendary Russian club team Dynamo Moscow. In essence, the Bulldogs gained strength in the forward position real fast.

The next day, Habs VP of hockey operations Julien Brisebois jumped to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier quickly wasted no time, and replaced him with Larry Carrière.

Carrière might turn out to be a very nice steal, as he has spent the last six years as a scout for the Washington Capitals and has close to 20 years of management experience.

Plus, you gotta love a guy who wasn’t afraid to take on the Broad Steet Bullies, or battle Terry O’Reilly, as seen in these videos.


As’s Steven Hindle pointed out in his recent article, “A key element to Carrière being brought in is that he brings an immense wealth of scouting and management knowledge, something that neither Guy Boucher or Julien Brisebois ever possessed.”

Hindle goes on to add, “As this is a situation whereby the Habs have benefitted, they shouldn't be so disappointed about the departure of Julien Brisebois.”

In the meantime, Brisebois will be joining former Bulldogs assistant coaches Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond, who were announced as assistants, alongside head coach Guy Boucher, in Tampa on Tuesday. The hiring of Raymond and Lacroix comes as no surprise, as Boucher’s coaching decision back in June centered on him bringing his own staff to wherever he signed on with.

To fill the coaching void in Hamilton, the Canadiens announced the hiring of Randy Cunneyworth as Bulldogs head coach, and Randy Ladoceur as an assistant on Tuesday. We can now officially quell any rumours of Kirk Muller leaving Montreal, for now.


Cunneyworth brings a great background of AHL coaching experience, having served the Rochester Americans for seven seasons (a franchise record) and is second on the Rochester win list. The last two years, he served as an assistant of the Atlanta Thrashers under John Anderson.

For those keeping track, here’s the connection; Cunneyworth played two seasons under Canadiens coach Jacques Martin and Habs assistant coach Perry Pearn with the Ottawa Senators.

The Canadiens have also brought on Pierre Allard as the team’s strength and conditioning coach, replacing the fired Lorne Goldenberg.

Obviously it’s still too early to tell without a crystal ball, but so far the managerial moves by Gauthier seem to be in the right direction for the team.

At the player level, Cedrick Desjardins is signed on to a two-way deal for the 2010-11 season. No financials were given by the team, but puts the deal at $550,000 if he plays in Montreal and $65,000 in Hamilton.


This gives Montreal solid depth, at a great deal, between the pipes in the event that Carey Price and/or Alex Auld should falter or run into injury problems. Don’t be surprised to see Desjardins put up a battle to stay with the big club during training camp.

Speaking of Carey Price, the Tri-City Herald caught up with him at Olaf Kolzig’s golf tournament. Price acknowledged that negotiations are still ongoing for a new contract, and that he is looking forward to meeting with his new counterpart in the pads.

Price also garnered support from teammate Michael Cammalleri on TSN’s “Off the Record.”

Gauthier continued to keep busy on Tuesday, also signing Ryan Russell to a one-year, two-way deal.

Russell came to the Canadiens in a trade with the New York Rangers for Montreal’s 7th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Rangers pick, David Skokan, has yet to play in the NHL outside of three pre-season games, and is currently playing in Slovakia.


Russell comes off a pair of seasons in Hamilton, scoring 20 and 19 goals in each respectively.

His analysis from Hockey’s Future cites, “Russell, much like his brother in Medicine Hat, provides an excellent offensive game on the ice. With strong vision and passing, Russell is also an excellent skater and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, which he does with great accuracy.”

His downfall is his size where is is listed as 5’10” and 180lbs and will likely stay in Hamilton as the Canadiens have lots of skilled, small forwards.

Mike Keane’s career over?: On another front, it was sad to hear that the AHL’s Manitoba Moose will not bring their captain, Mike Keane, back for another season.

I did a piece on Keane last August, and there are few players as passionate for the game as he is.

Although the Winnipeg Free Press, mentions no official statement has come from the Moose or Keane, it is expected shortly. It wouldn’t be surprising to remain with the Moose in a management  or coaching position.


Keane played for eight seasons with the Canadiens and was on their last Stanley Cup winning team in 1993. He was named Habs captain in 1995, after Kirk Muller was traded to the New York Islanders. His tenure as captain was brief. After criticism form the press for his refusal to learn French (sound recently familiar??), he would be eventually be part of the Patrick Roy trade.

Two more Stanley Cups (Colorado in ‘96, Dallas in ‘99) and close to 2300 pro games later it seems that Keane’s playing career has wound down. Not a bad hockey resume for a guy who was not even drafted, though.

On the topic of Habs captains, Karmal Panesar offers his Top Ten list.

The question of who will be the next captain of the Canadiens was also brought to light in the past few days, around the same time defenseman Andrei Markov became a Canadian citizen.

Speculation is that coach Martin will name a new captain before the start of the season. Keep in mind though that a story broke before training camp even began last year, in which Markov was going to be named captain then.

Just a theory, but maybe the Canadiens organization just didn’t want a Russian wearing the “C”, and wanted to wait for his citizenship to be completed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Il etait une fois..Guy Lafleur: A great look on the life of “Le Demon Blond”


So I finally had some time to pull out’s documentary on the greatest player to wear a Montreal Canadiens sweater in the last 40 years.

It’s been out for several months, and I bought my copy of “Il etait une fois…Guy Lafleur” back in February. A busy schedule, and an unexpectedly prolonged but welcomed Habs playoff run, put viewing it that on the backburner. The fact that it is only available in French, with no subtitles, required some “quiet time” to  allow me  to translate the conversations and interviews.

The documentary has a nice setting as Lafleur is interviewed by noted journalist, author and screenwriter Rejean Tremblay as they take a VIA train from Laval to Toronto. Their final destination is the Hockey Hall of Fame, which at the time featured the Canadiens Centennial Exhibit.

Lafleur’s life, and notably his hockey career, is chronicled from a PeeWee prodigy and straight through to his retirement from the Canadiens in 1984 and his comeback four years later.

Along the way, Lafleur and Tremblay are joined by former Canadiens Rejean Houle, Guy Lapointe and Yvon Lambert. The group of teammates recant their times together, most notably against the Boston Bruins during the late seventies.

There is no stone unturned as Lafleur’s life, including his family’s personal and recent legal troubles is looked at. Both LaFleur and his wife Lise give their candid sides to the burdens of sharing family life with fame, and their son Mark’s battle with Tourette’s and addiction.

It clearly gives a better look at what the Lafleur family endured in the last few years, over that of what the public was fed by the media.

Throughout the documentary, there is an elaborate collection of photos and video clips from Lafleur’s days as a child to present.

A second disc consists of a photo gallery and the full interviews with Lafleur, his wife, and the round table of Habs legends. A booklet chronicling Lafleur’s career is also included.

For any Habs or Lafleur fan, this DVD is recommended viewing. “Il etais une fois..Guy Lafleur” is available through for $22.49.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My 5 minute major with Marty McSorely


He’s a decade removed from NHL play, after a dubious end to his NHL career, but Marty McSorely is still a drawing card wherever he goes.

I caught up with the two-time Stanley Cup champion last Thursday after the first round of play at Wayne Gretzky’s Celebrity Pro-Am in Thornbury, ON. After battling the extremely high July temperatures, and an aggravated pair of recently replaced hips, the now 47-year-old, former NHL enforcer was kind enough to sit down with me over lunch.

“My body didn’t feel good,” he saidon  what he felt was an off opening round. “The last three or four years have been pretty hard. I had one hip replaced in June (2009) and one in November, and just started playing golf again in March.”

McSorely has even found himself back on the ice playing a bit of hockey, something he has missed over the years, “I loved the competition, but over the last five years (in the NHL) I didn’t like the way I was used".

He found himself on teams that were focused primarily on developing younger teams, which turned out to be a bit of a regret for him. “I told Robby Blake, before he left L.A. and signed with San Jose, to go to a really good team, one that needs to put you on the ice and will let the young guys develop on their own.

“That was probably the mistake I made. I was thinking I was going to a team to help with the young guys, but ended up only playing in my own end.”

I also asked McSorely on his recollections of Blake, as well as Scott Niedermayer and Keith Tkachuk, who all retired at the end of the 2009-10 season.

“Robby Blake was a big athletic man, that really moved very very easily, and hit guys hard because he surprised him,” he said on his former teammate.

“Scott Niedermayer’s area of influence on the ice was greater than any other players’. He had an effect on the game in such a huge area. Keith Tkachuk was a strong winger, a talented package in a big box.”

Of course the passing of Bob Probert, just days before, had to come up in the conversation.

“It was a sad day, not just because he was great player,” McSorely said. “Off the ice, he had a great aura. Whenever he walked in a room, and not just the dressing room, everybody was better for it. He was genuinely a good guy.”

A classic battle between Marty McSorely and the late Bob Probert. “I’ve been asked that a lot the last couple days,” McSorely said when questioned as to how often they matched up over the years. “I don’t know how many times it was.”

After thinking back on his battles as a heavyweight in the NHL (bad hips or not, he’s still in great shape and his 6’1” listing is a bit undersized), I elected not to ask whatever happened to his infamous illegal stick from Game Two of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.

I do always toss the question to NHLers of naming a player that isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame, that they think should be. “I would have said Dino Ciccarelli up to now,” McSorely said, noting Ciccarelli’s recent 2010 induction announcement. “He was a guy that competed hard and scored a lot of goals.”

Coincidentally, last NHL player to be convicted of assault for an on-ice incident, prior to McSorely’s conviction, was Dino Cicarelli who received a day in jail for hitting a Toronto player over the head with a stick in 1988.

The Cayuga, ON native also gave me a little insight into a hometown project he’s helping to gain support towards building a new arena.

Earlier in the day, some autograph collectors, that were clearly resellers, had inquired about some further signings. “Best thing to do, is contact our organization or the NHL Alumni Association,” he told them. “Send a donation, and I’ll sign anything you want.”

“I have pretty much every card ever made of me, but I was never much of a collector over the years,” McSorley later told me. “Instead of autographs, I always got a picture of me with whoever came down in Los Angeles. Ronald Reagan, Chuck Norris, you name it.”


In light of a rough first day of play, McSorely and his pro partner did manage to make it to the final round. The Anaheim Ducks Corey Perry would end up the celebrity winner for the tournament.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wayne Gretzky tees off on a variety of topics


Wayne Gretzky is nearly a year removed as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, and seems to be enjoying the experience away from hockey to the fullest.

Talking at his PGA-Nationwide Celebrity Pro-Am in Thornbury ON, a trim and relaxed Gretzky spoke on his former team, the free agent market and his tournament.

The full audio of the media scrum can be found on this podcast link.

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing and getting opportunities to do things I never got to do,” he said when asked how things have been since he left as Coyotes coach, amidst the ownership issues. “I’ve had a really great year.”

Gretzky was also happy to see the Coyotes on-ice performance last season, and commended his successor Dave Tippett on doing a wonderful job with the young group of players,

The 49-year-old NHL legend also discussed the new NHL and how the “dynasty days” appear to be long gone.

“You might not be able to build a dynasty,” he said. “You can’t afford to keep those players over a long period of time.

“You gotta pick your six or seven guys. Detroit sent the benchmark for that and I think Chicago is following that in some sort of fashion.”

Gretzky also spoke on the future of his tournament, now in it’s third year, which gives several upstart Canadians a chance to play at the PGA level. “We’ll sit down next week, after it’s over, and look to restructure it going forward.”

The tournament features several sports and entertainment personalities. One of the most fun to watch is former NBA star Charles Barkley, noted for his hesitant tee shot.

“Why don’t you try and do it,” when I asked him to describe Barkley’s swing in three words or less. “It’s just nerves, but he loves coming back.”

On the topic of free agency, Gretzky said sometimes it comes down to just wanting to win over money.

“With Kovalchuk, he’s coming from a young team in Atlanta, and he wants to win a championship. He’s probably holding out for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”

Asked if there would ever be a LeBron James type scenario in the NHL, Gretzky jokingly speculated that if it did, it would probably happen in Toronto.

Related articles:

The Toronto Sun

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Auldacity of it all..


Well that was certainly a surprise. Sneaking a peek on my Blackberry to catch up on the “free agent frenzy” during a family outing at the park, I screamed, “What the …?”

I was certainly surprised to see that the Montreal Canadiens had not signed goaltender Dan Ellis to a new contract. Instead, Pierre Gauthier opted to go with a goalie who has been passed around more often than a groupie at a ‘70s KISS concert named Alex Auld.

Right up to the noon hour it seemed like Ellis was a shoe in to be the backup/mentor/1B goalie to Carey Price. I was pretty convinced it was a done deal as well. Even at the eleventh hour, Eillis was on the Team990, giving Habs fans some great hope.

What went wrong, and why Alex Auld?

For Ellis, he was clearly a goalie that wanted to play regularly. In the back of his mind he wanted to be the number one guy between the pipes. He had lost the job in Nashville to Pekka Renne so you know that if the offer to be the number one was tabled by another team, he'd probably take it.

Well that offer came, in the form of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Ellis took it at $1.5 million over two seasons. Clearly it wasn’t a matter of money to Elllis, rather playing time and a two-year deal. Gauthier likely didn’t want to commit to two years, with Price expected to be the “franchise” down the road and still in need of a contract.

So that left the Habs GM with some decent alternate options in the free agent market. But Instead of going out and kicking tires at the likes of Marty Biron, Johan Hedberg, etc., Gauthier went on what seems like an impulse buy and grabbed Auld for a one-year, $1 million deal.

Arpon Basu raised his concerns on Auld in his Friday piece for The Daily Hab-it, noting his questionable statistics.

“Of Auld's 19 starts with a pretty bad Dallas Stars team last season, he gave up three or more goals 13 times. He had what was probably the best season of his career a year prior with Ottawa, when he went 16-18-7 with a 2.47 GAA and .911 save percentage. But just when it looked like Auld was going to be the man in Ottawa, he fell apart.

After starting the season 9-6-3, Auld went 7-12-4 from Dec. 8 to the end of the season. Of course, we all know (or at least we should) that a won-loss record is not a good reflection of a goaltender because it's more of a team stat. So, in compiling that 9-6-3 record, Auld had a stellar 1.98 GAA with a .925 save percentage, but from Dec. 8 on he went to a 2.86 GAA and a .902 save percentage.

The season before that Auld played extremely well for the Bruins, going 9-7-5 with a 2.32 GAA and .919 save percentage. 

But aside from the numbers, this is Auld's eighth team since 2006. That's about two teams a year. Does that fill you with confidence?”

Expanding on Auld’s numbers, I looked into his back-to-back games. Last season he only started on back-to-back nights once, losing both (one in a shootout) and giving up nine goals with a .855 SvPct.

The previous season he went 3-2-1 with a 2.33 GAA and .920 SvPct when called on to go two straight nights, and had a more impressive 2007-08 where he was 2-1-1, 1.48 GAA and a .946 SvPct.

If Carey Price does get the call to be the number one as he is expected to and banks the bulk of the ice time, Auld will be needed from time to time to give him a couple nights off.

He already seems to know what his role with the Canadiens will be, based on Friday’s interview with RDS.

"We didn't talk about a specific number of games, but more about the role I would have with the team," he said. "They want me to help Carey Price get better and that is exactly what I want to do."

That said, If he produces numbers similar to what he has done before in back-to-back nights, and Price does indeed begin to fulfill his expectations under his “mentoring”, Gauthier’s decision would be genius.

Yvon Pedenault pondered this in his column for Le Journal de Quebec, “There is one question we must ask: Will Auld be a safety shield if Price would have a problem? Not really.”

Here’s a concern though; When Jaroslav Halak was traded, Pierre Gauthier noted how Price already had playoff experience for a young goaltender.

But what about Auld, if Price tanks or is injured? He has just four games of playoff experience himself, with his lone win coming being a triple overtime game (thanks goalienut), when he was with Vancouver. His post season SvPct is a less than appealing .892.

Maybe Gauthier sees Auld as the next Michael Leighton, I don’t know. Personally, I’d have saved my money and just taken my chances on either Curtis Sandford or Cedrick Desjardins.

“Koivu’s return” dreams put to rest: The thought of many fans last summer was that maybe, just maybe former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu would return after a season in Anaheim. Well that’s not going to happen as the veteran re-signed for two more years. The Canadiens put the nail in any further hopes by announcing that Scott Gomez will wear his childhood No.11, Koivu’s number in Montreal, this season.

Maybe with Dustin Boyd signed, he’ll take No. 27 and kill off any return hopes of “L’Artiste.”