Follow @davecunning on Twitter
This interview with Mike Danton posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on October 4th, 2012. Danton had just been denied a visa to enter the UK to play, but fortunately was able to catch on in Sweden a short time later, before moving on to Slovakia in the same season. While a return to North American pro hockey doesn’t seem likely, European leagues are glad to retain the former NHLer — Danton has also suited up for teams in Kazakhstan, Hungary, and Poland since this interview.
The audio of this interview can be heard here:
Posted by Dave Cunning under Interviews on Oct 04, 2012
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no one in the game of hockey has a stigma around them the way that Mike Danton does. Now trying to resume his professional hockey career in Europe, the ex-NHLer and ex-con deals with all sorts of prejudice and ignorance directed towards him on a daily basis – not to mention all the life roadblocks that a convicted felon could expect on the outside, because of his nearly decade-old crime – despite serving his sentence.
In our interview, Mike talked very candidly and at length about everything from hockey, his time in jail, how he’s turned his life around for the better, his thoughts on other ex-con pro athletes, his feelings on being denied entry to the UK to play, his family, and what the future holds for him. Without a doubt, the responses that he gives will at least make you reconsider the opinion you’ve come to form about him. Enjoy.
So you’ve now been denied a visa to play hockey in the UK twice, and consequently, you won’t be playing for the Coventry Blaze in the EIHL this year. What’s going through your mind right now?
“I was pretty bummed out about being turned down a second time. When they denied me the first time, the reason for they gave was that I wasn’t rehabilitated from my crime. They have an immigration law that states if you’ve done over twelve months in prison, you’re excluded from rehabilitation, and in order for you to enter their country, your sentence has to be spent or expired as an ex-convict. Because I spent longer than twelve months in jail, I’m excluded from rehabilitation, and because of that, my sentence can’t be spent or expired. So that’s why they denied me.
The second time we applied, I got fifteen reference letters from RCMP officers, local Halifax police officers, detectives, an assistant coach in the NHL, the president of the university I attended that coincidentally was born in London, England who has double-majors and doctorate degrees. My parole officer even wrote a reference letter on my behalf, and also submitted her criminal findings regarding my case – which said I was in the lowest percentile likely to re-offend, that I was in the lowest percentile to be a danger to society; spoke about my community involvement, and how greatly I’ve turned my life around.
Because they rejected me on the basis of believing I wasn’t rehabilitated, the second time around we attempted to illustrate to them that I am rehabilitated from my crimes, and that I wasn’t just coming over there to play hockey. There were a lot more plans than just hockey for me coming toCoventry.Coventry is renowned for their community based programs, and I was going to be a big part of that while there. I work closely with Joe Drexler of “Be The Game” and his “Ignite Change” program, and I was going to be an ambassador in theUK for that – that was a huge thing we had worked out.
For the second application, we brought all these reference letters, and the plans that were other than hockey – sure, I was going there to play hockey and make a living for my family – but I was also going to spread my knowledge, the words that I have to share about the mistakes I’ve made and what it takes to get past them and be productive in life, and about making the best of second chances. We put all that on paper, the lawyers and members from the team looked at the package, as well as people in Canada, and they all said it’d be a disgrace if I got denied again, because there was no way someone could look at that package and think I wasn’t rehabilitated. I put together a three-page letter myself, detailing my life, admitting to my crimes and accepting responsibility for them, but saying those things happened nine years ago, and I was 23 years old at the time. I’ve got a family of my own now, I’m an honor student, working towards a double major degree and at the top of the grade in all my classes, and I’ve changed my life around. I missed six years of hockey, but I still want to play professionally.
When I got my second denial, it was for the same reasons. They said they looked over all my information and reference letters, noted that I have a family of my own now, but however, I did spend more than twelve months in jail, and they don’t think I’m rehabilitated from my crime. To read something like that is not only heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, at the same time it says that not only am I excluded from rehabilitation, but that all these police officers, my parole officer, the National Parole Board of Canada, my school’s president, an assistant coach in the NHL, and everyone else that wrote reference letters have no idea what they’re talking about. They basically said that the Parole Board let you out, and agreed that you’re in the lowest percentile to reoffend or to be a menace to society, but they have no idea what they’re talking about, and we think we know better because we looked at your file. It’s really tough to swallow.
This is a team I’ve been talking about for the last four months, and I’ve been getting updates through the summer on signings, practices, team emails, and it’s been gut-wrenching. I’ve been talking to the guys on the team since the beginning of the season, and they’ve been texting me when they go out, and it gave me a really good feeling about how close knit that team is. It was hard to tell them I won’t be coming. They all ask what they can do to help. We’re trying to figure out if there’s anything we can do legally, or if we can appeal, but if not, I’ve got to figure out something else to do.”
You’ve already played abroad in Sweden and Austria without any of these immigration hassles – why not just go play in a country that doesn’t put up these roadblocks in front of you?
“I was in nine countries last year – Slovenia, Norway, Switzerland, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, Sweden, and Austria – the reason why I chose the UK, and Coventry in particular, was when our baby came into our lives, a lot of things changed. We really liked Sweden when we were over there last year and a lot of people speak English there – the Czech Republic was the complete opposite though. We’d go grocery shopping and it’d take two or three hours because we had to translate everything. It was really difficult to get a normal life going in that environment. The fans and the organization were great, but it was difficult for us to live there. Having a newborn and going to a country like that – if something were to happen to the baby and we had to go to the doctor, you have to hope they spoke English. We made a decision in the summer that wherever we end up going, we’d like it to be an English speaking country that has similar customs, culture, and food that we’re used to, just because it’s the first year that either of us have had a kid. We just wanted it to go as smoothly as possible. I chose Coventry because of the relationship and rapport I’d built with the members of the team. They sold me on what they wanted from their team. They play a hard-nosed style, don’t give up, work hard, and that description has me written all over it. They said I am the exact type of player they wanted on their team. I said ok. I gave up on a lot of other opportunities to make significantly more money than in the UK. The UK really isn’t known for paying outrageous salaries, but rather offering university packages and well as their familiar customs and culture. A lot of North American guys head over there because of the familiarity to their own food, customs and culture. The other factor involved was the community programs that I’d be able to be a part of, and to help out the youth, minor hockey, and that sort of stuff, like I did in Sweden. That’s always been a big part of my career after I came out of prison and wanted to play pro hockey again.”
So what’s the next step for you? Is there time to find a different European team to sign with? Can you play another year of University hockey?
“I’m not eligible for University hockey anymore. For every year of pro you play, you lose a year of eligibility, and you only get five total. By me playing pro last year, I lost my last year of eligibility. I could play senior hockey in Canada in either Newfoundland or Quebec. My agent and I have been contacted by some countries that are willing to bring me in to play though. I’ve been in talks with teams in three different countries.Coventry’s had to sign another guy to fill my spot since I got denied again. I’m going to be playing somewhere, it’s just a question of where. The countries I’m considering right now are Sweden,Germany, and Poland.”
Who’s your agent these days?
“Mike Bernier. He used to be part of “The Hockey Group”, and now he’s branched off on his own. He’s a hard worker. He’s never lied to me. He’s always been straight-up and honest. He told me last year that if I came with him, he’d find me a team, and he did. At that time, I hadn’t played pro in a while, so the things I was looking for were difficult to get. Statistically speaking, I played really well last year – it’s late in teams’ recruiting process now, but he’s still come up with a handful of teams that are looking for players like me.”
Coventry named you an assistant captain without you even being there. With your NHL background, OHL championship, CIS championship, and everything else to your name, you’ve built up a rather high billing for yourself. Is the pressure from teams and yourself to perform up to expectations difficult to live up to, or is it something that you thrive on?
“I’ve been asked that question a lot. How I answer it is – and I’m going to try an answer as humbly as possible, I’m the furthest thing from being cocky; I could use a boost in confidence once in a while actually – I think players like me are extremely hard to come by. Obviously I’m not the most skilled player in the world. In my last year of junior hockey, I had over 80 points and more than 200 penalty minutes. I led the playoffs in scoring, and still had over 100 PIM’s. I’m a guy that brings everything to the table. I’m not a guy that’s going to come down on a 2 on 1, or 1 on 1 and toe-drag, flip it through someone’s stick and skates and then roof it top shelf, but I’m going to find a way to get around that guy and put the puck in the net. I may have to flick it up in the air and run the goalie through the net, but it’s going to count regardless. It’s happened before, where the puck’s gone in, the goalie got run, it counts, and I got a penalty. Coaches have always told to me to put the puck in my [expletive] teeth, run through the net; and i’ll find a way to score. That’s just the way I’ve always been.
I have an extremely large amount of heart and determination. I don’t agree with what Dany Heatley and Michael Vick did, but you have to look at what they did afterwards. The fact that those guys come back, and get back into professional sports again says something about their character. For me to miss six years of hockey and still manage to come back and win a national championship, and then return to professional hockey a year later – that’s something I’m proud of. With a lot of inexperienced, local guys as well as guys who have played pro hockey at some level but don’t have the NHL experience that I have, Coventry knew I that I was a guy that all the guys on their team were going to look up to. I’m not afraid to break sticks in the room, call guys out, tell them they’re [expletive] [expletive], and to get their head out of their [expletive]. You need guys like that on a team. Those are the types of guys that other players look up to and say, ‘hey, this guy can lead our team.’”
You got denied entry into the UK again seemingly based only on objective reasoning. You’re constantly dealing with people with prejudice against you – whether it be in legal situations, on Twitter, or elsewhere – yet, you’re extremely active in defending yourself on all those platforms against those who only see you as a criminal and don’t know anything else about you or about anything you’ve done since your release three years ago. It seems to be never-ending and it’s got to be exhausting – how do you handle it, and why do you bother?
“It’s humorous. It’s entertaining to me. Some people go to hockey games to be entertained; I go on Twitter and read the ignorant things people say. I sit there and I laugh. I’ll retweet things that are funny, but when they say things like, ‘He went to prison, bend over…’ and other stuff like that, I block those people. There’s a difference between humor and being disgusting. I don’t need my kid to be reading that in a few years. People like that are useless. They’re scum. A lot of the negative comments are from people in Cardiff, Coventry’s biggest rival. If I had signed with Cardiff, the majority of the chirping would probably come from people in Coventry. People are entitled to their opinion, but you hit the nail on the head, they don’t know the situation. It’s just like my first day at university; I had people triple-looking me – forget double-looking, triple-looking me – whispering, ‘that’s the guy that tried to kill somebody…’, and three weeks later, that same person would be sitting with me in the library sharing laughs, pulling pranks, and then saying, ‘Aw man, you’re great! I thought you were going to be this big mean monster guy…’ People have no idea what I’m like. They look at my mugshot that looks like I’ve got a big chew in the side of my mouth, and they see the word murderer, and they say ‘this guy can’t come in. He’s a criminal…’ and that’s their opinion and they’re free to voice it. I really don’t care. The difference in me now is that nine years ago, I would have had to listen to all these chirps and tweets, and I would have wanted to punch them all in the face, cause problems, and be completely irrational and immature about the situation. Now I laugh at it. Usually when someone says something, I’ll get in there and chirp them back about their grammar and say, ‘well if you’re going to say that, at least spell it properly’, or tell them to at least make it seem like their comment could be pronounced properly. All in all, it’s just fun. It’s entertaining to have a guys think that they get under my skin by chirping me about prison, even though I’ve heard that stuff for ten years now. There’s not one prison joke out there that I haven’t heard. The easiest way to shut them up is to talk about the NHL, and they can’t say anything. They’ve never done that, I have. One guy that chirps me is an EIHL player who has played five or six games and has the same amount of goals as me [that’s 0, Mike hasn’t played a game for Coventry]. I’m not going to waste my time with guys that I have absolutely no respect for, because of the way they conduct themselves on Twitter. You don’t go back and forth with fans and tell them they’re fat and ugly – those are the people that pay your salary. You have to have some respect for the game. When I went to jail, there was no Facebook or Twitter. When I got out of jail and was in university, it took me a few months before I got into social media. Now I find Twitter so entertaining. I love going on my page and watching everything people say to me. I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s just entertaining.”
What internet related amenities were available to you in prison? Can people tweet from prison?
No, there’s child molesters and sex criminals in there, and they don’t want them getting on the internet for obvious reasons. From what I understand, in theUSfederal system you can email people now, but that’s the only thing you can do, and the emails are monitored. They get an email account through the prison that costs them money to send emails. In the US system, I had access to cable TV and movies, but nothing that was R rated, contained nudity, or had anything in it that would get our, um, “adrenaline” up, I guess you could say. They try to maintain proper protocol for prison fights and things like that. InCanada, it was a little more lax – we could have video game systems in there, but without online access. The States’ system was a lot worse thanCanada’s.”
And you managed to study towards your university degree while you were in there too, right? And how close are you towards your degree now? What are you going to do when you finish it?
Yeah, it was kind of difficult though – I only got through two courses. They moved me around quite often, and they really screw with your mail in jail, so it’s tough to get things sent to you. But I did manage to transfer those credits towards my degree. Last year I took a full course load online, and I’m doing the same this year. At the end of this year, I should only have four or five courses left. If I went really hard, I could get done by the end of the summer, but I’ll probably do it over a year. I’ll have a double major in psychology and criminology. I do really well in school. The only reason I added criminology in was that psychology was coming to me fairly easily and I wanted a challenge, so I added another major.
I don’t know what I’m going to be – I’d like to play hockey as long as I can, and I don’t want to call it quits yet, but I’ve been thinking about becoming a university professor. I like the social aspect and I like teaching people. Something like sports psychology, maybe. Coaching has crossed my mind. You see a lot of athletes go to university and they end up teaching English, or become PE teachers or something like that. A lot of athletes are very vocal and very social. They’re used to being in the spotlight, being around 20 or 30 guys every day that chirp each other and still get along, having a frat-like relationship with them. Whether you teach youngsters, teenagers, or university kids, there’s that element of social activity that can remain with you through all your years and levels of sports. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go down that road in the future.”
When you look at Mike Tyson – who went to jail before you did, and resumed his career after being released – and you think about your perception of him at that point in time not having gone to jail yet yourself; and then you look at Michael Vick – who went to jail and was released right around the same time you also did and were – what is your perception of those guys as they resumed their athletic careers, has it changed since going through the same experience they did yourself, and do you have a level of empathy for them?
“Gosh, you’re crossing up my morals and pulling my heartstrings here. Because of my personal experiences, and my personal life and childhood, I have a very big problem with people that commit sexual crimes against children and women. It’s really hard for me to look past those things and say they deserve a second chance. However, because of my situation, I have to say that I’m a believer in second chances. I think the way Tyson handled his situation illustrated that he wasn’t capable of being rehabilitated. I don’t know him personally, but the role he portrays and the way he handles himself is a characterization of a nut-job. He didn’t seem like he had a lot of remorse, even when he stated that he did. You could read the bull[expletive] all over his face.
In regards to Michael Vick, I don’t think anyone will ever know for sure what degree his involvement was in the dog fighting ring, but still, he was involved and he went to jail. Both crimes are different – I’m sure I’ll have PETA calling me after this – but at the same time, I’ve got nothing but respect for how Vick has handled himself. He’s come out and accepted responsibility, made donations and done charity work to try and right his wrongs. The way he’s conducted himself – I follow him on Twitter, and if you follow his tweets, well… he’s no Jose Canseco, let’s say. Everything’s about his religion, family, football, and he’s very respectful about it. I think that he’s somebody that made a wrong decision in his life, has turned around for the better, and is prospering. He’s playing the game that he loves, making a boatload of money, and I have no problems with that.
The problem that I have though, it that he’s been able to continue playing the game he loves at its highest level and I haven’t been. I can’t go to Asia, theUK, theUS… I couldn’t even go watch my favorite baseball team play in the World Series last year because I committed a crime nine years ago. If my son plays in a hockey tournament inDetroitsomeday, I can’t go there and watch him because I made a mistake, and at that time my crime will have been 14 or 15 years prior. Don’t get me wrong – I broke the law, and what I did was illegal; however, I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been punished. I’ve lost a lot of money. I’ve lost the opportunity to make a lot of money. I lost six years of my life, away from my family and friends, and a lot of things I enjoyed on a daily basis. Those are things I’m never going to be able to get back. I think my punishment is enough. I’m not going around to bars and getting in fights, or putting bounties on people’s heads, or getting drunk and raping girls, or selling and doing drugs. I have a family, I’ve gone to university, I’m working towards a double major degree and trying to play professional hockey.
What I say is, where’s my break? Vick, Tyson, and Heatley all got breaks, where’s my break? Is it that I’m still allowed to play hockey in Sweden’s third league or an elite league in Austria? It’s not in the AHL, or the NHL. I’m going to have to make a decision in a couple of years as to whether I want my son growing up in Europe following me around from country to country, and if I don’t want that, I’m going to have to quit hockey, and do something else. I don’t want to quit hockey. I’ve got lots of playing time left.
I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys that have made mistakes in their life and have come back to their sport, like Vick. I’m not so respectful of Tyson because of the way he handled himself. But if people can look past Mike Tyson and his issues, how can they not look past mine? Legitimately, I didn’t kill anybody. If that had been carried out, yes, I understand the ramifications; however, that’s a hypothetical situation. You can’t imprison or punish somebody for situations that didn’t happen. Vick did what he did, Tyson did what he did, Heatley did what he did, I did what I did. I didn’t kill anybody, and I didn’t rape anybody. I’m sure you can catch my point.”
You’ve mentioned your family a few times. It’s tough to find any information on them – tell me a little bit about them; how old is your son?
“He’s six weeks old. My family’s kept private for a reason. I’ve had some issues in my past with my own family, so I like to keep my personal life somewhat personal so certain information doesn’t get out.”
Details of your criminal situation have always been hazy. What is your current status as far as being an ex-convict? Are you still on parole, or are you totally free and clear now?
“I was arrested on April 16, 2004. I received my full parole from the National Parole Board of Canada on September 11, 2009. They took a couple weeks, and then I was released from prison inCanadaon September 28, 2009, after 65 months in prison. 22 of those months were in solitary confinement. After that, I was on parole until January 21, 2011. While on parole for a little more than a year, and had to abstain from alcohol and drugs, and do urine tests – I don’t do drugs anyway, but that was just a standard stipulation. When we won the CIS championship at St. Mary’s, all the boys were drinking champagne out of the Cup, and I had to drink a sparkling water. It was kind of a bummer. I wasn’t allowed to travel anywhere without a travel permit. If I wanted to go to my girlfriend’s cottage for the weekend, I’d have to have a representative from the Canadian Parole Board visit the cottage first, interview her parents, and then supervise me while there. January 21 came along, and I’ve been a free man ever since. I have nobody to report to, just like before I ever went to prison. I’m absolutely not on parole one bit.”
While you were on parole, you weren’t allowed any contact with your father or David Frost, two guys at the center of speculation within your crime – now that you’re not bound by parole terms, have you had any contact with them?
“Legally I can’t even talk about that because there are a few things that are still out there. But they will be addressed in the future, for sure.”
Follow @davecunning on Twitter
Schwartzel Taps His Inner Seinfeld For Masters Win, Tiger Loses Again, Norm MacDonald, and Hockey Quips.
Shameless self-promotion: I had my latest newspaper article published; did you pick up a copy of The View on Friday? Click here to read it online if you don’t get the paper. Also, follow @LakeCountryBB and @BlackbeltsLCF on Twitter.
Sorry if this throws you off, but I’ve got a few golf comments to make. I watched the final round of The Masters today, something I didn’t think I was capable of doing. A big part of making it tolerable was listening to Norm MacDonald’s “Norm Cast” running commentary of the event, and even getting one of my tweets read on the air live by Norm. You should follow Norm on Twitter @normmacdonald and @normsportsshow , and check out the website.
The tweet I got read was, “If Tiger Woods wins the Masters today, expect Michael Vick level forgiveness of transgressions from the masses.” Valiantly try as he might, Tiger did not win. Charl (es?) Schwartzel did wins The Masters, and subsequently lifted the “Seinfeld Curse”(dubbed by Norm and company, as Charl has a striking resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld, facially). So I guess this means Tiger is still a dirty man-whore. How slutty do you think Tiger was over the weekend to play as well as he did? Also, do you think Tiger Woods was rattled that Lee Westwood’s wore his same red shirt, black hat/pants/shoes setup for Masters Sunday? That’s Tiger’s Sunday getup, Lee, everybody knows this.
I felt painfully bad for Rory Mcilroy, watching his Masters-sized meltdown. Guy was leading until he hit a shot onto some guy’s front lawn (who has a house on Augusta, btw?), and basically collapsed from there. Had a chance to be the youngest guy since Tiger to win the Masters, and then he BA-lew it.
I was closet-cheering for South Korea’s KJ Choi to win, and he was in the hunt. I bet KJ Choi played a lot of screen golf in Korea as a youngster. Only people who have lived in Korea will understand that comment. Basically, screen golf is virtual golf; and most Koreans play it instead of real golf because there are very few real golf courses in Korea as there’s very little previously undeveloped land to build them on, and the ones that exist are extremely expensive and exclusive. I am a little surprised Jinro Soju isn’t KJ Choi’s major sponsor (another Korean inside joke, sorry). SK Telecom must’ve won a screen golf bet for his rights.
So the last place Edmonton Oilers beat the Canucks back to back before the end of the NHL regular season? Can anyone else feel Vancouver’s first round slipping out of their hands?
Vancouver’s Raffi Torres’ hit on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle seemed like a classic tall guy’s elbow naturally falling at short guy’s head level. Clean hit if Raffi got lower. I honestly thought it was a good, hard, borderline clean hit. The Chara-Pacioretty thing has every call on eggshells, and discipline is expected everytime someone goes down. I think Torres said it best himself, saying he was just finishing his hit, and if he hadn’t he probably wouldn’t be seeing much more ice. I like Eberle, but if players can’t hit, the NHL turn into touch hockey before we know it.
I’m happy that my LA Kings won’t be facing Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs, especially now that they are without Anze Kopitar. I’m also happy that Vancouver will be meeting Chicago in the first round. I’m a casual fan, and I don’t invest my entire existence into my hockey team, nor their playoff hopes. If LA doesn’t win, no big deal. However, for Canucks fans, if Vancouver bows out early yet again, look out innocent civilians residing in the lower mainland of BC….
Rookie Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and seasoned veteran Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils both have 30 goals this year. The difference between them? $97.3 million in salary. That seems fair. Oh, Jacques Lemaire just retired again, and Brodeur sucks now? New Jersey is in trouble going forward. Jeff Skinner on the other hand, not so much. Calder?
Martin St. Louis sure is content using those obscenely yellow Easton sticks, isn’t he?
I have a hunch that more NHL players are going after Gordie Howe hat tricks on purpose and as a real stat these days. Not that I mind.
I enjoyed Toronto’s late playoff push. I love how mad so many people would have been if they got in. I think the Leafs have a lot to look forward to next season, as long as Brian Burke doesn’t Niemi/Halak his #1 goalie and trade James Reimer in the off-season, in favour of backing Giguere or Gustavsson (who is anything but a monster. Unless he’s one from Monsters, Inc).
And finally, Cory Clouston gets tossed out of Ottawa. After getting the worst out of every good player Ottawa had under his regime, feuding with Dany Heatley to the point of a no-trade clause waiving trade, and finishing nearly last in the league over and over, how did it take this long for this to happen?
Hockey Talkie: Brodeur, Byfuglien for Norris, HBO 24/7, Sutters, Spengler, Waffles, & The DiPietro Deficiency.
Could the New Jersey Devils’ situation be any worse? Dead last in the entire league (as of Dec 28/10), their bazillion-dollar signee, Ilya Kovalchuk sucks, and their former best-goalie-in-the-world is anything but, often injured lately, and having a tough time doing the most important thing about the goaltending position job description – stopping pucks. You gotta think Martin Brodeur is, at least, contemplating retirement at this point. No disrespect to him, but I mean he’s won everything for a goalie to win (3 Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold twice, 4 Vezina’s, multiple All-Star selections; holds 20 NHL records, including most wins, shutouts, most games and minutes played, even scored a game-winning goal). But really, at this point, what is the purpose in him hanging around, especially when he’s now playing for the worst team in the league? After all his accomplishments, it’d be a shame to see him fizzle out and get Chelios’ed in his remaining time.
Speaking of bad teams, how many more stints on the IR for Rick DiPietro until the New York Islanders decide buying out the remaining 11 years on his contract is actually the better option? Tough for the Isles to get the most bang for their $67 million bucks out of a constantly injured goalie who hasn’t played an entire season since around the time he signed that contract.
Dustin Byfuglien’s the early favourite for the Norris Trophy, no? He’s 13th in league scoring as I write this, and there is not another defenceman on the list until Nicklas Lidstrom at 26th. He’s even got more points than Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Malkin, Teemu Selanne, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat, Rick Nash, and Patrick Kane, to name a few. To be fair, he is currently 65th in +/- rankings, which may or may not be a more important measure of a defenceman’s worth, depending on who you are. He’s still got my vote, for now.
Like many of you hockey folks, I’m loving the HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic miniseries. I know lots of people are talking about it, so I’ll try to raise a few points that aren’t being beat to death, too badly.
One – Bruce Boudreau has been getting a lot of heat for his constant cussing in the dressing room and on the bench. My response to this is that the only people balking at this have to be people who are either over-sensitive, or just have never been in a hockey dressing room before; because, and I hate to break it to the weak at heart, but that’s exactly the way hockey dressing rooms and coaches are during the game. They get frustrated when things don’t go right, and when you’re as emotionally invested in the game and the success of the team as a coach has to be, f-bombs begin to flourish, especially in a slumping team situation. Personally, I love the fact that he’s not pulling any punches or walking on egg-shells just because there’s cameras around him all the time.
Two – I love seeing that NHL players are pretty much like every other hockey player that plays on every other team in the world and every other level (minus the skill level and multi-million dollar contracts, of course). It should be pretty obvious, since they all came up through all the same developmental leagues that all other players do to get where they are, but there’s something humanizing about seeing a teammates pulling hotel pranks on each other during road-trips, coaches telling players to “pack up your stuff so we can get the f— outta here” after a road loss, generally being jokers off the ice, and then really dialling in their serious side when it’s time to perform on the ice.
Three – as cool as this build-up to the Winter Classic has been, and as amazing as that game will be, this kind of TV series is tailor-made to a Stanley Cup Finals showdown, is it not? I know the big sell is the Crosby-Ovechkin matchup for American viewers by the networks, but isn’t the confrontation for the Cup, aka the biggest prize in the sport, even easier for fans to invest their advertisement-susceptible eyes to, compared to a gimmicky mid-season outdoor game?
And further, isn’t it a testimony to how unnecessary it is to advertise hockey in Canada that, compared to the Winter Classic media blitzkrieg, there has barely been a mention of the upcoming Heritage Classic outdoor game between Calgary and Montreal? You mean to tell me the mention of Jarome Iginla vs Josh Gorges isn’t enough to put butts in seats, and eyes on TV’s?
Even though I’m an avid Calgary Flames hater, it’s unfortunate to see Darryl Sutter “resign” as team GM, after team CEO Ken King asked him too. Seems like an either-quit-or-you’re-fired face-saving situation for Sutter; which, if you’re going to publicly announce that you ask a guy to quit, you might as well just fire him. I don’t support Flames success, but I have to admit, Sutter has been the only guy to get any out of that organization in recent history, including brother/head coach Brent, who barely batted an eyelash at the situation, citing his family’s unparalleled ability to separate family from business. Man, that’s got to be an awkward family to be around at Christmas.
I love the Spengler Cup. I wish it could be rescheduled so it actually got some coverage, instead of being overshadowed by the WJC. With personnel like Mark Messier coaching, Hockey Canada obviously supports the team; why aren’t they allowed to sport the official Hockey Canada jerseys like every other legit Canadian team representing Canada in international play? Surely HC just doesn’t want to desecrate the uniform with all those euro ads, right?
And finally, I’m loving the waffles being thrown on the ice at Toronto Maple Leafs games. It’s just such an amusing item to throw. It causes a delay of the game, bla bla… some one could get hurt, yadda yadda… let’s be honest, if the Leafs keep sucking, and Kessel keeps not scoring, they’ll be thanking their lucky lifetime season-ticket holders that something as soft (and delicious) as waffles is all that’s being thrown on the ice.
Alright, an update on the Double Championship Challenge:
With Pittsburgh’s shocking (?) elimination also sees the departure of contestants Grant McMillan and Adam Whitmore.
Bergeron and the Bruins are done, but no one put any stock in them. Mark Recchi’s easily the NHL’s best “Old-Guard” player left. Scored a lot of goals this year, and did well for himself. I hope he sticks around for a few seasons yet. That is, unless he can’t take a hint like Chris Chelios went he got sent down to the AHL and kept hanging around. I think Mark’s value will be decent for a few seasons yet.
And easily my favorite elimination, the Canucks exit sees Casey Fodor and Jeff Bourne bow out. (my favorite because I hate the Canucks, not because of who picked them). I’ll admit, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Luongo after the Gold Medal, but not soft enough to cheer for him while there’s a whale on his chest. I’ve never seen so many people want a captain stripped of his captaincy so badly; sad really. I’m sure he’s doing a better job in that role than he’s being given credit for. I know I hate on the Canucks and their fans a lot, but I will miss the way the inhabitants of GM Place sing the Canadian national anthem together. If there’s one thing they’re doing right, it’s that. Anytime the singer can stick the mic in the air mid-song and have the crowd take it from there, you know you’ve got a good audience. Oilers fans at Rexall do it well too.
So, with those developments, we’re down to 3 contestants and teams. Here’s what we have left:
Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith – represented by Rich Abney.
Mike Richards and Chris Pronger – represented by Ryley Herzog.
Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Patrick Marleau – represented by Rob Cunning.
Did that big duface Chris Pronger and the Flyers make themselves contenders after pulling off the greatest playoff upset in history (only 3 teams in history have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series; the Flyers were the only of those teams to comeback from a deficit in the last game to win as well), or did they just burn themselves out to get lit up by Montreal next round? In that same notion, are the Canadiens a legit Cup contender now, after knocking off arguably the 2 best teams in the playoffs? As long as Montreal doesn’t keep spoiling everyone’s fun, one of our contestants will be our champion in 2 rounds of play.
Also, I think I’m going to allow someone to select Corey Perry, who has a chance to win 2 championships for Canada in the same year; that is, if Canada’s B Team can go all the way at the World Championships. As I’ve said before, that World Championship title doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot when the best players in the world are not competing for it. It’s far from a Stanley Cup, but it’d still be pretty cool. Any takers????
Can Jonathan Toews change his last name’s spelling to Tayves already, or some other phonetic spelling that makes sense? There really wouldn’t be any worry about disgracing the family name I’d think, Johnny’s easily the top Toews around. Just a thought.
As all of Canada is aware (and most of the US is pretending not to know anything about it or what we’re talking about) CANADA WON THE OLYMPICS AND WE’RE THE BEST IN WORLD AT MORE STUFF THAN EVERYONE ELSE ESPECIALLY HOCKEY STILL.
With that in mind, I was thinking the other day, that there’s a handful of Canadian hockey players that played for Team Canada this past Olympics and won gold there, that have teams that qualified for the NHL playoffs, and have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup this year. So for the following list of players (and coaches), there’s a HUGE opportunity to pretty much have the awesomest year of hockey possible, if they were to win both championships in the same season:
Vancouver Canucks – Roberto Luongo
Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby, Marc-André Fleury (does it count if you didn’t play any games?)
New Jersey Devils – Martin Brodeur, Jacques Lemaire
Chicago Blackhawks – Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews
Nashville Predators – Shea Weber
Los Angeles Kings – Drew Doughty
Philadelphia Flyers – Chris Pronger, Michael Richards
San Jose Sharks – Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton (does it count if you didn’t contribute?)
Boston Bruins – Patrice Bergeron
Detroit Red Wings – Mike Babcock
Buffalo Sabres – Lindy Ruff
Members of the Sharks and Blackhawks have the most personnel with the opportunity. But don’t count out Sid and Fleury’s Pens (mostly Sid’s), Brodeur’s been playing out of his mind for Jersey so far, Doughty may be a darkhorse, wily ol’ Mike Babcock and the Wings always have a chance. You can count out Luongo.
So, here’s what I am proposing. I will allow people to post their bets for Stanley Cup Champs/Olympic Gold aka “Double Hockey Awesomeness & Supremacy” (name subject to change), via the comment board. Once the last team is eliminated in the first round (to the nearest millisecond) I will tally the final ballots, and close the wagering. Until the cutoff time, feel free to change your votes, but be warned, I will only take your last choice at the elimination of the final first round team. The person(s) who correctly choose the correct players/team that win it all this year will receive….something, from me. I’m thinking an SDC Blogs t-shirt that says “I’M THE SMARTEST MAN/WOMAN ALIVE”, or something like that. I’ll let you know when I get it nailed down. Whatever, everyone likes t-shirts, right?
*** SDC TRIVIA: Who was/were the last player/players to win the Stanley Cup /Olympic Gold aka “Double Hockey Awesomeness & Supremacy” in the same season?***
(no prize awarded for this one)
So with that, happy betting! Enjoy the playoffs, and may the best/luckiest person win!
GO KINGS GO!