Around the League – Mar 4, 2010

My apologies for the tardiness of Around The League, but today I had a chance to lace up the skates and play along side my favourite hockey player; Glenn Anderson.

Growing up on the farm outside New Sarepta, mixed in with a few years in Leduc, before moving back to the farm, I became a fan of Anderson. My brother’s favourite player was Mark Messier, and everyone loved Wayne Gretzky, but Anderson’s reckless attitude, ridiculous balance and his ability to score the big goal made him my childhood favourite.

The first time I interviewed Anderson on my show, was the only time I can remember being really nervous about an interview. In 2003, I did my show from the Palms Hotel in Vegas for the Playboy Extreme Sports weekend, and I had playmate of the year Jennifer Walcott and 12 other playmates on my show, and I wasn’t that nervous. More aroused, but not nervous. That story comes across better in audio, so I’ll get into that in a few weeks.

But today was one of the most memorable moments of my career. Anderson along with other NHL Alumni, Dave Lumley, Ron Low, Norm Lacombe, Brian Benning, Nathan Dempsey and Rob Brown skated at WEM today for the kick off of the Scotiabank ProAm for Alzheimers.

Anderson, Lacombe and Dempsey were on our team and I got to start the game playing centre with Lacombe on my right side. Norm is a great guy, who I’ve met many times over the years, and the guy is still in great shape, and has a heavy shot.

In warm up we were standing at the blueline and he starts telling me about the first time he got to play with Anderson and Messier.

“Slats comes up to me in the morning and tells me I’m playing with those two and to just go up and down my wing and go to the net. I’m pretty excited, but when the game starts I’m really nervous. The first period I don’t think I crossed to the other side of the ice. Midway through the second period I start to feel a bit more comfortable and those guys tell me to start criss-crossing when we break out."

“The next shift we break out of our zone and I cross to the right side, and I run right in Glenn. I rocked him good. He goes down, and I’m thinking ‘oh my God, I just killed Anderson,’ I look down, he looks up and me and starts laughing. After the shift I’m sitting on the bench and Slats leans down and says, ‘Norm I’m gonna put you back on your regular line. Good work.”

Norm chuckles after telling me the story, and I’m laughing on the outside, but I’m thinking to myself, I better keep my head up when we break out of our zone. Lacombe is still built like a brick shit house, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a collision.

The game is about to start and I look at Norm and tell him he’ll be the shooter, and we’re expecting a lot of goals from him. He looks at me straight-faced and says, “Did you look at my stats, I didn’t play on the powerplay, so don’t expect much.”

I’m thinking to myself, are you freaking kidding me. Don’t down play your ability; I want you to light it up. You played in the show; your wrists are as thick as my calves so I’m pretty sure you can shoot the puck. Of course I don’t say this out loud to him.

We are only playing 30 minutes and Anderson is playing defence and for the first 10 minutes every time I’m on the ice he’s either on the bench or sitting back. We get down 4-1 and you can see Anderson is a bit annoyed, so he starts carrying the puck a lot more. About time I’m thinking.

The guy can still fly, and he was only skating 70% at best. A few minutes later he comes wheeling in the zone, dekes around a few guys and fires a shot. The goalie makes the save and the rebound is right no my stick and I bury it for the open net goal. If there was an official score sheet, Anderson would have gotten an assist, ~ but really I did most of the work.~ (Editor note: use of ~s here is well played – WG)

For today’s game for every goal Scotiabank donated $250 to Alzheimers. They ended up donating $5,000 which is impressive.

I potted my second goal later on to make it 8-5 for them, but in five days I doubt I’ll remember that goal.

With a minute to go they were leading 10-9, and we’re pressing for the tie. Luckily one of our guys was gassed so he came off and I jumped on. Rob Brown, who has ridiculous hands by the way, was dangling in our own zone, but he got robbed when he tried some sort of circus shot and just missed the net.

Anderson scoops it up and in two strides he is four strides ahead of me coming out of our zone. He carries it all the way up the ice, slowing down so we can catch up to him, and he takes it wide down the left side, obviously all the defenders go to him as he skates behind the net. I’m the trailer coming in late, and I’m wide open in the slot so I yell, “Glenn,” he looks up, puts in on my tape and I whip it five-hole.

Up until that point every time I was open in the offensive zone I never said a word when he had the puck. Who the hell was I to yell for a pass from a Hall-of-Famer, and I thought he’d find me if I was really open, but on this rush I was able to blurt out that one word.

The score was irrelevant of course, but getting a tape-to-tape pass from Anderson and burying it was freaking cool. Catching a pass from Warren Moon in 2002, during a charity football game during the Grey Cup was unreal, but today was a bit sweeter.

Right after I scored, Glenn skated by with a big grin said “Nice finish” and then later on my show when he was in studio, he pointed out jokingly how he was impressed with my three goals. I think I might have blushed at that point, so thank goodness it was on radio.

I’ve had a chance to play shinny with current NHL guys and it was a blast, but it didn’t compare to lacing them up with my favourite player of all-time.

During the interview with Glenn, I found out that there was room to put together one more team for the tournament on April 9th to 11th. Every team has to raise $25,000 to enter, which sounds like a lot, but when you divide it 15 ways, it is only about $1,700 a guy. So I told them I would organize another team. Two minutes later I got a call on air from Rob Sroka, who owns all the Smitty’s in town. He donated $5,100.00 and took three spots. He also is going to raise more money in all ten of his stores. Wanye has agreed to sponsor a player as well – so everyone watch for him as he comes through your alley collecting bottles over the weekend. More on his player later too.

The event will run April 9th-11th in Edmonton and it will feature the aforementioned players along with Paul Coffey, Wendel Clark, Lanny McDonald, Craig MacTavish, Chris Joseph, Marty McSorley, Dave Hunter, Mark Napier, Kraig Neinhuis and Mike Krushelnyski and they will suit up on different teams made up of regular guys.

So if any of you want to play on our team, fire me an email, (gregor@theteam1260.com) and we’ll see if we can get you in. The team that raises the most money gets the first pick of which Alumni they want on their team, and then it goes in order of most money raised. So you don’t need to be a stellar player, but a good fundraiser and a good team guy.

I wonder if you had to choose between all those guys, which one you’d want on your team? The interesting thing to note is that I think the best story teller might be more fun to have than the best player.

The cool part about this weekend will be the draft night itself. It goes on Friday the 9th. Only players on teams who are playing can come. No friends, wife, girlfriends or kids; just the guys who registered to play. The draft night consists of dinner and an open bar at a secret location that won’t be announced to people until that evening. This is where you get to sit and mingle with all the Alumni have a few pops and hear some great stories.

Ice women

Here we are in week 22 and I finally discover that the Nashville Liquid Ice Girls.

Everyone has different tastes and the Nashville recognizes that by ensuring they have a blonde, Maranda, a brunette, Logan and a Ginger, Sarah. Sarah plays hockey which just adds to her sexiness.

Random thoughts

Is it just me, but how weird was it to see the Oilers and Flames make a trade? I think Oiler and Flame fans are still in shock over it, and if you own a Staios jersey you are really torn. I see why Edmonton made the trade, but what was Darryl Sutter thinking. Steve Staios is a heart-and-soul player, but he’ll be 35 next year and making $2.7 million. The Flames don’t need more defence, they need some offence and Staios won’t provide it. This deal makes no sense from a Calgary perspective.

I think the Ryan Whitney/Lubomir Visnvosky trade is okay at best. I know the Oilers get younger, bigger and cheaper, but they also add a player who comes with a reputation of being soft. The Oilers have too many of those players. I spoke with an NHL scout today who said, “Whitney has loads of talent and he can control a game, but too often he is soft.” If he can learn to play with a little more willingness to engage then the deal could look good for Steve Tambellini. That is a big if, and my concern is that we’ve been told the culture of this team needs to change, and be more aggressive, assertive and mentally competitive, yet they added Whitney. Strange.

Does Mike Gillis honestly think that Yan Stastny and Andrew Alberts will make his team better? A team’s window to win isn’t that big and I think the Canucks needed to do more to give them a chance to compete with Chicago and San Jose. The Canucks might win one round, but I can’t see them winning two. If I was a Canuck fan I’d be a tad annoyed at Gillis’ underwhelming moves.

The Phoenix Coyotes made seven moves, and added five players to their roster. On paper it looks like they should improve. Their PP stinks at 29th spot, and Wojtek Wolski, Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider should help in that department, but the Coyotes win with solid defence and none of those guys are that good in their own zone. Dave Tippett, who should win coach of the year, can cement that if he gets those three to be decent defenders.

The San Jose Sharks didn’t do anything, but I wonder if Doug Wilson felt that having Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle on the gold medal team was enough to get those guys to understand what it takes to win. At least for Marleau and Thornton. I think the experience will give the Sharks a much-needed boost of mental toughness.

I can’t see Calgary beating out two of Nashville, Detroit and Anaheim to make the playoffs. If Darryl Sutter keeps his job after they miss the playoffs I’d be more stunned. They don’t have a 1st or 2nd rounder this year, they’re getting older and he doesn’t have any offensive depth in the organization. How can he keep his job if they miss the playoffs?

Is Wolski the first significant player to wear #86? I can’t recall another one, and he made quite the impression scoring the winner with 23 seconds left against his former team.

Leaders through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
42:
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby
38: Patrick Marleau and Steven Stamkos
35: Marian Gaborik
33: Ilya Kovalchuk
32: Dany Heatley
30: Alexander Semin
29: Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter

Assists:
60:
Joe Thornton
58: Henrik Sedin
53: Martin St. Louis
51: Nicklas Backstrom and Brad Richards
48: Ovechkin and Mike Green
47: Paul Stastny
46: Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane

Points:
90:
Ovechkin
83: H. Sedin
80: Crosby
77: Backstrom
76: Thornton
75: St. Louis
73: Stamkos
72: Patrick Kane
69: Marian Gaborik
68: Brad Richards

Plus/Minus:
+43:
Ovechkin
+39: Jeff Schultz
+33: Backstrom
+31: Alex Burrows and Mike Green
+29: H. Sedin
+28: Daniel Sedin
+26: Christian Ehrhoff
+25: Jonathon Toews
+24: Zach Parise, The Human Rake, Mike Knuble and Alex Semin

***Patrick O’Sullivan has a big lead for the green jacket sitting at -32. Shawn Horcoff has dropped to -28, while Rod Brind’Amour is -25 and Ales Kotalik is -21.***

PP Goals:
15:
Stamkos
14: Heatley
13: Mike Richards and Gaborik
12: Crosby and Anze Kopitar
11: Backstrom, Marleau, Ryan Kesler and Ilya Kovalchuk

Hits:
254: Cal Clutterbuck
246: Ryan Callahan
230: Dustin Brown
211: Stephane Robidas
203: Steve Ott
201: Brooks Orpik
192: Chris Neil
191: Matt Greene
190: Brendan Morrow
189: David Backes

Shots:
290:
Ovechkin
267: Parise and Jeff Carter
231: Crosby
225: Malkin
218: Gaborik
221: Phil Kessel
220: Henrik Zetterberg
219: Marleau and Lecavalier
218: Gaborik and Rick Nash

Quote of the week

My producer Meg Morrison gets married on Saturday and today was her last shift before taking the plunge. We have been jokingly giving her tips on how to be a great wife. Some of you have sent in some hilarious emails about it, but today in studio Robin Brownlee, who is married floored me.

He looked at Meg and said, “The difference between being a single girl and a married one is having a hand on the back of your head”. I sat in awed silence.

  • Norm Lacombe IS a great guy. I had the pleasure of learning some training tips from him through his HIT (Hockey Impact Training) program around 95/96 or so. Also had the pleasure of spending the night at his place. His wife and kids were quite nice from what I can recall. What is/was the ol' gym downtown… the one Scotty the Bulldog always trained out of? We spent a few days there. Thats back when the dream was alive and well, lol. I think I actually had maybe the best year of my ~esteemed~ career after that summer in Bantam AAA. Good times!