This is the first instalment of a new feature here on the Hockey Fanatic site called “Hockey Stories”. Really these are just random stories from my younger days growing up a hockey fan in Western Canada. For those who know me, I am a life long fan of the Edmonton Oilers and I grew up watching the glory years of the Oilers in the 80’s. We would love to hear from you as well. If you have a great hockey story to share drop us a line on Twitter @hockeyfanatics and maybe we’ll share your story or favorite hockey memory on our site.
Only one man has played professional hockey in six different decades. One of the greatest, meanest hockey players to ever play the game was a man from Floral, Saskatchewan named Gordon Howe. Ask anyone who was the greatest player of all-time and they will most likely name one of three players, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe.
Here is a quick story about how I got to meet Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself. Gordie Howe was a beast on the ice. He could do it all and often when he needed to he took matters into his own hands. Off of the ice I always thought that Mr. Howe was a soft spoken gentleman. When I was a kid, the WHA was folding and four of its teams were joining the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and the New England nee Hartford Whalers. It was on the Whalers that a 50 year old Gordie Howe would play with two of his sons Mark and Marty and play a full 80 games posting 15 goals and 26 assists in his final NHL season. Again he was 51 years old at the time. I cannot think of another athlete to play at this level and still be this effective at 51 years of age. Most impressive and just one of the reasons why Gordie Howe is one of the greatest athletes of all time.
So the story of how I got to meet Gordie Howe may not be anything special to you but it sure was to me. It was in the early 90`s I had moved to Kelowna, BC to study Business at Okanagan University College. I had grown up in small town Alberta so moving to the bigger city of Kelowna was quite an adjustment. I found it difficult to meet people at first but my love for the game of hockey allowed me to finally meet some great friends in the Okanagan. This was also right around the time when collecting hockey cards became a viable business and as a child I had a pretty decent collection (and still do) of hockey cards. So when it was announced that a hockey card show was coming to town and that Mr. Hockey himself was going to be in attendance, along with his son Marty, I knew that I had to attend.
As I recall the hockey card show was in a venue called The Boardwalk and old roller skating rink that sometimes held music concerts. It was on a Sunday I believe and I headed over to the show myself. In the days leading up I was going through my card collection to find the best Marty Howe and Gordie Howe hockey cards that I could to get autographed. The cards that I ended up selecting were a 1983 O-Pee-Chee card of Marty Howe and of all of the cards a 1991 ProSet black and white `Mr. Hockey`Gordie Howe card. I selected that card to get signed for a couple of reasons: one I had a number of doubles of that particular card and two I liked the classic pose of a young Gordie Howe in his Red Wings uniform.
So when it was time to finally get in line to meet the legendary hockey giant I made sure that I was near the front of the line. I was probably within the first twenty people to get in line, so as I approached the able I thought to myself that this was hockey royalty, I am actually going to meet arguably the greatest hockey player of all time Gordie Howe. Marty politely said hello and I said `hi`back and he very neatly signed the bottom left of the Hartford Whalers card that I presented to him. I thanked him and he gave me a wink. Then I moved ever so slightly to my left where Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe was sitting down. I said “Hello Mr. Howe, great to see you. Would you mind if I shook your hand?” With that, the then sixty two year old stood up reached out his hand and gently shook my extended hand. I remember thinking that these were the largest hands on a human being that I had ever seen. I recall reading stories that as a teenager back in Saskatchewan Gordie used to squeeze rubber balls so hard that he would crush them. I believe it after seeing the size of his paws. Then with a firm but gentle handshake Gordie Howe shook my hand. (It reminded me of how my grandfather used to shake hands with me.) He then gave me a smile and in his soft spoken voice asked me what my name was and said thanks for coming. I muttered something to the effect that it was my pleasure and politely thanked him for taking the time to sign my card. You can see how neatly he signed the card obviously from decades of practice. Now he must have signed a million autographs in his day but for me this was one of the greatest pieces of hockey memorabilia that I could ever have. I thought about how I read about the first time Mr. Howe met Wayne Gretzky and the famous picture where Gordie holds a stick up to Wayne’s ear. I thought about how my parents were from Saskatchewan and that I always had close ties to Saskatchewan and that it was cool that Mr. Howe was from Saskatchewan.
The meeting last all of 30-40 seconds but it was something that I would remember fondly.
So earlier this week when it was announced that Mr. Howe had suffered a pretty severe stroke, I remembered my meeting with him. I remember being so impressed with him. I thought about how ironic it was that he made more money from endorsements after hockey than in the five or six decades when he played. I thought that today’s players owe a lot to Gordie Howe and that I hoped he would be remembered as one of the greatest hockey players and greatest athletes of all time. I purchased his new book Mr. Hockey last week. I cannot wait to read it.
As Wayne Gretzky wrote the forward in Mr. Howe’s latest book:
“He played the game differently from any other player.Physical yet very elegant, smooth yet with an edge. Fans came to see him play all over North America, filling arenas every night, and very rarely did he disappoint anyone. He made the game bigger and better… You can never replace Gordie Howe – the greatest player ever…” You can’t argue with that. And for the record there is nothing cooler in my mind than getting a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick in hockey. How many other players have actions named after them in hockey? Not very many.
Mr. Howe, not sure if you will get to see this, but I wish you a speedy recovery and want to thank you for being a great ambassador for the great game of hockey. As always, elbows and head up Sir.
Every year around this time, hockey poolies convene in annual drafts to select their players who will earn them bragging rights for hockey pool supremacy. Also during this time, hockey fans and so called hockey experts throw their two cents in and make their pre-season NHL predictions. Well the new NHL season is days away from starting. The Hockey Fanatic again joins the mass array of hockey fans predicting the best of the best and who will be the also rans of the next NHL season. Here’s our educated guess as to who will finish at the top of each division, and ultimately who will win the Stanley Cup.
First off, the Hockey Fanatic feels that we will again see dominance in the West and unlike previous seasons, we expect some unexpected falls from grace with a couple NHL teams who have dominated in recent years. Here is our predictions for how each of the NHL divisions will finish.
Pittsburgh needs goaltending, they could be one of the teams that begins their fall from grace although a healthy Sidney Crosby may say otherwise. We expect the Washington Capitals to perform much better under new head coach Barry Trotz. Has Ovie checked out? Columbus and Philly are two teams that cold fluctuate the most. The Islanders could have a nice season with a healthy John Tavares and a good start to the season.
We think that this is the year that Detroit misses the post season in like forever. Many are liking how Tampa Bay looks, but it remains to be seen how Stamkos will perform without Marty St. Louis by his side for a full season. This could be the year that Montreal brings a Cup back to Canada. This will be the year of Carey Price and PK Subban. Toronto will be better but we think Randy Carlyle will be fired by December. Ottawa will play tough but just doesn’t have all of the pieces they need to contend with the big boys. Boston is just a hardworking team that may surprise some by offering up Zdeno Chara as trade bait at some point in the next couple of seasons. Florida should be better but won’t, even Booby Lu won;t help them win enough games to get into the post season.
The Blackhawks are awesome. If they stay injury free they will have a tremendous season and we’ll be hearing a lot of Cheslea Dagger. Could this finally be the year of the St. Louis Blues? They have a lot of the key components of being a contender. For our money the team that made the greatest improvements in the off season were the Dallas Stars. We think that Jamie Benn is still underrated. Dallas could be a dark horse come playoff time. On paper the Avs look stacked, however we think that their goaltending will be less than stellar this season. Jarome Iginla is a nice addition but he played on a good Bruins team last season, hard to say how much he’ll help the Avs this season. Minnesota will be tough to play against but goaltending could be an issue. The poor Jets will be a hardworking bunch but they simply lack the superstar player and top notch goalie top get them to the post season. The Preds will not score a lot of goals and with Barry Trotz gone may be in a transition year.
Man the Canadian teams are in tough in this Division. The Anaheim Ducks are going to be a tough team to beat this season as are the defending champions the Los Angeles Kings, but when you are the Stanley Cup champs everyone is gunning for you every night. This is a do or die year for the San Jose Sharks, not only do they have to get into the playoffs but they have to win at least two rounds. They were our pick to win it all last year but their colossal collapse to the Kings in round one last spring put an end to that. Do they have something to prove or will they dismantle by mid-season? Will Joe Thornton be a Ranger by the trade deadline? Vancouver could finish as worse as sixth if they get off to a slow start. How will Ryan Miller perform in the fishbowl? He’s not Roberto Luongo. What has Miller won in his pro career? A couple of silver medals? Will it be enough. No Kesler means less grit. You have to think that the Sedins will have a better year but they will again need to be point per game players if the Canucks are to make the playoffs, which we are predicting they won’t. We are a long-time fans of the Edmonton Oilers but the management team in that town is terrible. The Oilers have better goaltending and have gotten a little bigger, but they have a porous defense and lack a bonafide #2 centerman. This could be another long season. They should be a little better and at least shouldn’t be out of the playoff picture five weeks into the season, but it will take a minor miracle for these boys to make the playoffs this season. In fact I am so superstitious that this is the first time in 8 seasons that I am not getting the Center Ice package to watch all of the Oiler games. I can’t stand to watch a team lose so much. The Flames are on the downswing and although they are a hard working bunch they will have little fizzle this season. Could be in the running for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes come June.
As for Stanley Cup predictions. Our final four picks are: From the East: Tampa Bay and Montreal, From the West: Chicago and Los Angeles. Out pick for the Stanley Cup winner: Chicago Blackhawks.
Enjoy the season hockey fans.
With training camps set to open later this week and with rookie camps under way, we thought that we would evaluate some of the players to watch this upcoming NHL season. Being based in the West we get a little tired of hearing about the Eastern based teams all of the time so our list may be a little biased towards players based on Western teams. Quite honestly the West has provided the greatest entertainment value in recent years with multiple Stanley Cup championships for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
There is some great young talent in the game. Here is a look at some of the players to watch in the 2014-2015 NHL season. For all of you hockey poolies out there, these are the players you might want to take a risk on if they are available in your hockey pool.
There you have it, a look at 20 players to key an eye on this NHL season. Of course we expect to see some surprises, and we hope we see some positive things happen for the Canadian NHL teams. At the start of the season all 30 teams are in first place, then again all 30 teams are also tied for last place. In a couple more weeks the season will begin and the quest will begin anew for Lord Stanley’s Cup
As always the July 1st date is becoming a date that hockey fans a re circling on their calendars. It marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period where there tends to be a lot of activity with teams. Here is a look at the activity the past month.
So far the free agent that has cashed in the most is Steve Ott who signed with the St. Louis Blues for two years for a total of $5.2 million. There are still a handful of free agents out there who are available but with the tight cap space for some team, GMs and owners are going to have to get creative when dropping salary.
|Jul 19||Stempniak, Lee||RW||Pittsburgh||NY Rangers||$900K||1||$900K|
|Jul 17||Curry, John||G||Minnesota||Minnesota||n/a||1||n/a|
|Jul 16||Ferriero, Benn||RW||Vancouver||St. Louis||$600K||1||$600K|
|Jul 16||Butler, Chris||D||Calgary||St. Louis||$650K||1||$650K|
|Jul 15||Roy, Derek||C||St. Louis||Nashville||$1M||1||$1M|
|Jul 15||Ribeiro, Mike||C||Phoenix||Nashville||$1.005M||1||$1.005M|
|Jul 11||Moss, David||RW||Phoenix||Phoenix||$800K||1||$800K|
|Jul 11||Morrow, Brenden||LW||St. Louis||Tampa Bay||$1.55M||1||$1.55M|
|Jul 10||Smith, Trevor||C||Toronto||Toronto||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 10||Hannan, Scott||D||San Jose||San Jose||$1M||1||$1M|
|Jul 10||Lerg, Bryan||LW||Colorado||San Jose||$575K||1||$575K|
|Jul 10||Haley, Micheal||C||NY Rangers||San Jose||$600K||1||$600K|
|Jul 10||Cleary, Dan||LW||Detroit||Detroit||$1.5M||1||$1.5M|
|Jul 10||Ott, Steve||C||St. Louis||St. Louis||$5.2M||2||$2.6M|
|Jul 9||Heatley, Dany||LW||Minnesota||Anaheim||$1M||1||$1M|
|Jul 8||Grant, Alex||D||Ottawa||Ottawa||$700K||1||$700K|
|Jul 8||Corrente, Matt||D||Carolina||Tampa Bay||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 7||Volchenkov, Anton||D||New Jersey||Nashville||$1M||1||$1M|
|Jul 5||Cannone, Pat||C||St. Louis||St. Louis||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 5||Sutter, Brett||LW||Carolina||Minnesota||$1.2M||2||$600K|
|Jul 5||Piskula, Joe||D||Nashville||Nashville||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 5||McNeill, Patrick||D||Columbus||Phoenix||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 4||Bodie, Troy||LW||Toronto||Toronto||$600K||1||$600K|
|Jul 4||Legwand, David||C||Detroit||Ottawa||$6M||2||$3M|
|Jul 4||VandeVelde, Chris||C||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||$575K||1||$575K|
|Jul 4||McCarthy, John||LW||San Jose||St. Louis||$600K||1||$600K|
|Jul 4||Newbury, Kris||C||Philadelphia||Washington||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 4||Kennedy, Tim||LW||Phoenix||Washington||$550K||1||$550K|
|Jul 4||Holmstrom, Ben||C||Philadelphia||Carolina||$600K||1||$600K|
|Jul 3||Tarnasky, Nick||C||Montreal||NY Rangers||$1.15M||2||$575K|
The Florida Panthers select…. from the Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad. Are we going to hear these words in a few hours as the NHL draft gets under way in Philadelphia? Lost of buzz around the draft and rumors persist that Ryan Kesler has just been traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Anaheim Ducks, so hockey fans, GMs, coaches, players and teenagers waiting to be drafted are all anxious.
As it stands right now, the first round draft order looks like this:
|5||New York Islanders||-||-||-|
|8||Toronto Maple Leafs||-||-||-|
|15||Detroit Red Wings||-||-||-|
|16||Columbus Blue Jackets||-||-||-|
|19||Tampa Bay Lightning||-||-||-|
|20||San Jose Sharks||-||-||-|
|21||St. Louis Blues||-||-||-|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning***||-||-||-|
|29||Los Angeles Kings||-||-||-|
|30||New Jersey Devils+||-||-||-|
However anything can happen on draft day and during the draft weekend. Remember last year when the Canucks dealt Cory Schneider in a surprise move to the New Jersey devils? Last year’s NHL draft featured some surprise moves. This year we can expect to see some as well. Many suggest that this is no a super strong draft year yet there is a lot of discussion about team trading up into the top three to get centerman or perhaps the hulking lone defenseman expected to go in the top 5 in Eklbad.
Here is a look at potential predictions for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Of course trades could be made, players could fall as did Seth Jones last year, but here is a look at where some of the top draft picks may end up tonight.
|PICK||NHL TEAM||PLAYER||POSITION||2013-14 TEAM|
|1||FLA||Aaron Ekblad||D||Barrie (OHL)|
|2||BUF||Sam Bennett||C||Kingston (OHL)|
|3||EDM||Leon Draisaitl||C||Prince Albert (WHL)|
|4||CGY||Sam Reinhart||C||Kootenay (OHL)|
|5||NYI||Michael Dal Colle||LW||Oshawa (OHL)|
|6||VAN||Jake Virtanen||RW||Calgary (WHL)|
|7||CAR||Haydn Fleury||D||Red Deer (WHL)|
|8||TOR||Nick Ritchie||LW||Peterborough (OHL)|
|9||WPG||Nikolaj Ehlers||LW||Halifax (QMJHL)|
|10||ANA*||Kasperi Kapanen||LW/RW||KalPa (FIN)|
|11||NAS||William Nylander||LW||Modo (SWE)|
|12||ARZ||Brendan Perlini||LW||Niagara (OHL)|
|13||WAS||Julius Honka||D||Swift Current (WHL)|
|15||DET||Jared McCann||C||Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)|
|17||PHI||Anthony DeAngelo||D||Sarnia (OHL)|
|18||MIN||Robert Fabbri||C||Guelph (OHL)|
|19||TB||Travis Sanheim||D||Calgary (WHL)|
|20||SJ||Kevin Fiala||RW||HV71 (SWE)|
|21||STL||Ryan MacInnis||C||Kitchener (OHL)|
|23||COL||Adrian Kempe||LW||Modo (SWE)|
|24||ANA||Jakub Vrana||RW||Linkoping (SWE)|
|25||BOS||Nick Schmaltz||C||Green Bay (USHL)|
|26||MTL||Ivan Barbashev||C/LW||Moncton (QMJHL)|
|27||CHI||Marcus Pettersson||D||Skelleftea (SWE)|
|28||TB||Nikita Scherbak||LW||Saskatoon (WHL)|
|29||LA||Roland McKeown||D||Kingston (OHL)|
|30||NJ||Brendan Lemieux||LW||Barrie (OHL)|