Orla’s Blog

November 22nd, 2011

Recently, I had the chance to speak with Adam Proteau, writer for The Hockey News and co-host of The Hockey News Radio Show with Jamie Shalley, (Fridays from 3pm-4pm  on NHLHomeIce XM 92 & Sirius 207) about his new book ‘Fighting The Good Fight.’ I’ve long been a fan of Adam’s weekly column for The Hockey News and over the holidays I had the chance to read ‘Fighting The Good Fight’. It was truly an insightful read that will make you question your opinion of fighting and its related dangers. If you’re a hockey fan with a passion for the game this book is for you. A few questions with Adam below:

Orla: You played amateur hockey as a young fella. Are there any particular scenarios from your playing days that stand out to you relating to violence and or aggressiveness on the ice?

Adam: First of all, I have to stress that I was nowwhere near an elite player. I played house league, house league all-star, and only as high as ‘A’ level. But as I write about in the book, I was a bigger kid than most at the time and was the aggressor on my team. The guy who avenged his smaller teammates.

During one game, I got into a stick-swinging incident and was suspended eight games by the old Metro Toronto Hockey League, and threatened with permanent expulsion if I got into another incident. That changed the way I saw the game, although it wasn’t always in the front off my mind when I began examining the game as a journalist. I think the application of logic, regardless of your hockey background or experience, should cause you to question the direction of the game.

Orla: Was there a specific incident or moment that encouraged you to start speaking out against on-ice violence in Hockey?

Adam: No, I think in part by reading people like Ken Dryden, Serge Savard and Mike Bossy and seeing they criticized the hyper-aggression of the North American pro game because they loved it, and in part by understanding how the goon role evolved through the history of the sport, it wasn’t hard to speak honestly about the fact I thought hockey could be better.

Orla: Being a Hockey writer and having the contacts of highly respected present and former NHL players and representatives at your disposal, what challenges did you face writing this book?

Adam: There were people who didn’t want to speak on the record or at length because they feared for their jobs within the industry. Hockey has an authoritarian culture that doesn’t tolerate dissent very well, so I understand their feelings. But people were also very good about directing me to useful information.

The biggest challenge was time. Turning a book around in a little more than three months, while also working at The Hockey News, was not something I’d do again unless there was a lot of money involved. A lot.

Orla: How long did it take you to gather facts and information to help support your opinion on fighting and on-ice violence?

Adam: I was writing, researching and interviewing throughout the three-and-a-half months I put it together. It was a bit of a scramble, as I wrote some chapters out of the order I had originally laid out. But I had consistently big deadlines to hit that kept me focused.

Orla: In your book chapter 2 is boldly titled ‘We Sell Hate’. Do you feel those are fitting words for today’s NHL?

Adam: Sure, although sometimes for the wrong reasons. You look at something like the current Bruins/Canucks feud – that’s a clear case of two teams that hate each other, with a lot of interest and excitement being generated.

The problem is, sometimes the hate is directed at the league. By which, I mean the loathing people have for an NHL justice system that hands out punishments very selectively. Most leagues take care of their supplemental discipline issues properly so the focus stays on the on-field product, but for a variety of reasons, the NHL is satisfied giving out these baffling, mostly inconsequential fines and suspensions. I’ll never think that’s a good thing.

Orla: Chapter 9 titled ‘The Enlightened’ you ask former players, coaches, agents and others within the industry various questions on their thoughts & ideas on how to make the NHL care for it’s participants. Was there anyone in particular who stood out to you the most? Why?

Adam: David Perron, the young Blues star who missed more than a calendar year recovering from a concussion, was a very smart and brave guy for speaking out as boldly as he did in the book. I think future generations will recognize him as a force for good in the game.

Orla: Do you believe it’s sufficient to educate players, coaches and managers solely on the repercussions of concussions?

Adam: No, I think actions won’t change until harsher suspensions and fines are levied routinely. As long as you allow the culture to flourish financially, there’s no reason for players to change.

Orla: In what ways do you believe fan reaction and the public’s opinions can encourage a positive change on fighting and on-ice violence in todays game?

Adam: I think we’re already seeing the effect of changing public opinion. The outcry in Montreal after the Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara incident was so pronounced, even corporate partners of the NHL began publicly rebuking the league for the direction of its product. And when owners like Geoff Molson, Eugene Melnyk and Mario Lemieux argue passionately against that direction, that’s an indication of the way the issue is headed.

Fighting The Good Fight by Adam Proteau is available online at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters.indigo.ca and all major bookstores.

You can follow Adam on twitter @Proteautype.

Orla Lawrie

Orla’s Blog

November 22nd, 2011

Gretzky’s Radio producer Orla Lawrie shares some tips for kids and parents from hockey legends.

Visit Wayne Gretzky’s

May 26th, 2011

Playing host to Wayne’s personal collection of memorabilia, Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant Toronto is in fact three places in one…

Experience Fantasy Camp

May 26th, 2011

WG Authentic is pleased to announce that Fantasy Camp IX will again be held at the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Recent celebrity guests have included Brian Leetch, Denis Savard, Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. Fantasy Camp IX will run from February 8-13, 2011. For information on how you can be a part of this event please contact drew@wgauthentic.com or Register Online.

Friends Of Gretzky

May 26th, 2011

Visit the official Wayne Gretzky Facebook page and get updates and highlights from the world of Wayne

Golden State Warriors

April 10th, 2011

Steady yourself for an onslaught of Golden State clichés. 

The song California Dreamin’ will be front-and-centre.  You can pretty much count on Hockey Night in Canada to air that one over a montage of hockey highlights.

How about Come to California by Matthew Sweet?  That’s what the NHL Playoffs are doing this spring, as for the first time all three California-based NHL franchises are headed to the post-season.

That’s one more team than the entire country of Canada is sending, though the population of California is over 37 million, about three million more people than the entire Motherland of Hockey (C).   Maybe the NHL should move the Coyotes to San Diego, and the Thrashers to Fresno .

The Anaheim Ducks have enjoyed the most playoff success recently, having carved their name on the Stanley Cup only four seasons ago, while the Los Angeles Kings haven’t had the pleasure yet, only making the Final way back in 1993, when Kurt Cobain was still alive, OJ was just an ex-football player, and Wayne Gretzky was a young monarch.

The San Jose Sharks were born out of a divorce in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and for two decades plus they’ve been even less successful in the playoffs than the Kings.  The Sharks are one of the few NHL teams never to have placed a skate on Final ice.

This year, the Ducks are a trendy pick to do some damage in the playoffs, but that may all hinge on the health of their goaltending.  The Comeback Kid, Ray Emery, is always and forever one bad bump away from a lower body injury.

The Sharks may finally be off everyone’s expectation radar, after seasons of coming up small in the post-season.  General Manager Doug Wilson has copied the Stand Pat routine pioneered by famed baseball GM Pat Gillick, when he ran the Toronto Blue Jays in the late 80’s.  Gillick put together a number of talented teams during his watch, and was reluctant to make changes just for the sake of change, even when the Jays came up short time and time again in late September.

Then again, Gillick only won the Big One in baseball when he finally deviated from that plan, and made a big splash one off-season, trading a couple of star players (Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez) to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

Alomar joins Gillick in the Baseball Hall-of-Game this July.

Wilson should probably be in the hockey equivalent for his stellar work patrolling the blue line for the Chicago Black Hawks during the 1980’s.  He may get there yet, rewarded for his managerial skills, a resume that will only be taken seriously if he can add at least one Stanley Cup to the masthead.

The California Dreamin’ part, of course, really kicks in if two of these teams meet up in the playoffs.  Particularly the Kings and Ducks.  That could still come to pass, but the first round will feature the Sharks against the Kings.

When it comes to regional rivalries, hockey has the Rangers and Islanders, it has the Flames and Oilers.  It has the Maple Leafs and Senators, when both teams actually put a good product on the ice.  Maybe next season.  The Maple Leafs and Sabres are also a good regional matchup.

It had the Canadiens and Nordiques, but that’s history…for now.  Detroit and Chicago are close, geographically speaking, and certainly historically, so you can add that one to the mix. 

Boston and Hartford once had a thing goin’ on, but that was more like big brother Bruin endlessly beating up on Whale Boy.  Except for that 11-0 thumping the B’s took a long time ago at the hands (fins) of the Whalers.

The Hartford Whalers began life as the New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association, and they initially played out of Boston.  But that’s all dusty history now.

The Kings and Ducks would put on a marvellous show for hockey fans across North America.  The Freeway Faceoff Playoff Edition might even make a few front pages in Southern California.

The Ducks have their own modern day version of the Triple Crown Line.  The Mighty Mallards?  The Quack Attack?  Huey, Dewey, and Louie?

The Kings’ attack has been hampered by recent injuries, though their goaltending appears to be in better shape than the Ducks, unless Mr. Hiller can come all the way back.

The popular choice would probably be the Ducks in that matchup.  Especially considering how Anaheim handled L.A. during the final weekend of the regular season.  Try getting a ticket for that series.

The Boys from Northern California plan to have something to say about all that.  This is the first time they face the Kings in the playoffs, though there has been an All-California playoff series in the NHL before this.

The Sharks fell to the Ducks in six games during the first round of the 2009 playoff, the last time Anaheim has won a post-season series, having failed to make the playoffs last year.

Until a Kings-Ducks playoff battle finally ensues, hockey fans should be more than content with a San Jose – Los Angeles matchup.  Maybe Dionne Warwick can be coaxed into once again singing about all the stars in L.A. who are pumping gas.

 LA is a great big freeway
Put a hundred down and buy a car
In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a star
Weeks turn into years, how quick they pass
And all the stars that never were
Are parkin’ cars and pumpin’ gas

You can really breathe in San Jose
They’ve got a lot of space
There’ll be a place where I can stay
I was born and raised in San Jose
I’m goin’ back to find
Some peace of mind in San Jose…(C) Burt Bacharach and Hal David

The East Coast might have to get ready for a series of very late nights.

Come To California, indeed.

 come to California
come to California
baby let it all hang out
come to California
tell us what it’s all about
but watch your mind little bit
’cause the future is beginning now
come to California . . .
but watch your mind little bit
’cause you’re headed into the machine
come to California . . . (C) Matthew Sweet

 Mick Kern

Fantasy Camp XII Is Coming

February 15th, 2011

Follow along with everything from Fantasy Camp XII at the official Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp page facebook.com/gretzkydotcom

Mayhem Through the Eyes of the Beholder

February 12th, 2011

God is on our side.

Every army marches into battle thinking so.  Or at least hopes so, though sources tell me The Grand Master of All doesn’t pick sides.

Regardless, it’s human nature to believe that our cause is just, our belief is right, our way is the true way.

Take, for example, the Islanders-Penguins tilt on Friday evening.

There was a buzz before this matchup on the Island that didn’t have much to do with the respective talents of the two teams.

It had to do with the Dancing Bear side of the old shinny game.

How would the Islanders respond to slights, real and imagined, delivered their way by the Penguins the last time these two teams butted heads?

Penguins TV included the Brent Johnson-Rick DiPietro one-punch fight in its opening segment; the Islanders telecast also focused on it.

Hey, it was the main story line.  It would become The Main Event.

After building up an insurmountable 6-0 lead, the Islanders saw fit to exact some revenge for the laundry list of grudges they carried around with them.

About halfway through the second period, Matt Martin decided to go all Todd Bertuzzi on Maxime Talbot, and attacked the Penguin forward without provocation.

Well, that depends on what television broadcast you were glued to.

Thanks to Gamecentre on the NHL.com website, one can go back and view the events through the eyes of the Islanders, and then the Penguins broadcast crews.

Penguins  – Paul Steigerwald & Bob Errey

Islanders – Howie Rose & Butch Goring

From the Islanders viewpoint, Martin’s hit was payback for the pound of flesh Talbot exacted in the last game.  Rose and Goring applauded Martin for acting upon the age-old hockey truism of “taking a number”.

They lauded Martin for choosing the appropriate time to get back at Talbot.  A 6-0 lead for the Good Guys (C) was the perfect time, because the resulting instigator penalty probably would not hurt the Islanders.

Flip the broadcast over to the Penguins side of the battle, and things looked quite different.

To the Pittsburgh TV guys, there is no place in the game for what Martin did.

Or at least face Talbot when you attack him.

And in the third period, when Mr. Bridgeport, Micheal Haley, found it necessary to get back at Brent Johnson for his one punch knockout of Rick DiPietro, the Human Injury Machine, (even though DiPietro WANTED to fight), Eric Godard jumped off the bench to come to his goaltender’s rescue.  A big no-no, though he’ll be a hockey hero in the Pittsburgh dressing room for his mad dash.

Both the Islanders and the Penguins broadcasters shared similar sentiments about that one.

Rightfully so, Godard was slapped with a 10-game suspension.  Hopefully the league makes him serve the entire sentence.

Just before that happened, Howie Rose quickly apologized for initially saying that Eric Tangradi “turtled” when Trevor Gillies went at him. 

Tangradi appeared hurt on the hit from Gillies, who showed his worth to Mankind by dropping his gloves and banging away at the injured Tangradi, who was certainly not turtling.

For his contribution to the great game of hockey, Gillies was suspended for nine games.  Martin got four games for his earlier sucker punch on Talbot.  Not that these suspensions will hurt the Islanders all that much; how much of an NHL future did a player like Gillies have anyhow?

What does hurt is a significant monetary fine.

The Islanders were fined $100,000 for their inability to control their dogs.  Geesh, that’s about three games worth of gate receipts for the team.

By the time another gathering of the clan happened near the end of the third period, the arena crew were playing “Rough Boys” by Pete Townshend, a song released in 1980.  Which was a great season for the Philadelphia Flyers.  A fitting choice.

What a shame Matt Cooke missed all the fun.

The Islanders’ TV crew were almost boastful about how the Islanders went after Talbot. 

Know your audience.  They did.

For the most part, Rose and Goring sounded like they were enjoying the freak show, continually pointing out that the crowd was eating this stuff up, though they later admitted things were getting “silly” when the fighting persisted with mere minutes remaining in the game.

Butch Goring went on about how the Islanders will grow as a team because of the events  in that game.  Sadly, he’s probably correct.

Steigerwald and Errey kept saying “this is ridiculous”, and asking “when is enough enough”?

Any guess which of these teams is playing better hockey this season?  Which team fills its arena by playing actual hockey?

Without much doubt, if you substitute any two NHL teams for the Islanders, and Penguins, and have a similar scenario unfold, the TV broadcasters (and radio…and print media…and bloggers, especially bloggers) would interpret event according to their home-team bias.

It’s rare when a home broadcaster calls a game as objectively as possible.  After all, they understand they are mostly broadcasting to fans of the home team.  Not all that long ago, before the widespread use of the internet, and services such as NHL Centre Ice, only the home fans saw the home TV broadcast.

It was different for terrestrial radio, if you were lucky and the signals were clear that night.

Back in early 1985, a friend and I spent a pleasant clear winter night in Ottawa listening to Dick Irvin Jr. do a broadcast of the Montreal Canadiens in Landover, taking on the Washington Capitals.

The Habs games were carried on CKBY, the local FM country station.

Using a second radio, we chanced upon the Washington broadcast of the game.  For the most part, the signal from down South was consistent.

It was fascinating to compare and contrast the two calls.

While deeply immersed in the Canadiens’ culture for decades, Irvin was an old pro who had earned more than enough respect that he could call out Montreal when they didn’t play well, or when they got lucky, or when they got away with something.  His relative lack-of-bias must have had something to do with the fact his Hockey Hall-of-Fame father used to coach the Maple Leafs, and Black Hawks.

On the other hand, the radio play-by-play voice for the Capitals was all Caps.  He knew his constituency.  They were, generally speaking, probably relatively new to the game, and probably were Caps fans first, then hockey fans.

The Capitals could do no wrong, and when they did, it was invariably the fault of the officials.

Of course, cheering for Montreal, I heard things differently than others, but my friend, a die-hard Boston Bruins fans, in no hurry to find common ground with a Habs fan, agreed with my take on things.

I recall Washington won the game.  They often did after the Rod Langway trade earlier that decade.

A quick look at flyershistory.com reveals that the Capitals and Canadiens met in Montreal on December 20th, 1984, and that one ended in a 2-2 tie.

Was that the game we listened to?

It seems more likely we listened to the back end of a home-and-home series in late March.

On March 21st, the home town Canadiens downed Washington 3-2.

A night later, the home town Capitals returned the favour, beating Montreal 3-1, and yes, Rod Langway scored what proved to be the winning goal.

There were ten major penalties handed out in the game, five to each side.

Yup, this had to have been the game.  Soetart against Jensen.

Would love to see the video for that one, after all these years.

To see what really happened.

 - Mick Kern

We’ll be updating this page with new pictures throughout the day.

For videos, links and more, check out www.gretzky.com/fantasycamp/

Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp – Friday

February 11th, 2011

We’ll be updating this page with new pictures throughout the day.

For videos, links and more, check out www.gretzky.com/fantasycamp/