Category Archives: Hockey

Why not Jaroslav Halak?

Hockey card of Jaroslav HalakThinking about the idea of the NHL’s dueling “bubbles,” the image I couldn’t get out of my head was that, best case scenario, this ends with a team getting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and celebrating to the echo of a nearly empty arena. No boos for the commissioner, not even the resigned gaze of those unfortunate fans who have to watch the visiting team hold the trophy aloft.

And because I’m not a player, my real issue with this was from the self-centered perspective of a fan — how is it going to feel watching a team win the championship in a vacant rink?

I don’t have an answer for that, and I won’t until this tournament winds down to a close some time in late September. But I do know, after watching the Bruins set the Carolina Hurricanes aside in five games, that I’m just about as invested as I ever am. I can’t go to a bar with friends to watch a game and I can’t even partake in the futile exercise of seeing how expensive playoff tickets are getting. Even the start times of these games — 11 a.m., 4 p.m., etc. — is messing with my equilibrium, nevermind the incongruous act of watching hockey in the middle of oppressive August heatwaves.

But I’m here, and I’m in, pretty much as deeply as I’m ever in. And while the Bruins are alive in the bubble, I’m in on Jaroslav Halak. Continue reading

It was impossible to ignore Jarome Iginla’s genius

Hockey card of Jarome Iginla

There’s so much nuance to hockey that it can sometimes take a while watching a player before any inherent greatness becomes obvious. Watch Pavel Datsyuk or Jonathan Toews for the first time, for example, and their overall prowess might not stand out if they’re not putting the puck in the back of the net.

That was not the case for Jarome Iginla. Watch any game, and his virtuosity seemed to jump off the ice immediately.

I covered Iginla’s first game in Boston as a member of the Bruins. My memory — that he had a somewhat shaky first shift, followed by a dominating second swing through the ice — was confirmed by a column I wrote that night. He lined up on the right wing alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic, and from that shift on, he was a powerhouse. He didn’t score a goal, but it was impossible to ignore his impact on the game.

He would score 30 goals as a 36-year-old, tying Patrice Bergeron for the team lead, and was a rock on that top line. He more than filled the gap vacated by Nathan Horton and was a tremendous cog on a team that won the President’s Trophy. And with this week’s news that he’s earned induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in his first year of eligibility, it seems like a good time to look back on that single season in black and gold. Continue reading

Ray Bourque going to work, every day

This is a man at work. The beard indicates that, in this moment, the guy hopping over the boards is probably in pursuit of the Stanley Cup and in the midst of a particularly stressful day at the office. There’s a couple of week’s worth of growth or so, which indicates that we’re maybe in the mid-stages of the playoffs, perhaps the Adams Division tilt with the Montreal Canadiens.

The guy jumping onto the ice with such cold jubilation is Ray Bourque, of course. He broke into the NHL with the Bruins in the fall of 1979 and spent the next 22 seasons hopping the boards as often as possible. He never played fewer than 60 games in a full season and logged 1,826 games between regular seasons and the playoffs.

This image has lived in my collection for years, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a unique action shot of no. 77 doing a job he seemed to quietly relish, and a job that he did more often and for longer than most. It was another day, and there was work to do. Continue reading

Five games to get you through the doldrums

Hockey card of Gary GalleyI’ve referenced at several points through this odyssey that I’ve been spending my free time watching an inordinate number of classic hockey games via YouTube. Whatever I can find or whatever seems interesting in that moment, that’s what I’ll go to.

This is where I let it be known that I have spent a lot of time in the 1970s and ’80s, when the boards were off-white and the red line was in play, when helmets were sparse and most masks were of the fiberglass, halloween variety. And even if the pace is a bit slower because of the rules and the conditioning regiments of the time, the game is still largely the same — both teams are trying to get odd-man rushes, both trying to hit a goalie’s weak points, both trying to outdo the other in terms of skill or strength, whatever’s on hand.

To take us into the weekend after more than a month of quarantine, I thought I’d pass along some games that caught my attention. These aren’t necessarily the five greatest games ever, but they were definitely entertaining. And what more can one ask for at a time like this? Continue reading

Reliving Nifty’s glory days

Hockey card of Rick MiddletonIn this era of distance and isolation, I’ve probably been on more text threads than I have at any other point in my life.

One of them is, not surprisingly, rather sports centric. And through the many twists and turns that begins as a basketball highlight and mutates into complaining about the Red Sox, poking fun at the NFL and then debating various eras of various contests, the thread turned to educating one friend about Rick Middleton, in which I happily participated.

He was sold right from the get-go of Middleton’s highlight reel, which begins with him chilling on the bench, hair swept back, mustache in full glory, casually sporting a black eye and waiting for his next shift. That video does have a few ridiculous moments packed into just over a minute of footage, but there was obviously more to his game. Continue reading