The year is 2019, and 37-year-old Britney Spears, in her continued quest to compensate for a complete lack of talent and charisma by "shocking" America through scripted and contrived mouth kisses, lays a wet one on a stupefied Barry Trotz while presenting him with his seventh consecutive Jack Adams Award at the 2019 NHL Awards Show.
Trotz, in his 22nd year as Predators coach, is the sixth public figure to join Spears' kiss list: Madonna in 2003, the Olsen twins in 2005, Anna Kournikova in 2009, Funny Cide in 2012, and Creed lead singer Scott Stapp in 2017.
Her televised/Maury Povich Show kiss with Stapp was in conjunction with the release of their husband/wife duet CD that sold 14 copies. When asked why after her long line of celebrity mouth kissing banditry, she would opt to smooch a 56-year-old NHL head coach, Spears replied, "I loved Beetlejuice!!"
A week earlier, the Detroit Red Wings won their 15th Stanley Cup and fourth under the direction of president and GM Steve Yzerman, who retired after the 2003-2004 season, a year in which he played the entire postseason on one leg. After scoring 23 goals, Yzerman finished the regular season in such pain that he chose to have the leg amputated. He finished the playoffs with 11 goals and 16 assists, the Conn Smythe and his fourth Stanley Cup. His career ended with his double overtime, Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against the New York Rangers and their so-called Trade Deadline line. With his patented "row boat" style skating, Yzerman weaved past Jaromir Jagr and his linemates, Alexi Yashin and Pierre Turgeon, and beat goaltender Tom Poti five-hole. When Glen Sather was asked why started the startled 42-year-old defenseman in net, Sather responded, "Dude, I'm Slats."
With the new salary cap and revenue sharing, it was a new NHL, and the Wings had to build from scratch. They lost all their Hall of Famers to retirement and Pavel Datsyuk to the newly formed Russian Professional Hockey League, whose motto was "Come home and play for us or we'll borrow your liver for the summer." Every game was sold out as a similar slogan was used in league marketing.
Yzerman's first order of business was in the planning and unveiling of Taco Bell/Hockeytown Heaven, the Red Wings beautiful new 15,000-seat rink. "Hello everyone and welcome to Hockeytown Heaven," would become the most famous words in 21st century hockey. Intimate, with wonderful vertically mounted individual plasma screens on each seat, plenty of legroom, and computer-generated concession ordering. Punch in your order on the plasma screen, swipe your credit or check card and your food and beverages arrive.
After four frustrating years, Yzerman the GM won back-to-back Cups in 2010 and 2011. His teams were average, but rookie goaltender Matthew "Little Chicken Parm" Ferraro, fresh from three straight NCAA titles at Michigan, won back-to-back Conn Smythes. Red Wings goaltending coach Darren Pang said he hasn't hadn't been so excited about a goaltending prospect since Blaine Lacher. Hearing those words, Ferraro's confidence was crushed and he retired in January 2012, opting to join his father's mail-order ball bearings company, whose motto was, yes, "It's all ball bearings nowadays."
The Wings would falter following the 2014 Bill Wirtz led lockout. Wirtz, who had stopped televising Chicago Blackhawks road games in 2009, banned radio in 2010, barred all newspaper coverage in 2011 and in an unprecedented move, announced fans were no longer welcome to watch Hawks games for the 2013-14 season. At the end of the 2013-14 season, Wirtz announced, "Due to the spiraling costs of players salaries, the NHL has no choice but to cease operations until the system is fixed once and for all. The revenues and player costs do not add up."
After a lost 2016-2017 season, the Wings won the NHL draft lottery and selected 7-foot-8, 410-pound Chinese goaltender Yao Pang with the first pick of the 2017 NHL draft. Yzerman the GM followed that up with the free agent signing of 30-year-old Sidney Crosby. Crosby was coming off his eighth Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins, which he won alongside Marc-Andre Fleury and Alexander Ovechkin. The Penguins declared bankruptcy for the 23rd time in club history that summer, before NHL Commissioner Chris Chelios said, "Enough's enough. I can't have NHL players having their wages garnished, and if I were Gary Bettman, I'd worry about my personal safety." The Penguins were dissolved and the players declared free agents.
Crosby led the Wings to two Cups, and at the 2019 NHL Awards Show accepted his seventh Hart Trophy. As paramedics revived Barry Trotz, reporters asked the 55-year-old Sir Stevie Y his thoughts about winning his eighth Stanley Cup.
Yzerman's reply: "Oops. I did it again."
When I was senior at Heidelberg College, I cut a 2-inch by 1-inch picture of Steve Yzerman out of the newspaper and hung it on my dormitory door. I wasn't a Wings fan and had never seen Yzerman play. This was the mid-80's, I lived in Eastern Ohio, and the NHL was on SportsChannel. I wasn't one of the 47 people who had that network as part of their cable package. But his eyes mesmerized me. I thought, this is a person who has big dreams. Big visions. He has a plan and a focus to see it through and stick it out. I knew nothing about him, had never seen or heard him speak, but something moved me to hang that picture on my door as inspiration that life's biggest joys and awards come from dealing with and overcoming pain and discomfort. Those eyes said, "Nothing good comes easy." Have a vision and stick it out. As you'll read, No. 19 has more dreams and visions.
No. 1: Why should I buy your NHL Rivals 2004 X-Box video game?
Yzerman: Because the Red Wings are a powerhouse. I know you like to play GM and this game enables you to put your team together and play your rivals. You can also get in a fight and win it maybe. It's the only place I'll win one.
Stevie Y has three career fighting majors, the last was in 1994-95.
No. 2: How's your knee in the video game?
Yzerman: I'm flying out there! I'm doing a lot of things out there.
Wizer, as he is known to his friends, was born May 9, 1965, in Cranbrook, British Columbia. He shares his birth date with Tony Gwynn, who wore No. 19 for the San Diego Padres, and Billy Joel, who turned 16 the day Stevie was born.
No. 3: Tell me if my observation is correct: You are throwing every fiber of your being into this season because it's your last season and you want to go out an impact player and not an unproductive one.
Yzerman: I don't know if it is my last season for sure, but I definitely don't want to be a non-productive player and I don't want to be in the way. I don't want (opponents) to want to be on the ice when I'm out there because they feel they can take advantage of me. I really want to do well and finish strong and not be a liability. I'm still trying to improve and get to a point at the end of the season that myself and the team can compete for the Stanley Cup.
I think Steve is fibbing. I believe this is definitely his last year. He doesn't want to announce it because he doesn't want the attention of a farewell tout because he would rather pierce his tongue than to go through that. He's one of those people, like Benjamin Franklin was, who takes criticism better than compliments. He wasn't going to retire after last year sweep loss to Anaheim and his lost regular season.
No. 4: Why have you been so productive in the first quarter of the season?
Yzerman: I really struggled through training camp. I wasn't skating well. For whatever reason during the first week of the regular season, it started to turn around; I started to keep up a little better and accelerate a little better. Being able to just skate gave me a lot more confidence on the ice as far as trying things and holding on to the puck. Even now, two months later, I'm trying to push myself on the ice to do more and play less conservatively as I was in the beginning.
Steve has never won a Hart Trophy (league MVP that is voted on by writers), but he won the Pearson Awards (league MVP voted on by players) for the 1988-89 season when he scored 65 goals and had 90 assists.
No. 5: How has the team dealt with the loss of Sergei Fedorov?
Yzerman: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were playing an increased role before Henrik got hurt, and Pavel is really stepping up. He is playing a much bigger role on the team. He's out there on most of the power plays and is playing on a line with Steve Thomas and Brett Hull, which is our number one offensive line. We got enough players and we have enough depth for guys to take faceoffs to cover for the loss of Sergei. We should be able to do without him, but we have missed his explosiveness. Watching the highlights of the Ducks' game against Minnesota on NHL 2Night last week, I saw him pick up the puck, beat a guy down the wing and get a scoring chance. That explosiveness at any point in the game is the one area we miss him most.
No. 19 won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1998 and the Selke Trophy in 2000.
No. 6: What's the players' approach to the goaltending glut?
Yzerman: We don't have any say or any involvement in it. It's really uncomfortable for Cujo, obviously. We're just kind of sitting back and waiting. We feel bad for Cujo; he's kind of in limbo. You really don't know what to say to him or how to handle the situation. I hope for his sake and his family's sake it gets resolved soon, so he can kind of go on with his career.
From 1996-99, Steve had 30 playoff goals in 70 games, a goal every 2.3 games. However, he has just 6 goals in his last 36 playoff games since, one goal every six games.
No. 7: What has been the players' take on the CBA talks lately?
Yzerman: We've heard a lot of talk about not waiting and getting negotiations going, and I thought the players' first offer was a step in that direction. The guys weren't surprised at the owners' reaction but were a little disappointed. I think the general consensus is that really not much will happen until the offseason and very little will happen until the present agreement expires next September. The general consensus on our team is that there is going to be a work stoppage and it's going to be a long one. Players have accepted it and are prepared to sit for a long time and are already discussing what they will do next year as far as playing in Europe or retiring.
Two years ago, Steve recorded a hole-in-one at Oakland Hills Country Club outside Michigan, site of next year's Ryder Cup.
No. 8: Steve, what do you specifically want to do after you retire?
Yzerman: Initially, I'd like to take it easy. My long-term goal is to run a hockey team in the National Hockey League, and I'm prepared to work towards being the general manager or the guy that makes the trades, drafts the players and signs the free agents. I watch a lot of hockey, enjoy the game and like to think I've learned a lot about it. I'm always curious when trades are made and always have an opinion on the situation. My whole life has been around hockey, and I find it very exciting.
Goals are down this year in the NHL, which makes a goaltender's job even more pressure-filled. Because so few goals are being scored, successful goalies can't afford to give up a bad goal. Then again, what is harder and more pressure-filled -- Martin Brodeur's nine-save shutout on Dec. 4 or Ron Tugnutt's 70 save 3-3 tie against the Bruins on March 21, 1991? Just think, the Bruins generated 73 shots on that March day 12½ years ago. Last week, the Devils played three games and saw only 51 shots.
1. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: Marty, Marty the one-man party, recorded five shutouts in his first 24 games this season. That is one every 4.8 games, which comes out to 15 shutouts if Marty plays his customary 73 games. Since George Hainsworth racked up 22 shutouts in 1928-29, only Tony Esposito has recorded 15 shutouts in a single season (1969-70). Terry Sawchuk has the NHL record for career shutouts with 103. That means if we project 12 shutouts this season that leaves Brodeur with 76 career shutouts, 28 away from breaking the record. Five more solid seasons, and the career shutout record is his.
2. David Aebischer, Colorado Avalanche: So far, so good. Good numbers across the board, and he's made the big save in key moments, as well. "The Aebischer Dilemma" is fascinating. Will the Avs let him be their guy throughout the playoffs if he continues to play well, or will they pull the ol' baseball manager move, and not keep the guy who has the three-up-three-down eighth inning because they have a closer they automatically go to in order to quell any second guessing? Aebischer could be the guy who has the one-two-three eighth and Sean Burke could be the closer in order to dispute any "Why would a team that can win the Cup begin the playoffs with a goalie who has 35 minutes of playoff experience?" questions.
3. Nikolai Khabibulin, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts are the New Jersey Devils of the South. They don't score much and they don't give up much. If GM Jay Feaster has a good year making trades, this team could be in the Stanley Cup final. They have the goalies that can carry them.
4. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: He is the real deal. He has a career save percentage of .917 (better than Brodeur's .912) and a career record of 62-117-23 when the week began. There is no question he should be the No. 2 goalie for Team Canada in next summer's World Cup. No goalie has seen more shots in the NHL than Luongo.
5. Tomas Vokoun, Nashville Predators: This spot was between Pasi Nurminen and Vokoun. Both see a lot of shots and don't exactly have Norris Trophy guys between them and the other team's offense. But because of the tougher division in which he plays, I'll give Vokoun the nod. He might play 75 games this year. The longer the Preds are in a playoff hunt, the more he'll get thrown out there. Grant Fuhr appeared in an NHL-record 79 games during the 1995-96 season.
You probably will get hundreds of e-mails about dream songs, but you forgot the Billy Ocean classic "Get Out Of My Dreams And Into My Car."
Say, Hi, to Ken for me.
More Dream songs from readers: "These Dreams" by Heart, "This is the Dream of Evan and Chan" by Dntel, "Dream On" by Aerosmith, "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" by Sting, "Call Me Up in Dreamland" by Van Morrison, "Weeper's Dream" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons" by The Pixies, "Don't Make Me Dream About You" by Chris Isaak, "Dream Warriors" by Dokken, "American Dream" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Your Wildest Dream" by The Moody Blues, "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House.
Great interview with Ryan Malone, although the image of Penguin announcer Mike Lange in a moment of ecstasy is a little much for me to take. Anyways, is there any chance you can call Ryan and interview him during the day of every one of the rest of the Penguins' games? I mean, you interview him, and that night he scores a goal and the Penguins win, 4-3. We could use a good luck charm like you calling Ryan. It sure as hell couldn't hurt. Thanks, Bucci, and best wishes to the family, including my hero, Ken the Otter.
State College, Pa.
I called Ryan before the Penguins game with the Oilers on Saturday to exchange rice recipes, and he scored again. He's agreed to call me next week when I bring my Corsica in for an oil change. Just to bring me good luck and make sure things go well.
Your inspiration never ceases to amaze me. My new alternative-metal-polka band, Sunday Morning Save Percentage, got a gig for the opening ceremonies for the goat throwing world championships in Portugal. Many thanks.
No goats are injured during Portugal goat throwing contests.
My sister Jill came up with the female answer to the Sunday morning save percentage: After waking up on Sunday morning, the number of minutes needed to get a guy to leave your apartment, subtracting points for the following: making him breakfast and letting him use your shower; and adding points for the following: getting his correct name and a good phone number.
Should I get a Flyers tattoo on my ankle or just put a sticker on my car?
I'd buy a Jack Johnson CD and a new wrench.
I take exception to the net expanding idea that you like so much. Is there some sort of organization that takes bad hockey ideas and convinces sports writers to pass them off on an unknowing public? I'm pretty sure it isn't the NHL because the league office is too disorganized to be behind something as clever/evil as that.
Two things, Brian, my brutha:
1. I do believe the NHL, as part of a new CBA, should make radical (for them) changes in the game, like making the net four inches higher and six inches wider (one puck length on each side of the goalie), taking out the red line to help produce more creative breakouts against the trap, three points for a regulation win, putting the nets back closer to the boards, and shootouts.
2. What I believe is keeping the game from REALLY growing is backward thinking owners and GMs. They largely control league policy, not the NHL.
A few years ago, I out and out could not stand you.
You had me at hello, Amber. You had me at hello.
As a high priest of the Church of Holy Schnikey, and a huge fan, I was completely surprised and pumped to see you on a Zamboni in Columbus between periods as the Blue Jackets faced the Stars on Oct. 25.
Yes, Bill, it was quite a thrill to shoot four-dollar T-shirts out of a high-powered weapon. I was consistently hitting the upper deck. It reminded me of my days growing up in the hood.
Do you think the NHL needs to address the issue of tie games? Play 'til there's a winner? Shootout? I've attended two Sharks games this season, and both have ended 2-2. Doesn't exactly leave you with a sense of satisfaction.
No, it doesn't. I believe in shootouts after the five-minute overtime. Pick three guys and they keep going until someone gets two in first, picking just three takes away the "it's not fair Colorado has more talent than Columbus" argument. Every team has three talented players for shootouts -- and goalies have the advantage anyway.
Time for this week's Shjon Podein Swedish Elite League update:
Three games for Växjö this week; 6-4 win over Nybro where Podes scored the 4-2 goal, a 1-0 overtime loss to Halmstad and a 4-5 penalty shootout loss to Mora. According to the Växjö supporters' forum, Podes seems to enjoy his time there. Apparently the whole team danced across the ice after the win, and Podes looked happier than everyone else! Now he has eleven points (5-6-11) in 16 games, has fired 40 shots on goal and is plus-5.
John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.