Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
This week's three stars of comedy
Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: Referee Steve Kozari -- The one and only time that a referee's mic has ever worked, and this happens:
Ref Kozari forgets what the call on the ice was when announcing decisions on coach's challenge pic.twitter.com/rE6KcJ1oo6— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 29, 2015
The second star: Brendan Gallagher vs. Jim Kyte -- The two got into an extended Twitter battle after Kyte accused the Habs' pest of lacking honor. In his day, Kyte was an old-school enforcer who didn't lose many fights. It's fair to say he lost this one.
Fans-I appreciate your votes for All-Star game, but 3 on 3 would kill me,and i don't want to die yet:)Thank you for understanding. Too old:)— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) December 2, 2015
This week's one star of quasi-comedy, I guess
The first star: The "Vote for John Scott" movement: Voting for the All-Star Game opened this week and a movement has sprung up to vote in Arizona Coyotes tough guy John Scott. See, the joke is that he's bad, and it would be funny to see him playing 3-on-3 against real All-Stars.
If this all sounds familiar, it's because it is. Some sort of grass-roots "vote for the undeserving guy" happens almost every season, dating to the days of Rory Fitzpatrick, if not further. Heck, just last season, an entire country rose up to vote in Zemgus Girgensons. So we've been down this road before.
Should fans be mad about it? Not really. As we've covered before, the All-Star Game hasn't had any integrity in years, so it's not like voting in a fourth-liner is doing any harm. A little bit of mischief never hurt anyone, and if you squint just right you can view the whole thing as a noble protest against, well, something.
So sure, vote for John Scott. Go ahead and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Let's just also acknowledge this is pretty well-worn ground at this point. And maybe, just maybe, we could give it a rest one of these years.
Obscure former player of the week
NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of them.
Because we're fighting about the All-Star Game this week, let's talk about fighting in the All-Star Game. It hasn't happened since 1948, and the identity of one of the combatants probably isn't a surprise: Gordie Howe. The man he fought is this week's obscure player: hard-hitting defenseman Gus Mortson.
Mortson had a 13-year career in the NHL. He debuted with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1946 and played six years there before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in a deal that included future Vezina winner Harry Lumley. He spent six years in Chicago, then finished his career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1958. He played eight more years in the minors before retiring in 1966. He passed away this summer at the age of 90.
Mortson was a physical force who was known as "Old Hardrock" and was once part of a defense pairing with Jim Thomson known as "The Gold Dust Twins" because the hockey world knew how to do nicknames back then. He won four Stanley Cups in Toronto and was named a first-team All-Star in 1950. But he's perhaps best known for that scrap with Howe. It came in the league's second ever All-Star Game, in which the defending Cup champion Maple Leafs hosted the rest of the league's stars. Howe and Mortson had a history together, and they continued it with a wild scrap that, legend has it, ended up needing the police to keep them apart.
It remains the only fight in All-Star history -- Howe came close again in 1968 with Mike Walton, but they earned only minors -- and given the intensity level of the game these days, it's fair to say that record will remain intact.
Hockey term that doesn't exist but needs to
In which we attempt to enter a new word or phrase into the hockey lexicon.
Shoot or get off the point [figure of speech]: When I was a kid, the adults in my life used an expression to remind us that sometimes it's better to take action than sit around just talking about it. It had the same basic meaning as "fish or cut bait," and ended with "or get off the pot" and involved other words I can't use because this website is owned by Disney.
But I think we need to introduce a hockey-specific equivalent, which is why I bring you "Shoot or get off the point." We've all been annoyed by a hesitant defenseman who can't seem to make his mind up over what to do with the puck, and ends up killing his own team's power play with his indecisiveness. Let's honor that guy with his own colloquialism.
Think of all the ways you could use it in this league:
"The NHL is talking about making the nets bigger again? It's been 20 years, shoot or get off the point."
"Is Jarred Tinordi an NHL defenseman or not? The Habs need to shoot or get off the point."
You get the idea. Work this into your hockey talk at least once a day, and see how far it spreads. We can do this.
Trivial NHL-related annoyance of the week
In which I will complain about things that probably matter only to me.
We're now at 22 days and counting since the season's most recent trade, which at this point also stands as the season's only trade. We're into December without one single player being traded off an NHL roster. The art of the deal is all but dead.
A few weeks ago, that led me to propose a too-crazy-to-ever-actually-happen idea to revive the trade market. Last Friday, a Buffalo radio station asked Sabres general manager Tim Murray what he thought of the idea. He wasn't all that impressed, but was polite enough not to call me an idiot on live radio. And then he went into a tangent about video games and daily fantasy sports and fans demanding the instant gratification of "three trades in two days."
Now, this isn't a dig at Murray, who's a smart guy and one of the first GMs I'd hand a blank check if I were a new owner with an expansion team to build, not to mention one of the few guys in the league who actually has made a few big trades this year. Murray is great. But he's not the first GM to make this sort of argument, and surely won't be the last, so let's set it straight once and for all.
NHL GMs: Nobody wants you to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. We all get that trading is hard, and that sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make. No fan in history has ever wanted to see a panic move, whatever that is. We're not looking instant gratification, and none of this has anything to do with video games or fantasy football.
What we want is for you guys to do your jobs. You have a task in front of you: Build the best hockey team that you can, one that can compete for the Stanley Cup someday. And you've been given a relatively limited toolbox to work with. Drafting, development, free agency and coaching are big parts of that. And so is trading.
And yet at some point along the way, you all just sort of collectively decided not to use that last one anymore. There are reasons for this -- the salary cap, no-trade clauses, etc. We all get that. You've told us about it plenty of times. But half of you are, by definition, in charge of below-average teams, and yet when the fans point to one of the few methods of improvement available to you, you shrug and say, "Oh, I can't use that anymore."
That's where the frustrations come from. I promise you, it's not because today's fans are a bunch of crazy kids who are so hopped up on Xbox that they don't have the attention spans you guys had back in the old days. You know what else they had back in the old days? Trades! And GMs with the guts to actually make them.
So get to work and make a deal. Not three trades in two days. But yeah, maybe two trades in three months doesn't seem like it's asking too much. Or don't. That's up to you, and if you decide to sit on your hands, then you certainly won't be the only one. Just don't look down your nose at the fans who are asking you to pick up the phone and do your job.
Awesome and/or horrific old YouTube clip of the week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. In this section, we find one and break it down in way too much detail.
One of this week's fun subplots was a war of words between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins that culminated with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault going all-in on Brad Marchand by questioning whether you'd want him as a son.
That seemed harsh. But the reality is that coaches have done far worse to NHL players. And we're going to remember one such case in this week's clip.
So it's March 21, 1991, and the Kings are hosting the Flames. We pick up the action in the middle of a skirmish between the benches. Gosh, everyone sure seems mad. I wonder what happened?
Rule of thumb: When Ilkka Sinisalo is front and center in your line brawl, something weird is going on.
Flames coach Doug Risebrough leans in and starts yelling at the Kings' bench, presumably to find out if they'd like to make a terrible trade. This was Risebrough's first and only full season as an NHL coach; the following season, he was named GM and then later fired himself after an 11-0 loss. The early '90s were an interesting time.
Gary Roberts suddenly gets really mad, probably because he noticed somebody not finishing his whey protein shake, and starts pounding on the pane of glass between benches. As we're about to see, this turns out to be a very bad idea.
By the way, repeatedly hitting something that doesn't respond because it's made of glass turned out to be valuable experience for Roberts a decade later when he signed in Toronto and started playing playoff games against the Senators.
The glass comes loose and starts body surfing over the players. If you've ever wondered why that single pane of glass is there, look what happens immediately once it's removed. It's pure chaos. I'm pretty sure that's a Kings trainer repeatedly trying to stab people with a stick. When trainers are going full Brick Tamland, it's probably time to slap some duct tape on the glass just to make sure it holds. Even Patrick Roy didn't do that. Probably because he didn't think of it.
For some reason, Roberts decides to try to duck under the glass. This leads to the moment that most fans remember about this whole episode: The immortal "You've heard of pheasant under glass, now we have Roberts under glass" line from Don Cherry's Rock 'em Sock 'em 3.
Our announcers for this clip do not make any pheasant-based puns. I'm not actually sure who they are, but it's fair to say they're probably from L.A. because they're absolutely convinced that this whole thing is entirely the Flames' fault. I'm sure they're right. They're probably not leaving out any important details about how this whole thing started.
That face when you realize your sport is kind of ridiculous sometimes.
A couple of rink employees run out and yank the glass away from the fight, which is probably not something they expected to be doing when they showed up for work that night. There's lots of pushing and shoving, but Kings coach Tom Webster is in the middle of it and seems to be trying to calm things down. Good job, Tom. It's nice to have a voice of reason.
We cut to a replay of how this all started, but it's basically what we've already seen. Everyone over by the bench area seems really angry for some strange reason. It's all Joel Otto's fault, according to your impartial announcers. Doug Gilmour sure looks mad, though. Probably just disappointed in his teammates' behavior.
Finally, at 1:30, we rewind far enough to see how this all really started. And oh, look, there's Kings coach Webster punching Gilmour in the face. Yeah, I'd say that was an important detail, guys. Kind of puts the rest of this stuff in better context, no?
The highlight of the video is listening to the Kings announcers try not to say that their team's coach just blatantly sucker-punched an opposing player right in the mouth. Actual transcript: "Now there's Joel Otto, reaching around and hollering at some of the Kings. Gilmour is standing there. [Webster executes the Roman Reigns flying superman punch on Gilmour] [awkward pause] Now there's Tom Webster, and Gilmour is down . . . "
That's the end of our clip, but not the fallout from this incident. Webster was suspended for four games; Gilmour got two, and Otto was fined. The league determined that Gilmour started the incident, but came down harder on Webster because it was the third time he'd been ejected that season. I'd like us all to just take a moment and picture a world where, instead of insulting him, Alain Vigneault leaned over and popped Brad Marchand in the jaw. We'd all lose our minds, right? Instead, in the early '90s, we all just kind of went with it. Like I said, an interesting time.
Epilogue: Webster learned his lesson from this unfortunate episode and never assaulted an opposing player again. He saved that for referees; the following season, he was suspended 12 games for throwing a stick at Kerry Fraser.
Have a question for Sean? Want to suggest an obscure player or a classic YouTube clip? Send all your grab bag-related emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.