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 personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: These fine gentlemen: I can't tell you how much I want this to catch on. Come on, NHL, it took like three days for that stupid "high five along the bench" thing to become a permanent league-wide standard. Surely we can do the same for this. (Click the image to get it to play.)
The first star: John Scott, All-Star in training: OK, maybe the whole All-Star vote campaign thing has been done to death, but at least he's approaching the honor with all the gravity and seriousness that the NHL All-Star Game deserves.
What is the hockey world pretending to be outraged about now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week we'll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it's justified.
The issue: After months of speculation, the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes have finally ended, as the star forward chose his destination for next season and beyond.
The outrage: HE CHOSE POORLY!
Is it justified?: OK, this one technically hasn't happened yet. But after the past few days, I think we can all see what's coming. At some point between now and July 1, 2016, we'll finally know where Stamkos will wind up, and when that happens a whole bunch of fan bases are going to be completely insufferable because he didn't pick them. It's going to be horrible. But it doesn't have to be, so let's get in a few preemptive strikes on team complaints.
Lightning fans: OK, granted, you're the one group that really did get kind of screwed in all of this. You lost a generational player, one you had cheered for since he was a teenager and it came under circumstances that had never really happened before in NHL history. Still, you're piling the shock on a little thick. Bob McKenzie told you that Stamkos was as good as gone way back in December, so you've had up to seven months to prepare for this. Settle down.
Maple Leafs fans: Oh, shut up, you entitled babies. You were ground zero for the Stamkos hype for the better part of a year and you loved every minute of it, right up until he didn't pick you. Remember, all that stuff about it being a sure thing because he secretly wanted to play in Toronto came from you, not him, so don't go pulling out the fainting couch now that he chose to go play for a team that's actually good.
Canadiens fans: Yes, we know, Stamkos looked adorable in that one picture with P.K. Subban. If we all chose our future place of employment based on our cutest childhood photo, we'd all be working as mall Santas.
Rangers fans: Oh, no, did someone else's future Hall of Famer become available on the open market and not wind up in New York for the first time in recorded history? Oh, well, at least you'll always have Messier. And Gretzky. And Bure and Lindros and Esposito and LaFontaine and St. Louis and Kurri and Sawchuk and Harvey and Robitaille and Lafleur and Dionne and ...
Red Wings fans: Don't worry. You don't know it yet, but you just drafted a guy in the seventh round who'll be even better than Stamkos in three years.
Sabres fans: No, just kidding, you guys would never come in second on a big name and then act like giant babies about it.
Predators fans: Hey, it's not our fault that when Stamkos was asked what role he wanted to play and answered "first-line center," everyone in your organization just stared at him like they had no idea what those words meant.
Kings fans: Sorry, no can do. Stamkos never played for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Oilers fans: Screw you. The rest of us are still trying to figure out how you managed to make the playoffs and still win the Auston Matthews lottery.
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.
For this week's obscure player, I couldn't decide what angle to take. I could go with something Christmassy. I could try to capitalize on some of the Star Wars hype by picking a guy with a famous sci-fi character's name. Or I could just stick with our recent theme of players best known for tangling with legendary superstars.
In the end, I couldn't decide. So instead, let's do all three. This week's obscure player is Noel Picard.
Picard was a defenseman who broke in with the Montreal Canadiens during the 1964-65 season. He appeared in 16 games, then didn't see the NHL again until he was snapped up by St. Louis Blues in the 1967 expansion draft. He'd become a mainstay on the Blues' blue line through their first five seasons, appearing in the All-Star Game in 1969 before badly injuring his foot in a hunting accident in 1971.
He was claimed off waivers by the Flames in 1972 and finished his career in Atlanta, retiring in 1973 with 335 NHL games and 75 points to his credit. To this day, he's remembered as one of the most popular players from the Blues' early years.
But that's not the main thing he's remembered for. No, that would be his appearance in one of the most iconic photos in sports history. On May 10, 1970, Picard and the Blues were facing the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. In overtime of Game 4, Picard found himself in front of the St. Louis net as Bobby Orr cut toward the crease on a give-and-go. Picard reached out with his stick, Orr scored the Cup-winning goal, and the rest was history.
Being known as "the guy who tripped Bobby Orr in that famous photo" might not be the claim to fame Picard was hoping for when his career began, but it's not bad. At least he came closer to slowing Orr down than most other opponents ever did.
Hockey's Unwritten Rules
In which we take a universally accepted hockey rule that has never been written down, and write it down.
In the event that two teams participate in a game containing an excessive amount of bad blood that culminates in a third-period line brawl, at least one announcer shall be required by hockey law to ominously make reference to the date of the next game in which the two teams play each other.
This announcement must be made within 30 seconds of the conclusion of the incident. It should be preceded by several seconds of dramatic silence, which might or might not also double as the announcer frantically looking the information up on his schedule. If possible, the announcer should refrain from explaining what the date actually means; he should simply say it, then let it hang ominously in the air while waiting for his color guy to fill in the blanks.
All of this must be immediately followed by an admonishment to the audience to "circle the date," even though nobody has used an actual printed calendar since 1996.
Violation of this unwritten rule shall be punished by a seven-day suspension of the announcer's standard right to ruin any additional fights by screaming like an overexciting toddler because he is an enormous homer.
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.
You no doubt saw the Montreal Canadiens perform a version of "Let It Go" last week. (If you didn't, don't worry -- it's already penciled in as the horrific old YouTube clip of the week in December 2027.) The clip was all in good fun. It was also the latest entry into a glorious subcategory of NHL pop culture: Teams making awkward holiday videos.
With Christmas just a week away, let's dip back into the archives for some more holiday cheer. Gentle readers, the 1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers would like to read you a poem. (Thanks to reader Paul G. for sending in this clip.)
Our first reader is Bill Barber, who nails his two lines pretty much flawlessly. Spoiler alert: He's pretty much the only one.
Enforcer Glen Cochrane is up next. He would be traded just a few weeks after this video was shot, which was sad because it pretty much ended the "Hockey players throwing haymakers while wearing full-length black pants" era.
Mark Howe does not look thrilled about this, but will play along because he knows that if he comes across like a bad sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame will make him wait 13 years to be inducted for no good reason.
Hey look, it's the last known instance of Dave Poulin saying anything out loud about a cap without making Maple Leafs fans swear at their radio.
Ray Allison is next, followed by Ed Hospodar, who's probably best known for earning a spot on Santa's naughty list a few years later by starting the infamous Flyers-Canadiens pregame brawl. They're followed by trainer Kurt Mundt. Hey, do you think they put a Flyers trainer right after Hospodar as a callback to this incident? I'm reading too much into this, right? Just checking.
Good lord, Lindsay Carson, feel free to blink a little. Those aren't "wandering eyes"; they're "fleeing the scene in abject terror eyes."
Tim Kerr always seemed cooler than other players. I'm not quite sure why that was, although I'm leaning toward "the mustache." Either way, he should have just shot this scene wearing a medallion and a bathrobe.
Doug Crossman is kind enough to take a break from his day job as lead singer of The Cars to read a few lines.
"On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen," says Rick Tocchet, which I'm pretty sure is also what he says these days when he's handling the line changes for the Penguins' defensive pairings.
Two things: One, I'm pretty sure Ilkka Sinisalo didn't spell his name with a capital "L," but it would be cool if he did. Two, I didn't recognize Len Hachborn's name so I Googled it, assuming he was a trainer or equipment manager because he looks roughly 45 years old in this clip. Nope. He was 23 when this was filmed. He played his last NHL season in 1986, by which point he looked like this.
Someone please help me make this clip of legendary Czech trailblazer Miro Dvorak saying "dash away, dash away, dash away all" my new ringtone.
Next is assistant coach (and future director of Central Scouting) E.J. McGuire, who leads into my favorite moment of the clip: The appearance of Rich Sutter, who proves that Darryl isn't the only brother who can make three weird faces during a single sentence.
For your Christmas present, I made you this GIF:
Hey, it's Marshy! Brad Marsh was known for being one of the last players in the league to play without a helmet, presumably mostly because he got all the head protection he needed from his gigantic novelty glasses.
We get appearances by assistant coach Ted Sator, one year before he took the Rangers' head-coaching job and led them to the conference finals, and equipment manager Kevin Cady, one year before he founded the Beastie Boys.
Next up is Brad McCrimmon, rocking a Springsteen shirt because he was secretly hoping this was going to be one of those lip-sync rock video things. It wasn't, so he got himself traded to the Flames in case they ever did a sequel to "Red Hot."
If you watch carefully, you can see something or someone cross in front of the camera right as Mike Keenan starts his verse, and as he finishes up he shoots a nasty look in that direction. I demand an extended director's cut of that video so we can find out who that was, and how quickly Keenan cut him.
We get another Sutter brother, but Ron only cranks the Sutter-face up to about a four out of 10. Disappointing, really. Let's move on.
Next up is trainer Dave Settlemyre. Three things about him: 1. "Sudsy" is an awesome nickname. 2. His son Derek is currently the team's head equipment manager. 3. He once had to dress as the Flyers' backup goalie after Ken Wregget got hurt in warmups.
Dressing room assistant Bill Delaney and backup goalie Darren Jensen lead us into Brian Propp, who gives way to Pelle Lindbergh, which makes us all sad. Let's try to get back on track by arguing over who'd win a fight between Thomas Eriksson's popped collar and Murray Craven's red hoodie.
I'm not going to make fun of Dave Brown's oversized hat, because he's Dave Brown and I'm a coward. Besides, he needed it for his job as the stand-in for Super Dave Osborne.
The last two players are Derrick Smith and Peter Zezel, the latter of whom sort of trips over his line, which is disappointing from a guy who was in "Youngblood." That leads into our closer, Bobby Clarke, who is standing in front of a tree that he presumably cut down by hacking its ankle from behind.
Clarke wishes us all a merry Christmas, which is actually kind of heart-warming. Let's all bring it in for a group hug. Happy holidays, everyone.
And then we close with two seconds of a hockey fight, because hey, this is still the Flyers.
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.