I wanted to take a quick minute to share with you the abomination that our dear friend Casey has created. This sin against nature is the embodiment of TPL’s favorite character, the She-Tuzzi. Somehow it seems fitting to have Madonna’s crypt keeper arms, fresh from carving a plea bargain into a cartouche, gracing the She-Tuzzi’s lovely, lovely, figure. Come to think of it, I think that “lady” lives in my neighborhood. I saw her last night, arguing with a raccoon. Stupid raccoon thought the Haitian earthquake was caused by global warming, then claimed it was “gettin’ too old for this shit,” and finally complained that cabs wouldn’t stop for him.
You’ll never believe what just happened.
My fiancee picks me up from the train station, tells me that I have to call my mom on Skype as soon as we get home. For some reason I ask “why – did she get a tattoo?” I’m not sure where that came from, but it seems downright logical compared to what actually happened.
When we finally get Skype working, Andrea hands me a UPS box. She’s not good at keeping secrets usually, but this one: I had no idea.
I open it up… it’s a 17×11 glossy copy of my Making Friends with Nick post from December SIGNED BY NICKLAS LIDSTROM.
I’ve got a bunch of stuff signed by Red Wings, but this…this is amazing.
Evidently my mom, with help from Ryan – a friend in the ticket department and TPL reader (Hi, Ryan!) – made the print and presented it to Nick in the locker room at the December 26th game I attended. Evidently, he signed sometime during the game or immediately after it.
I’ve been informed that he read the story, and that the creases in the print come from it being passed around the room because the other guys wanted to read it, too (and by read it, I assume she meant “laugh at Nick’s hair”). I’m a tiny bit embarrassed that actual Red Wings have read at least one of my posts (and if they’re continuing to check in, it’s probably best you stop right here, Todd).
I can’t even begin to tell you how floored I am. Anyone who reads TPL knows that my mom is an incredible hockey fan, and a million thanks to her. And to Ryan, without his help – I wouldn’t have such an amazing keepsake and story to tell.
Don’t know what else to say. I’m still shaking.
Back when they were terrible in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Red Wings would host dinner events at the Joe. They’d put carpet on the ice, and arrange tables so that you were guaranteed to sit with a player. Once it was Kevin Miller (who gave me hell because I didn’t finish the meal, then asked if he could). Another it was John Chabot (memba him?).
My folks went a bunch of times, but I was lucky enough to go twice – when I was eight and nine. Some of the guys, like Steve Yzerman, were difficult to get near — everyone wanted to chat for a minute, get an autograph, or just hang out in their presence. Others, like the young guns or “role players” were a little more accessible – happy to talk to you, sign your jersey, or talk about the photo on their hockey card.
My second time around, in 1991, I noticed a younger looking guy sitting at a table, with no one but a young lady around him. He seemed really shy, kept to himself, stayed seated, didn’t really get into schmoozing so much. I asked my mom if she thought he was a player or if he was just another fan in attendance, like we were. We decided to go over and strike up a conversation.
He had a pretty thick accent, and he introduced us to his beautiful then-fiancee (now, wife). We talked for a good twenty minutes, the two of them couldn’t have been any nicer. Throughout our entire conversation, I don’t remember a single person coming to the table to meet him, but that could just be the memories of a nine-year-old. He said that he hadn’t played in Detroit yet (which explains why nobody was knocking chairs over to shake his hand), but he was excited to join the team and hoped he could stay in Motown for a long time. He told me his name was Nicklas, shook my hand, and signed my jersey right between the shoulder blades, just below where Ted Lindsay had signed. How symbolic.
Almost twenty years later, it’s hard to imagine I ever had that kind of time with such a special hockey player.
Those nights were awesome. I got to shake hands and chit-chat with so many of the guys. I remember Dennis Vial being impressed I knew his birthday (I share it, so it’s probably cheating), meeting Yves Racine’s son who was only a few years younger than me, taking a picture of my mom who was fake-punching Bob Probert on the chin, taking a photo with Vladdy Konstantinov (obviously, a cherished memory now more than ever), taking a photo with Steve Chiasson (obviously, a photo opportunity that won’t come up again), questioning why a will-remain-unnamed-goaltender needed glasses for dinner but not for games (he probably could have used them…).
But as fantastic as those moments were, they don’t even come close to sharing a private, lengthy conversation with Nicklas Lidstrom. I remember watching some 1991-92 games on television, hearing his name, and saying, “hey, that’s the guy we made friends with!” I always hoped he’d succeed, and for those first couple years, the “guy from that dinner” was how I thought of him.
It didn’t take long, however, for him to go from “that guy from that dinner” to the “future captain,” the “future Hall-of-Famer,” the “perennial Norris winner.”
He seemed genuinely happy that we came by and chatted with him, and when it became time to move on, he seemed a lot more comfortable talking with folks, less embarrassed by his accent, and started making the rounds. I doubt he remembers that chat, but it meant the world to me, a nine-year-old diehard Red Wings fan. Nearly twenty years later, it still means the world to me.
When Johnny Ericsson hit the ice, my phone rang. Twice, in fact. One was my dad, calling to discuss the Joe Theismann-like grossness of the frame-by-frame. A former soccer player, he had some insight to share on lower-body injuries and legs bending that way (hint: they’re not supposed to). After a few minutes, we both agreed that “that… that right there… that don’t look so good.”
The other call was my mother, a big fan of Ericsson because “oh my God he’s so cute.” A huge hockey fan in her own right, she questioned the Wings’ conditioning this season, since they are dropping like flies. Shane Doan’s knee colliding with Jonathan Ericsson’s will ALWAYS make it buckle like that, so I didn’t think conditioning was the issue. I continued to toe the TPL company line and blame Bertuzzi.
Then she says “what about the malocchio?” The malocchio, or evil eye, is effectively the mystical Italian equivalent of the Hockey Gods. It’s believed to curse a person or persons with bad luck, injuries, or other strange occurrences and is usually directed at ones that are envied (and it’s no secret the Red Wings are the envy of the hockey world – particularly over the last dozen years or so).
Now the question becomes… are the Red Wings cursed by someone from the outside (meaning, we should all chip in and buy 23 cornutos to prevent further injury) or by Todd Bertuzzi from within, meaning he brought the malocchio with him? You know what I think.
But in the incredibly unlikely possibility that it is not Bertuzzi’s fault that bad juju has befallen our Red Wings, we must look outside the organization. No, Natalie, you and Brian are not suspects: although one might find it odd that Bertuzzi snapped out of his spiral of suck while you were in town and promptly returned to it after your departure. For now, you get a pass.
So, in an effort to purge the Beast, I offer the most likely candidates and offer up sacrifices, mostly in the form of shame and falsified compliments.
Perhaps it wasn’t enough to literally hand the Pittsburgh Penguins the Stanley Cup in June. After all, Gary’s a fragile little boy and it’s always been apparent that Bettman hated the Wings. But if getting booed every time you’re in any arena on the planet isn’t enough, let’s not forget the handshake-snubbing incident (no, not Crosby, the one featuring the infinitely badass Mike Ilitch) which is sure to have embarrassed Bettman. It’s entirely possible that moments after slithering into his hole, he unleashed the malocchio onto the Red Wings for 2009-10. Sure, expansion was stupid, the two lockouts were unmitigated disasters, and hockey has become a second-class citizen on your watch, but the Red Wings remain one of the more profitable names in sports and have done plenty to appease Mr. Bettman, namely taking part in the Winter Classic (thus ignoring their own tradition of the New Years Eve game) and opening the season in Sweden (thus forfeiting the gate of a home game).
In an effort to detract attention from the intent to blow nonsense, maybe LaRue cursed the Red Wings. Looking back, that Brad May no-goal now hardly ranks in the top ten of the most ridiculous shit that’s unfolded in the last two months. But we all know Dennis LaRue is one of the best in the game, evidenced by his invitation to ref the Olympics. Just don’t be surprised when the Dallas Stars somehow take home gold.
Threatened by Jonathan Ericsson’s ability to heal himself, Chuck Norris is angry. So, I’ve pre-ordered Walker: Texas Ranger: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray*. I alluded to Norris possibly being related to Ericsson in an earlier post, which also probably angered Norris.
*doesn’t actually exist. Get on that, Paramount.
KEN HITCHCOCK AND THE BLUE JACKETS
It was widely publicized this off-season that the neckless wonder was outspoken about “wanting to make Detroit bleed,” saying that he was tired of looking up at Detroit in the standings. Well, you’ve got star netminder Steve Mason (oh, he’s not having a Calder-like season this time around?) and you’ve got playoff experience (oh, that didn’t end well?). Fret not, Columbus is one of those teams that has a bright future, like the Chicago Blackhawks only not actually good or in a city that deserves a team.
MARIAN HOSSA (AND, FRACTIONALLY, TOMAS KOPECKY)
It’s believed that with Hossa’s new contract, Chicago is destined to lose in the Final. The send-off he received from the Wings fans (read: kick in the ass and a hip hop hooray when news of the shoulder thing unfolded) is probably enough to make him wish bad things on his former employer. But, he is one of the more talented guys on Earth, and, after nine games, he’s already half-way to the Herculean numbers that Bertuzzi is putting up. Hopefully someone in the Hawks organization told him that the season ends when the last game is played, not in March.
I doubt heavily that he’d ever wish ill on the Red Wings, but maybe he was a little more let down than he let on when the Red Wings declined to offer an extension. He seems happy as a member of the Chicago Wolves, and even hinted that he’d like to return to the Red Wings. One might have thought that losing Lilja, Kronwall, and Ericsson — half of the projected blueline squadron — might be something that would have meant Chelios might have gotten a call. But, he hasn’t, and he’ll continue mentoring young Atlanta Thrashers prospects, something the Thrashers should be really pleased with.
Not only was he the whipping boy for the Detroit Red Wings in the 90s, he didn’t win Skating with the Stars – or whatever the hell it was called. I’m sure it’s not because of his top-notch turtling and/or clutch playoff scoring – both of which he was one of the best in the biz.
Sure it’s their 100th anniversary for the second year in a row, but — math bedamned — NO ONE IS GOING TO RUIN THAT PARTY. Except perhaps 70% turnover from a year ago and inviting Gordie Howe to the centennial ceremony, presumably to show all the Canadien Hall-of-Famers what a real hockey player looks like. You can’t have him, Montreal. NOT YOURS.
TODD MCLELLAN AND THE SAN JOSE SHARKS
Sure, they’re the best team in the NHL again. But you all know what that means. It means they’ll be golfing by the end of April. So much talent, it doesn’t make sense. They’ve been Cup favorites for like 8 years in a row, and under the prowess of McLellan, one would assume this could be their year. Although it wasn’t last year…but the Red Wings didn’t have the Malocchio chasing them around.
This one brings us back to Bertuzzi. Do something bad, something bad happens to you. No matter where you go. Even if its Vancouver, Florida, Detroit, Anaheim, Calgary, or Detroit again.
Here we are, 21 games in and a quarter of the season behind us. Seems like as good a time as any to do a mini-retrospective.
But I won’t do a player-by-player grade, because Animal Drew beat me to it, and did a more complete job than I could do. Plus, I’m the furthest thing from objective, because if Darren Helm went 82 games with zero goals, zero assists and 903 penalty minutes, he’d get an A+. Likewise, Todd Bertuzzi could score 55 goals and not head to the penalty box once, and he’d have an F.
So, instead, I’ve decided that it might be fun to share a little film school exercise with you: Three Word Critiques. Anyone can write a full-length criticism of Unforgiven, but it takes a true artist to sum up a movie – or hockey player, for that matter – in just three words. I’m going to do my best to pretend like it’s 2000 and I’m back in CMN 101. Some things – like sarcasm – are a little tricky to get across in just three words, but something tells me that if you read this site often enough, you’ll know where I’m kidding.
I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments. I’m sure some of you can come up with some hilarious examples, and I can’t wait to read them. Without further ado…
Chris Osgood :: Longest hangover EVER.
Jimmy Howard :: Jekyll and Hyde.
Daniel Larsson :: Cool mustache, bro.
Nicklas Lidstrom :: Still the best.
Brian Rafalski :: Worth everrrrryyyyy penny.
Niklas Kronwall :: Big shot injured.
Brad Stuart :: Stuart! Smash! Destroy!
Jonathan Ericsson :: Honeymoon is over.
Brett Lebda :: Daily trade scenario.
Derek Meech :: How’s the view?
Andreas Lilja :: Pain Train derailed.
Doug Janik :: Kept it simple.
Pavel Datsyuk :: Trust thine eyes.
Henrik Zetterberg :: Mmmm…free Arby’s.
Tomas Holmstrom :: Only scores goals.
Johan Franzen :: Offense sorely missed.
Valtteri Filppula :: Criminally under-appreciated.
Todd Bertuzzi :: Useless turnover machine.
Dan Cleary :: True grit, personified.
Ville Leino :: Not as advertised.
Darren Helm :: Christ, he’s fast.
Jason Williams :: Negates man advantage.
Kris Draper :: Big time wheels.
Kirk Maltby :: Still scoring, cynics!
Brad May :: Punch, miss, fall.
Patrick Eaves :: Found his niche.
Justin Abdelkader :: Next generation’s grinder.
Drew Miller :: Awesome waiver find.
Mike Babcock :: Brain thinking Olympics?
Paul MacLean :: Epic facial hair.
Brad McCrimmon :: Special teams suck.
Ken Holland :: PULL THE TRIGGER!
Jim Nill :: Griffins keep winning.
Jim Devellano :: Keep quiet, grandpa.
Steve Yzerman :: Hall of Famer.
Jiri Fischer :: Anniversary must-read.
Ken Daniels :: Cackling more often.
Mickey Redmond :: Holy Mackerel, whooooo!
Larry Murphy :: Are you drunk?
Chris Chelios :: Show em, Cheli!
Brendan Shanahan :: Joining Yzerman soon.
Marian Hossa :: Hasn’t played yet.
Tomas Kopecky :: Is not missed.
Ty Conklin :: Coulda used him…
Jiri Hudler :: Frozen midget testicles.
Mikael Samuelsson :: Nine goals? Really?
Darren McCarty :: Versus debut tomorrow.
Aaron Downey :: Potato farming again.
OTHER RED WINGS STORYLINES
Johan Ryno :: Get to steppin’.
Jordan Pearce :: Enjoying Toledo, doctor?
Brendan Smith :: Stop getting arrested.
Dick Axelsson :: Don’t flake, too.
Tomas Tatar :: Skipping juniors rules.
Dennis LaRue :: Vehemently anti-Wings.