Sunday, January 21, 2007

The NHL's big break

Whew — five days without a meaningful hockey game? That seems rather excessive.

I think I'm going to be almost tempted to tune into Wednesday's all-star extravaganza if only to hear a few more Sidney Crosby hyperbole.

Back in 2004, the last time the league had an all-star break, the NHL was only laid over for four days — a Friday-to-Monday long, long weekend sort of deal. (The East defeated the West back then, in case you've forgotten that forgettable game, and Mark Messier of all souls picked up a goal and an assist. Joe Sakic was the MVP for that game, and still has the truck he won. Ho hum.)

In Canada, CBC's will be showing the two nights of all-star festivities, beginning Tuesday with the YoungStars game and skills competition (both somewhat worth watching, if only for curiosity's sake), and there isn't any other hockey programming on TSN or Sportsnet over the next four days.

There are a few good stories at the all-star festivities, including French netminder Cristobal Huet, who seems a little uncertain about the whole thing. "I'll probably enjoy it. I don't know what to expect. I'll be happy when it's over and I come back here."

If that's not heart-warming, I don't know what is. (For more on Huet's circuitous route to the NHL, here's a post I wrote about the 'tender during last season's playoffs.)

There's also the tragic sidebar of Philippe Boucher, whose father is terminally ill with cancer and can't attend the game — but has told his son to play on. "My dad said I was going to play, that it was a big honor," Boucher said. "So I am going to play."

Anze Kopitar and Phil Kessel, meanwhile, are two of the best stories from the YoungStars game, but for far different reasons: Kopitar for where he's come from; Kessel for the adversity he's faced during his rookie NHL season.

One more all-star invitee who deserves a tip of the hat is long-time Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz, who will serve as Randy Carlyle's assistant with the Western Conference team. Trotz doesn't get near the publicity as some of the league's more high-profile coaches, but he deserves a lot of credit for the fact his team is leading the league in points heading into the break. He's also my early pick for the Jack Adams as coach of the year.

As for what's to be blogged about during the break... I'm wayyyyy behind on getting through my Christmas reading list, so here's hoping I can offer a book/film review or two over the next week.

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At 11:41 p.m., January 21, 2007, Blogger VeryProudofYa said...

I'm interested to see who wins the speed portion of the skills competition. Prior to the announcement of the teams, I was fairly sure that Max Afinogenov would win it, but if he's not going I can only wonder.

At 12:06 a.m., January 22, 2007, Anonymous Jeff said...

Another knock to the speed contest: Scott Nieds isn't going either (stress fracture).

Does the NHL announce ahead of time who is competing in which skill?


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