Monday, February 22


In honour of the 30th Anniversary of the 1980 Olympic hockey game between the U.S. and Soviet Union (I refuse to call it a Miracle because to paraphrase Don Novello, '...2 of them were card tricks') I would just like to say; everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the real reason they won.
Not Jim Craig standing on his head nor Jamie Farr in the crowd. It wasn't because of Herb Brooks and his abusive, confrontational coaching style. It happened because of what Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov called the biggest mistake of his life.
Владисла́в Алекса́ндрович Третья́к

Vladislav Aleksandrovich Tretiak
was voted by his own people as the Greatest Russian Hockey Player of the 20th Century. And along with teammate Valeri Kharlamov are the only non NHL players to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was a First All-Star in the Soviet League consecutively each year from 1971 until 1984. Won 3 gold medals, 10 IIHF World Championships, recipient of the Order of Lenin.

One can only guess what Viktor Tikhonov was thinking then when he replaced Tretiak with Vladamir Mishkin. Hindsight is 20/20 they say, but I have heard Tretiak himself say that he (and clearly the whole Russian team) were furious that he was pulled (the 'greatest mistake of my life' as mentioned above). It was clearly the turning point of the game.
Tretiak has also stated that if it weren't for that mistake that he would have won a fourth gold medal. You have to believe him when he states that he would never have allowed the goals that Mishkin did in the third.

So in the end it is what it is. An enormous error is Olympic judgement, tantamount to Marc Crawford not playing Gretzky in the shoot-out. Or Mike Babcock not calling a time out late in the game.

Friday, January 15

Toskala Gets Shutout, Says: "I've Had a Laser Pointer in My Eyes For Two Seasons."

All right everyone, please settle down. I know it'll be difficult as we've all suffered an incredible blow. Obviously this morning we're still reeling from the shocking happenings at the ACC last night, or as I will now always refer to it, "The Events of 1/14.'"

Wins don't come easily to this Leafs team, and a win by shutout is the rarest gem in Leafs Nation. The timing for this one was perfect, as it stemmed another Toronto slide, and pulled the un-fastened fight-strapped jersey over the head of a creep filled Philadelphia Flyers team. Now just to make sure we're all on the same page here, let me take a quick poll: I want to see a show of hands of all you Leafs who played their best game of the season... Not so fast Ian White, you're always awesome. But to the other 19 of you, that estimation is pretty much spot on. Most unbelievably this also includes one V. Toskala. You may remember him from such opposition goals as 'the one a minute into the game', and 'the one a minute and a half into the game.'

Toskala, who in spite of his better judgment stopped all 38 Flyer shots, looked solid, calm and dependable. These words replacing the three adjectives I thought I'd be using to describe him when I heard he was the starter: "Horrendous", "Pathetic" and "Never Kissed a Girl".

But for the very start of the game, Vesa didn't stray into those problem areas he all too often finds himself in: Playing too deep in his net, not challenging the shooter, not being able to catch anything, and inspiring despair in his teammates. He did everything he needed to do, and not once did it occur to me to slam my fist down onto my coffee table, a hilarious ritual I've taken up, coincidentally every time he's in net.

See below for the incredible first career goal by Ty Bozak, a kid who is sure to have a great career for another team. With that shot, not only did Bozak score the game winner, but he accomplished the best thing anyone has ever done in a #42 Leafs jersey. Ever. Ever. He also elevated the play of Kulemin and Kessel, and the first line had 5 points on the night, thereby doing everything that they needed to do. Great energy and enthusiasm from Jay Rosehill who had a "I'm so fortunate to be here!" way about him that perhaps became infectious. Other people fortunate to be there: Every other goddamn guy with a Leaf on his chest.

As much as we'd love to believe that Vesa would never hit us again, I'd advise everyone to be very cautious. Remember that when he came back from injury in November he played lights out great, just long enough for us to love him again. Did I say us? I meant me. What? This black eye? I just walked into a door, that's all!

Still, it was a great game, and one that we all deserved to be a part of. The Leafs were defensively strong, had balanced scoring, a perfect penalty kill, and next season Vesa Toskala will look great in a Florida Panthers uniform.