I should be excited for Teemu Selanne, the Finnish Flash. I should be excited for Dave Andreychuk, who scored 640 goals and should have gotten in years ago. I should be excited for Paul Kariya, who is the first Hall of Famer from the University of Maine. I should be excited for Mark Recchi, who won three Stanley Cups with three different teams, and who was the old man mentor on my favorite hockey team ever. I should be excited for Danielle Goyette, because I have cousins named Goyette and maybe they’re related, however distantly. Instead, I’m just annoyed that Jeremy Jacobs is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in the “builder” category, along with them.
Jeremy Jacobs is the worst owner of any of the Boston teams. Of the four current ownership groups in town, he is now also the only one in a Hall of Fame. Bruins hockey has always been defined by being good, by being tough, but also by not winning as much as fans want or expect. Since buying the team in 1975, Jacobs made a name for himself pinching pennies and valuing fiscal responsibility over on-ice success.
To be fair, when the NHL got a salary cap, the Bruins spent to it, rebuilt in that system, and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reached another Final in 2013. But also to be fair, for decades before the cap, Jacobs under-spent, took Ray Bourque and Cam Neely to salary arbitration, and was the among the driving forces in the NHL’s board of governors who locked out the players three times–even cancelling the 2004-05 season–to demand a salary cap.
The rigidity of the NHL salary cap also ended up being the Bruins’ undoing, and mismanaging it is the reason the B’s went from a President’s Trophy winning team in 2014 to out of the playoff picture the next two years. Jacobs put the well being of his fellow millionaire and billionaire owners ahead of the devoted fan base that went to his games and watched his team on TV. A seven year run after the rules changed in the favor of the owners should not undo the thirty years of frustration that led up to that era.
I was just thinking about Jacobs and the frustration he put Bruins fans through this weekend when I was working on my David Ortiz column. I thought a lot about life was like before Ortiz and Tom Brady, before winning in Boston was the norm. The lowest points came from the Celtics and Bruins, the teams with the more recent traditions of winning who had both hit low points in the mid and late 1990s. For the Celtics, Rick Pitino’s “not walking through that door” moment in 2000 was the perfect illustration of how far they had fallen. For the Bruins is was the rally in Boston in the summer of 2001 for Stanley Cup champion and fan favorite Ray Bourque… of the Colorado Avalanche. The rally was attended by thousands, paying respect for the Bruins’ former captain, but also serving as a giant middle finger to the Bruins organization by a disenfranchised region of passionate hockey fans.
In the spring of 2010, I watched the Bruins blow a 3-0 lead in a Game 7, and in doing so blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in my friend Mark’s dorm room. For a long time, I was not convinced I would ever have a more joyful professional hockey watching experience than the night Ray Bourque raised the Cup with the Avs, and nights like that were why. The team, for all its endearing on-ice qualities, was run by a cheap old billionaire who was never going to change as long as fans kept going. There was no reason for the team to extend themselves. Hockey fans are loyal to a fault. There are few things better than watching a hockey game in the arena, and nothing better than playoff hockey anywhere. Even when things looked bleakest, Bruins fans knew deep down they could not quit forever.
Alvy Singer, Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall said “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” He attributed the quote to Groucho Marx and Sigmund Freud, but the sentiment is universal, or at the very least incredibly resonant within my own brain. If I were an NHL player, a Bruin or otherwise, after decades of lockouts and business as usual, I would never want to be in a Hall of Fame that would have someone like Jeremy Jacobs as an inductee. I know it’s hyperbolic, and the Hockey Hall of Fame is obviously a huge honor for any player, but there’s something particularly wrong about spending more time thinking about Jeremy Jacobs on the day of the Hall of Fame announcement than I have been about the great players who were also inducted today.
Now that the Olympics have come and gone, NHL hockey is back. Here are some thoughts about the NHL as we approach the trade deadline and the playoffs.
The United States came away without a medal because a team coached by Dan Bylsma couldn’t get past Claude Julien’s defensive system or Tuukka Rask’s goaltending. Bylsma’s Pittsburgh Penguins looked like the best team in spring of 2013 in the NHL until they faced Julien, Rask, and the rest of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Bylsma’s Pens scored only two goals against Tuukka in their four game sweep at the hands of the Bruins. Bylsma’s Team USA roster, which had led the tournament in scoring up to that point, did not score a single goal against Team Canada in the semifinals and were shutout once again in the Bronze Medal Game against Team Finland. Bylsma’s reputation as good hockey coach is based on winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 when he inherited a team that had been in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and from a strong performance on 24/7 in 2010, but the sweep last spring and the collapse in the Olympics could and should cause his stock to plummet.
The fact that Rask proved to be just as effective without Julien means that he’s a great goalie and not just a pretty good goalie with the benefit of playing in Julien’s defense-first system. Tuukka was the biggest factor in Finland earning a medal in Sochi, and the biggest factor in the Bruins reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Rask arrived on the scene in the NHL too late to be selected by Finland (who is historically stacked with goalie talent as a country) for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, but when then-USA backup goalie Tim Thomas struggled, Rask was the kid who carried the B’s into the playoffs, and Rask was the one who outlasted 2010 Olympic MVP Ryan Miller in a thrilling six game series against the Buffalo Sabres. Tuukka is entering the prime of his career and he has shown time and again that he can hold his own and then some with the best goaltenders in the world. Rask’s Bruin teammates Patrice Bergeron of Canada and Loui Eriksson of Sweden may have had great tournaments and earned more valuable medals, but Rask’s Bronze Medal performance was one for the ages.
Besides Rask, the best player for Team Finland was 43 year old Teemu Selanne, who played in his record tying sixth Winter Olympics and was named the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament. This is just another accolade for Teemu, who is in the midst of his victory lap of a final NHL season. The Finnish Flash served as captain for Team Finland for the first time in 2014 and has 24 goals in Olympic play including four from the Sochi Games. He is poised to help the Anaheim Ducks make another playoff run this spring, after helping them win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup championship in 2007. The Ducks are among the NHL’s best teams, and Selanne might have enough left in the tank to make southern California go Cup Crazy once more. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Teemu has had a great career, but it’s not over just yet.
Alfie’s time. Another aging veteran player who shined in the Olympics is Swedish forward Daniel Alfredsson of the Detroit Red Wings. Alfie is 41 years old, and just added a Silver Medal to his collection to go with the Gold one he earned in Turin in 2006. Alfredsson was a face of the Ottawa Sentaors for much of his career, and was the NHL’s longest tenured captain prior to signing with the Red Wings in the summer of 2013. Like Jarome Iginla, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, Alfie has done almost everything you could possibly want to do in a hockey career except win the Stanley Cup. He’s over 40, but he can still play at a high level. The Wings are in a tough division and a tough conference, but it’s the same division and conference Alfie has played in his entire career. The Bruins, Habs, and Leafs don’t scare him, and he commands a lot of respect from the players and coaches of those teams. It’s just another storyline to look out for this spring.
Sabres trade Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. We’ve already had the first major trade of the season. Ryan Miller, the star goalie and face of the franchise in Buffalo was traded to St. Louis. It’s a sad time for Sabres fans, but they’re trying to rebuild, and Miller is a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s not fair to him to waste the prime of his career on a roster where he doesn’t have a chance to win. In return, Buffalo is getting a pretty good goalie in Jaroslav Halak, but this trade really makes the Blues one of the top teams this spring. St. Louis has been building towards something big for a few years now, and this trade just might be what it takes to put them over the top. Miller will join fellow United States Olympians David Backes and shootout hero T. J. Oshie in an attempt to being Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Show Me State for the first time. Miller, who sad on the bench in Sochi behind Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, will certainly have a chip on his shoulder when the Kings come to town in what has become one of the best rivalries in the Western Conference. It should be a lot of fun to watch.
Canada wins Gold, but they really want a certain silver Cup. 1993, the year that the Montreal Canadiens defeated Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings, was the last time a Canadian team won the last game of the season and got to hoist the Stanley Cup. The following year, Mark Messier and the New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games and a streak of American teams dominating the NHL began. If the regular season ended today, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the only two Canadian teams in the tournament. The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are close, but currently a couple points out of the final playoff spot in the very tight Western Conference, and the Ottawa Senators could get back into it with a little winning streak, but the once mighty Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have struggled mightily this season. It’s been a rough stretch for Canadian hockey fans. The Flames probably should have beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and the Canucks were heavily favored before losing in seven games to the Bruins in 2011. The Oilers were lucky to be in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, but they have failed to reach the playoffs since then. Hockey fans are passionate and territorial by nature, and Canada takes hockey more seriously than any other country on the planet. It must be sickening seeing cities like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tampa, Dallas, Raleigh, and Denver winning the Cup when fans in those cities didn’t pay attention to hockey a generation ago. It might not happen this year (and quite frankly, I hope it doesn’t since the Habs and Leafs would have to get past my beloved Bruins to so), but someday the Stanley Cup will return to Canada, and it won’t be just to hand it off to the American team that won it on the road.
Shame on you, Mr. Jacobs. I’ve written on here before about my love for hockey and my love for the Boston Bruins, but sometimes it’s just so hard to love them. It’s not because of the players on the ice. Those guys are great. I love the black and gold uniforms with the classic Eight Spoked B logo. I love the physical play that is synonymous with the Boston Bruins. I love Bruins fans. They get it. The amount of love I have for the Bruins’ players and fans is equal to the amount of hate I have for the Bruins’ owner. Jeremy Jacobs is an old, cheap, scumbag that could make Mr. Burns look charitable. He underspent on the team for years and locked the NHL players out three times to squeeze more money out of them. He lives in Buffalo and clearly only cares about making money. He’s lucky to have bought a hockey team in a market that loves it’s hockey or he’s never be able to get away with what he does. In a league where many teams struggle to sell tickets, Bruins tickets are hard to come by these days. What he’s doing now is making it so the regular hockey fan can’t afford more than one or two Bruins games a year, if that. Season ticket holders were notified of a huge increase in ticket prices for 2014-15, and they are rightfully outraged. Since 2008, prices will have more than doubled. Jacobs almost got the 2012-13 season cancelled like he did in 2004-05, and we would have been too fed up to come back if the team weren’t so good. This is the thanks we get for supporting a team when we probably shouldn’t. I want hockey to be successful and I want the NHL to do well, but guys like Jeremy Jacobs are the reason normal people can’t stand rich people, and are in the way of the NHL growing into a more mainstream sport. Shame on you.
Warning: The following post contains spoilers from the recent Simpsons episode “Steal This Episode.”
Nothing lasts forever. Well, nothing but The Simpsons and the hockey careers of Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr, it seems.
This Sunday, The Simpsons proved yet again that they are still funny and still relevant after 25 seasons with their latest episode, “Steal This Episode.” Homer is tired of getting movies spoiled for him at the water cooler at work by Lenny and Carl, and he’s even more frustrated at all the ads before a movie in the theaters, so Bart teaches him how to illegally download movies from the Internet. When asked how he knows how to do that, Bart simply replies “I’m under 30,” which is funny because Bart has been a ten year old for 25 years now. If he aged like a real person, and not like a cartoon, he’d be old enough to run for president.
The Simpsons had already been on TV for a few years when Selanne and Jagr broke into the NHL in the early 90s. Since then, they have taken the league by storm and turned into two of the greatest goal scorers the game of hockey has ever seen. In fact, they are the two highest scoring European-born players in NHL history.
Teemu Selanne was selected 10th overall in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, and made his NHL debut in 1992, the same year he played in his first Olympics for Finland. The Finnish Flash played two stints with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, the second of which started in 2005, continues to this day, and includes winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup Championship in 2007.
Jagr was drafted 5th overall in the NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and made his NHL debut that same year. He won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992, but left Pittsburgh after a decade to take his talents to the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Avangard Omsk (KHL), Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and now the New Jersey Devils. For over twenty years, he has been the aloof rock star hockey has needed, and deserved. In 1998, the NHL allowed its players to compete in the Olympics for the first time, and Jagr has been representing his native Czech Republic ever since, including winning a Gold Medal at the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998.
The 2014 Sochi Games will be Teemu’s sixth Olympics and Jagr’s fifth. These two have accomplished everything a hockey player dreams of, but they’re not done having fun just yet.
With the 2014 Winter Olympics coming up, there are a lot of Olympic mainstays that will not be present. Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Brian Rafalski are no longer skating for the Team USA. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger will not be there to secure Team Canada’s blue line, and Jarome Iginla and Joe Thronton will not be there to set up Crosby anymore. Nicklas Lidstrom will not be lacing up for Team Sweden.
In the winter of 2010, Lost was still airing new episodes on ABC in the midst of its final season, Breaking Bad was starting to become the most talked about show on cable, and The Office and 30 Rock were anchoring NBC’s Thursday night lineup. Four years later, all of those shows have ended, and Jay Leno is giving The Tonight Show (presumably) for real this time, to Jimmy Fallon, while he was taking it back from Conan O’Brien right around the time of the Vancouver Olympics. Four years later, The Simpsons are still going strong. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Homer and Marge were headed to Vancouver to represent the United States in couples curling. Bob Costas guest starred in that episode. It was very funny. I hope the show lasts forever.
One of the highlights of the episode was when Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Seth Rogen all guest starred as themselves starring in a pirated movie “based on Judd Apatow’s life, starring his family, and ad libbed by his friends” as Homer put it. He also showed, in his backyard pirate theater, the latest installment of the “Cosmic Wars” franchise, which created a loophole in which episodes one through three never actually happened, as many Star Wars fans probably hope will happen for them.
Homer ended up getting busted by an FBI agent voiced by sitcom veteran Will Arnett (On a side note, it feels weird referring to a man as young as Mr. Arnett as a “sitcom veteran” the way you would for Ted Danson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, or Ed O’Neill, but after Arrested Development, Sit Down, Shut Up, Running Wilde, Up All Night, and now The Millers, as well as memorable guest appearance on 30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Recreation, and The Simpsons, the shoe totally fits.), who actually played an FBI agent on a couple episodes of The Sopranos. The feds got tipped off when Marge tried to pay Hollywood back for the movies Homer stole. After that, the Simpson family needed to seek asylum from the Swedish government like Edward Snowden, and they recreated an iconic scene from The Fugitive. There was so much to love, and it reminded me why we need The Simpsons so much. The world is changing, but we can now take comfort in that fact that an edgy new show once condemned by Barbara Bush is now as accepted and beloved an American institution as the game of baseball.
These things have to end eventually, right? Teemu Selanne claims to be done at the end of this year, but we’ll have to check back in four years. Jagr claims he’ll play hockey until his legs fall off, and I want to believe him.