Well okay. The Pittsburgh Penguins just won their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history by beating the San Jose Sharks in six games. Sure, their 2015-16 NHL season was shaping up to look like a write-off back in December, but as I’ve mentioned before, the playoffs are an entirely different kettle of fish. Even teams that finish with the best regular-season record have been known to swoon tragically in the early rounds. But that’s the beauty part of the NHL: a kick-ass regular season doesn’t guarantee you anything. Even home-ice advantage means practically nothing.
This championship is probably sweetest for Penguins’ right-winger Phil Kessel, who was summarily dumped by the Toronto Maple Leafs last year for serial underperformance. After years of frustration, Kessel finally showed his true colors as the clutchiest of clutch players in the 2016 playoff campaign. He finished with 10 goals and 12 assists in 24 games, but ceded the Conn Smyth playoff MVP trophy to Sidney Crosby.
Speaking of Sid the Kid, he has two championships under his belt, and is now being heralded as one of the greats of the game. All kidding aside, you have to give major kudos to Sid and the boys for rebounding from a dismal start and an early-season coaching change. They did it before, and they were able to do it again. In a 30-team league, that is nothing short of miraculous.
Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky - before Gretzky became the "Great One".
Generations of hockey fans worshiped Gordie Howe for his legendary prowess on the ice, and his class off of it. Sadly, “Mr. Hockey” passed away on June 10 at the age of 88, leaving a legacy of greatness few will ever achieve, let alone surpass. I’m not “mature” enough to have seen Mr. Howe in his prime, but I do remember him centering a line with his sons Mark and Marty for the Hartford Whalers when he was 52 years old. My generation has Wayne Gretzky, but even the “Great One” knows he’s not in the same class as the greatest No. 9.
As I write this, Mr. Howe is lying in repose in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, as thousands of Hockeytown's faithful file past to pay their respects.
I knew it in my gut that Gary Bettman would have a hard time passing up expanding the NHL to Las Vegas. It didn’t help that oil prices and the Canadian dollar bottomed out a few months back, but despite Canada’s current economic troubles, I just knew there was no way he was going to award an expansion franchise to Quebec City.
Another thing my gut is telling me is that a team in Vegas has “Atlanta Thrashers” written all over it. Atlanta’s second attempt at nurturing an NHL franchise was as big a bust as the first one (the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames in 1980), with the team moving to Winnipeg in 2011 to become the second incarnation of the Jets.
So, maybe there is hope yet for the Quebec Nordiques, Part Deux. After all, just because you can make ice in the desert doesn’t mean it won’t eventually melt.
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