Well, did you miss me? I spent my first day back in town unwinding and surfing the net to see what went on while I was gone but it seems like things were pretty quiet, especially in the hockey world. I was relieved to see that I made it back just in time for the final unveiling of Kate's Favorite Sabre. Congratulations to the big winner! (You'll have to check out the link if you want to see the victor. I'm not spoiling it!)
I spent much of my vacation in the car which means lots of sleeping and reading. One of the things I've had to adjust to in switching my primary sports allegiance from baseball to hockey is the lack of hockey literature. Granted, no sport matches up with baseball literature of which there is a freakin' ton, some overly pretentious and dramatic but some of it just plain beautiful and emotional. I've managed to dig up a few goodies though. Before break I read Money Players: The Amazing Rise and Fall of Bob Goodenow and the NHL Players Association by Bruce Dowbiggin and while on break I finished off Road Games: A Year in the Life of the NHL by Roy MacGregor. The subtitle of Money Players pretty much explains what the book is about - Bob Goodenow's take over of the NHLPA and the overall financial health of the league, up to the season long lockout a couple of years ago. Road Games is a journey through the 1992-93 season (or as Mark calls it, "the year Lemieux got cancer and stole Patty's (LaFontaine) Hart"). The book focuses on, among other things, the first season of the Ottawa Senators, the battle for last place and a chance at Alexandre Daigle, the rise of numerous European stars, the expansion of the league, and the never-ending battle between players and ownership. I recommend both very much, especially Road Games. The journey of the Senators is particularly good, alternately funny and sad, heart-breaking and inspirational. I thought Money Players was fascinating but I'm really interested in all that behind the scenes stuff that fans usually aren't privy to. (During the intermission of a Sabres game shortly after the trade deadline, we saw a video package of Darcy Regier wheeling and dealing with Lindy Ruff coming in and out. Even though the names on the master white board were blacked out and even though the footage was carefully cut so that we weren't hearing any guys being offered for extra pucks and a box of orange Dreamsicles, I could watched footage like that all night. I was completely captivated.) Anyway, Money Players was a bit dry at times and I know that stuff is not everyone's cup of tea. But! While reading these two books, I discovered what's wrong with the NHL.
GMs are stupid.
Really, that's all there is to it. The vast majority of the GMs in the NHL are stupid morons who panic at the first sign of trouble. There's always one guy who's going to throw wads of money at every free agent star he can, okay? We all know that. That doesn't mean the rest of the GMs have to follow but... they do. Every single time they do! So Eric Lindros got an insane rookie contract. I know that means the next kid is going to want one too but you know what, GMs? That doesn't mean you have to give it to him! If the rest of you would just sit on your hands and let the big spender spend, eventually people would realize, hey, maybe that's not the best way to build a team. This is especially true when working with a salary cap. Maybe players would realize if they're serious about eating cereal out of the Stanley Cup one day, they might need to take a little less money so they can actually have other talent around them. (Some players would decide they didn't really care that much about that ol' Cup anyway but I think many would get the point. Maybe.) Throughout both Money Players and Road Games there is example upon example of GMs shooting themselves in the collective foot. No one is putting a gun to their head and forcing them to overpay players but they do it anyway. Money Players is loaded with quotes from various GMs saying things like, "Yeah, that was stupid. I don't know why we all did that." But. they. keep. being. stupid.
This is so frustrating! If the players agreed to a $10 salary cap some idiot GM would offer his star player a contract for $9.75. And instead of letting that idiot GM figure out how he's going to ice a full roster with his remaining 25 cents, some other idiot GM would decide, Hey, I want that player, and offer him $9.77. And yet another idiot GM would decide he was going to be the top dog and go for broke, offering $9.92 even though no one else's offer was even close to that and the majority of local media and fans would applaud him for proving he wants to ice a winner while completely ignoring the fact that he now has 8 cents to work with which means the team mascot will have to play in the top defensive pairing. (And I'm sorry, but why is the Hurricanes mascot a pig?!)
How infuriating do you think this is for GMs who are logical, level-headed thinkers? And yes, despite what many in Buffalo might say, I'm including Regier in that group. (Sidenote: Lou Lamoriello is totally the star of Money Players. Throughout the book he makes comments like, "We really messed that one up" but he very clearly means, "Can you believe I have to co-exist with these idiots?" He's awesome.) Forget you, Buffalo! I say, good for Darcy for letting someone else overpay Daniel Briere and yes, I'm saying it, Chris Drury. Congratulations, Lou for never flinching when a player - any player - demands more than you want to pay him. Thank you, Brian Burke for patting Dustin Penner on the back and saying, "I like you kid, but I don't like you that much." It's nice to see a little sanity creep in once in a while.
Way back on July 6th, I wrote a little entry on why the sounds of the game are one of the reasons why I love hockey. In that entry I mentioned the distinctive blaring of goal horns. Well, some genius out there in the universe put together this video, pairing each horn with its team (a few teams are left out be he covers most of them). It's a really cool idea and it's neat to hear how really distinctive the horns are. Even more so than I realized. Oh, I saw this at Kukla's Korner and borrowed it. Enjoy!
Hey, anyone have any hockey books you'd recommend?