Oh how the aging process sneaks up on you…
When I went back to St. Lawrence University a couple of weekends ago to celebrate the amazing career of my college hockey coach, Joe Marsh, I was reminded that I am getting older. Let’s say reminiscing with old teammates and friends about college stories isn’t quite as enticing now that I have a daughter who is a freshman in college.
I was reminded again this past week of this aging dilemma that we apparently can’t control. The NHL inducted four new players into the prestigious Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF). Of the four players, I played on the same team as two of them and played against the other two.
Joe Sakic was the quiet assassin, quiet leader and quiet champion after winning two Stanley Cups. He is now quietly forever enshrined in hockey history as a member of the HHOF.
Sakic is also one of the reasons I decided at my first NHL training camp with the Quebec Nordiques that if I was ever going to play in the NHL I better be a good defensive player. Joe’s backhand was harder and more accurate than my slapshot, and his on ice vision and hockey sense was off the charts.
It was December 29, 1988, I was a senior at St. Lawrence University and we were one period from improving to 13-0-0 on the season. We were playing at home, in one of the great barns in the country, Appleton Arena. We defeated Western Michigan the night before and were leading 6-2 heading into the third period. We were ranked No. 1 in the country and would be keeping that ranking after the weekend sweep.
On the first shift of the third period there was a scoring chance and their goalie covered the puck. I turned away after the whistle, when Mike Posma, a player from Western Michigan, decided to slew foot me from behind. My right leg went up in the air as I fell but the toe of my blade on my left skate caught the ice and when I fell I landed on my ankle. The moments that followed are hazy because I was in so much pain.
After the game my coach Joe Marsh came in to the training room to find out what happened and how I was doing. He got the news; I broke my ankle and I was likely done for the season. He was so mad he punched a towel dispenser in the coach’s bathroom.
The next morning he drove me to the hospital to get x-rays. I got my leg and ankle and he got his right hand x-rayed. The news wasn’t good! His hand was broken and he was going to need some type of cast to immobilize it.
My news was worse. The doctor said he had good and bad news and asked what I wanted to hear first. I said the good news to which the doctor replied, “This shouldn’t be a career-ending injury.” That was the good news!
The bad news was I broke my fibula and tore ligaments in my ankle that required season-ending surgery. So I had just played my last game at St. Lawrence and as the Co-Captain. I was going to be a passenger on the top team in the country.
This tweet on Oct. 3 by Oakland Athletics pitcher Pat Neshek put a lot into perspective:
Please pray for my family.Tonight my wife & I lost our first & only son 23 hours after he was born with no explanation.— Pat Neshek (@PatNeshek) October 4, 2012
Gulp! Sigh! Pit in stomach! Sadness ensues!
It’s the worst nightmare for any parent. Even those who are not parents can understand the incredible grief that comes with this type of heart-wrenching story. We're reminded again that sports might be a fabric of our society, but there are things bigger and more important than the outcome of a game.
Here are some tweets after Pat did the unthinkable and pitched against the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALDS just three nights later:
Fox Sports: MLB - @MLBONFOX
“One of the most inspirational moments in sports!”
Chris Rose - @ChrisRose
“My heart hurts watching Pat Neshek pitch, knowing what he and his wife went through this week.”
Curt Schilling - @gehrig38
“My ankle was a scratch compared to what Pat Neshek just did, not even in the same universe. God Bless him and his wife.”
Brett Anderson - @BrettAnderson49
“Regardless of the outcome... one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen on a baseball field was @PatNeshek pitching in a game today.”
Brody Brazil - @brodiebrazilCSN
“Thanks to @PatNeshek tonight, for providing one of the most inspirational moments I’ve ever seen in sports.”
My wife Colleen Moraga-Baker is an amazing woman. I am lucky man and know it. She took me on a trip for my birthday (which was last week) so we could get some one-on-one time before the season started.
The trip was planned back in April and at the time there was no way to know if there would be a lockout. Whether there is a work stoppage or not, getting away to a secluded island and beautiful place has been amazing.
While laying on the beach the other day she remarked that even on vacation I still talk about hockey and that I truly love the sport and am passionate about it. I guess it's in my blood and always has been, going back to playing hockey in my basement as soon as I was old enough to hold a stick, playing street hockey on Saginaw Crescent in Nepean, Ontario in the freezing cold, or skating on the outdoor rinks or Rideau Canal in Ottawa as a kid.
Then she asked me what I thought was the best part of my job. Being a radio hockey analyst is more of a lifestyle occupation that I happen to love. So here is what I came up with regarding why I have such an awesome job:
I love being around the game of hockey and one of my passions is teaching and trying to explain something that is difficult to do, sound easy. Everyday I learn something new about hockey and am always working on becoming a better teacher.
4. The San Jose Sharks
I fell in love with this organization when I came here in 1993. The people, the city, the fans, the name of the team, the colors, the logo, the mascot, and nothing has changed since. The Sharks are a class organization from top to bottom, and I'm glad to be a part of this organization from a historical standpoint and as a current broadcaster.
I remember where I was when:
Paul Henderson scored the GWG for Canada in 1972 in the 8th game of the incredible series against the Soviet Union...
I was listening to the game on the radio in a school-yard at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Nepean, Ontario.
When Bob Nystrom scored the series-clinching goal in overtime as the NY Islanders defeated the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup in 1980...
Watching the game on a fuzzy, small, black and white TV at our family cottage in Golden Lake, Ontario. Man I loved that cottage and have some of my fondest memories from there, including this one because the Islanders were my favorite team.
When Wayne Gretzky scored goal number 801 to tie Gordie Howe’s record for most goals in an NHL career...
On the bench wondering why Todd Elik was on the ice for the defensive zone faceoff in the last minute of the game while I was sitting on the bench. Uh oh, must have been in the coach’s doghouse!
That quote is from boxing great Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero. About a month ago I was in Tahoe and met Guerrero a few times while he was training for his big fight Saturday night against Selcuk Aydin at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
It was very interesting and cool to watch the focus as Guerrero went through his training exercises. In boxing, it’s all about focus because if you lose it for just a few seconds in a fight there is a good chance you will be getting knocked out.
After 7 weeks training in the altitude of Tahoe where his daily regimen was eat, sleep and train (no TV at his compound) Guerrero is ready to take on the undefeated Aydin with the winner possibly getting a shot at Floyd Mayweather once he has completed his time in jail.
Good luck to ‘The Ghost” who is great guy, and make sure to head to HP Pavilion to watch the local Guerrero or catch the fight on Showtime this Saturday night.
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If you walk around San Francisco you’ll see babies, young little babies, especially boys, wearing the orange and black colors of the SF Giants. These little kids don’t know baseball from badminton but the likelihood they will be lifelong Giants fans is pretty good, especially when they look back and see all the wonderful cute baby pictures.
And so it is….
August 31, 1966: I was born. September 1, 1966: I already hated and cheered against the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. My dad didn’t like either of those teams, and thus, neither did I.
And so it was…
From 1976 to 1979, the Montreal Canadians won four Stanley Cups bolstered by the goaltending of Ken Dryden, key forwards in Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Jacques Lemaire and stellar defenseman Serge Savard and of course Larry Robinson.
Because of Larry Robinson, I cried annually when his team won the Stanley Cup. And then a freak meeting…
It’s been a light week, so Friday Baker’s Dozen is a special edition of the Friday Baker’s Half-Dozen.
- The NHL season is officially over from an on-ice standpoint but now we have the NHL Awards, Draft and then free agent frenzy. Lots to still talk about though and the draft could be very interesting.
- Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin was the right choice for MVP. He carried the team when Sidney Crosby was hurt and his team made the playoffs. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, as great as his season was, didn’t get his team into the playoffs, which has to be a factor in the criteria.
- Big night for Sweden with Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist getting the Vezina and Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson getting the Norris. Pretty good week for Karlsson, who is 22 and signed a seven-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday. I guess Ottawa isn’t going after Nashville's Ryan Suter!
Time for my weekly Baker's Dozen.
- Brad Stuart is a tough, hard-nosed defenseman that has won a Stanley Cup. The Sharks have exclusive rights to negotiate with him until July 1 and he would be a great addition to the team if he is signed. I think Doug Wilson’s take on Stuart sums up why it’s a good move: “Brad is a player we are very familiar with – a physical, team-first defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess.”
- Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche might have said it best on his Twitter account after the Kings won the Cup: @Matt9Duchene “29 very jealous teams right now. Hoping one day it will be our turn. Congrats to the LA Kings on their 1st ever Stanley Cup."
- The three big story lines for the summer considering player movement are Rick Nash, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Lots of teams would be interested in those players but the question is where will they end up?
Time for my weekly Baker's Dozen.
- Winning the Cup has never been easier because the salary cap has created parity and any team making the playoffs has a chance to win the Cup. Winning the Cup has never been harder because so many teams have a viable, legitimate chance. It’s great for hockey and makes the playoffs unpredictable from year to year.
- Who to cheer for? I think it would be great for hockey in California, the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and pacific standard time zone teams if the Kings win despite the fact they are huge rivals to the Sharks. The only team I would actually like to see win the Cup other than the Sharks is Ottawa because it’s my hometown. Otherwise it’s addition by subtraction or for some other hockey related reason. Plus, I know all the broadcasters for the Kings and they are great guys and I would be thrilled for them.
#Miller #Nickson #Fox #Evans
- NHLcom staff, NHL.com International staff and NHL.com Hockey Analysts made their predictions on who wins the Stanley Cup. A total of 23 individuals made their picks. 12 picked the Devils and 11 picked LA. Now that just shows you how close these teams are and everyone agreed that it would likely be a long series that goes 6 or 7 games.
- When it comes to Nicklas Lidstrom hockey fans know about the 7 Norris trophies, 4 Stanley Cups and other stats. You can see more of his amazing stats by clicking on this link. Here are some other stats you might not know about:
- He was +40 or higher 4 times in his career (+43 in 93/94 and +40 in 02/03, 06/07, 07/08)
- In 4 games at the Cow Palace he had 1G, 1A, 2PTS, +1 and had 9 shots
- In 33 games at HP Pavilion he had 7G, 22A, 29PTS, +5 and had 75 shots
- The only building other than HP Pavilion (not including Joe Louis) where he had more points is the United Center in Chicago where he had 41 points. (He had 5PTS in 11 games at Chicago Stadium.)
- Including neutral site arenas he has played in 56 different arenas
- In 937 wins he had 205G, 647A, 852PTS, +768 and took 2,272 shots
- Took 3,875 shots in his career
- Played 80 or more games in 14 seasons