A popular one amongst the hockey fans on staff was: Who would win in a best-of-seven series between an all-time all-star lineup of players from Quebec and the Rest of Canada?
I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. If you pit an all-time Canadian team against an all-time from any other country team it’s a pretty straight forward answer: the guys with the maple leaf on their chest. Seriously, only an all-Soviet/Russian team would avoid the sweep.
But pitting Canadians against Canadiens? That is a tough call. At first glace, you've got to give the advantage to Quebec's goaltenders. Jacques Plante. Patrick Roy. Martin Brodeur. Roberto Luongo. La Belle Provence has a sterling history of producing world-class goalies.
Naturally, defence appears to favour the Rest of Canada. Naming off the National Hockey League's best defencemen of all time reads a lot like the bench of Team ROC.
Up front is where things get tricky. Gretzky against Lemieux. The Rocket versus Stevie Y. It's a dead heat.
The rules are simple:
- Each team gets four lines of forwards, six defencemen and three goaltenders.
- Any player from the National Hockey League’s history is eligible.
- These theoretical rosters are composed of the players in their primes. Bobby Orr's knees are in perfect shape and Michel Goulet hasn't been concussed.
- It’s Rest-of-Canada versus Quebec, not French Canada versus English Canada. For example, Dion Phaneuf, a Francophone, could theoretically play for Rest-of-Canada, as he’s from Edmonton. Similarly, Doug Harvey is from Montreal so he’d play for Quebec, even if he is maudit anglais.Of course, English against French can be a fun exercize as well, but we’re trying to keep things politically sensitive on this blog.
- No, Brett Hull doesn’t count.
I want to know who you think would win, and why. If you’re feeling ambitious, post your rosters as well.
Here are my picks for the rosters, as well as the winner
C - Wayne Gretzky
Winner: Team Rest-of-Canada in seven games.
With goalies and forward pretty even, the largest disparity is clearly at the blue line. Yes, Bourque and Harvey are two of the best defenders of all time, but they aren’t the best.
Bobby Orr is the best offensive-defenceman of all time and Larry Robinson is the best defensive-defenceman ever. That one-two punch, coupled with the depth of their rearguard corps gives ROC a real advantage.
Rest-of-Canada’s defence is also much bigger than the average forward for Équipe Québec. Although the Richards might be able to slip by the likes of Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy a few times, they’d be exhausted when it comes time to lace ‘em up for Game 7.
Also, ROC's defence would be able to jump up into the attack. Obviously, Orr was capable of scoring just as many points as any forward for Quebec, and Coffey would be able to keep La Belle Provence's defence honest too.
One of the big surprises is that ROC is actually pretty good between the pipes. Yes, the case can be made that one of Roy, Brodeur or Plante are the greatest goaltender of all time - but the same can be said of Sawchuk. Further, Dryden and Hall aren't exactly slouches. Sawchuk, coupled with the reliable defence in front of him, would be more than enough to stop the best that Quebec has to offer.
Up front would still be a dead heat. The Rest-of-Canada couldn't possibly match the flair and play-making ability of Quebec, but with talented and tough forwards like Howe, Gilmour and Recchi bearing down on them on the forecheck, the blue-and-white would feel rushed and pressured on most of their shifts.
A week ago I tweeted about the movement to have Pat Burns inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I had wanted to expand on that 140-character missive, but the Easter holidays got in the way. However, now I’ve got the chance.
As TSN later reported, the Facebook group Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! has the support of tens of thousands of hockey fans - over 49,000 as I write this – to put the former National Hockey League coach into the Hall of Fame before he succumbs to terminal cancer.
Other media outlets have picked up on the page, including Hockey Night in Canada, Coast to Coast with Don Cherry, the Montreal Gazette, the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star and several radio stations.
Burns has a wealth of accomplishments that should earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
In his 14 straight seasons as a head coach he won 501 games with four teams, making it to the playoffs 11 times, the final twice and winning the Stanley Cup once.
To put that in a historical perspective, Burns is 11th in NHL history for number of games coached, nine behind Brian Sutter.
Burns is also 11th on the list for coaching wins, just one behind Hall of Fame member Glen Sather.
Even his losses stack up well, with Burns dropping 353 decisions in regulation and 14 in overtime (OTL was only counted in his last four seasons). That’s significantly less than Jacques Demers (468) and Brian Sutter (437), both of whom also coached for 14 years.
Granted, Burns doesn’t come anywhere close to the top 10 in terms of Stanley Cup wins, but he does at least have that one Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devil’s championship, which is better than many other members of the Hall of Fame.
One could speculate that had it not been for Burns’ premature retirement, he’d have moved even further up these lists. Certainly, he could have moved up on the lists for games coached, and presumably climbed further up in terms of wins.
However, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t rely upon conjecture or presumptions. The man’s record speaks for itself. Even within the constraints of his shortened career he put together an exceptional coaching record.
The only question is whether or not Burns will be alive by the time he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Burns was present at the groundbreaking ceremony of a hockey arena that will be named in his honour two weeks ago. During the press conference, Burns was not optimistic about his chances of seeing the rink completed.
"I probably won't see the project to the end," said Burns. "But let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux."
Normally, there is a three-year waiting period after retirement to gain admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
However, there is precedent for the Hockey Hall of Fame speeding the process up: Roger Neilson was fast-tracked as he was terminally ill, as was Mario Lemieux, whose Hodgkin's lymphoma appeared to be fatal.
Burns has everything going for him. He has a high-calibre resume, the support of many hockey insiders and the Hall of Fame has done this kind of promotion before.
All that’s left is for the selection committee to take note of his accomplishments and the groundswell of support for his induction. It would be a fitting cap to a stellar career and an inspiring life.
If you’d like to throw your support behind the Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! Facebook group, you can join by clicking on this link.
Paul Quarrington’s novel King Leary is a funny, insightful look at the world of professional hockey in the early 20th century that would be enjoyable for fans of the sport or someone looking for a quick read.
It regained prominence in 2008 when the Rheostatics' Dave Bidini championed it for the CBC’s Canada Reads program. Bidini’s campaign saw King Leary become a best-seller and win the award 10 years after it first appeared on book shelves.
Narrated by Percival “King” Leary, one of the greatest professional hockey players to ever live, the story follows him as he travels from his retirement home to Toronto to shoot a ginger ale commercial with Duane Killebrew, the National Hockey League’s current scoring champion.
During the trip Leary recalls how he learned to play while at reformatory school and his complicated friendships with Clay Bors Clinton and Manfred Ozikean. He also touches on the fractious relationships with his sons Clarence and Clifford, as well as his wife Chloe and her sister Jane.
For the reader less familiar with hockey, King Leary will entertain with its amusing anecdotes and poignant moments. Quarrington is a masterful storyteller, subtly hinting at darkness that seeps into an otherwise humorous narrative.
At the same time, many of the characters are clearly based off other historical figures. Clinton is a mix of Conn Smythe and Harold Ballard. Killebrew is clearly meant to be Wayne Gretzky, with a passing reference to a player “down in Pittsburgh” that hints at Mario Lemieux.
Leary himself resembles a number of players, especially Toronto Maple Leafs great Francis Michael “King” Clancy.
The one disappointing aspect of the book is that although Quarrington is deft at the characterization of all of the main characters, supporting characters like Leary’s nurse Iain or the advertising executive Claire are painted with an extraordinarily broad brush. Their dialogue seems forced and unnecessarily flamboyant to the point that their characters are a distraction that clutters the page.
Aside from that, King Leary is a fine story. A quick reader could blow through Quarrington’s work in an afternoon, and would enjoy it regardless of their attachment to Canada’s favourite game. Definitely worth picking up.
Three days after Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to lift the Canadian national team to a 3-2 triumph over Team USA in the Olympic hockey final, the Canadian people are still deliriously happy. It’s the biggest international hockey win since the 2002 Salt Lake City games.
The most recent win is always the sweetest, but how does Sunday’s game rate in Canadian hockey history? I’m sorry to say that to me, it the fifth biggest... let’s break it down.
5. Sidney Crosby and Team Canada down Team USA 3-2 in overtime for Olympic gold
It capped a thrilling two weeks where Canada, at long last, won a gold medal on home soil, and then rolled to 13 more first place finishes for the Winter Olympics record. Canada also gained a measure of revenge against the United States who had embarrassed them earlier in the tournament, beating them 5-3.
Canada’s win was big for several reasons.
First and foremost, it was on home soil, with nearly 80% of Canada’s population watching in the arena or on television. What other event could captivate four out of every five people?
It also served as the perfect cap to two weeks of patriotic build up. Like a dam straining against a swollen river, Crosby’s goal unleashed the flood gates.
Crosby himself had virtually disappeared for the last three games, being held off the point sheet even in routs like Canada’s 7-2 man-thrashing of Russia. Having him rise to the occasion in extra time made it all the more surprising.
4. Team Canada’s 3-2 win over the United States to win the Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey
The only thing better than winning at home is winning on the road and disappointing your opponents’ fans.
Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser, Cheri Piper, Kim St. Pierre and the rest of the women on Team Canada did just that as they dropped their one – and only – hockey rivals, Team USA.
There are two factors that make this victory particularly sweet. The first is that for once, Canada was the underdog in international hockey. That’s right, the Americans had won their previous eight meetings. That’s a heck of a big monkey for Team Canada to carry on their backs and it made this ninth meeting on the biggest of all stages especially intense.
The other is that the referee (an American) called a series of questionable penalties, all against the Canadians, including five straight in the second period and a total of 13. The United States were only assessed four minors, meaning that the Canadian squad had to play on its heels the entire time.
Holding off a late surge, the Canadian women held off their arch-rivals for the biggest win in women’s hockey history.
3. Montreal Canadiens and Red Army battle to 3-3 tie on Dec. 31st 1975
Super-Series ’76 grew out of the popularity and success of the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series. Instead of playing all-star teams from the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association, the Super-Series pitted the Soviet Wings and the Red Army (two of the top teams in the Soviet Union’s hockey league) against eight NHL teams.
The Canadiens were one of the best teams in the NHL at the time and went on to win the Stanley Cup that season. Many considered it to be a World Championship of professional hockey. It ended up being was a showcase for the considerable talents of Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak who faced 35 shots while his team only mustered 13 against future Liberal MP Ken Dryden.
Unlike the other games on this list, Canada didn’t win. However, as argued over on HockeyAdventure.com, it was the most entertaining game ever.
As a whole, the Super-Series underscored the fact that Soviet-style hockey could work against North American teams, moving the NHL towards the fire-wagon brand of hockey popular in the 1980s.
2. Canadian men top Team USA 5-2 in Olympic gold medal game
The most memorable and important hockey game in my lifetime, this game is significant for several reasons.
First of all, it allowed Team Canada and the nation as a whole a level of catharsis after being upset by the Czech Republic in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano as well as avenging themselves on Team USA after a devastating loss to the Americans at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey.
Both losses had wounded the national psyche and called into questions the direction of Hockey Canada.
Further, Canada hadn’t won a gold medal in the Olympics for fifty years, not since the 1952 games in Oslo, Norway. It was an opportunity to regain dominance in a sport that many Canadians consider their rightful property.
It also featured the best hockey play I’ve ever seen.
With the United States leading 1-0, Chris Pronger carried the puck past the blue-line where he suddenly stopped, shaking off the American covering him. He wired a pass to captain Mario Lemieux who raised his stick for a one-timer. As a smile flashed across his face, the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Penguins let the puck slip between his legs to a streaking Paul Kariya who snapped a shot past a startled Mike Richter.
Pronger’s pass was good. Kariya’s speed and skill were great. But nothing – nothing – will ever top the incredible hockey sense and awareness that Lemieux displayed on that play. I could watch that play all day, every day. It’s poetry in motion.
1. Canada wins on Paul Henderson’s goal in the final minute of the eighth game of the 1972 Summit Series
You knew this had to be number one. The gran’ daddy of them all, the 1972 Summit Series irrevocably changed the international game of hockey, undoubtedly for the better.
The context of the series itself was incredible. Canada had withdrawn from almost all international competition, even going so far as to cancel the 1970 World Junior Championship in Winnipeg.
As a result, only a handful of North Americans had ever seen the Soviets play hockey. The game developed in a vacuum behind the Iron Curtain, creating a more finessed style of play that relied heavily on teamwork and passing plays as well as conditioning and stamina.
Canada’s brand of hockey was a more physical, individual game including using their bodies to block shots. Team Canada’s stickwork was fancier, using tape-to-tape passes that didn’t touch the ice and flipping the puck in over the defence.
The styles clash was epic, and changed how the game is played as both sides of the Cold War began using each other’s tactics and strategies.
Further, sports were becoming increasingly political. Just that summer the Israeli team had been massacred at the Munich Olympics and most African nations had boycotted the summer games entirely to protest Rhodesia’s apartheid state.
Also, unlike the other matches on this list, the Summit Series was played over the course of four weeks with tension mounting after each game. By the time the eighth and final game was played in Moscow, it seemed like the Cold War was hanging in the balance.
That last game is a classic. Whether it’s Peter Mahovilich jumping over the boards to rescue Alan Eagleson from Red Army officers or J.P. Parise threatening to slash one of the referees, the tension is palpable. With Henderson’s wonderful, desperate goal all of that pent up emotion was unleashed in a moment that still sends chills down Canadian spines.
Nothing will ever be able to top that moment for Canadians.