Happily Ever After
Once upon a time there was a young hockey player with exceptional talent. His talent was so great that teams from faraway cities came calling and offered him great riches and treasures if he would only come to play for them.
And he did. And he came, and he showed a lot of promise. He was just as good as all the reports had said.
He was a gem, a rock to build the franchise’s new multifunction arena on. Too bad he was playing on a team that never made it past the first round of playoffs.
And that wasn’t the only obstacle our hero was facing. There was also something else…
Mario Lemieux and the injuries and illnesses that still keep us second guessing how good he might have been, Wayne Gretzky and The Trade that took him out of Edmonton, Saku Koivu and the injuries and illnesses that still keep us second guessing how good he might have been.
We all love good drama, and while there’s plenty of it in just one hockey game, there’s even more outside the game, and in a ten or 20-year-career of a player.
With only four teams left in this year’s Cup chase, it’s time to start looking at the best storylines.
I named the storylines using song titles to honor the greatest hockey band there ever was – Journey.
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres
Teppo Numminen won Olympic silver in Torino last year. He also won Olympic Silver n Calgary in 1988. That same year he played his first NHL game. That’s the year this year’s draftees were born. Teppo is the longest-serving active player without a Cup ring still in the running with his close to 1,400 NHL games. It took him sixteen years to make it to the second round of the playoffs. (Thinking about Teppo makes me angry at the people who voted for Fitzpatrick).
Positive Touch – Teemu Selänne, Anaheim Ducks
Selanne the rookie took the league by storm, broke – no, demolished – the goal-scoring record, then charmed everybody with his smile, his sense of humor, and juvenile energy that is contagious. He won the Richard Trophy in 1999, as the first player, and then scored only 44 goals in the last two seasons (in Colorado and San Jose) before coming back home to California and getting 40 and 48 goals. The smile’s not as beautiful anymore, thanks to Derian Hatcher, but the juvenile energy is.
Faithfully – Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson was drafted by the Senators in 1994, joined the club in 1995, and won the Calder Trophy in 1996 as the first Senator ever. The curly-haired sniper became the captain of the team in 1999-00, and then shaved his head a few years later, but remained a great player and a leader. Ten seasons with the same team convinced Alfie to sign an extension for another five seasons, and who knows, maybe Alfredsson will be first European captain to hoist the Cup
Still They Ride – Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek, Detroit Red Wings
Chelios, 45, and Hasek, 42, are the two oldest players in the League, and between them they have won and done everything you can think of in hockey. In 1987, the year Sidney Crosby was born, Hasek was Player of the Year in a country that ceased to exist in 1992. He was drafted in 1983, two years later than Chelios. Now, 25 years later his GAA in the playoffs is 1.51. And Chelios. He’s been around for so long that when you pull up his stats on hockeydb.com, you have to scroll down. I think he’s going to break Gordie Howe’s record.
One thing is sure: A Swede is going to win the Stanley Cup. But that’s an old story.