Paddy was clearly keyed up about something because judging from the debris in front of him he’d already had two cappuccinos and a muffin when I joined him at the coffee shop.
“How about that Canada/US women’s hockey game?” he asked before I was even seated.
“One of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen,” I said.
“Where would you rank it on your list of exciting games?” he inquired.
“Definitely in the top five,” I assured him.
“So what would the other four be,” he urged.
“The September 28, 1972 game between Team Canada and the Russians; the December 31, 1975, game between the Russian Red Army team and the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal.....” I said before Paddy interrupted me.
“Everyone knows about that 1972 game, but what was so great about the 1975 game?”
“Just a fabulous hockey game between two fabulous teams,” I told him, “a 3-3 tie between the Ruskies and the Habs. Possibly the best game Tretiak ever played.
“The Russian goalie?” he queried.
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“Go on,” he urged.
“The Czechs against Team Canada on September 10, 1976,” I said, “again at the Forum in Montreal. The Czechs won 1-0. And the Canadian men’s gold medal winning game in Vancouver in 2010.”
“All international games,” Paddy observed, “any common denominators other than that?”
“Yes,” I answered, “no goons in any of those games. I simply don’t know why the NHL doesn’t learn from the Olympics and the World Juniors that not only do goons add nothing to the game, they detract from it.”
“Well,” Paddy went on, completely ignoring my goon reference, “what did you think of the Canada/US men’s game?”
“Another nail-biter for sure,” I told him, “I thought the Canadian defence and Carey Price played really well; but I am baffled at the lack of scoring by the forwards.”
“Any theories?” Paddy asked.
“No, I’m baffled,” I repeated.
“I’ve heard some people say that Babcock is over-coaching,” Paddy said.
“There may be some truth in that,” I nodded. “If you think about the great Montreal Canadiens teams that Toe Blake coached, the ones that won so many Stanley Cups and had so many Hall of Famers on them, Blake tinkered hardly at all. He knew that his players knew how to play the game and how to deal with particular situations.”
So you think Babcock is screwing up,” Paddy averred.
“It’s hard to say he’s screwing up when they’re undefeated,” I pointed out. “But I do think there are too many heads in the teepee. There are four coaches; and Yzerman has six or seven assistants, consultants or whatever in his entourage. Three coaches, one GM and two assistant GMs should be enough.”
“How about Kessel?” Paddy asked.
“He’s made a believer out of me,” I enthused. “He’s such a dynamic offensive threat that I’ll take him on my team any day, even if I never see him in his own end of the rink except for faceoffs.”
“What’s wrong with Crosby?” Paddy inquired.
“His performance has seemed mediocre,” I acknowledged, “but only when compared to what we’ve come to expect from him. When Crosby’s been on the ice the puck is almost always in the other team’s end. His passes are unbelievable, surprising even the recipients at times, and he wears out the opposition, both mentally and physically.”
“But,” Paddy persisted, “he’s not scoring.”
“Can’t denY that,” I conceded, “but I’m sure this isn’t the first time he’s had only two points in five games. The fact that the whole world is watching makes it more noticeable.”
“Do you think the NHL will continue to participate in the Olympics?” Paddy asked.
“I would be surprised if they weren’t thinking about pulling out,” I responded. “The league gets no money out of it. The compacted schedule before and after the Olympic break is a real problem. Bettman isn’t front and center, which I’m sure bruises his boundless ego. And then there’s the possibility of injuries. Which way do you think the New York Islanders would vote on the issue?”
“Yeah,” Paddy said, “losing Tavares is quite a blow. and don't forget Zetterberg. So would you go back to amateurs?”
“I’d have the World Junior championship as part of the Olympics, and have the NHLers play in a World Cup of Hockey every four years between the winter Olympic years. And in those years I’d hold the World Cup in September in North America,” I answered.
“Having the Junior championship as part of the Olympics is a great idea!” Paddy exclaimed.
“Not mine, though,” I informed him. “I’m told Dave Hodge was the first to suggest it.”
“Would the IOC ever go for it?” Paddy asked.
“If the NHL decides not to participate, they’ll have to,” I pointed out. “Soccer does it. The countries involved in Olympic soccer don’t send their pro teams; they send teams of players who are under twenty-three years of age.”
“I didn’t know that,” Paddy admitted. “Who’s winning gold tomorrow?”
“Price over Lundqvist,” I said as I left him with his third cappuccino and second muffin.