Saturday, December 30, 2006

HISTORY OF "IN THE BOX" volume one

In The Box has been a staple in Edmonton's entertainment weekly paper, Vue Weekly since 1996. It's been a bit of an aberration in an arts-and-issues-based paper, but it seems to have its curious readership.
Only in this city, where the local Improv folks are using hockey as a backdrop for their long-standing improvised weekly "soap opera" Die-Nasty can hockey and the arts live in relative comfort.
Even the rock stars in town have a hockey league.

In The Box started in October of 2006 by former Vue Weekly editor Steve Sandor and John Turner. The pair wrote the column for several years as a duo.

Here's the column's inception, in the words of Steve himself.

OK, so Dave asked me to write a brief history lesson on ITB. Wow, John and I started back in 1996, when the Oilers' stars were guys named Joseph, Arnott and Weight, and that kid Smyth looked like he might have a future. Mironov, De Vries, Berehowsky and McGillis anchored the blue line.

Basically, we were at Vue and got press passes. We had to figure out a way to justify it. So, at our first game, the Sabres facing the Oilers, frantic to come up with something to print, we decided to not try and pretend we were anything but hacks. We would write as if we were astonished that someone would give us the space to print our two cents worth. We spent a lot of time griping about referees (we must have written a book about Steve Walkom, the anti-Oiler), bad uniforms, players we hated and John bugging me about my Toronto roots. Some classic early moments; calling Carolina bars and asking random patrons of they'd ever heard of the Hurricanes; and our "design a new uniform for the Canucks" contest.

Some way, some how, the Oilers actually LIKED the thing, because I was soon asked to write for the game program on a freelance basis. Later,it became a full contract as the editor of Zone. With that conflict, I had to leave ITB behind.

I stayed with the Oilers until the lockout messed up all the economics for us little people who depended on hockey; in Toronto, I still can't live without Oilers hockey. Thank whatever deity you'd like for Centre Ice. Heck, I even wrote a book about it (Shameless plug for "The Battle of Alberta," Heritage House, available through amazon, chapters/indigo or your favourite local book shop, like Audreys).

I wish the Oilers the best; the job wasn't a job at all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

999 against 99.

The Oilers win over Wayne Gretzky and his Coyote buddies was especially notable as it was the Oiler franchise's 999th win. One more win in the next nine games and the Oilers will be the third fastest franchise to mark 1000 wins, just behind Montreal and Philadelphia.

999. That's Gretzky's 99 on the jersey and 9 NHL seasons with the Oilers. Wayne always had a flair for the dramatic.

Sure is sad to see him looking like he just ate a handful of sour candies lately as he grimaces in pain behind the bench.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

SEPARATED AT BIRTH????? (and then frozen for ten or fifteen years)???

Edmonton's own Just A Game late-night host. and TSN's Monster Performer.

It's like looking into a time machine.
McGuire did coach for The Hartford Whalers - our own Mr. Gregor's favourite NHL team.
Maybe that inspired JG's hairstyle and spectacle choices.
Cheers Jason Gregor. Good luck in the Fantasy Football final against Jimmy.


After a week that saw Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Toby Petersen and Matt Greene all getting goals for the Oilers in the last three games, it's time for the nextStone Hands Report.

As of Wednesday, December 20th there are 36 NHL players who have yet to score a goal.
I am only counting players who have played 30 or more games this season.Most of the list are the usual plugging blueliners (Chelios, Numminen, Hedican, Wesley, you know...) but there are two forwards left on the list. Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows and the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg.

Detroit's Kirk Maltby was on the list but a goal Wednesday night against Columbus got him dropped off the Zero List just in time. He would have been just the third forward to play more than 30 games this season without a goal.

Some notable finds:
Tampa Bay leads with four players on the list. (Paul Ranger, Cory Sarich, Doug Janik and Nolan Pratt). The Lightning scorers are ninth overall in the league with goals for, but when you are spending the lion's share of your cap room on three forwards (St. Louis, Lecavalier and Richards) you are going to need some cheap filler.

Five teams do not have any players on the list. (Montreal, Nashville, Boston, Phoenix and St. Louis)

The only Oiler - Ladislav Smid.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Guy's odd appearance aside, it seems that they've misspelled "Right Wing"...

Old Time Hockey

I had the radio on the Team 1260 on the way to work today, and they were taking calls from listeners to hear about their "brushes with greatness". Of course, they were all of the "seeing Messier at a party" or "catching Arnott with 3 naked chicks in a hottub at one in the morning" variety. But it got me reminiscing about the time I got to bask in the glow of awesomeness of the recently-retired (the first time) Guy Lafleur. Yeah, I know, 99.7% of you probably hated the Habs, but I was born into a (somewhat) French-Canadian family. And in the 70s it was either cheer for them or the fucking Leafs. (Nobody cheered for the Canucks). I even kept cheering for them until Patrick Roy sucked the fun out of it later on.

Anyway, Guy was travelling around the country with his pal Steve Shutt and a team of All-Stars (read: career junior players and has-beens). For some strange reason, they decided to bring this show-of-shows up to Inuvik, where I was 15 and playing minor hockey (badly). I managed to get myself the job of stickboy for the visitors team, guaranteeing myself a chance to meet my boyhood idol.

The senior men's teams (all 4 of them) cobbled together their own all-star team. It was thought that Inuvik's finest might even be able to put up a decent fight. Memories of that night:

• going into the Inuvik All-Stars dressing room, where everyone was dressed very early, and pretty uptight.

• being sent to get Guy's team, who were still in the room with 5 minutes until game time. Guy was still in only his jockstrap, with a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other, telling some joke in French.

• four minutes later, he's on the ice. His and Steve Shutt's warm-ups consisted of ringing pucks off the crossbar from the blue line.

• Guy smoked through the entire game, leaving the burning cigarette on the bench when he was on the ice. That soon became my actual job, watching Guy's smoke.

• I don't remember the actual score, but Guy must have scored a dozen goals. Even at half-speed, he couldn't help but make everyone else look like they were nailed to the ground. The hometown squad was pretty sheepish afterward.

What can I say? He was a decent enough guy (no pun intended. I wouldn't stoop to Young D's level), and I think he may have even tipped me ten bucks after the game. I still have the autographed program somewhere. No naked broads, no underage girls, no cocaine. But a pretty good story nonetheless.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Denver Boot

Some notes on tonight's game:
1- If you had shown me the game with the goals taken out (just the end to end play and the shots on net) I couldn't have told you which team should have or would have been the winner. At least four of the goals were ugly and could have happened to either team.

2- Hemsky seems alright - even after taking a pretty solid hit into the boards. We'll know soon what effect it had. He was pretty tentative, but still showed a few little dipsy-doodlies. His interview with Principe was pretty funny when Gene asked him if the sore shoulder would affect his shot and he said something to the effect of "I don't shoot anyway, just pass." The punchline was there somewhere but lost in his Czech accent and mumble.

3- First powerplay line for The Avs in one of the Colorado powerplays was Sakic with standout rookies Paul Stastny and Vojtek Volski (spelled wrong on purpose - save the corrections). MacT never lets his rookies take any shifts with any chance of scoring. Then again, our rookies aren't Wolski or Stastny. Pouliot did get some PP time.

4- Pouliot is the real thing. He'll find a way to stay with the Oilers if he keeps doing many things right as he has been. He leaves Toby Petersen and Laddy Smid behind as the last Oilers to go goal-less. Mikhnov and Jacques have only played a combined ten games, so we'll have to leave them off the no-goal list at least until they've hit double digits in games played individually.

5- And how about Matt Greene's first NHL goal? It was Thursday night but when I saw the replay, the teammates were pretty pumped. I'm guessing that Greene is very well-liked by his teammates. Stoll seemed happier than Greene, who was probably pretty stunned himself. That goal and the top shelf deke by Jason Smith in the playoffs in spring show that even the so-called stone hands blueliners in the NHL are still damn good hockey players.

6- How did I always assume that Ian Laperriere was not such a great, genuine person? Probably because he's pesky on the ice and has played with the LA Kings and Colorado against the Oilers. The guy seems like the real deal. He loves hockey and seems to love people and is an interesting interview. Check out his fan site. There's some neat bits in it. His mixture of grit, scoring potential and leadership would make him a great Oiler. But I suspect Colorado know what they have.

Listening to Ray Ferraro doing colour commentary reminded me of how good a player he was and what a career he had. He was one of those unsung yet well-respected players and he adds to the broadcasts.
Peter Loubardias is a very OK play-by-play guy (he calls the game without too much aplomb or phoniness and seems to do his research) and is a nice guy but he is cursed with that bubble-caught-in-his-throat voice that sounds like he's trying to eat his own neck.
Ferraro and Kevin Quinn are a better team. Loubardias...meh. Doesn't hurt the game.

Which two current Oilers were teammates of Ferraro during his much-travelled career?

First answer in the comments looks smart, wins nothing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


It's nice that the Oilers didn't need it tonight, but it would have been a good night to dress Brad Winchester rather than leaving him the odd forward out as a healthy scratch.

I noticed in tonight's scoring summaries that Brad Stuart (BOS), Brad Boyes (BOS) and Brad Richards (TB) all scored goals tonight. Upon further inspection, the trio were the only Brads that played tonight resulting in a Brad sweep.

That little bit of useless trivia aside, tonight's win against Minnesota was a goodie. It helped keep the Oilers in first place in the impossibly close Northwest Division and helped a team with little confidence gain some back.

The Oilers played like ee cummings or kd lang in the first two periods (they failed to capitalize) and like the state of Texas in the third period (they executed).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Grow the Damn Thing Back

With a beard (during the playoffs): 14 goals and 4 assists in 24 games (0.75 pts/gm)
Without a beard (as an Oiler during regular season games): 48 goals and 44 assists in 221 games (0.41 pts/gm)

I just thought of this as I was scratching my very itchy and patchy (fight and fight, fight fight fight fight, The Itchy and Patchy Show) beard that I am growing for no particular reason at all.
Fernando needs the beard to play at his best.
Grow it, Fernie.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Riddle me this

Alright, alright. Everyone knows we need a defenceman (Top 2 hopefully, a least top 3). So who's it gonna be? The longer Lowe waits, the more it resembles last year's goalie conundrum. Should he wait until teams drop out of contention? Or should he maybe overpay a bit now to make sure he gets what he wants (and needs)?

Tell me who you think the Oil should acquire, and who you'd be prepared to give up in return.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

4-1 loss to Chicago

At least the Penalty Kill stats are padded a little more.
Chicago went 0 for 10 on their powerplay.
Other than that........
The Oilers are 3-5-1 on Sundays over the past two seasons, with losses to St. Louis (three times) Chicago (twice) and Minnesota. The Sunday games that resulted in wins were all decided in extra time (two shootout wins and one overtime win).

The Oilers suck on Sunday. For me, I used to avoid planning anything important on Sundays, mainly because I was usually hung over. I will assume that is not the problem with our Oilers. They are, after all, professional athletes, not me. Or the old me, who used to go out drinking more than I should have.

There are five Sunday games left this season.

Goal #1 for Smith

In last week's victory over Carolina, Captain Jason Smith marked his first goal of the season in what was his 27th game of the season.
So far this season, there are still 45 players in the NHL who have yet to score a goal this season, counting players who have logged at least 25 games.
40 of those players are blueliners and five (Donald Brashear, Kyle Calder, Alexandre Burrows, Kirk Maltby and Eric Rasmussen) are forwards.


Means nothing really.
Just seemed interesting to me.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Game over.
2-0 Oilers.
I can now type the word "SHUTOUT".

S-Words and Roloson

While I'm unsure about how writing about goalies affects the age-old hockey superstition of "never mention the s-word while your goalie is defending an s-word" I still figure it would be interesting to bring up some interesting stats I dug up about Dwayne Roloson's s-word record.
So, to respect the fickle "hockey gods" I will not actually type the word that will remain unuttered as the Dallas/Edmonton game is on right now. Interestingly enough, Roli is playing after his 4-0 win over Vancouver (Markkanen played in the Carolina match) and Marty Turco is playing after a 2-game s-word streak. Turco's streak is over already, thanks to Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Albert Dwayne Roloson's S-Words
Facts Unmasked:

Roloson has had 20 career regular season s-word thingies.
15 of those 20 s-words came after a loss in the game preceding it.

12 of those 15 games, Roli was the starter. In three games, he was the backup goalie and replaced the starter.

Both of Roloson's games this year (4-0 against Washington, 4-0 against Vancouver) came after losses. The Washington win came after a two-game losing streak (one game Roloson started, Markkanen finished; one game Markkanen started, Roli finished) and the Vancouver win followed a three-game losing streak.
14 of Roli's clean sheets (I didn't say the word) were during a home game - 6 came on the road.

Roli has blanked Vancouver 3 times in his career.

Roli's first s-word came in his fourth career game in 1996 against Los Angeles. He was playing for the (blah)Flames at the time. That game came after Roli appeared in two straight losses to the Oilers. The second of those two games saw Roloson relieve Calgary goalie Trevor Kidd after Kidd let four goals in the net. Roloson let another six in. The final score of that game was 10-1.
Roli has blanked St. Louis 3 times.

Interesting fact: Roloson has never won a game at all in his career against Toronto (0-5-0 3.01 GAA), Buffalo (0-3-1 2.47 GAA) and New Jersey (0-6-2 2.97 GAA).

The most interesting thing about these stats is the fact that Roloson (with 15 of 20 0.00 GAA games coming after losses) is competitive enough to fight back after adversity. His best games come after disappointment. That's the mark of a player who does not let losses bring him down and finds a way to make up for that.
One of a goalie's best tools is confidence. Roli appears to have enough confidence in himself to bounce back.
Call it Rebound Control.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Colorado Avalanche Retire Ray Bourque's #77.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the Avs chose to hold a jersey retirement ceremony for end-of-career rental Ray Bourque, who helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2000-2001.
I've always liked Ray Bourque's mixture of reliable defence, scoring contribution and leadership. Colorado were one of those pre-new-CBA teams that would always scoop up high-priced free agents (Bourque, Selanne, Kariya) when they needed them - because they could.

All this talk of retiring players and jersey ceremonies reminded me of that sham of a farce of a travesty of a snow job when they did a good thing for a great player that they really had no right to do.
They were doing nothing more than hanging off the coattails of a great and well-loved player.
The guy did play 94 regular season games (out of 1612 career NHL games - 5.8%) and 34 playoff games (out of 214 - 15.8%) with Colorado. Why not?
Hey, Avs. Guy Lafleur played 98 games with the Nords at the end of his career. He was pretty good too. Retire his number too.

Moose Head

February 27, 2007 will probably be the day that EVERYONE IN TOWN wants to go to the hockey game.

Although it was leaked earlier, the Oilers will be raising #11 to the rafters in Edmonton against the Phoenix Coyotes.

For anyone who saw the Messier jersey retirement opus, I am glad that the Oilers keep their jersey ceremonies short and sweet.
The New York event was far, far too long (it was 77 minutes long in fact.)
The damn thing had too many speeches. There were too many video clips. There were needless bits like needing to spend eight minutes explaining every gift given out to Mess. ("How about this great Captain's chair. Get it? Captain? We even added gold fishing rods.") Christopher Reeve's widow sang a song.
Then, finally, Mess got to speak.
Paul Coffey's jersey retirement was a tidy 20-ish minutes. A video. A standing ovation. A couple quick speeches. Introduce the guests. Let Coffey speak and skate a lap around the rink.
Jari Kurri's night was much the same. Grant Fuhr's retirement ceremony was also efficient.
When today's actual working players are waiting to play a real game, don't piss around.
The MSG people felt a need to explain why Messier was important, just in case the fans in the stands didn't quite understand how great a leader Messier was. The New York fans get it. American or not, they're an Original Six city and they know their ice hockey.
You don't need to drag out the '94 (shortened season) Cup Champs, sing a song or let every hockey-related American talking head explain "the meaning of the word Captain."

In Edmonton, the player is the show. Let them walk out, let the fans give a long standing ovation, show some video highlights, let the old Oilers like Wayne, Grant and Joey wave at the crowd and let Moose speak.

I promised Gretz I wouldn't cry.
Say it, Moose. It would be a great line. No worries about the royalties.

Brett Hull gets his number retired

Really not relevant to Oiler fans, other than the fact that Hull scored 72 points (39 goals - 6 game winners, 33 assists)in his career vs. Edmonton in just 52 games (since 1989, when Yahoo Sports started tracking these breakdowns.
A colourful player.
An early member of the "gets booed when he plays in Edmonton" club, mostly due to his games against Team Canada as a member of Team USA - and the fact that he seems to always score against Edmonton.

Joe Nieuwendyk retires

Or....former CALGARY FLAME, DALLAS STAR and TORONTO MAPLE LEAF Joe Nieuwendyk retires.
If he wasn't such a great player, he'd be much easier to hate wouldn't he?
Played for three of the most hated teams in this city.

58 career points (28 goals, 30 assists)in 60 career games vs. Edmonton (at least since 1989, when Yahoo Sports started tracking that - missed the first couple seasons with blech-Calgary). 5 game winners vs. Edmonton. Goal against Tommy Salo to knock the Oilers out of the 1999 playoffs.

Isn't that enough? Boo. Boo Nieuwendyk. And congatulations on a hard-working career annoying Oiler fans. Shame about your choice of teams.