Yes, it’s true, I am ramping up for hockey season and am now free of the corporate fetters that prevented me from blogging.
Not that y’all missed me much–I admit, I lost a lot of what little punch I had after 2006 and before the Great Hiatus. But I’m still me, I’m still opinionated, and I’m going to give ‘er another go.
I want to talk today about Chopper Harrison. Lots of electrons have been spilled over the tragic deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak–may their ancestors welcome them all warmly into their halls.
But nobody really talks about superfans like Chopper. Chopper died on 23 August at his home, after a battle with cancer. He was a year older than my husband, which did kinda hit home for me.
Chopper was annoying as hell. He drove everyone up the wall with his antics and blind homerism (the Warchief even called him on it after one particularly bad game, when Chopper said “yeah you guys played great last night!” and the Warchief said “What are you talking about? We played like crap!”), and after one incident where he said “asses” while doing an intermission whatchamadingding (during the 2001-2002 home opener), Great Leader banned him from doing any more on-ice stuff for the team. Of course, that ban lasted about as long as Dan Blackburn’s career, and Chopper was back on the ice about halfway through the season with his trademark “OVER HEEEEERRRRRRREEEEE!” and “THEY CAN HEAR YOU IN THE LOCKER ROOM!” bellowing. He was a hard drinker, a hard partier, scuttlebutt had the team telling Bates Battaglia and Shane Willis to stay the hell away from him, and eventually his antics drove the team away from him. He became the butt of jokes on message boards like thescoreboards.com and on blogs and among the folks at the RBC Center. I found myself apologizing on behalf of North Dakota for him on more than one occasion–as if my own famn damily didn’t make me ashamed enough to be from that state.
But there was no denying one thing: He was a Caniac through and through. He loved this team like he never loved anything else in his entire life–it was obvious to everyone with half a braincell. He braved Acrophobia for this team, by getting up on the canopy above the RBC Center’s box office as part of a season-ticket drive. For an acrophobe, that is a huge step. He stood up for them when few people in this state would, and was unceasing in his evangelizing of hockey and the Hurricanes to the college ball-watching masses.
Even after players eventually stopped talking to him and the org deliberately forgot he existed and Curtis Media Group fired him after a DUI arrest in 2006, he still loved the Hurricanes with his heart and soul and every last breath in his body–and when it was time for him to fight his final battle, he didn’t go back to Fargo, where he grew up and played hockey for the Spartans of North High. He came home to Raleigh, to be near his favourite team. David Martin, known to so many as Chopper Harrison, was, for all his many flaws, One Of Us–The Few, The Proud, The Caniacs–and the Caniac Nation (est. 1997) is greatly lessened by his passing.
Rest well, David Martin. May your ancestors welcome you warmly and may you enjoy a premium ice-side seat at the Eternal Game.
Tomorrow night, while the Hurricanes are taking the ice at the Cat Box to (hopefully) beat down the Florida Panthers, Ron Francis will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
What can I say about Ron Francis that hasn’t already been said? The man oozes class out of every pore. He was, for the new incarnation of the team that drafted him, so much more than a great center and captain. He was the man that gave this team “legitimacy”. He was the cornerstone, the bedrock of this team in more ways than one. He was–is–the franchise.
OK, so a dude at UConn made a comment that indicates that he misses the Whalers–how does that make him stupid? “Get over it”? What?
The Whale is gone, and everyone except the handful of fruits and nuts in the 13th of April Movement (or whatever the “Return Hartford Whalers Organization” is calling itself these days) has come to grips with it even after 10 years. Some fans followed the team here, some gave up the NHL altogether, some migrated to other teams. Big. Deal. Mentioning the Whale is not a crime, last I checked–the franchise has finally figured that out, and no longer shies away from showing Whalers jerseys on the jumbotron or the TV telecasts (or playing “Brass Bonanza” on the PA).
Brian DeMarco (the columnist at UConn) was complimentary toward the Hurricanes, so I don’t see what warranted the aggro there. Perhaps somebody could point it out to me, please.
Continuing to show ass toward folks that mention the Whale is counterproductive. It serves even less purpose than the internecine wars that marked the birth of the Hurricanes did. One cannot figure out where he is going unless he knows his past–that goes for teams as well. Sweeping the past under the rug serves no constructive purpose, and in the end is only self-destructive because it’ll invariably lead to a redux of past missteps and mistakes.
The Holy Ice is down, and the Raleigh City Museum is planning a retrospective of the Hurricanes’ first ten years in North Carolina. The event will start at 2 PM, and will be emceed by The Mighty Forslund. Head on out and check out the museum–it’s a pretty nifty little place.
The Hurricanes have also released the video from the jersey-release/marketing kickoff presser–man, that 60-second spot gives me chills. And Curt Johnson sounds like he’s got the marketing department on the ball with this one (and I hope I win the house–I’m tired of my rent getting jacked every year).
Glove-tap to reader Donna S. for the pointer to the museum shindig and to reader livinthedream for the video pointer.
Mostly cos it’s pissing off all the Detroit fans and everyone who pisses and whines about teams in the Sunbelt–but also because I remember 2003 and how hard Rob Niedermayer and JS Giguere and the rest of that crew played their asses off and how disappointed I was for them when they lost.
Those guys finally got their reward. It makes me happy, because it reminds me of the Warchief five years ago when he lost and then last season when he finally got a Cup. Teemu finally got his reward, with the team he shouldn’t have left in the first place. It makes me happy, because I like Teemu. It makes me happy, because I have friends in the 7-1-4
My Golden Bitch? Fuck him (not literally, of course–who do you think I am, Christine Chorley?*). This isn’t about him. This isn’t about geographical boundaries or the Mason-Dixon Line (which doesn’t really apply to California) or any of that other window-dressy bullshit, either.
It’s about another circle closing–this one for the Ducks.
Yeah, I was barracking for the Sens. I felt it would be quite fitting (and nice) to see the first team to win the Cup after the Cup went to the sole possession of the NHL win it again after 80 years, a Great Depression, a World War, a Cold War, and a reincarnation–who better to break the Canadian cup drought than the team that was a dynasty before the Les Glorieux were even thought of?
The spirits of the Silver Seven are calling to their latter-day successors to come and join them in immortality.
The spirits will be waiting a while longer. But don’t lose hope, Sens fans–your boys will get back to where they once belonged.
deyr sjálfur ið sama.
hveim er sér góðan getur.
Cattle die, kinsmen die,
the self must also die;
but glory never dies,
for the man who is able to achieve it.
Note to Ms. Chorley and her lawyers (and Mr. Pronger and his lawyers): I AM JOKING. PUT THE FILING PAPERS DOWN AND BACK AWAY FROM THE LAWSUIT.
The Hartford Whalers sent Glen Featherstone and Hnat Domenichelli to Calgary for Steve Chiasson.
A little over a month later, it was announced that the Whalers were moving to North Carolina.
This picture is one of the iconic images of that very turbulent time in the team’s history.
I’m not going to say that it was all sunshine and happiness down here, those first two seasons in Greensboro. But Steve was loved by the fans here as well as in Hartford. Many who were there (including me) will tell you of Steve’s last goal, scored in Game 5 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. We can also tell you where we were when we heard about Steve’s tragic appointment with Fate on 2 May, 1999. We’ve moved on, but we still remember the guy in the #3 jersey.
Keep your stick on the ice Steve, wherever you are.
James Gunner had a post this morning wherein he quotes a spurned Jets fan who’s all up in arms over the NHL bending over backwards to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins where they are when SURELY Winnipeg is CLEARLY a more deserving city than, say, Pittsburgh.
I think that the reason why the League is so all-fired hot to keep the Pens in the ‘Burgh despite the economic hardships is pretty simple:
No Cup-winning team in the post- Great Depression NHL has moved after winning the Cup. It is my opinion that the League is trying to keep the Pens where they are for as long as possible for just that reason–I mean, would you want to be the Commish that blithely allowed a past Cup champ to move without so much as a by-your-leave?
Didn’t think so.
As far as the most rabid of the proponents of moving $US_TEAM to Winnipeg or Hamilton are concerned, there’s a giant conspiracy to keep Canadian cities from having an NHL team–a conspiracy that has little basis in fact as far as I’m concerned, given the state of the Canadian dollar up until a couple years or so ago. At its lowest, the Canadian dollar was worth what, half what a US dollar? 60 cents on the US dollar? Canada is lucky (and I am thankful–though I know no Canadian will ever believe me) that they only lost 2 teams!
Snark aside, I just want to go on record as saying that I understand how some folks are feeling rather shit on right now (because the Pens are getting consideration that their team(s) didn’t get). But the Big Picture tells me that there is no freaking anti-Canada conspiracy going on in the NHL. The Pens may well wind up moving, barring some sort of a Yuletide Miracle. It may be a “lateral” move to KC, it may well be a northward move to Winnipeg–who knows?
But the League should keep trying to find an owner for the team who’ll keep the Pens where they are, and to Hel with the whiners.
…I was sitting in my little grey Toyota listening to 850 the Buzz for confirmation that yes indeed, Chairman Mo had been deposed after his too-long tenure behind the Hurricanes’ bench.
I was, of course, not disappointed–nor was I unsurprised by Adam Gold’s whining that the Hurricanes were making a mistake by firing the guy and hiring some “unknown” named Peter Laviolette. Of course, this is the same guy that bashed the Hurricanes left right and center for the bulk of of the team’s existence here in North Carolina (and would cut off and proceed to insult on the air anyone who called in to disagree with him), so nothing came as a surprise to me with that guy. The ‘Canes were making a mistake, Paul Maurice is a great coach, they shouldn’t have fired him, blah blah blah Scotty Bowman blah blah blah….
Yes, he really did make a Scotty Bowman comparison–conveniently ignoring the fact that Bowman had been fired at least twice in his career (most notably by Buffalo).
(note to any 850 the Buzz fanbois that are tempted to call me out on this: I am many things, but I am not a liar. Just because Adam Gold is a revisionist, that doesn’t mean that I have to be.)
Toolbag Junior also whined and cried that the ‘Canes had made a big mistake–and those of us that knew better laughed at him.
So three years and a Stanley Cup later, what do I think of it all?
I think it was a decision that had been too long delayed. A Stanley Cup does little to negate a corporate culture where slavish loyalty is more valued than excellence and where those who do mediocre-at-best work are retained long past the point where they should be let go in favor of somebody who can at least try to do a better job. I love my team, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to the organization’s faults.
I never had a problem with Mo personally–he’s a good guy and all–but his tenure here was a serious case of arrested development. Being retained for so long in a job where the average shelf-life of a coach averages about four seasons was a bad thing for him, especially because he was just thrown into the job without having had the opportunity to really learn from a more experienced coach. It was an exercise in LR2: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Collapsing defense, 3-2 forecheck that was so textbook that quite a few more experienced coaches could (and did) beat it with astonishing regularity, and veterans ridden into the ground while promising rookies were left to languish on the fourth line (if they were lucky) or in the stands (if they weren’t lucky) until circumstance forced the Great Helmsman to use them.
Sami Kapanen, anyone? In Hartford, he was left to die on the vine as a checking wing on the fourth line until injuries forced Chairman Mo to put the then-rookie in on the top two lines, where he could show off his scoring skills. Shane Willis is another good example. Chairman Mo was never a big fan of his, because the kid wasn’t very defensively-minded. He was a scorer, and that was something that wasn’t exactly in vogue on a team where “we don’t need to score any more goals” and stifling defense was the watch-word. Guys like Jaro Svoboda were the big thing for us, because they were defensively-minded. We fans used to joke that our team never scored much because the players were afraid they’d get benched if they scored–and sadly, it seemed to be true when guys that had a big night one night would get benched the next night.
Man, I still remember a holiday get-together where I got into an argument with a friend over Lavi. “Laviolette SUCKS,” she said. “We give up WAY too many goals! That’s not good! He’s a horrible coach!”
“Have you seen that we’re scoring more goals?” I asked. “Your boy Joe, Lord of Evil is on the way to a 20-goal season. Never would have seen that with Chairman Mo. Yeah, we give up a lot of goals–but that’s the way the system works.” What we saw in that first season was the burning-away of 8 years of smoke-and-mirrors. Fans were, after 8 seasons, so used to defensive snore-fests that seeing actual offensive output (and aggressive offense, at that) was a huge surprise. Pleasant for a lot, hard to adjust to for some, but it makes for a far more exciting game.
I come not to praise Chairman Mo, but to finally–at long last–close the door that part of the team’s past. Win or lose, I think that this game is something that will let the fans finally say goodbye (or “good riddance”, if you prefer) to the coach that bridged two eras of the team’s existence.
Lots are already open as I write this, doors open at 6:00, and the puck drops at 7:30 (at the request of Rogers Sportsnet–is there a NASCAR race going on again?)
A piece of this team’s history passed away.
Posted by “Whaler” on thescoreboards.com’s Hurricanes board this morning:
The author of my most-used reference books about the Whalers has died.
Jack Lautier, 53, died of lung cancer. He was a non-smoker.
He wrote books about the history of the WHA, and recently published a book about a year with the Hartford Wolf Pack. But mostly, he’ll be remembered for his original “15 Years of Whalers Hockey”, and for perhaps his best reference work, “Forever Whalers”. These last two are never absent from my desk.
*doffs cap for a respectful moment of silence*