Tuesday, June 20, 2006

And a child will lead you....

The people of Tobacco Road got to do something they rarely do. They celebrated a victory of one of their sports teams winning a title.

Usually, when you talk titles down in North Carolina, half the state is happy and half is mad as heck. Monday night the party in Raleigh looked like it would last a while as the fans didn't sit down from the opening puck drop until the Canes took the Stanley Cup into their locker room.

The only issue I have is that they still are and always will be the Hartford Whalers to me. In honor of that, I ask you all to take a moment and listen to the Brass Bonanza. The best team song in hockey by and far. An old friend of mine, Chuck Kaiton, who has done radio for the Canes for years, was on ESPN with his call of the empty netter. Good for him! He deserves it.

BTW - I might wear my old blue Eric Weinrich Whalers jersey to my daughters' birthday party this weekend. Be a tad hot, but I know I should put it on and do a nose dive into the pool to celebrate. Maybe the wife will let me play the Bonanza as we do the cake?? Doubt it but great thought.

If you ever question which trophy is the hardest to win in pro sports and which trophy is the most revered, you didn't watch the postgame awarding of the Cup.

Captain Rod Brind'Amour has played 17 years in the NHL. He had never raised the Cup before and if you saw him lift it, you could tell what it meant to him. He played college hockey at Michigan State University for one season, led his team to the Frozen Four and then signed on with the St. Louis Blues.

As the Canes skated the ice with the Cup, Rod handed it to Glen Wesley, who had played 18 years in the league with out winning it. His face and tears said it all as well. Wesley had had two chances to win the cup before with the Boston Bruins, only to have the Edmonton Oilers stop him twice.

Still don't believe how much that silver chalice means? There's Doug Weight who separated his shoulder in Game 5 and missed the last two games. He was in full uniform after the game on the ice, barely being able to lift the Cup above his head. But you knew after 15 years in the league he wouldn't miss this.

Meanwhile, none of them touch Lord Stanley's Cup if not for a 22-year-old named Cam Ward. A native of Sherwood Park, Alberta comes in after the Canes lose the first two games at home to Montreal and never looks back. In winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP for you non-puckheads), he becomes the third youngest to ever do so. He is only behind Patrick Roy and Robert Gordon Orr. Not bad company.

Hats off to Edmonton - sneak in with the 8-seed in the West and take it down to the last few minutes of winning the cup. Great to see a Canadian team in the finals and even better to see the fans in Edmonton. As good a group of fans as I have ever seen.

Amazingly, two ex-Thrashers played major roles last night. Frantisek Kaberle scored the clinching goal on a power-play in the second period. Right off of Jason Smith's sweater and into the net. And of course, Steve Staois who made an incredible play at the end of the first to stop (supposedly) the puck from crossing the line and give Carolina a 2-0 lead in the first. Both played a lot of minutes and it was nice to see them both do well in their playoff runs. Just hope we can have one in Atlanta soon. By the way, the Southeast division has won the last two Stanley Cups - do I hear three??

Quick funny story from my past life on Canes GM Jim Rutherford. The night before the NHL Expansion Draft of 1999. The Thrashers braintrust is in Atlanta GM Don Waddell's suite going over who we are going to take from each team. As the staff is going through all the possibilities, Don is calling different GM's to talk about possible scenarios for who he will and will not take and will you give a pick if I don't take this guy or that guy. Wasn't very late, probably around 10 p.m. Don calls Jim Rutherford to talk about his team. Jim answers the phone and I remember Don with a funny look on his face. After about a minute, Don hangs up and walks back in the room and tells us that he had woken up Jim and that he pretty much told him to do whatever he wants he was going back to bed. Well, Jim wasn't sleeping when he picked Peter Laviolette to coach his team. Nor was he sleeping when he put this squad together. Congrats Jim - now get to Vancouver, the draft is Saturday!

Last note on the NHL season post lockout. Great game with the emphasis on playing and not trapping. Good job by the officials to enforce the same rules from beginning to end of the season. Let's hope they keep it up. And please - get off of OLN and get back on ESPN!


Steve said...


SkoneyHillProductions said...

Where's the love for Aaron Ward?

My main man from my day's in Ann Arbor!