Tragic Loss

Today should have been a where the attention of the hockey was on Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to be played on Saturday night.

Instead, it the hockey world turned its attention to a horrific tragedy, as Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon was killed outside his home town in New Brunswick in a motorcycle crash.

Today, when our focus was supposed to be on a series just heating up in a business and that has started to gain interest again down in the U.S., we were reminded that hockey is, after all, just a game.

Hearing the news that Luc had passed away was a shock.  My dad phoned me while I was out of my office, leaving me a voicemail that told me the tragic news.  I didn’t believe him at first, but within five minutes of listening to that message, text messages and phone calls began to pour in and, in all honesty, I had to read about it four or five times on four or five different websites because I was in total disbelief.

From all accounts, Luc was a great kid.  Shy, perhaps even lost in a world that barely sleeps and moves so fast just like the game to which this lifestyle belongs to.

Through all the criticism he faced because of a slow development -keep in mind, he was only 21- the former two-time Team Canada World Junior Hockey Champion pressed on.  He re-developed his game and was poised to make a run at a starting position with the Canucks when training camp starts up again in September.

I remember his first NHL goal.  That booming slapshot we had all heard so much about.  That enthusiasm and raw emotion he displayed that only players with a true passion for hockey show when they score, especially on a beauty like that.

I think that goal demonstrated the passion he had for hockey and for life.  Enthusiastic and passionate.

Today’s news shook up the hockey world.  It was a tragic and unnecessary shake up.  Why did a kid, who loved life from all we’ve heard today, and who had such great potential as hockey player and a young man growing up in a city and a country that embraced him have to go like this?

Luc is my age.  When you’re young, you have a feeling of invincibility, and not to say that Luc thought that way and because I never even met him and it would unfair to say he thought that way, but things like this you never think can happen.

This tragedy puts things into perspective that hockey is just a game.  We rag on players, sometimes drive them to go crazy, and yet when something like this happens, we are reminded that hockey players are human too.  They have moms, dads, sisters, brothers. 

It is with great sadness that we will never see Luc progress to his full potential as a hockey player, but more importantly, to a young man.

The thoughts of The Sports Corner are with Luc’s family during this time.

Reading Between the Lines

When listening to the tone in Markus Naslund’s voice today when he was talking about the style of play of the Detroit Red Wings, he seemed happier to watch the Wings than playing for the Canucks.

He spoke of how he admires watching the Red Wings play a style of play that Naslund loves to play.  He also said Detroit has the world class players to play that puck possession style that is much a good offence as it is a good defence.

But here’s the problem with Naslund.  His goal totals were dwindling before the last two seasons.  He went from 48 goals in 2003 to 35 goals in 2004 to 32 goals in 2006 before falling even further down in goals with 24 in 2007 and 25 in 2008.

He can’t blame or even hint that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault and his defensive style of play is the reason for Naslund’s lack of goals in the past two years and, quite frankly, a lack of passion that is so blatently obvious when you watch him play or watch him in the media scrums after games and practice.

He can’t blame Vigneault because Naslund makes $6 million a year and if Naslund had the skill everyone still believes he has, he would be able to adapt.  Everyone in the league had to adapt when the NHL came out of the lockout.

Being a good player is being able to adapt to situations, whether it’s after a large hit, adapting a pass behind you in full flight, adapting to a different coaching style.

Naslund is soft.  Let’s face it.  He’s a poor choice for captain and if he does indeed come back, the first thing he should do is pass of the ‘C’ to Willie Mitchell, someone that will battle tooth and nail in the trenches, a place where playoff hockey is won and lost.

Naslund can’t do that.  If he wants to come back, he better learn to adapt, better figure out how to rekindle that passion and he better realize he got paid a crap load of money and he should put up or shut up.  Best situation possible is that common sense kicks in for Canucks GM Mike Gillis and he doesn’t decide to bring Naslund back, even for a pay cut.

Inject new life.  Naslund is not a winner, and even when he had Todd Bertuzzi and the West Coast Express, he couldn’t win.  It’s time to bring in a winner.  It’s not a matter of him being a European.  Take Detroit for example.  But Naslund isn’t the calibre of player that Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk are, in fact it’s not even close.

Seeing as how the Canucks organization feels it’s time for a change, then they should take that theory and not even offer Naslund a contract.  His time in this city is done.  Bringing him back will only prove that no one in this city has any kind of hockey sense.

 

Ball Hockey

This will be the first post on the Sports Corner that has to do with grass-roots sports, and with developing young children.

Before You read anything, read this quote by Wayne Gretzky.

“If sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring.” “…When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey.”All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out of sports they should be doing in warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball around. It didn’t matter how cold or rainy it would be, we’d be out firing the ball against walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey.” “All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and every one of them learned something from the game to carry over to the other – things athletes can only learn by mixing up games they play when they are young.”

Yes, while hockey will almost always come first in my life, every day I go to the rink for my lacrosse floor-times, and every day I see a new breed, albeit a lesser breed, of athletes. Ball hockey players.

A non-contact game where hockey players wear soccer shin-pads and socks.

This annoys me to no avail. Hockey is just not a summer sport, and trying to use the lacrosse box to try and integrate hockey into the summer is the worst excuse and failed attempt at any form of hockey.

If parents want their children to develop as hockey players, they need to keep them on the ice. Keep them playing spring hockey. Not some lolly-gagging sport that doesn’t have the same dynamics as the real thing.

And the absolute worst of these parents are the ones that put their goaltending children in ball hockey.

Goalies for the last decade have been tought to slide in the butterfly style from side to side. One problem, you can’t do that on concrete.

Now, in my hometown, I play Junior B Lacrosse, and get one practice time and one home game time a week. At the senior level where players such as myself are trying to get to the next level and develop skills and conditioning, one practice a week is just not enough. The only solution to getting more floortime, is no ball hockey.

Every city in B.C will have spring hockey. That’s all there is to it.

Keep the summer sports in summer, and the winter sports in winter.

 

Forsberg a Bust

The Colorado Avalanche  were knocked out of the playoffs last night at the hands of Johan Franzen and the Detroit Red Wings and, surprise surprise, Peter Forsberg was no where in sight.

He was injured.  Again.  In a series against the most lethal offence in the league, Forsberg was in the press box with a back injury.  He was plagued with a groin injury and a back injury in the playoffs, and as a result, missed almost the entire series against Detroit.

Now, having him in the line up wouldn’t have made much of a difference.  The Wings were going to win.  They have a more potent attack, they control the puck in every area of the rink and their defence are by far the best team in the NHL when it comes to making that first pass out of the zone.  Their goaltending is better too.  And yes, Chris Osgood is better than Dominik Hasek.

What is most troublesome about this whole situation with Forsberg is that the Avs put all their eggs in one basket.  They signed a guy with a long history of injuries that keep him in and out of the line up every three or four days, something that disrupts the evenflow of a team.

What was Avs general manager Francois Giguere thinking when he signed Forsberg for $1 million to play the last third of the regular season and only seven of 10 playoff games.  Why sign a guy who is the furthest thing from durable for that kind of money? 

Was the fact that he spent almost 10 months in his home country of Sweden while nursing a foot injury not a sign that his time as an NHL player has passed by?

Simply put, Forsberg was a bust.  His acquisition was stupid in the first place.  It was ill-advised, and there are more players out there who could’ve come into the Avalanche for less money and no one would have to worry about their durability.  Forsberg, in 16 total games with the Avs this year, racked up 19 points.  That’s not bad, but no one remembers how many points you get when you’re in and out of the press box because your constantly injured and aren’t in the line up when it matters the most.

Canucks former general manager Dave Nonis was canned for his lack of signing Peter Forsberg just days before the trade deadline and his lack of trading Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Alex Edler and a first, second and third round draft pick in this year’s draft.  He got fired for sticking to his guns and not relying on a plan that has as much chance to blow up in your face as it does to succeed.  Giguere should get canned today for his taking a risk on a player that can’t get into the elevator to go to the press box without tweaking a groin or hurting his back.

Bringing Forsberg back was the stupidest decision made this year by a general manager.  It was pointless.  It was a waste of money and a roster spot that could’ve been better spent. 

New Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.  Don’t sign Forsberg.