Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Scrap the Awful World Cup Trophy and Add a Trade Freeze before the Deadline
The World Cup of Hockey trophy is terrible, a brief trade freeze would make deadline day more fun, and a look at the 1981 Canada Cup final.
Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Three stars of comedy
The third star: Michel Therrien—Not completely sure what's going on here, but I'm going to assume that Therrien was offering the ref a vacuum, then suddenly decided that maybe the ref didn't need a vacuum.
The second star: This Toronto newspaper cover—This recent trend of newspaper covers trying way too hard in an effort to go viral on social media is awful and needs to die. But let's be honest, given the current state of the NHL and AHL teams in Toronto, this one was on point.
The first star: Dan Gir-yaaar-di—Get it? Because he looks like a pirate. Aye.
Obscure former player of the week
This week's obscure player is Randy Robitaille, for no reason other than that he enjoyed one of the great under-the-radar NHL careers in recent history.
Robitaille was a shifty center who had a decent junior career. He was passed over in the NHL entry draft, and spent two years at Miami University (where he was teammates with Brian Savage and Dan Boyle) before signing with the Bruins as a free agent in 1997. Despite winning AHL MVP honors in 1999, he'd play just nine games over three seasons in Boston before being traded to Atlanta for Peter Ferraro in one of the great "mediocre players with famous last names" trades of all time. (Randy has no relation to Luc; Peter has no relation to Ray, but was Chris' twin brother.)
That was the first of many transactions for Robitaille; he'd be dealt again months later, this time to Nashville, and went on to play for nine different NHL teams, none for more than two full seasons. He never managed 15 goals or topped the 40-point mark, but he hung around the league until 2008. The best season of Robitaille's career came in 2004-05, which was poor timing given that the NHL had shut down that year for a lockout. Robitaille went to Switzerland alongside big names like Joe Thornton and Rick Nash, and despite the presence of those all-stars, it was Robitaille who led the league in scoring and earned MVP honours.
Robitaille's most memorable moment in the NHL may have come in 2004 with Atlanta, when a harmless-looking wrist shot deflected off a Coyotes defenceman and past goaltender Brian Boucher. That goal ended Boucher's shutout streak at 332:01, which remains the longest in NHL history. It was the Thrashers' only goal of the night, making it fair to say that if Robitaille hadn't fluked one past him, Boucher would probably still be shutting teams out to this day.
Robitaille played his last NHL game in 2008 with the Senators, then went back to Switzerland and later the KHL, finally retiring in 2014. He's eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017. Just saying.
Be It Resolved
So trade deadline day was kind of a letdown. There weren't many deals, and even fewer that mattered. That was bad news for the networks that gave the day 11 hours worth of coverage; by the end, they were giving air time to any random vagrant off the street.
None of this is new. While this year was slower than most, complaining about the trade deadline being a dud has become every bit as much an annual tradition as hyping the day up in advance. And it's probably just going to get worse, since the biggest problem with the deadline isn't really a lack of deals—there are plenty every year. It's the recent trend of GMs wisely making those deals in the days leading up to the deadline, getting out ahead of the rush and locking in their returns instead of waiting for the final hours.
That's smart. It also kills the drama of deadline day. So let's make them stop doing that.
It's a simple fix. We just implement a trading freeze in the days leading up to the deadline. Nothing crazy, but let's say four or five days, maybe a week at the most. No trades are allowed in that time, just like we do for other freezes over the holidays or during the Olympics. GMs can of course keep talking to each other, and could even agree to trades—they just couldn't make them official until the freeze was lifted.
You get a few days of quiet before the storm. Then, on deadline day, you open trading back up at noon, and watch the deals roll in. You're telling me you wouldn't be glued to your TV waiting for that "trading reopens" countdown to hit? No more filler. No more shows that start at 8 AM with nothing to report. No more in-depth analysis of Sergei Plotnikov. Just a flood of trades, for hours, until the real deadline hits.
It's an idea that's been proposed before in various forms, but never seems to gain much traction. But if it were done well, fans would love it. Heck, you'd even get a bonus mini-deadline right before the freeze kicked in, with the league's early movers trying to get their deals in under the wire. It would be like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.
It's not a perfect plan. Would some deals leak out ahead of time? Definitely, but that would be part of the fun. Would players who were likely to be traded sit out games? Sure, but that happens already. Would GMs of bubble teams complain about not being able to get a deal done in time for that crucial pre-deadline matchup? Probably, but bubble GMs love to complain and will do so constantly no matter what rules are in place.
More importantly, we'd have to acknowledge there's no actual reason to do this beyond the entertainment value. The league could probably dress it up as a "let cooler heads prevail" type of initiative, similar to the pre-free agency negotiation period, but we'd all know that was a lie. There's absolutely no reason to do this other than because it would be fun.
But so what? "Because it would be fun" is a perfectly valid reason to do something. The NHL is an entertainment product. Why do we have outdoor games, or third jerseys, or All-Star Games, or hot dog cannons? Because they're fun, and fans enjoy them. You don't need a better reason.
So let's do it. We build a wall around the trade deadline, and we make the GMs pay for it. Make deadline day great again.
Trivial annoyance of the week
The hockey world turned its attention to the World Cup this week, with the release of preliminary rosters along with various logos and uniform designs. For the most part, it was all fine. Those Young Guns jerseys are even kind of cool.
But along with the good stuff, we also got a look at the logo for the tournament itself. It's a bright and colourful treatment, one that's sure to appeal to... oh no. No. They couldn't have...
Yes, it would appear that the NHL is keeping that ridiculously awful trophy from the last tournament. That was way back in 2004, when "world-renowned architect and designer" Frank Gehry unveiled a creation that everyone immediately hated.
When Team Canada won, Mario Lemieux barely seemed to want to touch it, and the rest of the team looked embarrassed to skate around with it. Hockey fans don't agree on anything, but for one brief moment back in 2004 we all came together to unite around one idea: the World Cup trophy is an abomination and we need to burn it with fire.
And honestly, that was fine. Remember, the 2004 World Cup was mainly held to pacify fans in advance of the lockout that was about to wipe out the entire season. Being angry and disgusted was a good warmup for everyone.
But that was over a decade ago. The NHL has had 12 long years to quietly take the trophy out behind a barn and shoot it, and we all just kind of assumed that they had. The World Cup trophy was like Cooperalls or using roulette wheels to determine draft picks, where we'd all laugh and shake our heads and say "What were we thinking?" before never speaking of it again.
There's still time. Bill Daly said that this year's trophy would be "kind of a variation", which leaves just enough wiggle room that we can still fix this. Maybe it's the same trophy, only with the kind of variation that it's been thrown into a coal furnace for a week, then buried at sea and replaced with something that looks vaguely like a thing anyone would want to win.
Do it, NHL. Scrap that awful trophy while you still have the chance. The only way this thing should see the light of day at this year's tournament is if the winning team gets to celebrate by forming a circle around it and beating it with their sticks until it's paste.
Classic YouTube clip breakdown
The World Cup has its roots in the Canada Cup tournaments that began in 1976. So this week, let's travel back to watch Team Canada take on the Soviet Union in the final of the 1981 tournament.
- It's Sept. 13, 1981, and we're coming to you from the historic Montreal Forum. It's the second-ever Canada Cup tournament, and the first time that Canada and the Soviets have met in the final. This is a one-game, winner-take-all format, although they'll probably change that for future years if the wrong team wins.
- I always liked how Canada came up with an international event that was meant to determine the planet's best hockey nation through a fair and impartial tournament, then went ahead and named it the Canada Cup. Very subtle, guys.
- I've got to be honest with you, I might have chosen this clip just for the seven-second animation and theme song at the very beginning. That is some early-80s perfection right there.
- This clip has a Russian announcer dubbed over top of the original Canadian broadcast, which initially bothered me because I assumed that the Canadian would be Bob Cole and YOU DO NOT TALK OVER BOB COLE. That's one of hockey's best known rules, as well as the pledge I make my kids recite with hands over heart every Saturday night. But it's not Cole, because this was broadcast on CTV for some reason. You dodged a bullet there, Russian YouTube guy.
- A quick reminder that this game was played in the 1980s, meaning it will consist entirely of blatant tackles, unobstructed passage through the neutral zone, and players randomly finding the puck in their skates. We get all three on the first Soviet goal.
- Those helmets, though.
- Wait, did the announcer just say "Shay-bu"? I think he may have! And that means we get to link to this.
- Canada scores to even things up 1-1. Hey, is everyone cool if we just skip the rest? This game ended in a tie, right?
- The Soviets score their second goal, and in the background we can hear the English commentator say "Mike Liut simply didn't see it." If you didn't catch it, don't worry, that phrase will be repeated roughly a dozen more times over the next few minutes.
- The Soviets score again to make it 3-1. That's where things stood after two periods. Seriously, can we just skip to the end? I'd really prefer to skip to the end.
- Check out the linesman at the 2:00 mark executing the "jump up and swing from the glass to get out of the way" move. I miss that one. I know we can't lower the glass back down to its old height because of fan safety, but is it too much to ask that we breed some nine-foot tall linesmen for future generations?
- The next few minutes is pretty much nothing but the Soviets scoring, including Sergei Shepelev completing his hat trick by ripping one past a clothesline that someone has hung Mike Liut's jersey on. Yeah, I know, it was 35 years ago, I didn't think I'd still be bitter, either.
- Three goals later and it's 8-1, which would turn out to be the final. The game was considered to be Canada's most humiliating international hockey moment, and remained that way right up until Wayne Gretzky hosted Saturday Night Live.
- The game ends and both teams pour onto the ice to tap their goaltender on the pads, the Soviets in an effort to congratulate him and the Canadians in an attempt to confirm whether the Pauli exclusion principle still applies to them.
- We go out with a shot of Soviet captain Valeri Vasiliev receiving the Canada Cup trophy. This would be the only time that a team other than Canada won the Canada Cup (Team USA won the tournament in 1996 after its name was changed to the World Cup). It's also the only best-on-best tournament that the Russians have won. None of that really matters, because most hockey historians now agree that prestigious international tournaments don't really count unless they include a ridiculous Young Guns team jammed into the format.
In a weird epilogue to this game, the Soviets made the reasonable assumption that the trophy was theirs to keep, only to have the police show up and take it back with force, which I think we can all agree was unfortunate and unnecessary and something Canada should totally be considering for this whole Stanley Cup thing.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org.