DGB Grab Bag: Stan Mikita, Erik Gryba's Laborious Weekend, and The Trade
30 years ago yesterday, the Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. It was a wild time.
Screen capture via YouTube
Three Stars of Comedy
The third stars: Ryan Kesler and Ryan Johansen – Kesler took time out of his offseason schedule to reach out to his old friend in an attempt to arrange a street meeting, presumably for some sort of super-fun dance party.
And Johansen appeared to reply, even offering to chip in a few bucks to make it happen.
It's always nice to see a friendship in bloom. Here's hoping whatever sort of street festivities they have in mind are fun for everyone involved.
The second star: Eric Gryba – He recently had a baby, but don't worry, the recovery is going well.
And rightly so. Mikita was, quite literally, a game changer. He changed his own game, going from ranking near the top of the league in penalty minutes to winning back-to-back Lady Byngs. And he changed everyone else's game too, with his banana blade curve helping to revolutionize offensive hockey. He'll be missed, even as his memory lives on.
Anyway, here's Stan Mikita doing what he did best, which was being awesome:
Outrage of the Week
The issue: It's August and nothing is happening, so somebody wrote a ranked list of things.
The outrage: You're mad about it.
Is it justified: Sure. Fill your boots.
Getting really angry over somebody's ranked list is always kind of lame. We covered this last year, when we pointed out that people tend to get worked up over who isn't on the list without wanting to make the tough calls about who shouldn't be. If you read a list and you're super angry, settle down.
But getting a little angry is fine. It's kind of the whole point. And again, it's August and 90 percent of the league's newsmakers are drinking red wine on a dock somewhere, so anything that can cause your hockey brain to engage for a few moments is a good thing.
So when you see something like the NHL Network firing up their annual list of top players and they don't have Jonathan Toews as a top 20 center, go ahead and complain. Are they right? [Looks around and lowers voice so Blackhawks fans can't hear.] Yeah, probably. But maybe not! Having a friendly-ish debate over this stuff is a better use of our hockey fan time than live-tweeting line rushes from every random rookie tournament.
The same goes for the bigger stuff, like Corey Pronman's month-long ranking of NHL farm systems. He's counting down from worst to best, which means he'll get to your favorite team way too early. Doesn't he realize your team has, like, five sure-thing blue chippers, by which we mean guys who have already established themselves as decent AHLers even though they're only 27? What a moron!
He's not a moron, of course, and neither are the NHL Network guys or whoever else comes up with this sort of list. Ranked lists are hard work, and I say this as someone who may have done one or two over the years. But they're meant to be fun. Read them, disagree with them, debate them with friends and foes alike. Don't flip out over them, but other than that, enjoy.
(Unless they make a list and then don't actually rank it. That's the coward's way out.)
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Last week, we bemoaned the lack of decent nicknames for hockey lines. On Wednesday, the date was 8/8/18 and everyone celebrated by making references to number eight. All of that seems like a sign that this week's obscure player should be Brent Fedyk.
Fedyk went to Detroit with the eighth overall pick in 1985, a draft that was notorious for not being very good because the first overall pick punched all the other good players into orbit immediately after being chosen. Still, Fedyk was a decent enough pick, having put up strong numbers in the WHL. He'd spend two more seasons in junior and most of two more in the AHL before finally slipping into semi-regular NHL duty during the 1989-90 season. But his breakthrough came the following year, as he scored 16 goals for the Red Wings. That was followed by a disappointing five-goal season, and that was it for his time in Detroit; he was traded to the Flyers for a fourth-round pick on the eve of the 1992-93 season.
Normally, that sort of move would have been long forgotten. But Fedyk wasn't the only new Flyers forward that year; they'd also added a kid named Eric Lindros, and he needed some linemates. One would end up being the team's leading scorer, Mark Recchi. The other would be Fedyk, and the journeyman would turn the opportunity to play with a pair of Hall-of-Famers into back-to-back 20-goal seasons.
The line would stay together for much of those first two season, and became known as the "Crazy Eights" line because Fedyk wore 18, Recchi wore 8 and Lindros had his famous 88. As line nicknames go, it wasn't The French Connection or The Triple Crown Line, but it wasn't bad.
Unfortunately for Fedyk, an even better one was right around the corner. Early in the 1994-95 season, the Flyers traded Recchi to Montreal. The deal brought John LeClair to Philadelphia, and he was immediately put on a line with Lindros and rookie Mikael Renberg. The Crazy Eights had been good, but the newly formed Legion of Doom was even better, and it's the Lindros line everyone remembers to this day.
Fedyk lasted one more season in Philadelphia before being traded to Dallas for Trent Klatt. He'd spend half a season with the Stars, then two years in the IHL before getting a last shot at the NHL with the Rangers. He played 67 games and scored four goals during the 1998-99 season, his last in the league. All told, he played 470 NHL games, scoring 97 times.
I'm still kind of mad that he didn't get to be in this commercial.
Debating the Issues
This week’s debate: The Carolina Hurricanes are holding a fan vote to pick this year's goal song, and one of the candidates is a version of "Brass Bonanza", the old Hartford Whalers theme. Should Hurricanes fans vote for "Brass Bonanza"?
In favor: Yes.
In favor: Cool, good debate.
Opposed: Yep. See you next week.
The final verdict: Wait, guys?
In favor: Yes?
The final verdict: Any chance you could stretch this out a bit? It's August, and nothing interesting has happened in the NHL in, like, three weeks. You'd be helping us out if you could at least pretend this was a tough call.
Opposed: But it's not.
In favor: Yeah. "Brass Bonanza" is the greatest hockey instrumental of all time, so of course the Carolina Hurricanes should play it after every goal. If we're being honest, every team in the league should.
The final verdict: Humor us.
In favor: Fine. But I'm the "in favor" guy, so I still get to say yes. You can go ahead and come up with a reason to be against it.
In favor: Yeah, good luck.
Opposed: OK, how about this. I mean, it's the Carolina Hurricanes. They're technically the same franchise, but they're not the Hartford Whalers. Maybe some traditions should be allowed to die with their old teams. Wouldn't this be kind of like when the Coyotes tried to steal the Winnipeg Whiteout?
In favor: That's a terrible argument.
Opposed: Dude, I'm trying my best here.
In favor: OK. But it's still a terrible argument. For one, the Hurricanes already brought it back last season, so that bridge has been crossed. But more importantly, let's face it, Hartford isn't Winnipeg. That market is not coming back someday, so there's no reason to preserve their traditions beyond sentimentality. Sentimentality is indeed a good reason to do things sometimes. But not now, because "Brass Bonanza" is the best and there's a whole generation of hockey fans who don't have it stuck in their heads like we all did growing up.
Opposed: Alright. How about this: The Hurricanes aren't actually proposing that they use Brass Bonanza—they're offering up something called "Brass Bonanza (Techno Remix)." Techno sucks.
In favor: Counterpoint: Sometimes techno is freaking great.
Opposed: Damn, well played.
In favor: Thank you.
Opposed: OK, but can we at least acknowledge that there are people out there who don't like "Brass Bonanza"?
In favor: Name them.
Opposed: Uh… Brian Burke.
In favor: And…
Opposed: .. and that it's. That's the whole list.
In favor: I think we'd done here.
Opposed: Want to go listen to "Brass Bonanza" for ten straight hours?
In favor: You know it.
The final verdict: Hurricanes fans, you know what you have to do.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of The Trade, the blockbuster deal that sent Wayne Gretzky to the Kings and changed the face of hockey forever. Today, let's look back at the reaction to that deal among the people that always matter most – shiny rich celebrities.
- I'm not actually sure where or when this clip is from, but it starts off with an old school "We interrupt this program" alert. For you youngsters out there, this is how we used to get our breaking news back in the day, before we could just log onto social media and wonder why everyone was angry about and try to figure out what had happened based on who was yelling about what. Back then, a scary guy would just shut off whatever show you were watching and make you think you were about to die for a few seconds. Honestly, it was a better system.
- In this case, nobody is dying unless you count Peter Pocklington's reputation. Instead, we get footage of Wayne Gretzky trying on his new Kings' jersey. This is of course the second press conference from that day, following the infamous "I promised Mess I wouldn't do this" tear-jerker.
- Random question: What do you think happened to that striped shirt Gretzky was wearing at those press conferences? It was an interesting choice. Very slimming. I think I kind of want to buy it.
- The press conference leads into a quick montage of Gretzky arriving in Los Angeles, highlighted by an appearance by a teenaged Gord Miller. We're told that the trade is a big deal in L.A., and you can tell it's true because that one photographer has sprung for like six balloons. Gretzky was never more than a three-balloon guy in Edmonton, I tell you.
- I'll admit I got way too excited at 1:15 when the beat drops and they show Bruce McNall nodding in the back of a limo and for about two seconds I thought he was about to drop the most fire rap track of 1988. There's probably a "99 Problems" joke here but I'm not finding it.
- We get a montage of Gretzky being introduced to an adoring L.A. crowd, as we get to play a fun game of "spot the late-80s celebrity." There's John Candy, Magic Johnson, Goldie Hawn and (I think) a young Kate Hudson. We also get Luc Robitaille explaining how nobody cared about the Kings until Gretzky showed up. He seems thrilled about that, by the way.
- "Wayne Gretzky… a definite plus." Typical dumb Kings fans, evaluating players using plus-minus instead of more advanced stats.
- We hear McNall tell us about how the Kings went from having 5,000 fans a night to being sold out every game. That's not actually true, although attendance did jump by about 3,000 fans per game. Look, cut McNall a break, he didn't turn out to be all that great with accurate numbers.
- More celebrity sightings, including Tom Hanks, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner, and even Ronald Reagan. We also get a shot of Michael J. Fox, even though he's supposed to be a diehard Bruins fan, so apparently there were some sellouts in L.A. (But I'm going to easy on him, because he's going to provide us with some fun next week.)
- We hear from Marty McSorley before cutting back to Robitaille, who talks about being a star-struck Canadian. A few years later, he was dropping f-bombs in Van Damme movies. Fame will do that to a kid.
- The highlight of the video comes around 3:05, as a lady points out that "the only hockey player anybody in Los Angeles has ever heard of is this Wayne guy" while dropping the kind of eye-roll my pre-teen daughter would be proud of. We don't find out who she is, but I'm going to ahead and assume she's the embittered president of the Tim Tookey fan club.
- At this point our clip suddenly changes direction, with darker tones and somber music. You're half expecting to hear the narrator say "And that's when it all went wrong," followed by the story of Gretzky accidentally killing a cameraman during one of those "Take a slap shot directly at the camera" clips they made him do for absolutely everything back then.
- Nope, it's just more bragging about how many tickets they sold. Man, they make it sound like nobody in Los Angeles could take their eyes of Wayne Gretzky. Of course, as we'd later find out, that wasn't quite true.
- And with that, our clip is done. We don't even get to the awkward SNL hosting stint, or the Saturday morning cartoon, or the time McNall and Candy convinced him to buy the NFL's top draft pick. Man, the Gretzky-in-L.A. era was a weird but fascinating time. Too bad Roman Vopat had to come along and ruin it.
- Needless to say, we'll never see another trade like this one, mainly because this is the modern-day NHL and we'll never see another trade, period. Still, hockey fans can always hold out hope. Keep an eye on those breaking news bulletins, just in case.
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.