The Do’s and Don’ts of Interacting with Hockey Players

A stick to the face, a car door covered in paint marker and hearing “Hot dogs!” screamed at him was just one day of Phil Kessel’s experience of meeting fans outside of the new Pittsburgh Penguins practice facility. Can you blame the guy for being so secluded? This is just one of the many instances I have unfortunately had to witness when interacting with players. 

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not an autograph hound. I am not a re-seller. I am just a fan of the game. NHL players are extremely talented and hard-working, but in the end they are just like you and me, and want to be treated with respect. 

Think about it. If you walked out of your job every day and 20 people that you’ve never seen in your life ran up to you screaming, waving markers in their hands and asked you to autograph something, it would get old, wouldn’t it? So, with that perspective in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts for interacting with players.  

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Speculating on Athletes is a Bad Idea

Recently, I saw a brief write up on “success” of Upper Deck’s 2017-18 SP Authentic, in part because collectors are chasing Upper Deck’s buyback of Connor McHockeyJesus’ Young Guns rookie card. Not just because it’s his rookie card, but because they have also been autographed and numbered only to 97. Aren’t we lucky that McDavid doesn’t wear a jersey number like 2? 

While there are more reasons to buy a box of these cards, like some handsome autograph and jersey swatch hits, these ultra-rare McDavid cards are fetching upwards of $3,000 at card shows. That’s like five times more than I paid for the Volvo I used to drive. Now, it is pretty exciting to pull a rare card like that from a pack; I was mildly excited when I pulled a McDavid Young Guns RC from a Series One pack a few years ago, let it lay around on my dining room table unprotected for two weeks, and then sold it on eBay for $150 so I could buy an expensive-ass bicycle seat (pun not intended), and Sal can hate me forever for not selling it to him. What-evs!

But should you purchase the card of a young player at such an exorbitant price? He’s got his whole career ahead of him, however long or short that may be. 

History is generally cyclical. There have been other young athletes who have put up promising careers only to derail them due to personality issues, off-field antics, or REEEEEALLY poor decisions made when they play in some of the most stuffy, old fashioned, conservative sports on the planet. Let’s look at three such athletes.

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Wilson Deserved 20-Game Suspension

20 games is a long time to learn a lesson

Capitals RW Tom Wilson [Photo credit: Michael Miller]
Capitals forward Tom Wilson received a 20-game suspension on Wednesday for delivering an illegal hit to the head to Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game on September 30. It is a decision that has been met with both resounding praise and harsh criticism over the past day. 

Wilson is not a bad person, nor is he a bad player. In fact, he was awarded the Bob Probert Bowl in the First Annual Puck Junk Awards earlier this year for possessing that formidable balance of skill and aggression. 

However, his hit on Sunqvist was egregious and inexcusable. So, the NHL handing Wilson a 20-game suspension was the right thing to do. Here’s why. 

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Hockey’s Best Throwback Jerseys

This season marks the return of the “third” or “alternate” jersey in the NHL. Other than outdoor games, NHL teams did not wear third jerseys least season due to it being Adidas’ first year outfitting the league. Over the summer, several teams unveiled third jerseys for the 2018-19 season, and they have been fantastic. Most notably, the Carolina Hurricanes will wear Hartford Whalers jerseys as an homage to the team’s past life. 

The Whalers jerseys are one of the best throwback jerseys out there, and that got me thinking of some of the other awesome vintage sweaters that I would like to see return. So I made a list of my favorites, as well as the most iconic players to don that jersey — in case you buy one tomorrow and can’t decide what name to put on the back. See if your favorite throwback made the cut! 

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Why Seattle would be great for the NHL

For only $650 million, you can be the owner of the 32nd NHL franchise. And that franchise will be located in Seattle, Washington. Late last year, the NHL granted permission to begin the application process to create an expansion team in Seattle. The team’s potential ownership group hosted a season ticket drive, with a goal of selling 10,000 tickets. They matched that goal in less than 15 minutes, and sold 25,000 tickets in an hour. This kind of momentum will go a long way in ensuring Seattle will become the NHL’s 32nd team. Here are a few reasons to be excited, and one reason to not be, about Seattle being the NHL’s newest franchise.

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Goodbye and Thank You, Stan Mikita

Stan Mikita in 2010. [Photo by Sal Barry]
The Chicago Blackhawks lost a cherished member of their alumni on Tuesday when Stan Mikita died at age 78. Mikita played 22 seasons in the NHL, all with the ‘Hawks, and was the team’s all-time leading scorer. He helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1961 and won numerous individual awards.

With the exception of a few alumni games, I never saw Stan Mikita play. He retired in 1980 and I started watching hockey in 1989. All my interactions with Mikita were not as a spectator, but just as a fan who admired what he accomplished. And Mikita was always good to us fans — even though the Blackhawks organization wasn’t always so good to him. 

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The Day I Met Bobby Orr

Note: Travis Shaw is a new Puck Junk contributor. Please give him a welcome in the comments below. 

My biggest fear when meeting someone I idolize is that the experience is going to be disappointing. I have this fear because when you idolize someone you have this idea in your mind of this person being bigger than life and flawless. So, when I was given the chance to meet the greatest defensemen — or maybe even the greatest player to ever step on the ice — I was a pretty nervous.

This past May, my wife and I took a road trip to Toronto for the Spring Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo. To put it into perspective, it’s the Canada’s National. My wife purchased me The Ultimate Bobby Orr VIP Experience meet and greet package as a birthday present. Included in the package was the chance for Bobby to sign one small item of your own and get a limited edition signed canvas, which was only available in this package and hand-numbered out of 104. But the item that drew me in and was you would get a framed photo with Bobby surrounded by all of the individual awards he had won during his legendary career. I don’t know about you, but this was an experience I was not going to pass up.

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7 Reasons Why Hockey is Better Than Soccer

Note: This article was originally published in 2010. It has been revised and updated with two more reasons why hockey is still better than soccer. 

As much as I admire soccer for being the world’s most popular sport, I just can’t get into it. Watching it bores me. Getting out of bed at some early hour to watch the World Cup does not entice me.

Plain and simple, soccer is not as good as hockey. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you five — no, make that seven — reasons why hockey is better than soccer.  Continue reading “7 Reasons Why Hockey is Better Than Soccer”

Re-imagining the 1993 NHL Entry Draft

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft was this past weekend, where hundreds of prospects hoped to get drafted and make it to the NHL — while dozens of NHL GMs also hope the prospects they drafted make it to the NHL.  

I imagine that being an NHL GM with a high draft pick — preferably first overall, but even within the top 10 — would be fun; but the later picks, not so much. Because after selecting the generational talents, if any, and the highest-ranked players by position, drafting prospects becomes a lot more challenging.

The same goes for fantasy re-drafts. I’ve “re-imagined” the NHL Entry Drafts for 1990, 1991 and 1992. Making the top five or ten picks are fun, but after that, they are a lot of work!

Yes, we know how all of these players panned out, but who would you take with the 15th-overall pick in 1993: the 10th-best scorer, the fourth-best defenseman, a solid goalie or a total bruiser? 

Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers here, and that is part of the fun. So, knowing then what we all know today, who would the Senators take with the first-overall pick in the ’93 Draft — Chris Pronger, Paul Kariya, or someone else? — and who would the Penguins take with the 26th pick?

Let’s find out. 

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Tom Dundon: the Most Interesting Man in Hockey

The Winds of Change Hit the Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes’ new majority owner Tom Dundon [Twitter]
A lot has happened in RaleighWood with the Carolina Hurricanes over the past year. Caniacs were over the MOON late last year with the idea that some dude named Chuck Greenburg was seriously interested in finally buying our team from the curmudgeonly Peter Karmanos Jr. PK had previously won our team the Stanley Cup before firing all of his smart, hockey-minded adult sons who then sued him because he was using their inheritance to prop up the Hurricanes, and telling all of the fan to shut their yaps and be patient when it came to improving the team. Which he didn’t do.

So yeah, we were excited to have someone young, and passionate, very sports-minded, was probably gonna install a Lazy River in the PNC Arena, and damn we were so excited about having a new “dad!”

But Karmanos gonna Karmanos; and instead of patiently letting Chucky get together the money for the purchase, PK dogged him publicly to hurry up and then jacked the price up on him. If there was a local, low-budget horror film made about this, it would be titled, “Karmanos: The Hands of Fate.” Caniac Nation was livid at Karmanos for this act of selfish greed, but damned if he didn’t have ANOTHER buyer waiting the wings and we didn’t even know it!

Enter the Dragon Tom Dundon. Carolina exclaimed a collective “WHO?” before running to Google for info of what to expect. And there wasn’t much to say. All we could really figure out was that he made a metric butt-ton of money from a number of ventures, most notably for a sub-prime auto loan company and his only real financial connection to sports was being part owner to an indoor driving range franchise called Top Golf. Ok, so no Lazy River in PNC…we get a Putt-Putt? Still, he had enough money to call Peter Karmanos his Lil’ Bitch and got him out of the driver seat, so the guy was already our First Star for the month of December. In the half a year since, we’ve learned a lot about him and he is learning a lot about hockey. 

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