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.
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.
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?
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.
The 2018 NHL Awards take place tonight. Seeing the same great players over and over win trophies and make boring speeches is fine and all, but what hockey needs is a little variety to its awards. So here are six all-new and exciting trophies that the NHL should give out to these six unique and interesting players. But the NHL is more likely to give Quebec its next expansion franchise than to acknowledge the feats of these guys. I guess that leaves it to me. So I present to you the First Annual Puck Junk Awards!
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From the 1976 to 1989, there was a baseball player named Dale Murphy who was the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise, for some reason. He was expected to provide much of the offensive support for a terrible team, and in return took a lot of money. After only one postseason appearance in 1982, the Braves finally wised up and dumped his ass onto the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990, thus putting Atlanta on the road to an impressive stretch of Pennant wins in the National League.
Philadelphia, however, floundered like a seafood restaurant that has to hide its sanitation grade. Then the Phillies wised up and dumped him on the Colorado Rockies in 1993, lightening their load. Then the Phillies had a very memorable World Series run. But don’t weep for the Rockies; after Murphy retired they found their berth in the playoff in 1995.
When Topps launched its NHL Skate digital app at the start of the 2016-17 season, I couldn’t get enough of it. I constantly bought packs, actively traded for cards that I needed, worked towards getting all the reward cards and participated in numerous daily contests.
A year later, my enthusiasm for Topps Skate is all but gone. Yes, I still open the app once a day to collect my free coins, and will open a few packs now and then and try to get a few inserts. But I don’t even bother with the daily contests, nor do I try all that hard to get any of the cards. Here’s why.
The Vegas Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup Finals in their very first season — and deservedly so. Numerous hockey “fans” — really, just blowhards with little hockey knowledge — have bemoaned that the Golden Knights are “too good” because of the “unfair expansion draft rules” and are basically being “handed the Stanley Cup.”
Most of us know that this simply is not true. Plus, as they say, haters gonna hate. Here are four myths that naysayers have clung to about the Golden Knights — and why each one is wrong.
With the NHL regular season now at an end, I think we can all agree it has been one of the best in recent memory. If the brilliant debut of the Las Vegas Golden Knights wasn’t enough, maybe it was the play of breakout stars, Andrei Vasilevskiy or Brayden Point. But, the NHL is a stars league, and it is always at its best when its stars are shining bright. And this season is a prime example. When superstar Sidney Crosby is playing up to his expectations and is 10th in the league in scoring, you know the league is firing on all cylinders.
It felt as though this year, all of the big stars were playing their best. So that leaves one question: who is most deserving of the Hart Trophy as the league’s regular-season MVP? The award is always contentious because of the letter“V,” for valuable, in MVP. But I’m not here to try and define value and who should win; I’m here to show that this is one of the most exciting Hart Trophy races in my lifetime. There are arguably eight players, forwards in particular, that have a legitimate chance to win the award this year. Eight forwards who have arguably been more valuable to their team than anyone else. That is the important caveat: a player’s team success is almost always included in their chances at winning the award, so I will take that under consideration. Here are the reasons why, and why not, these eight are in contention for the NHL’s top individual honor.