The Flub of Hockey

I'm wondering whether a dark cloud is hanging over Boston today, as members of Bruin Nation reflect on what could have been if this didn't happen one year ago today.

We'll see how the team responds tonight to the anniversary when the Bruins entertain the Tampa Bay Lightning. And, just maybe, no goals will need reviewing.

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What's this? 1.13

Drew "The Enforcer" Pelto made a triumphant return last week, being the only person, and I do mean the only person, to correctly guess that last week's item was, indeed, a jersey from the New York Americans.

With the correct answer, Drew has wrapped up the 2006 championship of What's This? However, with five weeks left to play, it's now a battle of readers, or at least those willing to participate, against Puckhound.

And, for the record, I've got a lot of work to do, as the tally is now Readers 8, Puckhound 4.

Maybe I'll have better luck with this item. Then again, I'm sure Drew will know what it is.

Post your answer in a comment.




Review: NHL Fleer Hockey

More than anything else, I have to give this set a passing grade based on one attribute: they don't have to be erased to remove the glossy coating. Just like the 2005-06 Parkhurst Hockey, another Upper Deck product, these non-glossy cards save plenty of set-up time.

Another thing I like about this set is how an effort was made to show some, but not all, of the summer free-agent signings (shown above) in their new uniforms. Again, it's my belief that I'd rather get a card of Ottawa's Chris Kelly or Denis Hamel than one showing Martin Gerber shown in his Carolina Hurricanes uniform.

With a low price, you shouldn't expect too many premiums, namely jersey cards or autographs. There are a couple of neat insert sets, though. The Netminders, in particular, will be put to use over the rest of the season.

You might be disappointed in the rookie offerings, too. Most are late-season callups with only regional interest at best.

For the money, though, this NHL Fleer Hockey set should become a staple for any card-carrying hound.

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The mother lode of masks

Maybe it’s become an obsession of mine, but I can’t get enough of looking at goalie masks. I’ll Google all kind of word combinations looking for new galleries to enjoy and share.

I believe I hit a gold mine last night, coming across Marlene Ross Design.

Some of her clients, get this, include Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Grant Fuhr and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Can you imagine painting not just one mask, but multiples, for these goalies? Unbelievable, I tell you, just simply flippin' unbelievable.

Over the past 17 years, Ross has created “Mask Art” for more than 50 NHL goalies. She also created the mask worn by Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in the NHL.

Not only was her work seen during the Olympics and on game nights across the league, but she’s also painted masks for the Mighty Ducks and Sudden Death movies.

Blankety-blank, blank, blank

If you think you’re having a bad day, be thankful you’re not Florida goalie Alexander Auld. Despite stopping 39 shots and keeping Montreal off the scoreboard during regulation, Auld took the loss, via the shootout, against the Canadiens last night.

Auld, who notched his second career shutout, gave up shootout goals to Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu. Oh yeah, Montreal’s Cristobal Huet was perfect, stopping 36 shots in regulation and two shootout attempts, in picking up the win and the game’s first star.

Also posting shutouts last night were San Jose’s Vesa Toskala and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.

Where’s your sense of humor?

You know, I thought I’d get at least one response to last week’s Thanksgiving Day/hockey joke. No such luck, though. Maybe it was because of abnormally high levels of L-tryptophan pulsing through your blood, rendering you incoherent before slipping off into a food-induced coma.

But now, after all of the leftovers (including Aunt Maggie's "Brussel Sprouts Surprise") are gone, here it is again. And, this time, I want some answers:

Q: Why did the turkey ice the puck?
A: Because it wanted . . .

A little trivia, too

Can you match the following teams to their respective professional leagues? I've included links, too, to the leagues, making it even easier.

1.) Elmira Jackals
2.) Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs
3.) Pee Dee Cyclones
4.) Augusta Lynx


Congratulations to Tracy, or slegr_71, for her correct answers in last week’s trivia quiz.

Last week’s answers: 1-C; 2-B; 3-D; and 4-A.

The correct answers for this week's quiz will appear next week.

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Erasing an Ovechkin

Whenever the Washington Capitals come to town, uber-phenom Alexander Ovechkin is at the top of every hound’s must-get list. Yesterday, as we waited (The team’s arrival was delayed by three hours) outside the hotel, was no different. Hounds had pucks, pictures, a mini-helmet and a CCM Vector stick.

Ovechkin, to his credit, obliged a few hounds. Unfortunately, he used just one silver Sharpie, one apparently that was low on ink. Either way, I got the traditional "AO8" on a Capitals puck, but the scribble, and that’s really all it is, was very thin. So thin, in fact, that I nearly rubbed it off of the puck (see above) by hand.

I was tempted to try and fill it in, but I felt it would be cheating. Hopefully, I’ll have him sign it again, this time using one of my trusted paint pens. Sure, it pains me to do this, but I’d rather have a quality scribble, so to speak, than what I got yesterday.

Besides, it's not like it was the first puck I've had signed by Ovechkin.

And even despite getting a few cards signed by Ben Clymer, Jamie Heward and Brent Johnson, it was hard to walk away and not be disappointed.

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Don't believe all you hear

For all the horror stories I’ve heard about Vinny Lecavalier, I’m surprised at the success I’ve had having him sign pucks. Yesterday, he signed the World Cup of Hockey and 2003 NHL All Star Game pucks shown above.

Granted, he may not stop all the time (The size of the crowd, I believe, is a big factor), but all it took was showing him the pucks and waving my paint pen for him to bring his jet-black Hummer to a halt. And, with only four others collecting autographs, gave most of us pretty nice signatures.

One hound, though, got shot down, point-blank, by Lecavalier. "No, I've signed enough for you in the past," he said before raising his driver's side window and driving away.

As a team, the Lightning are pretty decent signers. It’s rare for all of the Big Three (Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis) to stop, but most every other player, save for Dmitry Afanasenkov, has stopped on the handful of hounding trips I’ve made to the St. Pete Times Forum. (For the record, Richards didn’t stop yesterday).

I can’t complain, too, when I add another 18 autographs, including eight pucks, to the collection in less than an hour. I could have added more, but I simply didn’t have items for them.

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Be true to your school

It’s no secret that Tampa Bay’s Eric Perrin and Marty St. Louis were teammates at the University of Vermont. That’s why it was a no-brainer to have them sign these pucks.

With a little luck, I’ll add to the Catamount collection later this season, when the Boston Bruins and goalie Tim Thomas return to Tampa.

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Sweet on Hershey

Going into this season, Tampa Bay Lightning fans were excited at the prospect of having a clear-cut No. 1 goalie. After last season’s disappointment, with neither Sean Burke nor John Grahame able to lock up the position, an offseason signing was seen as the answer.

Funny thing, though. It’s been Johan Holmqvist, and not the highly publicized Marc Denis, who has stepped into the role. But rather than sulk about it, Denis always shows a positive attitude toward fans.

Stopping after practice yesterday for a handful of hounds, Denis was pleasant and chatty when he signed the Hershey Bears puck shown above.

"Let’s see, " he said, "I was No. 31 there."

"It’s a great little hockey city, isn’t it," I replied.

"One of the best," he said. "I had a great time there."

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Puck No. 1,072

After getting Ottawa’s Dany Heatley to sign a puck last night, I went in to today’s game-time hounding just three shy of my goal of 1,072 autographed pucks. And, having hounded the Senators in Boston a few times, I knew they were a pretty decent signing team.

That’s why I knew I’d reach, and likely surpass, my magic number, making it the biggest milestone, to date, of my hockey hounding hobby. Thankfully, it didn’t take long.

After letting Chris Neil, Peter Schaefer and Denis Hamel walk by, second-year defenseman Andrej Meszaros walked out. Being the only person who recognized him, I walked up with two pucks, which he happily signed. I was now sitting at 1,071 pucks.

Next out were Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden. Immediately, a crowd surrounded the embattled Ottawa captain. And, instead of joining that scrum, I walked over to Redden and asked if he’d sign a couple pucks. He signed one, a Team Canada puck, for autographed puck No. 1,072.

It was as simple as that. No fanfare. No chit-chat, other than my prerequisite please and thank-you. No photos. Just the puck. Though it's more than a number, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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It's hard to say no

In a day when we added 82 autographs to our collection, there certainly isn’t any shortage of stories to tell. I’d love to write about a dealer tearing up an 8x10 after getting stiffed by Daniel Alfredsson. I could even write about Martin Gerber’s refusal to sign pictures showing him holding the Stanley Cup.

The story that will stick with me, though, involves Ottawa sniper Jason Spezza.

It should be common knowledge among the handful of regular readers that I always set up our son, Colin, with a homemade, cheap-skate team sheet whenever we go hounding before a game. Earlier today, with the Senators in town, was no different. Colin had his sheet and his Sharpie.

As the players made their way from the team hotel, he’d run up and ask them to sign. He hasn’t heard a "no" yet. Sometimes, though, the scrum surrounding star players, such as the one that engulfed Spezza, can be a bit overwhelming.

Spezza signed for a few minutes and then made his way to the team bus. Colin, however, wasn’t deterred. He ran after Spezza, following him to the steps of the bus, and asked him, very loudly, to sign. Spezza stopped, turned around and looked down. As is often the response to that type of request, a wide smile washed across Spezza’s face.

Not only did Spezza oblige, but he pulled the sheet from under the clipboard’s holder and signed right at the top, becoming the 23rd player, coach or general manager to make a little boy’s day.

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No complaints here

All in all, it was a pretty good day of hounding. In addition to getting the 1,072nd autographed puck (Wade Redden on a Team Canada) of the collection, we added 45 cards and 13 other pucks, including ones from Daniel Alfredsson (World Cup of Hockey), Andrej Meszaros (Vancouver Giants) and Jason Spezza (Grand Rapids Griffins).

Others signing pucks were Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, Brian McGrattan, John Muckler, Christoph Schubert, Antoine Vermette and Anton Volchenkov.

I can only hope that we enjoy the same type of luck in the weeks ahead. The Buffalo Sabres, in town Dec. 5 to play the Lightning, are a pretty decent signing team. I’ve never hounded the Anaheim Ducks, visiting four nights later, so I’m curious how that will be.

As always, I’ll let you know.

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Serving a purpose

Not only does the lack of prep work make 2005/06 Parkhurst Hockey one of my favorite sets, but the Season Highlights subset is quickly becoming one of my favorite to get autographed. Most of the cards feature star players at some career milestone.

The one above, however, is a little different. It commemorates the NHL’s first-ever shootout goal on Oct. 5, 2005, when Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson made history in beating Toronto, 3-2.

And while I do pay particular attention to pucks, I also try to have a good reason for getting a specific card signed. This one, I believe, is the perfect example.

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Sunday morning homily IV

Later this week, on Thursday to be exact, the hockey world will likely mark the one-year anniversary of Joe Thornton's still-stunning trade to the San Jose Sharks. The Bruins, the then-losers of three straight and nine of the past 10, were looking to shake up the team. Instead, they rocked the hockey world.

The trade shocked not only Bruins Nation, but Thornton as well. As a player who literally grew up before Bruins fans, it was devastating. Here was
Jumbo Joe, so full of promise and the face of a rebuilding franchise, dealt out of the Eastern Conference. And, with Thornton, we all saw a sign of emotion we had yet to see.

In return, the Bruins received three serviceable players -- Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. All remain with the Bruins and, in their own ways, have contributed to the team. Sturm supplies speed and a scoring touch, though that has fallen off this season. Stuart, in my opinion, has become, depending upon who you ask the team's third- or fourth-best defenseman. And Primeau brings hustle and character, and an occasional ill-timed penalty, to the team.

For the Sharks, though, the trade was a steal. In the 82 games since Thornton first donned the teal, gray and black, he has scored 27 goals, 92 assists for 119 points. And, if memory serves me correct, he picked up a little hardware for the mantel back home. His presence has turned such players as Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalik into goal-scoring machines, too.

In a bit of a surprise, the combined scoring of Sturm, Stuart and Primeau nearly allows for apples-to-apples comparison -- 46 goals, 57 assists for 103 points. Most of those numbers, though, reflect the energy brought about last year by a change in scenery. This season, while Thornton has posted more than a point per game -- 27 (7 goals and 20 assists) in 24 games, the Boston trio has just 15 points, including 7 goals, in 21 games.

And let's take a look at the records. In those 82 games, the Sharks have gone 53-23-3-3, good for 112 out of a possible 164 points. And though the playoffs remain unkind to Thornton, the Sharks are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Bruins, on the other hand, remain in search of consistency. Though 82 games have yet to pass, so has the Bruins' turnaround -- their record being 30-33-0-10, a disappointing 70 out of a possible 146 points.

The bottom line? You'll never have to convince Bruins Nation that Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, was a sad day in Boston hockey history. In San Jose, though, it could soon become a holiday.

It figures, huh?

This past Friday, when the Atlanta Thrashers played the Tampa Bay Lightning, marked the first time that I've missed a game within our season-ticket package. While many people had the day off, I was at work, designing two regional news sections for readers in Hernando County, Florida. Thankfully, Lisa and Colin were able to make the game.

Though I've seen the Thrashers play twice so far this season, I'm really bummed about missing this past game. With the Thrashers leading 2-1 and the game clock running out, Tampa Bay's Dan Boyle scored with 20 seconds left to force overtime. And then, just 2:25 into overtime, Martin St. Louis' game-winner raised the roof of the St. Pete Times Forum.

"The place just exploded," Lisa told me.

You better moo-ve quickly

Looking for a funny present for your favorite hockey fan? Is he/she a fan of Sidney Crosby? If so, you might want to check out this
T-shirt. They're available in adult and youth sizes.

Tell 'em I sent ya, OK?

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Cherry-picking delight

Perhaps I should be a little more upset with myself. Then again, maybe I did the right thing.

But, by doing a little night-before hounding at Ottawa's hotel, I engaged in some pretty nasty cherry-picking, letting nearly a dozen players and coaches walk past, while I waited for the Senators' bigger name stars.

As I work my way toward my 1,072nd autographed puck, I'll admit to wanting to have a top-shelf player have the honor. Sure, it'd be wicked sweet if none other than Wayne Gretzky would be the one, but I'm not waiting until February for that unlikely event to happen.

One by one, such Senators players as Mike Fisher, Denis Hamel, Chris Kelly, Tom Preissing and Brian McGrattan, as well as coaches Bryan Murray and Ron Low made their ways out for dinner. It would have been easy to ask them to sign the pucks, reach that magic number and go home.

To me, though, that would've been bush league. Then again, I didn't want to get shut out and go home emptyhanded. Facing my own dinner deadline (stuffed tilapia, pasta and spinach), I asked Ottawa's Patrick Eaves to sign the cards shown above. And just as I was getting ready to head home, I spotted Dany Heatley. The puck he signed (see related posting below) left me three away from the goal.

Seeing that I'm heading back tomorrow, maybe even for the morning skate, I'll have at least one other opportunity. Let's see what happens.

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Get a new shirt, will ya?

Of all the things that genius Albert Einstein is known for, the one I admire the most was his selection of clothing. Legend has it that he always wore the same style of suit every day. His logic? Any thought spent on what you're wearing is a waste of time.

As a disciple to that line of great thinking, my standard fare is, and has been, T-shirts and jeans. Here in Florida, however, shorts have replaced the jeans.

And though this will likely be the first and last post on clothing, I couldn't help but wonder, as Ottawa's Dany Heatley was signing the puck shown above, what he spends his money on. I'll tell you one thing, it's certainly not clothes.

Here's a guy, making $4.5 million this season, and he was wearing a tattered T-shirt that, to my limited fashion knowledge, had green paint spilled all over it. Now, I'm not usually one to notice what other men are wearing, but this was too weird.

Maybe it was a designer T-shirt, and the paint was a conscious decision. Who knows? And, really, does it matter? But, don't you think making that kind of money would allow you to stop by the local Wal-Mart and pick up a new Fruit of the Loom T-shirt for $4.

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Loaded for bear for No. 1,072

The star-studded Ottawa Senators are in town this weekend, and seeing that I haven't hounded them in more than a year, I'll be carrying a heavy bag -- 17 pucks and more than 70 cards. Granted, I doubt I'll get everything signed, but I can't be accused of being ill-prepared.

Work schedule permitting, and conditions are extremely favorable, I'll probably go out for a couple hours tonight. If not, though, there's always game time on Sunday.

Either way. I hoping to score my 1,072 autographed puck this weekend. If you don't know the significance of that number, visit a hockey history Web site, look up Wayne Gretzky and, if you're able, do some math.

With any luck, and a little cherry-picking, I'm hoping the milestone puck will come from Jason Spezza. He signed the 500th puck (the Belleville Bulls puck, on far right) of the collection. Given the subpar start to the Senators' season, I'm hoping he'll be in a generous mood. I'll have two of the three pucks (Grand Rapid Griffins and Brampton Battalion; I'm waiting on a Mississauga Ice Dogs puck) I need to complete my Spezza collection.

In all honesty, with pucks for such Senators stars as Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Andrej Meszaros and Wade Redden, I'll be happy with whomever I get. Just as long as it isn't Cup-winner Martin Gerber or tough guy Brian McGrattan.

At first I was going to stop at 1,072, but with nearly three-quarters of the season remaining, and a ton of West Coast teams (Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas) coming to Tampa before early April, I'm setting my sights on 1,200 autographed pucks by season's end.

Now, if for some reason I fall short with the Senators (hey, it could happen), I'll be hounding the Lightning (I picked up some University of Vermont pucks for Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin) and the Washington Capitals on Monday.

Either way, it's going to happen soon. I just don't know who and I don't know when. But, it will happen. And that, my friends, is a promise.

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A matinee kind of day

In a few select NHL cities this afternoon, plenty of fathers and their children will be continuing, establishing or renewing a family tradition.

As a majority of moms across North America head out to stores to begin their holiday shopping, the rest of the family, if they're lucky, will be taking in an NHL game beginning in just a few hours.

This year, afternoon matinees will be held in Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Uniondale and Anaheim. We have a game in Tampa, too, but it doesn't start until 8 p.m. Unfortunately, I'll be at work. Lisa and Colin, though, should have a great time.

Last season, when we were still living in New England, Colin and I took in a game on the day after Thanksgiving between the Flyers and Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden. To be honest, I can't remember who won that afternoon. What I do remember, though, was a
lesson learned.

And though I won't be at the game tonight, I'll take some comfort in knowing that we'll all be at the Senators-Lightning game on Sunday. And, who knows, maybe the Lightning will have a post-Thanksgiving Day matinee next year.



What's this? 1.12

Well, well, well. What do we have here? It seems that Hound Central 2.0 was able to stump last week's visitors, narrowing the gap to Readers 7, Puckhound 4.

Last week's item was detail from a hockey glove.

For this week's contest, I wrestled with the choices. Do I adopt the holiday spirit and provide something easy? Or, do I follow my advice (see under Christmas shopping) to Joe Thornton and the Sharks?

I'll let you decide. Either way, it's related to hockey.

As always, I'm appreciative of those who participate. It requires no more effort than submitting a guess within a comment.


Do the math

What's the difference between Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic?

That one is a seasoned veteran and the other is a rookie would be correct, but it's not the answer I'm looking for. Nor would the correct answer be that Selanne plays right wing and Vlasic, shown at left, is a defenseman. And don't even bother saying that Selanne is Finnish and Vlasic is French-Canadian.

No, what I'm looking for is the difference in career goals. That answer -- the correct one -- is 499. On a night when Selanne logged his 500th regular-season goal, Vlasic notched the first of his young career. Two milestones in one night. Pretty neat, eh?

Selanne, who scored 76 goals in his rookie season (1992-93) with the Winnipeg Jets, became the 36th player to reach the milestone, tipping a shot past Colorado's Jose Theodore. Too bad, though, that the Ducks lost to Colorado, 3-2, in a shootout.

Vlasic, who spent last season playing for Patrick Roy and the Memorial Cup champion Quebec Remparts, was only in kindergarten during Selanne's rookie campaign. And while the significance of his goal, coming against the Kings' Dan Cloutier, might get lost in the aftermath of the Sharks' 6-3 victory over Los Angeles, I'm sure it's pretty special to him.

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Show 'em you care

Though I've yet to cast a single ballot for the 2007 NHL All Star Game, I know the ones I do submit will include these write-in picks, just so they are recognized for their efforts:

Forward: Ben Clymer, Washington Capitals
Forward: Jay Pandolfo, New Jersey Devils
Forward: Matthew Barnaby, Dallas Stars
Defense: Zbynek Michalek, Phoenix Coyotes
Defense: Niclas Wallin, Carolina Hurricanes
Goalie: Johan Holmqvist, Tampa Bay Lightning

Insert punchline here

Make up an ending to this Thanksgiving Day/hockey joke:

Q: Why did the turkey ice the puck?
A: Because it wanted . . .

Something to ponder

What player, past or present, deserves to have his/her own balloon in the Macy's parade? I'm thinking Toronto's Darcy Tucker. He's full of hot air and maybe, just maybe, something will come along and knock the wind out of him.

Christmas shopping

Just in case you'll be among the millions who will pack the malls, Old Navys and Wal-Marts across North America on Friday (I'm done with my shopping, thank you very much), you might want to pick up these items for the following teams:

Boston Bruins: A healthy goalie who can overcome an inconsistent defense.
Buffalo Sabres: Future credits for their high-octane offense, just in case they need it in April, May and, hopefully, deep into June.
Phoenix Coyotes: As much nonaddictive anti-anxiety medicine as possible for Wayne Gretzky, before The Great One goes over the edge.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Patience. Nothing more, nothing less. Top to bottom, they will be scary good, wicked-scary good, in a very short time. And it's not just Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, either. How about (in no particular order, other than alphabetically) Colby Armstrong, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik, Noah Welch and Ryan Whitney?
San Jose Sharks: A killer instinct. They have the talent, but they lack their nickname's frightening attribute. In my opinion, Joey Thornton must start playing with a little more of an edge, or the Sharks will keep looking up the Ducks you-know-what.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The biggest case of consistency that can be found, as well as some decent officiating. If not, maybe Gretzky will share some of his stash with John Tortorella.

A little trivia, too

Can you match the following teams to their respective professional leagues? I've included links, too, to the leagues, making it even easier.

1.) Columbus Cottonmouths
2.) Chicago Hounds
3.) Idaho Steelheads
4.) Youngstown Steelhounds


Congratulations to Hound Central 2.0 legend Drew "The Enforcer" Pelto for his correct answers in last week's trivia quiz. Not only does Drew own Hound Central 2.0's weekly What's This? contest, but he's the only person who's fan enough to try.

Last week's answers: 1-B; 2-A; 3-D; and 4-C

The correct answers for this week's quiz will appear next week.

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Awards I'd like to see

We're all familiar with the NHL's end-of-the-season awards. The top rookie wins the Calder. The league's most valuable player wins the Hart. And the players who shows the most perseverance and sportsmanship is awarded the Masterton.

But in my little speck of dust within the hockey universe, there are skills and attributes of the game that are worthy of honoring. That's why I submit, for your consideration, the following suggestions, culled from a once-voluminous list, for the awards I'd like to see:

The Billy Hajt Award: Given to the league's top defensive defenseman, who block shots, plays the body without drawing a penalty and always covers for his more offensive-minded partner on defense.

The Mike Sillinger Award: Given to the center/forward with the best faceoff percentage, with additional weighting based on such critical situations as shorthanded and defensive zone draws.

The Andre "Moose" Dupont Award: If the league is going to award a player for gentlemanly conduct (whatever the hell that is), why not honor the player who puts the fear of God into others with a simple sneer, a pointing of a finger and a gag-inducing facewash?

The Wayne Gretzky Award: Given to the player who revolutionizes the game, in a positive or entertaining way, through the season. For example, how many players have added a leg kick to their breakaway routines once Washington's Alexander Ovechkin started doing it?

The Mr. Hockey Award: In honoring Gordie Howe and his contributions to the game, this would be given to the league's top power forward, with minimum standards for goals (25), assists (40), penalty minutes (100, with at least 30 from elbowing) and fighting majors (five). A letter-perfect autograph is worth bonus points, too.

Finally, to discourage the ever-increasing amount of diving in the league, how about The NHEllie Award: Given to the player who draws the most unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for taking dives. Granted, the winner would get a trophy, handed out at a mandatory player-appearance event, so his peers will know exactly what he is.

Until next June in Toronto, when we'll see whether the NHL has adopted any of my wisdom, I welcome your comments.


Hold your applause, please

One of the unwritten rules in sports journalism, I learned many moons ago, is that there is no cheering in the pressbox. The same holds true, more or less (depending upon, I've experienced, who's doing the cheering), for newsrooms.

Last night, pulling a guest gig in sports for our wicked-hip sister publication, that standard was severely tested during the Tampa Bay Lightning-Buffalo Sabres contest.

Having lived here in Lightning Land for the past 10 months, it's been easy to develop an interest in the new hometown team. Same thing happened in Boston, too. But as a kid raised in Buffalo and western New York, my deepest loyalties as a hockey fan run with the Sabres.

Last night's game was one of those instances where I had little trouble picking a team to root for -- albeit in forced silence. I cringed just a little when Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis scored the game's first goal. I even remember thinking to myself, as I looked at the nearby muted television, that this could be a long night.

Thankfully, I was pretty busy, putting together an off-the-cuff, snarky-twinged feature package. When I did get a chance to look up, though, the Sabres had taken a 2-1 lead. Twenty minutes later, though, I broke that unwritten rule.

Rather than celebrating loudly, an audible, and somewhat incredulous, "Damn!" passed over my lips, causing my colleagues of the night to spin around in their chairs and look at the screen. The Sabres had scored another five goals, for a total of seven on 13 shots in the second period, giving the Blue and Gold a very comfortable 7-1 lead.

After St. Louis added another goal to bookend the Sabres' surge, I maintained my sense of objectivity as a read back on another editor's deft touch with the headline and story. It wasn't until I was in my trusty Taurus, pulling away from a parking spot across the street from the paper, that I, shall we say, rejoiced at being a Sabres fan.

As a fan, and as a journalist, this season, as young as it may be, has been very enjoyable. Moreso, I reckon, than some other places.

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From paints to pucks to paints

In my never-ending search for goalie mask galleries, I've discovered another: Weasel Head Custom Designs, operated by Doug Wager of Clifton Heights, Pa.

Make sure you check out his
pro client gallery, too. You'll find masks for Phoenix's David LeNeveu, Washington's Brent Johnson and the Islanders' goalie-turned-GM Garth Snow.

On a side note, Wager played
25 minutes on Jan. 21, 2006, in goal for the Dayton (Ohio) Bombers (proof positive, shown above) of the East Coast Hockey League. It just goes to show that you can take the boy out of hockey, but you can't take hockey out of the boy.

Either way, hockey fans, it's worth a look.

Also, if you know of other goalie mask galleries, please leave a link in a comment. Thanks.



No surprise, I suppose, for Jagr

When it comes to milestone goals, New York's Jaromir Jagr must love playing the Tampa Bay Lightning.

One night after his first NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, denied him the 600th goal of his career, Jagr's pouncing on a rebound just 1:43 into the game made the Rangers star just the 16th player in NHL history to achieve that feat.

Jagr's wrist shot past Tampa Bay's Johan Holmqvist, his ninth goal of the season, was his third career milestone goal against the Lightning. Jagr, then playing for the Washington Capitals, logged his 500th goal by completing a hat trick against the Lightning's John Grahame on Feb. 4, 2003. He scored his 300th career goal, playing for the Penguins, against the Lightning's Mark Fitzpatrick on April 15, 1998.

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Review: Upper Deck Hockey Series I

Even though this is the base set for any serious hockey card collector, I find myself increasingly disappointed with each new release. Simply put, while the photography is on par with the past, my complaints are within the design, which appears unbalanced, and an increasing number of horizontal photos, which, to me, should be reserved only for cards of goalies.

My biggest complaint, though, focuses on the outdated look for two teams, the Anaheim Ducks and the Buffalo Sabres. If Upper Deck has the time to capture Anaheim's Ryan Shannon, above right, in the Ducks new uniforms for his Young Guns card (#202), why did every other Anaheim base card, including Corey Perry (#1), above left, shows last year’s Ducks uniforms? I can’t tell for certain about the Sabres, either, as there was none listed in the Young Guns. But all of the base cards of Buffalo’s players I pulled showed last year’s look.

I know that Upper Deck will trot out its tired line of wanting to get the product to market as quickly as possible. But, if it’s able to show Shannon in the Ducks’ new look, why not everyone else in the Anaheim team set? Working for a daily newspaper, I am very familiar with deadlines. Unless Upper Deck is using equipment from the days of Johannes Gutenberg, its effort, or lack thereof, is worthy of a demotion to the minors.

As for the design, the horizontal name bar looks like it’s running too high on the cards, rendering a look that’s slightly off-balance or, like there’s something missing below the line. But when they use a horizontal photo, the name bar is much tighter against the bottom.

Autographs hounds, too, will need to know that cards will still have to be baby powdered, erased or rubbed for ink to stick.

If it weren’t for the Young Guns (and even this Series I crop, despite something of a rarity, is less than stellar), and the inclusion of second-year players and those who changed teams at the trade deadline, I wouldn’t lose a whole lot of sleep passing on this product. I suspect, though, given this set’s reigning popularity that I’m in the minority.

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Yes, indeed, we’ll wait for Malkin

A few weeks ago, when I came across the 2006-07 Young Guns checklist, I said we’d have to wait until the release of the Series II Young Guns for this season’s Holy Grail of hockey hardboard, a Young Guns card of Pittsburgh's uber-rookie Evgeni Malkin.

A glance at the back of the Phil Kessel Young Guns Checklist (#250), above right, proves the point. Malkin, I’m afraid, isn’t listed.

After reviewing the checklist, though, I feel the need to add to the must-haves of the Series I Young Guns, namely Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal (#239). As you can see, above left, I pulled the Young Guns card for San Jose’s Matt Carle (#241). The Stastny brothers, Paul and Yan, are worth the chase, too.

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Brothers in cards

One of the neat things about the 2006-07 Upper Deck Series I Young Guns set is for only the second time, I believe, it contains brothers, Boston’s Yan Stastny (#203) and Colorado’s Paul Stastny (#207), the sons of Hall of Famer Peter Stastny.

To the best of my knowledge, the only other time this happened was with the 1999-00 Upper Deck Series I Young Guns, with Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin (#165) and Henrik Sedin (#166).

If I’m wrong, please let me know.

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Sunday morning homily III

Of all the emotional moments during the retiring of Montreal legend Serge Savard's number 18 last night at the Bell Centre, mine came during the national anthems. Rather than bring a singer to the ice, a video showing the late tenor Roger Doucet was played.

I don't know about you or the fans attending the game, but to hear his strong voice once again singing a bilingual "O Canada" sent shivers along my spine. I just closed my eyes and pretended I was there, in Montreal, listening to who I believe is the greatest anthem singer in hockey's history.

It was nice, too, that Savard, known as "The Senator" and for his "Spinarama" move, was honored for his service to the Canadiens. In becoming only the second defenseman (the late Doug Harvey, who wore No. 2, had his retired on Oct. 26, 1985) to have his number retired in Montreal, it was a tribute to the Hall of Famer's eight Stanley Cup rings as either a player or general manager for the club.

~ Though it would have been fitting, New York's Jaromir Jagr did not score the 600th goal of his NHL career against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Instead, he mustered only three shots against the team that he played for when he scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 7, 1980.

Jagr gets another chance tonight, at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning, to become the 16th NHL player to reach that unbelievable plateau.

~ After beginning the season with a 10-0-0 record on the road, the Buffalo Sabres lost their first away game last night, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Place. It was the second time in four days that the Sabres have lost to the Senators.

I'll have to channel my newfound ill will toward the Senators next Sunday, when they play the Lightning in Tampa. Seeing that Ottawa bounced the Bolts from the playoffs last year, one would think that the atmosphere, on the ice and in the stands, will be, shall we say, electrified?

~ In further proof that Boston's Patrice Bergeron is carrying the Bruins on his back, he assisted on Glen Murray's game-winner in overtime last night against Washington. It was the fourth straight game that Bergeron has factored into the Bruins' winning goal (two game-winning goals in regulation as well as one in a shootout).

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Quick shifts

It's amazing how quick an intermission will fly by, isn't it? You barely have enough time to tend to nature, grab a snack and cobble together an intelligent posting.

Anyways, here it goes:

~ You might want to head out to your local Toys 'R' Us real soon. McFarlane's Series 13 has hit the shelves, at least down here in Florida. Though I picked up Washington's Alexander Ovechkin (shown above) and San Jose's Joey Thornton (an updated repaint of his second figure) you'll also find Ottawa's Dany Heatley, New York Henrik Lundqvist, Toronto's Bryan McCabe and Calgary's Alex Tanguay (whose body figure is the same at the Series 9 Brian Leetch). I've seen pricey variants of these, including the Sedin twins, at other online outlets, but I'm happy with what I have.

~ Is it just me, but don't you wish NHL Center Ice would include every pre- and post-game show, rather than just flashing "Good Night" and turning on that insipid music? And what about replays at other times of the day? Seeing that my job makes me miss most of the East Coast games, I'm glad there are Western Conference teams to follow.

~ As I was paying for our steakhouse dinners earlier tonight, I couldn't help but think for the amount of the tab that, provided we were back in New England, the three of us could have eaten at the Applebee's in Biddeford, headed on up to Portland to watch the Lowell Devils beat the Pirates, 5-3, and add to our autograph collection. That's life, eh?



A comfortable feeling

I got a call today from Colin's kindergarten teacher. It's seems the Goofy Dude wasn't feeling so well. I drove over to his school, picked him up and brought him home.

Once we got home, I told him to change out of his school clothes and into something more comfortable. What did he pick? A pair of flannel pants and his long-sleeved Sidney Crosby jersey T-shirt.

Good medicine, eh?

Turning some corners?

For the second night in a row, Boston's Patrice Bergeron saved the Bruins' bacon.

Bergeron, a Hound Central 2.0 favorite, scored less than a minute into overtime (34 seconds, to be exact), lifting the suddenly-hot Bruins to their third win in a row.

The goal, Bergeron's sixth of the year, capped a 2-1 victory last night over Original Six rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Wednesday, against the Washington Capitals, Bergeron scored the lone goal in a 3-2 shootout victory.

The Bruins, however, are not the only team taking steps toward improvement.

~ The Philadelphia Flyers scored three unanswered goals, including the game-tying and -winner by R.J. Umberger, to rally past the Los Angeles Kings, 4-3. The night before, in Anaheim, the Flyers chased J.S. Giguere en route to 7-4 thumping of the Ducks.

~ Phoenix's Mike Zigomanis, a former Lowell (Mass.) Lock Monster, forced overtime with his second goal of the season, where his Coyote 'mates stepped up in the shootout to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2. This was the first time that Phoenix has won back-to-back games this season.

Did you know

~ the Bruins' Phil Kessel finally recorded his first hit of the season last night against the Leafs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't he drafted for his offense, not any hitting ability? Only in Boston would that be an issue.

~ the Buffalo Sabres remain perfect (10-0-0) on the road? The next two road opponents are Ottawa, capping a home-and-home series on Saturday, and the New York Rangers on Oct. 26.

~ the New Jersey Devils are the only division leader (Atlantic) that has allowed more goals (46) than it has scored (43)?


On any given Wednesday . . .

~ U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska, shown at left, becomes the leading candidate for the Penguins' most valuable player when she rejects a claim by Metallurg Magnitogorsk, of the Russian Super League, that Evgeni Malkin shouldn't be playing in the NHL.

~ the Philadelphia Flyers, sporting the NHL's worst record, can spank the Anaheim Ducks, owners of the NHL's second-best record (yeah, my Sabres are No. 1), 7-4 to end a six-game losing streak. The Ducks outshot the Flyers 41-16, too.

~ New York's Jaromir Jagr moves to within one goal of 600 in his career in the Rangers' 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The milestone could come Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

~ Colin's buddy, Patrice Bergeron, plays the hero again for the Bruins, notching Boston's only goal in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals.

~ San Jose's Rob Davison and Colorado's Ian Laperriere find that coincidental roughing minors don't settle an on-ice squabble. Four seconds after their minors expired, the pair got into another dustup, this time each earning five-minute majors for fighting.

What's this? 1.11

See, I knew last week's item, a closeup of a hockey skate, was too easy. And, it should come as no surprise that Drew Pelto was, once again, the winner.

Seeing that Drew, who is a play-by-play announcer for the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the North American Hockey League, is the only one willing enough to stick his neck out on the line, perhaps I'll name the contest after him.

With Drew's correct answer, it's now Readers 7, Puckhound 3.

This week's item might be a little more difficult. As always, it's related to hockey.

Participating is easy. All you have to do is submit your answers in a comment. I'll take care of the rest.


This one's for you, Paul

Yesterday, Paul Kukla, the king of hockey bloggers, issued a challenge, asking us to stop whining about what's wrong with the game and, instead, write about the good.

Now, even though I believe this blog is fairly balanced, offering both positive and negative aspects of the game, I'll happily accept that challenge for one simple reason: Paul's right.

I mean, who cares if hockey isn't the world's favorite sport? In a selfish way, that's good. There's more for all of us to enjoy.

Where else do you find athletes traveling at up to 20 mph, maintaining their balance on rockered razor-sharp edges, shooting a puck in excess of 80 mph only to have a goalie, weighed down by 30-plus pounds of bulky protective gear, flash out his glove, quicker than a hummingbird's wings, and snatch that bullet out of the air?

Not only does the player's shot bring us to the edges of our seats, but the chorus of appreciation for the lightning-fast leather is a sound that belongs in Carnegie Hall.

So, Paul, with a dose of my most humble sincerity, here are five things that I love about hockey:

1.) Though I'm a California boy by birth, a western New Yorker in heart and, now, a wannabe beach bum in gorgeous Tampa Bay, I have just enough Canadian blood, thanks to a great-great-grandfather who spawned another generation on Prince Edward Island, to get jacked up every time I hear O Canada, in French or in English. Mind you, I sing loud and proud with the Star-Spangled Banner, but the Canadian national anthem is wicked cool.

2.) The rituals of goaltenders. A quirky nature by lot, it's a hoot watching them limber up with the contortionist stretching, rough up their creases in a near-rhythmic hypnotic state, bang the posts with the shafts of their sticks and skate to the goal line on the halfboards during stoppages in play. Then again, whatever it takes to stay focused works for me.

3.) How hard work, determination and sacrifice, more than a stellar pedigree or tons of NHL experience, can lead to a spot on the opening night roster of, and some quality minutes playing for, an NHL team. Don't believe me? Ask Tampa Bay's Doug Janik.

4.) That there are players like Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Carolina's Cam Ward and Atlanta's Johan Hedberg who will fuel a young fan's love for the game and, with a little bit of luck and an answering of his Daddy's prayers, will find himself returning those favors.

5.) The fact that by chance encounters, either at training camps or by recognizing fellow season ticket holders at the games, you make friendships that will last a lifetime. Granted, not every introduction will lead to that, but those that do are truly special.

Hockey is a great sport. And, for the most part, so are the people, from the players to your fellow fans. Sometimes, we forget that. And sometimes, just like this, we remember.

Thanks Paul.

A healthy scratch

Despite putting together a book of cards and rustling up a dozen pucks, I'm taking a break from hounding the Montreal Canadiens today. The lure of another 120 winks of sleep proved too hard to ignore.

It's not like this is a business, where I would have to go out and do it. It's a hobby. Nothing more and nothing less. Besides, the Habs will be back in town in late December. Even better, my prep work is already done.


We better get used to this

For the second time this season, Pittsburgh's Boys in Black each scored a goal in a game. Last night, uber-rookie Evgeni Malkin, at left, notched the winner, his ninth of the season, as the Penguins dropped the Flyers, 3-2.

Sidney Crosby, who scored his seventh goal, and rookie center Jordan Staal, who added his sixth, rounded out the scoring.

The only other time, to date, that the Boys pulled off the feat was Oct. 24, when Staal potted the pivotal goal in Pittsburgh's 4-2 victory over New Jersey.

On a side note, five of Crosby's seven goals have come against the Flyers, including his first career NHL hat trick on Oct. 28.

Given these players' tender ages (Crosby, 19; Malkin, 20; and Staal, 18), I suppose we'll being seeing this feat appearing more often on game sheets. I'm hoping, though, that it doesn't happen this Friday night, when the Penguins travel to Buffalo.

Who's next?

Now that Columbus ended Gerard Gallant's suffering as coach of the underperforming Blue Jackets, who will become the next coach to be given the pink slip?

Let's see. There's that guy out in Phoenix, uh, what's his name? Oh, yeah, Wayne Gretzky. I'm pretty certain he's safe for awhile. And though Boston is, once again, testing the loyalties of Bruins Nation, Dave Lewis hasn't had enough time, and apparently the talent, to turn things around in Beantown.

That leaves us with Ottawa's Bryan Murray, who has his Senators squad just one point out of the Northeast Division cellar. It seems the Senators, a team loaded with offensive talent (on paper, at least), have made their runs for Lord Stanley's Cup. In a no-brainer (something I'm very good at, mind you), Murray will pay the price for missing.

Say a prayer, please

Chicago's Rene Bourque suffered one of hockey's nastiest injuries Sunday when the skate of Columbus' Nikolai Zherdev cut deeply into the forward's neck during a pileup. Bourque, who underwent surgery, will miss up to six weeks.

A little trivia, too

Can you match the following professional teams to their respective leagues?

1.) Odessa Jackalopes
2.) Fayetteville Fireantz
3.) Bloomington Prairie Thunder
4.) Victoria Salmon Kings


The correct answers will appear next week.


Onnentoivotus, Teppo!

Not only did Buffalo's Teppo Numminen become an NHL record holder for the most games played (1,252) by a European-trained player, but the defenseman also logged two assists, including the 600th point of his 18-year career, in the Sabres' 7-4 win over Carolina.

Numminen, a native of Tampere, Finland, broke the record held by countryman Jari Kurri. Besides Buffalo, Numminen has played for Dallas, Phoenix and its predecessor, the Winnipeg Jets.

The victory was historic for the Sabres, too. The team set a franchise record with its 10th consecutive road win.

By the way, onnentoivotus is Finnish for congratulations. And, no, I don't know how to pronounce it.

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Addicted to Hockey? Round III

Are you addicted to hockey? Let's find out.

You are if ...

~ you dress up as an old goalie –- for the second year in a row, but the first time in Florida –- to hand out candy for Halloween.

~ you know how to correctly pronounce Afinogenov (ah-fihn-ah-GEHN-ahf), Elias (ehl-EE-ahsh), Huet (oo-AY), Huselius (hoo-SAY-lee-oos) Jere (YUH-ree), Joni (YOH-nee), Kimmo (KEE-moh), Kovalchuk (koh-vuhl-CHOOK), Legace (LEH-gah-see) Miikka (MEE-kah), Niittymaki (NEE-too-mah-kee), Olaf (OH-lee), Prucha (PROO-khah), Satan (SHA-tuhn), Svatos (SVA-tohsh) and Toskala (TAWS-kah-lah).

~ you’re still checking out this page at the Ottawa Sun’s Web site, just to make sure your True North is Strong and Free.

~ you teach yourself to stickhandle and shoot lefthanded because, dag nabbit, no one told you as a child that’s how righthanded people play hockey.

~ you believe your mere presence, either at home in front of the TV or at the game itself, is the sole reason your team wins. Just like Buffalo's win tonight against Carolina. It was 3-3 when I started watching the game. The final: Buffalo 7, Carolina 4.

~ you begin to appreciate the inanity (if you don't know what it means, look it up) of hockey cheerleaders because, well, the Lightning put them to work cleaning up the ice.

~ you name your pets Foppa, Puck, Sidney Pawsby, Ovie or Espo.

~ you can't stop laughing at the Sedin Twins, especially after a night out on the town.

~ you wait until the last second to warn a person walking toward you with their head down, so you can see their lives passing before their eyes.

~ you keep needling your friends about the sorry states of their favorite hockey teams because you know, eventually, they’ll retaliate and take a stupid penalty.

~ you know that these Hanson Brothers have nothing to do with music.

~ you consider having an all-hockey tree, including Hallmark ornaments of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros (why wasn't one made for Bobby Orr?), for the holidays.

If you missed the first two installments, click here and here. Enjoy and, if necessary, seek professional help!



Sunday morning homily II

Between buying a frame, coaxing my voice back from hockey-induced hoarseness, developing a hunger to indulge later today at St. Petersburg's Ribfest and preparing for the first of two talks with journalism students at the University of South Florida, I'm quite proud of my wife, Lisa.

Not only does she have to tolerate me (quite a feat in and of itself), but she's developing a hockey awareness:

Deep into the 2001-02 season, on a bitter cold morning, she accompanied me into Boston to get some autographs from the Atlanta Thrashers. Nelson Emerson, one of her favorite players, was still in the league and she wanted to get another autograph.

What caught her eye that morning, though, was a very young Ilya Kovalchuk.

"There he was, a young kid, all pimply-faced and wide-eyed, taking in everything," she told me this morning. "He looked like a little boy."

Fast forward, nearly five years later, to a picture-perfect Florida afternoon. Lisa's become part of the regular Saturday game-time hounding crowd and Atlanta's in town.

"Now, when I look at Kovalchuk, he's looks so different. He knows what he's doing. He's acting so cool. It's like he knows he's The Man," she said. "It's fun watching him grow up."

~ Speaking of the Thrashers, Kari Lehtonen might be a pretty good goalie, but he's got some growing up to do. After the Lightning took a 4-0 lead during the second period last night, Lehtonen, in a show of frustration, shot one of his water bottles down the ice toward a referee.

Unfortunately, the on-ice officials (a truly bumbling group, consisting of referees Dan Marouelli and Chris Rooney and linesmen Pierre Racicot and Vaughan Rody) missed the childish indiscretion. The crowd didn't, though, screaming for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and, possibly, a game misconduct.

The officials, however, must have received a call from Toronto during the intermission. The start of the third period was delayed as Marouelli gave Lehtonen a good, old-fashioned finger-wagging tongue-lashing.

~ Daniel Briere is not just a co-captain of the Buffalo Sabres, he's becoming the team's savior. Trailing 4-3 to the hapless Philadelphia Flyers, Briere scored with less than three minutes remaining in the game to force overtime. His goal 21 seconds into overtime sent the Flyers to their fifth straight loss. It was the Sabres' third-straight win in overtime, too.

Patrice Bergeron, a favorite here at Hound Central 2.0, helped his Bruins escape another embarrassing loss last night. After blowing a two-goal lead -- yet again -- and allowing the disappointing Ottawa Senators back into the game, Bergeron's tip-in late in the third period proved to be the game-winner.

With all of the trade talk swirling around 100 Legends Way these days, especially since goalie
Hannu Toivonen sustained a mild sprain of his left ankle last night in Worcester, Mass., let's hope that Colin's best buddy remains untouchable.

~ Finally, fans of Patrick Roy (myself included) shall allow themselves a St. Patrick-like smirk as the game's greatest goalie -- ever -- will be inducted in hockey's hallowed hall tomorrow. Joining Roy will be Dick Duff, the late Herb Brooks, Harley Hotchkiss and media wingers Peter Maher and Scott Morrison.

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Goalie talk

For those of you lucky enough to have made my son’s acquaintance, you’ve quickly found out that, almost to a fault, he’s a precocious little guy. Simply put, he has no problem endearing himself to anyone, especially hockey players.

As I wrote recently, he’s been telling me lately, with increasing frequency, that he wants to be a goalie. On Saturday, before the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 victory over Southeast Division rival Atlanta, Colin made friends with Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg.

Now, most hounds know that Hedberg is a pretty nice person. He’ll sign anything and everything. Colin’s team sheet (which also includes autographs from Ilya Kovalchuk and Kari Lehtonen), shown above, was no different. Hedberg signed, at the bottom, near the middle.
What made the autograph remarkable, in my opinion, was the exchange when he got it:

Colin: Do you play goalie?

Hedberg: Yes, I do

Colin: I want to be a goalie.

Hedberg: You do?

Colin: Yeah. I have all the equipment.

Hedberg: You do?

Colin: Yeah, it’s my daddy’s. It doesn’t fit me yet.

Hedberg (looking over and sizing me up): Well, buddy, you’ll have some catching up to do.

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Logging a hat trick

Any time a team comes to town, any hound worth his or her salt will have two to three players at the top of their wish list.

For Atlanta, it should be a no-brainer – top scorers Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk and promising goalie Kari Lehtonen.

The pucks shown above? All I have are two words: Mission accomplished.

As a whole, though, the Thrashers are a decent signing team. Nearly everyone, save for Andy Sutton and Niclas Havelid, stopped to sign. Sutton and Havelid said they’d sign once they put their stuff on the bus, but never came back out.

Players who signed four cards each were Garnet Exelby, Johan Hedberg, Lehtonen (whose last name rhymes with, as I shouted during the game, "Lets Them In") and Steve Rucchin. Also signing multiples were Eric Boulton, Niko Kapanen, Jon Sim, Jim Slater and Vitali Vishnevsky.

Bobby Holik, Hossa, Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov and Scott Mellanby were strictly one-per signers. Believe it or not, so was Brad Larsen.

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This is going in a frame

A couple years ago, before the NHL lockout put Pacific hockey cards out of business, the company produced a line called Pacific Exhibit.

One of the premiums of the set, released during the 2003-04 season, was a chase parallel of oversized cards. Nothing real fancy, just enlarged versions of the base set -- stars and commons included.

Over the past few years, I’ve kept them in my working stock. My recent fascination with pucks, though, allowed them to gather some dust. But now, as I become more selective with my pucks, I recognize an opportunity to get these bigger cards signed.

Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk, I’m wicked proud to say, signed my first card. And after a trip to Target later today, that card will end up in a frame on top of Colin’s dresser.

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

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You gotta be kidding me

It’s a given, at least with most teams, that the third- and fourth-line players are pretty decent signers. They understand their role within the team and, for the most part, with the fans.

Atlanta’s Brad Larsen, however, must have thrown away that memo.

Larsen, a fourth–line center for the otherwise cordial Thrashers, signed just one item each for about a dozen hounds outside the team’s Tampa hotel on Saturday ‘s drop-dead gorgeous afternoon before the game.

I nearly laughed out loud in his face when he invoked his "one-per" rule.

Granted, I’m happy to get anything autographed, but after 10 years of hounding, I’d thought I’d seen just about everything. Larsen, who has scored a grand total of 36 points in 179 NHL contests, provided a new lesson.

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There's no Duck-ing Anaheim

Last winter, most Saturday nights meant one thing along the southern coast of Maine: Hockey Night in Portland. We'd take part, too, driving up from the Granite State to watch the Pirates, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.

One of our favorite players was Shane O'Brien, a rock'em, sock'em defenseman who brings a little pop to his play. Part of his appeal to Pirates' fans was his enjoyment of the game. This season, O'Brien, who started his professional career with the mothballed Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, is in the NHL.

Last night, against Vancouver, his first-period goal (actually, a pass that went in off a player's skate) provided all the offense the Ducks needed in a 6-0 victory. What made O'Brien's goal so special? It meant the Ducks set an NHL record by going 16 games (12-0-1-3) without a loss in regulation, surpassing the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers (12-0-3).

While I'm at it:

~ Nice to see Carolina's Cam Ward rebound with a 5-0 whitewash of Washington last night. On Tuesday, facing his idol Martin Brodeur, Ward look the loss Tuesday in New Jersey's hard-fought 3-2 shootout victory over the Hurricanes.

~ Columbus' Rick Nash scored his first goal in a month (and only his fourth of the year) in the Blue Jackets' 4-2 win over St. Louis. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Nash suppose to become one of the league's top scorers? For comparison purposes, Toronto's Alexei Ponikarovsky scored his seventh of the year last night in the Leafs' 6-4 win over Boston.

~ How bad is it in the City of Bothersome Flubs? The Flyers have scored just twice in their past 74 shots on goal. Also, in their 3-1 loss to the Islanders last night, dawdling Philly players missed a power-play faceoff deep in the New York zone. How in the world does that happen?

~ Hopefully, future Hall of Famer defenseman Al MacInnis will help the St. Louis Blues, one of the worst teams in the NHL, in their rebuilding efforts. For too long now, that team has been an underachiever, living up to its downcast nickname.

Top 5: Anaheim Ducks, 28 points; Atlanta Thrashers, 27 points (12-3-1-2); Buffalo Sabres, 25 points (12-1-0-1); Dallas Stars, 24 points (12-4-0-0); and the San Jose Sharks, 24 points (12-5-0-0).

Bottom 5: Philadelphia Flyers, 7 points (3-11-0-1); Phoenix Coyotes, 8 points (4-11-0-0); Chicago Blackhawks, 9 points (4-9-0-1); Boston Bruins, 10 points (4-7-0-2); and the St. Louis Blues, 11 points (4-7-2-1).


Art de Masque

For some reason, I just can't get enough of looking at goalie mask designs. Maybe it's because Colin has told me he now wants to play goalie.

Whatever the reason, here is another cool gallery I found searching the Web:

Gilders Design: Plenty of
masks from the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, colleges and Canadian juniors. You'll even see some masks from the Russian Elite League.

Clients include Iowa Stars' Dan Ellis (shown above), University of Maine's Jimmy Howard (now with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins), London Knights' Gerald Coleman (now with the AHL Springfield Falcons) and Yaroslavl Lokomotiv's Steve Valiquette (now with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack).