The Oklahoma City Thunder have been ready to get this season under...
Flash Frozen (Part Two)
Hockey programming on network and cable television was piss-poor in presentation of the game to lay fans in the States, as interest in many cities which weren’t traditional areas for the sport to be played was waning.
In spite of poor marketing, all the Goal Brothers working to play at the highest level carried on, as signs of progress were being made.
The establishment of stars like Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla, goalie Kevin Weekes and valued role players like Jamal Mayers, Anson Carter, Donald Brashear and Georges Laraque gave the League a little flavor to savor.
The emergence of Iginla as a superstar was presented to American audiences in the Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the subsequent job action that caused a lockout put a severe crimp in the League’s need for the level of exposure required of a major sport.
Here are some more faces that broke in and broke through:
Anthony Stewart, Florida Panthers: Stewart was drafted by the Panthers in the 2003 Draft. This 6-foot-1, 225 lbs, right winger was born in LaSalle, Quebec and got his first taste of League action in the 2005 season.
Bryce Salvador, St. Louis Blues: A defenseman drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1994, Salvador had an extended stay in the minors until the move that made him part of St.Louis’ defensive rotation in 2000. Salvador is 6-feet-3, 205 pounds and was born in Brandon, Manitoba.
Nigel Dawes, New York Rangers: This swift sniper from Winnipeg, Manitoba was a crucial component to minor league hockey in Vancouver with his play as a Vancouver Giant. The Rangers scooped up Dawes off his success there and although he has only been able to get spot starts on his left wing slot, may have to move on to another franchise, as the high-profile Rangers seem to ignore youth.
Johnny Oduya, New Jersey Devils: A feisty cat from Stockholm, Sweden, Oduya plays defense, but shows the offensive skills and skating assets that are accented in the European leagues. This six-footer was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2001, but caught on with the Devils after playing on the Swedish National Team and in his country’s Elite League.
Francis Bouillon, Montreal Canadiens/Nashville Predators: Born in New York City, Bouillon, a stocky, 5-foot-8″ defenseman whose nickname is “Cube,” began playing for Montreal after being called up from Fredericton of the AHL in 2000.
Trevor Daley, Dallas Stars: Daley, a hard-hitting defenseman born in Toronto, was drafted by Dallas in 2002, and they didn’t hesitate in bringing him up to the big club.
In one of the more moronic moments in sports of the early century, Daley, captain of his local club, the OHL Sault Ste. Marie (Soo) Greyhounds, got a taste of some home-grown racism courtesy of the head coach/general manager, former NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.
According to accounts, Vanbiesbrouck, livid because his Greyhounds were being beaten badly during one game, called Daley “nigger” several times, and never referred to him by his name. Daley, upon hearing what had happened, quit the team.
After confessing he did indeed say the word, Vanbiesbrouck quit the team and was forced to resign from the league. His refrain of, “I wasn’t thinking” rang hollow considering he reportedly said it several times in front of Daley’s teammates. Tolerance, indeed…
Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago Black Hawks: A huge defenseman who did his share of thumping in British Columbia for Prince George (WHL) was drafted by Chicago in 2005. Nicknamed “Big Buff”, the 6-foot-3, 250 pound Byfuglien started clearing creases full time in 2007.
Manny Malhotra, Columbus Blue Jackets/Dallas Stars/N.Y. Rangers: Although many First Nations players have also been part of the league’s history, Malhotra is proudly Canadian and his Punjabi background makes the shifty center perhaps the only player of South Asian heritage skating for an NHL club. Drafted by the Rangers as the seventh overall pick in the 1998 draft, Malhotra has made a niche for himself in Blue Jack City as a regular with Columbus.
Ray Emery, Ottawa Senators: Like his contemporary, Grant Fuhr, Emery’s skills in net are not to be denied as he has emerged as one of the league’s best goaltenders in a very short time.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Emery, like Daley, was a former Soo Greyhound, and came up with Ottawa in 2002, where he would eventually back up starter Dominik Hasek.
An injury to Hasek gave Emery his break in 2005, and he took advantage of it by stabilizing Ottawa’s defense in goal. Since becoming a starter, Emery’s great left glove has helped to amass a career won/loss record of 56-27-10 and a 2.59 GPG average coming into the 2007-08 season.
In 2007, Emery stick-handled the Sens into the Stanley Cup final, where his team lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks. But Emery became a leader with his skills in and out of the net as his feisty nature brought fire and grit to a team that heretofore didn’t have a reputation for being one of the more pugnacious in the league.
At 6-feet-2, 215 pounds, Emery uses his quick hands for stopping jaws as well as pucks, as he is known to drop the gloves if need be.
In spite of his immense talent, Emery’s gregarious nature will surely him leave more vulnerable for critique and double standard situations because he’s not white.
Soul Call Roll Call
For those that have come, will come, and will come back: Akil Adams, Akim Aliu, Darren Banks, John Batten, Shawn Belle, Ian Boyce, Reggie Brezeault, John Carter, Cosmo Clarke, Gerald Coleman, Bruce Coles, John Craighead, Jason Doig, Art Dorrington, Jason Downey, Robbie Earl, Patrik Erickson, Jason Firth, Maxim Fortunus, Joaquin Gage, Carl Gustafsson, Yared Hagos, Maurice Hall, Kevin Hill, Paul Jerrard, Craig Johnson, Alf Layton, Andre Mattsson, Roger Maxwell, Mark McFarlane, Ian McIntyre, Sean McMorrow, Darren Meek, Kyle Okposo, Mark Owuya, Brett Peterson, Shawn Reed, Nathan Robinson, Chris Stewart, P.K. Subban, Marc Tardif, Khalil Thomas, Graeme Townshend, Joel Ward, and Chris Tseu;
Give the Goal Brothers their due, because they’ve paid, too.
Next Time: While O’ Ree was the first, the best never got to grace the masses with his skills on ice. He would, however become an icon in his own right. Our final installment: “It Should Be Carnegie’s Hall.”