Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
During that training camp, I signed Manon Rheaume to come and play for us. Manon was a goaltender, and she was a beautiful young woman.I found Manon through Jacques Campeau. Jacques was the one who convinced me to sign Manon Rheaume. We went up to a women's tournament and watched her play. "Play her," he said. "The publicity will be great." I agreed with him. And so when we opened up camp in Lakeland, Manon was on the squad. As a result, CBS, NBC and ABC all were there talking about the first woman goaltender ever to play in an NHL game.Terry Crisp hated that Manon was on the team. So did my brother Tony, which may have been the only time they agreed on anything. Even Wayne Cashman hated it. Cash would give me the evil eye. I'd say to him, "We're doing it. That's it." A lot of the scouts hated it too. They players didn't like it much either.I told Manon, "You have to go out with the guys. You have to be part of the team." They took her to dinner and for a few beers.I wanted to play her because there was nothing to lose and everything to gain. This wasn't Ottawa or Toronto or Boston or New York. This was Tampa, Florida. No other person would have even tried to start hockey here. I was the right guy at the right time to do this. Was in innovative? Some people thought so. Others thought it was crazy. I knew we weren't going to win, so my idea was to promote the team in any way I could to put people in the seats. If I had staked everything on the team's record, we would have had three thousand people in the building, and most of those would have been relatives.Manon wasn't a bad goalie, but she was gorgeous and too much of a model to stay in the game. There was no harm in letting her come to camp and play. When I told Crispy I wanted her to play half a game, he just about died."Oh no, we're a laughingstock as it is," he said."Terry, you are going to play her," I said. "And we're going to publicize it."Even though the players didn't want her to play, the all fought to room with her. We gave her her own dressing room.She played half a game against St. Louis during training camp at the Fairgrounds. The place was jammed. They were sitting up in the rafters. An unbelievable number of women came to that game. Brett Hull, who had one of the hardest shots in the game, was shooting bullets at her, and she stood right in there.Bobby Plager, the coach of the Blues, said to me, "I've instructed my boys to shoot at the five hole," meaning just below the crotch."Bobby, you pig," I said.During the game, Rob Ramage, one of our defensemen, an older guy, a class guy, wouldn't let any of the Blues players get near her. He was right there to protect her.During practice Manon pulled a muscle in her lower back. The trainer, Larry Ness, said to me, "What do I do?" I said, "You do the same as you'd do with a guy. But you better not get a hard-on."He was rubbing her back and her ass, and the guys were peeking through the curtain trying to see her naked.At the end of training camp, I sent her to Atlanta as the backup goalie for our International Hockey League team. She played once in a while and was okay. They ended up winning the championship. She went on to play on the 1998 Canadian Olympic team, which Canada lost to the United States. Manon made a good living speaking and signing autographs. They made a movie about her. Sure I exploited her, but it was good for her too.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Having honed their skills in the AHL during the lockout, young players like Carolina's Eric Staal are becoming stars.
Hurricanes sensation Eric Staal didn't adore every minute of his postgraduate American Hockey League year--getting stuck in a bus during a blizzard in Hartford does not build character as much as a profound distaste for the Greyhound life--but the extra season in the A has helped turn the 21-year-old center into a dangerous scorer and a surprise candidate for the Canadian Olympic team. Because of the lockout-driven demotion, Staal, a first-round draft pick in 2003 who seemed overmatched as a rookie with Carolina in '03-04, has gone from being a Lowell (Mass.) Lock Monster to a lock as a franchise NHL player. "Playing 22, 23 minutes a game in the A and having some success there made me a lot more confident," says Staal, who has led the Hurricanes to the top of the Southeast Division and through Sunday was tied for third in the league in scoring with 28 points.
The lockout rocked the NHL, but among the ancillary benefits has been the emergence of young players who apprenticed for an additional season in the minors. The 6'3", 189-pound Staal, who added an extra gear to his already powerful skating, and the Senators' fabulous center, Jason Spezza, who improved decision-making, used the year to advance from promising to dominating. Meanwhile, a season with the AHL champion Philadelphia Phantoms transformed highly touted Flyers defenseman Joni Pitkanen, 22, from a Bambi on the blue line into a puck-rushing, physical force. "That was the old hockey they were playing down there, all that hooking and grabbing and holding," says Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford. "They learned how to fight through that."
"Our team is a product of the lockout," says G.M. Dave Taylor, whose Kings nightly dress as many as nine players who were in the AHL last season. "These guys might have been eight- or nine-minute players if there'd been an NHL season, but last year they didn't have to shuttle back and forth. These AHL guys just picked up where they left off."
The anomalous lockout year provided a window to the ways of old-time hockey. Three decades ago the then dominant Canadiens routinely let future stars marinate in the minors. In the 1990s, when the Devils were a power, they made young talent spend time at finishing school. ( Goalie Martin Brodeur had one full AHL season and 2001 Selke Trophy winner John Madden had two.) But in the salary-capped NHL, there seems to be less inclination to keep potential impact players in the AHL. "With the cap and the league becoming more competitive, teams will be looking for an early return [from players] more than ever," says Rutherford.
With the retirements of greats like Brett Hull, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens, this postlockout season is a demarcation line in NHL history. While it is premature to proclaim Staal, Spezza and Pitkanen as the league's heir apparents, on their first report cards of '05-06, they all get an A.
When the Aeros first changed over to the Minnesota Wild's jersey colors and template, despite the logo controversy, they did select a fantastic military-inspired stencil font for the names and numbers that set it apart from the parent club's furry numbers and in the process, brought the military theme back to the Aeros jerseys not seen since their beloved classic jerseys, last used in 2002-03.
Apparently the team loved the fighter jet idea. Really loved it.
Looking for 2004-05 Houston Aeros highlights on YouTube? The results of course are pugilistically predictable...