It’s been a stressful time of year, so I wasn’t too surprised that the Sharks’ annual video is not the slickly produced extravaganza of years past. It’s always fun to see the camaraderie among the players, however…
I’m generally a patient person, slow to rile and evenhanded in my opinions. (Stop snickering, Mom.) Nevertheless, a few topics always set me off. I was infuriated that, following Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch’s death in 2012, not a single evening news program mentioned his musical innovation or humanitarian efforts, but EVERY STINKING ONE showed a clip of him spitting beer in the “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” video from 1986. (I cheered myself up by imagining MCA’s friend the Dalai Lama setting them straight.) What else will get an earful from me? Sports articles calling Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56-goal 2005-06 season a strange, wonderful blip on a supposedly lackluster NHL career.
Nearly nine years after Cheechoo’s final game with the San Jose Sharks, he remains one of the team’s top ten scorers, top five in power-play goals and game-winning goals. His record-setting nine hat tricks for the Sharks (five in one season) remain an unassailable fact:
People conveniently forget the shudder-inducing injuries that cut his NHL days short. He suffered a brutal knee-to-knee hit in Game One of the 2007 playoff series against the Nashville Predators. Cheechoo was still the leading goal scorer for the Sharks that year, one season after winning the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s leading scorer. There was also the double sports hernia so grisly that Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson expressed amazement that Cheechoo could walk, let alone play hockey. But play hockey he did. His post-Sharks career included a trade to the Ottawa Senators, stints with four AHL teams, and four years overseas in the KHL.
Yesterday, Jonathan Cheechoo announced his retirement from hockey after sixteen seasons. Today one article (not linking to it, sorry) opined that he’s likely to become a footnote in NHL lore. Let me see. Cheechoo is a former NHL All-Star, and a legendary figure in Sharks franchise history. The second Indigenous player to win the Richard, he remains strongly involved with the Little Native Hockey Tournament, and is considered a role model for youth players to this day. Hailing from tiny, remote Moose Factory, Ontario, he fulfilled his dream while strengthening ties to his community. Joe Thornton still proclaims Cheechoo the best hockey player with whom he’s played.
Don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty significant to me. Congratulations, Cheech!
The San Jose Sharks’ annual video has become a holiday tradition, and this year’s model is entirely animated. (It took me a while to recognize defenseman Brenden Dillon, but I admire the accurate rendering of Joe Pavelski’s slightly red beard.) The tone is gently amusing rather than hilarious. Nevertheless, highlights include a sly nod to Herb Brooks, a cameo by Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s rescue dogs, and Tomas Hertl’s sweetly believable turn as an enthusiastic cartoon sidekick:
On Wednesday night, Brent Burns became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the NHL’s James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the league’s top defenseman. (“What about former Sharks player and current Sharks general manager Doug Wilson?” you ask. He won the award in 1982, with the Blackhawks.) While I personally thought Burns should have won the award last year as well (then, he was a first-time nominee who lost to LA’s Drew Doughty), his 2016-17 statistics were incredibly impressive. He scored 29 goals and 47 assists in 82 regular-season games, leading the league’s defensemen in goals and points. He also had his best defensive showing ever, with a plus-minus rating of plus-19.
It’s been a stressful couple of months for San Jose Sharks fans, with the team’s unusually horrific injuries leading to a first-round playoff exit. With the NHL draft in full swing and the free agency period looming, the offseason promises to be intense. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things to look forward to next season, and a brand new reason to celebrate. Congratulations, Brent Burns!
The victory was even more hard-won off the ice. The US women had confronted USA Hockey about its unequal treatment of the men’s and women’s teams, threatening to boycott the event unless the contracts were renegotiated. The men’s team had been receiving better pay and benefits, even though many members already get much bigger salaries from their NHL teams. Also, the women’s team had received much less publicity and media support. (I’m a diehard hockey viewer who tries to follow several leagues. Even I didn’t know that the US women’s team had won four IIHF gold medals over the past five years, and reached the medal podium in all five Olympic appearances. I’d imagine that casual sports fans might not know the US women’s hockey team exists.) The team successfully negotiated a new four-year contract, then had to jump into the tournament with little to no practice. A 5-3 win over Finland and an 11-0 win over Germany led to the championship game Friday night against Team Canada. The game featured what may be the most intense overtime period I’ve seen in hockey, boasting terrifyingly fast end-to-end rushes and brilliant saves from Canada’s Shannon Szabados and the US’s Nicole Hensley. Then came the Americans’ Hilary Knight…
“That is real hockey,” my mother said after the game. I can’t put it any better than that. Fierce stick taps to the Canadians for being more-than-worthy opponents, and heartfelt congratulations to the very cool Team USA women!
Patrick Marleau’s career milestones have been a frequent topic on this blog. His equally accomplished San Jose Sharks teammate Joe Thornton was not to be outdone last night. In a 3-2 Sharks victory over the Winnipeg Jets, Thornton assisted on Joe Pavelski’s game-winning empty-net goal. Thus, he became only the 13th player (over 100 years of NHL history) to notch 1,000 assists in his career. (Yet, somehow, the NHL didn’t see fit to place Thornton or Marleau on the list of 100 all-time NHL greats announced earlier this year. Don’t get me started…)
Conventional wisdom says that the NHL is a league suited for rookies, and that a nineteen-year veteran’s best days on the ice are likely behind him. (Obviously, these naysayers never heard of Gordie Howe, but that’s another post entirely.) It’s true that 37-year-old Patrick Marleau has racked up many career milestones, including two Olympic gold medals for Team Canada. Nevertheless, in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night, Marleau had the best offensive performance of his career thus far. He became the oldest NHL player to score four goals in a single period, and only the 12th to do so in NHL history. Consider that he scored on each shot he took in the third, and the achievement is even more impressive:
After scoring a natural hat trick (plus one) the night before, Marleau managed to net the game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets tonight. With two more tallies, he’ll reach 500 goals in his career. Of course, Patty took it all in stride:
[Update on 2/2/17: Patrick Marleau scored his 500th goal tonight in Vancouver!]