Welcome to “Murphy’s Hockey Law” – where the truth on hockey is the law! What you’ll find here is my ‘tell it like it is’ take on things. I’ll be asking for your opinion on controversial hits, for you to chime in on what I have to say and your song suggestions for the ‘Play of the Week‘ page. You’ll also find audio clips from my weekly radio show called “Murphy’s Hockey Law” on the show page and ‘Show Archive’ section on the sidebar.
The boys of MHL & WebSports Media come together for yet another special edition of “Murphy’s Hockey Law” at McLeans Pub on Friday, March 14th from 4-6 PM ET to kick off St-Patrick’s Day Weekend!
Hockey Talk. Beer Specials. Prizes.
Some trade deadline afterthoughts while watching the Bruins-Panthers game Sunday night:
Seeing Roberto Luongo as a Panther again really has me in a time warp and feeling a bit old. So much has happened in my own life since he last donned what was a different Panthers jersey in 2006. But all that maybe some day gets told in a tell-all book that nobody will care about. For now, let’s think about what’s happened for Luongo since then and what may happen in the remaining six seasons on his contract that will pay him $4.5 million per season.
When Luongo arrived in Vancouver via a trade in the 2006 offseason, he had never played in the playoffs. Now he returns to Florida having played in 64 playoff games and having taken a team to within one game of hoisting the Stanley Cup falling just shy to the Bruins in 2011. He also returned with 252 more wins. Oh and let’s not forget he’s now on Twitter too!
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The recent failure of the Russian hockey team at the Sochi Olympics has caused an outrage back in Russia. How could such a strong, talented team with superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk lose on home ice, not even taking home a medal of any sort? Easy. They’re not that good. In fact, they haven’t been that good for a long time and when you really look at it deeply, I don’t think they ever were as good as people thought they were.
Russian fan laments loss to Finland in Sochi. Courtesy of www.mashable.com
I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s with the idea that the Soviet Union (“the Russians”) were a hockey power and why wouldn’t I have thought this way? They won 15 of 18 World Championships from 1963-1985 and Olympic gold 7 of 9 times from 1956-1988, so they must be great, right?
Canada vs. USSR at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. Courtesy of www.canadianolympians.com
Prior to this run of dominance, International hockey had been the domain of Canada, winning six of seven Olympic gold medals from 1920-1952 and 11 of 15 World Championships from 1930-1955. If anybody was going to end Canada’s run of glory, they’d have to be really good, wouldn’t they? No, not really.
Canada, represented by the Edmonton Mercurys won the Gold medal in Oslo 1952. Courtesy of www.collectionscanada.gc.ca
The reality is that Canada was sending senior amateur club teams, typically winners of the Allan Cup to represent us in the Olympics and World Championships. We weren’t sending a team of our best amateurs, we were sending our best amateur teams – there’s a difference. In the meantime, the Soviet Union was building a program with members of the Red Army whose only job was to play hockey, otherwise known as professionals according to Hall of Fame Soviet goaltender, Vladislav Tretiak. They were on the ice three times per day and spent 9 months together with little time for their families. These were unquestionably the best players the Soviet Union had to offer. Meanwhile, Canada’s best players were competing for the Stanley Cup in the NHL.
Canada and the Soviet Union finally squared off best versus best in the 1972 Summit Series and despite a slow start in Canada, going 1-2-1 on home ice, Canada took the series winning three of four in Moscow with Paul Henderson scoring the most famous goal in Canadian history. After coming into camp out of shape and perhaps taking their opponents lightly, the Canadians found a way to win – a theme they would continue to develop.
Paul Henderson scores series winning goal in 1972. Courtesy www.careltonnow.carelton.ca
From 1970-76, Canada did not even send teams to participate in IIHF competitions, including the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. This was in protest of the World Championship schedule and the exclusion of professional players from the minor leagues and NHL. Canada and the IIHF came to an agreement to allow professionals to participate in the World Championships and a change in dates that allowed NHL players not in the Stanley Cup play-offs to represent their country. In addition, the Canada Cup tournament was created to meet a demand for a true World Championship that allowed the best players from participating nations to compete regardless of their status as amateurs or professionals. Canada won four of the five competitions from 1976 to 1991 with the USSR grabbing one title in 1981. Perhaps the greatest hockey tournament of all time was the 1987 Canada Cup and Canada took that one in a best 2 out of 3 final over the Soviets, winning games 2 and 3 in overtime or the last minute. Finding a way to win yet again…
Soviets celebrate shocking 8-1 victory in 1981 Canada Cup. Courtesy www.iihf.com
The Canada Cup would morph into the World Cup in 1996 and 2004 with Canada and the United States each winning once. By this time, the Soviet Union had fallen and Russia has now begun competing as a nation with only the 1993 World Championship to show for their efforts.
Canada celebrates 2004 World Cup victory. Courtesy www.hockeygods.com
By 1998, the International Olympic Committee had long abandoned the idea of amateurs only competing in the Olympics and NHL players began competing for the Gold medal. There have been five Olympic competitions in the NHL era and Russia has not won a Gold medal once, earning silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002. Canada has won three of the five gold medals with the Czech Republic and Sweden winning once each.
Sweden celebrates gold in Turin 2006. Courtesy of www.hhof.com
In 2004, the NHL and the NHLPA couldn’t find a way to solve their collective bargaining problems and the entire season was cancelled. While there was no Stanley Cup awarded that season, there was one heck of a World Championship with all the best players available. Canada won and Russia was a disaster, going 1-4.
There have been 14 best versus best competitions since 1972 and the Russians have won a grand total of – one. Chew on that for a minute. When the best players in the world have had a chance to prepare with their countrymen for the biggest events in their sport over a 42 year span (1972-2014) Russia has won only one time and their lone victory was 33 years ago in the 1981 Canada Cup. By the way, Canada has won 10 times. I remember when the Czech Republic won the Gold medal in 1998 and many in the hockey world were calling it a fluke due to a hot goalie (Hasek). Maybe the USSR win in 1981 was a fluke with Tretiak finally putting up some statistics that matched his undeserved reputation as a great goaltender.
Best vs. Best
- Canada (10)
- Summit Series (1) – 1972
- Canada Cup (4) – 1976, 1984, 1987, 1991
- World Cup (1) – 2004
- Olympics (3) – 2002, 2010, 2014
- World Championships (1) – 2004*
- *NHL season cancelled*
- Czech Republic (1)
- Olympics (1) – 1998
- Soviet Union/Russia (1)
- Canada Cup (1) – 1981
- Sweden (1)
- Olympics (1) – 2006
- United States (1)
- World Cup (1) – 1996
The Miracle on Ice in 1980 at Lake Placid. Courtesy of www.bubblews.com
Okay, so I think I have made my point. The Russians haven’t done much at all when it’s been best vs. best and the only time they won consistently is when it was professionals versus amateurs. And even then, they somehow managed to find a way to lose two Olympics to the USA in 1960 and 1980 while playing against a bunch of college players. They have proven time after time that when the pressure is on, they don’t come through (1972, 1980, 1987 & 2014) and their players look great on the stats sheet, in the highlights and in practice (Alex Kovalev). The truth is, they’re not winners. That’s not a slight. It’s a statement of fact. Myth busted!
If you missed the special edition of “Murphy’s Hockey Law” from Saturday, March 1st that aired from 4-6 PM ET live from Brutopia Brew Pub with music & entertainment by Shane Murphy and co-hosted with Rob Elbaz, listen to it here:
If you missed “Murphy’s Hockey Law” from Saturday, March 1st that aired from 9-11 AM ET, listen to it here:
Blues Better Win The Cup For Price They Paid For Miller
Well, if there was any doubt that the St. Louis Blues are in Stanley Cup or bust mode, they made it abundantly clear Friday night they are. The Blues got a head start on the March 5 trade deadline and turned all the Ryan Miller to St. Louis rumors that have been percolating over the last two months into a reality. The Blues acquired the longtime Buffalo netminder and forward Steve Ott in exchange for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft if the Blues make the Western Conference Finals or Miller resigns with the Blues or a 2015 first round pick if neither happens, and a third-round pick in 2016.
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by Gord Fairholm
Olympic Wrap-up – Canada
Well folks, Canada proved once again that it is the top nation in terms of hockey excellence and this time it wasn’t even close. Granted, the scores in a few of Canada’s games were closer than many would have liked and a lot closer than the play on the ice indicated, but Canada was basically dominant from beginning to end. They gave up only three goals in the six game tournament and never trailed for one second of competition, outscoring their opponents 17-3 in the process. That’s remarkable!
In typical Canadian fashion, the commitment to team trumped any personal agendas that the players may have had and everyone accepted their role with the professionalism and dedication of an olympian. The opportunity to win a gold medal while representing their country was infinitely more important than playing time, who their wingers were and whether they were on the power play unit or not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure every player wanted to play as big a role as possible, but they understood going in, given the talent that Canada has, that they would likely see themselves playing a different role than they were used to on their NHL team. Wearing the red and white for Canada in an Olympic competition with an opportunity for gold is a privelege not to be taken lightly and each and every member of the team from management to the coaches to the players exhibited their buy-in from the summer initiation camp through to the gold medal game.
Canada showed that the best way to prevent goals is discipline and keeping the puck in the other team’s zone 200 feet away from your net. And, while you’re down there, you apply a relentless forecheck with your defense pinching at the right times and forwards rotating back in defensive coverage.
Speed, speed, speed. When was the last time we talked about Canada being the fastest team on the ice? Isn’t always the Europeans that are quick and skilled? Being fast is great, but how long can you maintain your top speed? It turns out, it’s about 35 seconds because that’s how long the Canadians seemed to be on the ice each shift. Go as fast as you can for as long as you can and get off. The big ice has a lot of open areas in it and the best way to cover them on defense and take advantage of them on offense is speed and Canada played at top speed at all times causing their opponents to chase them around the ice unable to keep up with the pace.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any names of players, coaches or executive management. In keeping with the example set by Team Canada, the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back, so I applaud the team as a whole regardless of their name, the NHL team the represent or the province from which they come. Well done Canada. That’ two in a row and three out of five in the NHL era. I think we can stop wondering who the best hockey nation is.
If you want more history of success, there have been 13 best versus best competitions since 1972 and Canada has won 9 of them.
- Canada – 9
- Summit Series (1)- 1972
- Canada Cup (4) – 1976, 1984, 1987, 1991
- World Cup (1) – 2004
- Olympics (3) – 2002, 2010, 2014
- Soviet Union/Russia – 1
- Canada Cup – 1981
- United States – 1
- World Cup – 1996
- Sweden – 1
- Olympics – 2006
- Czech Republic – 1
- Olympics – 1998
Anybody can catch lightening in a bottle and win once, maybe twice, but the best win on a regular basis in all situations over and over again. Canada has always been and still is the best. Period.
Olympic Wrap-up – The “others”
Finland – It would typically be the Silver medalists who would get second billing, but I’m going against the grain and giving Finland second place in my little wrap-up because Finland never gets any respect. There have been 5 Olympic tournaments with NHL involvement and the WORST Finland has finished is 4th place. They have earned medals in four of the five events and nobody ever seems to see them for what they are – a hockey power. They are not the top hockey nation in the world, but they may be the most reliable. They never under-achieve, quite the opposite – they seem to always catch people by surprise and over-achieve. They are a perfect example of what teamwork and humility can accomplish despite having a smaller talent pool than most of the other traditional hockey nations. Congratulations to Finland, you have another Olympic medal and hopefully, you finally have everybody’s respect.
Sweden – The Swedes may not have put up much of a fight in the gold medal game, but despite several key injuries to their top players and a mind-boggling failed drug test, they managed to remain undefeated through to the finals, including a victory over a tough Finland squad, and earned themselves a Silver medal.
USA – The most difficult game to get up for in hockey is a Bronze medal match. I know, I know, I know. Finland didn’t seem to have a problem doing it in their convincing 5-0 victory over the Americans, but when you truly believe you have a shot at Gold and fall short, all other medals are participation ribbons by comparison. The US looked fast, skilled and determined in the Qualification round, but the loss to Canada was a lot more convincing than the 1-0 score indicated and it took the wind out of their sails. I’m not giving them a free pass on this one. They are professionals playing for pride and their country, so getting up for a medal game should be a given. However, if you’ve ever experienced the power of adrenaline, you’ll also understand the effect of a lack of it.
Russia – This so-called hockey power hasn’t won a “best on best” hockey tournament in over 30 years (1981) and back then they were the USSR and lived, trained and played together all year long while playing against hastily assembled all-star teams in the Canada Cup or World Cup. They built their reputation on the backs of victories versus amateurs in the Olympics and rag-tag collections of professionals in the World Championships. Yes, they gave the NHL players from Canada a tremendous run for their money in the Canada Cups from 1976-1991, but they only won 1 out of 5, while Canada won 4 of them. And, in the two World Cup of Hockey events (1996 & 2004) they never reached the finals with Canada and the USA winning once each. Since 1972, Russia or the USSR has played against the top NHL players from other countries in 13 tournaments and they have 1 victory to show for it in the 1981 Canada Cup. One for 13 and only a Silver (1998) and a Bronze (2002) in the Olympics in the NHL era – I’m tired of hearing about how good the Russians are because I know how good they are NOT.
- Ted Nolan is a great coach and he showed it by getting Latvia to put up a great fight in their elimination game versus Canada. He’s doing an excellent job with the Sabres and should have been back in the NHL years ago.
- P.K. Subban handled his lack of playing time at the Olympics with class and put the team first. There are many, including Subban, I’m sure, that felt he could add to the team and perhaps provide some scoring punch from the back end, but it’s hard to argue (successfully) with the results. If the NHL is involved in 2018, P.K. will be a huge part of Canada’s team and the experience gained in 2014 will be incredibly valuable. In the meantime, he was a great teammate and deserving of his gold medal.
- I’m not a fan of the “big” ice. The only place it’s bigger is in the neutral zone, corners and along the boards. There are no goals or scoring chances coming from there. I found the game more defensive, less creative and had less hitting with teams playing around the perimeter while the defense clogged the middle. Give me the quicker, more intense NHL brand of hockey any day.
St. Louis For Callahan Trade Unlikely At This Point
Just hours after Marty St. Louis and Canada beat the United States to advance to the gold medal game last Friday, former NFLer Boomer Esiason who co-hosts the ‘Boomer and Cart Show’ on CBS New York tweeted this:
“Marty, Marty , Marty in a good way? Hard to believe.”
Then just over 24 hours later Esiason tweeted this:
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