Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A farewell to NHL players in 2014

By Tom Hawthorn

From the brightest star in Jean Béliveau to a one-game goalie like Joe Junkin, several former Canadian-born NHL players were among the fallen in 2014. Here are their obituaries, originally published on my Benched blog:

Don Ward
Journeyman defenceman enjoyed a long career in the Western Hockey League after having cups of coffee in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks:

Joe Junkin
Goalie's NHL career lasted seven minutes, 56 seconds:

Danny McLeod
Decorated wartime hero, driving force behind the creation of what is now Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), McLeod later worked as the NHL's supervisor of officials:

Keith Allen
Never scored a goal as a player, but built the expansion Philadelphia Flyers into Stanley Cup winners:

Doug Mohns
Diesel spent 22 seasons in the NHL on five different clubs, yet never had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup:

Jack Stoddard
Tall player known as The Octopus for his reach, Stoddard was first NHLer to defy superstition by wearing sweater No. 13 for an entire season:

Doug Jarrett
Hard-hitting defenceman was known as the Chairman of the Boards:

Joe Bell
He lost three years of his career fighting Nazis instead of NHL rivals:

Ron Murphy
Stalwart left-winger got his name on the Stanley Cup after he retired:

Chuck Scherza
Rugged bruiser scored six goals in 36 wartime games:

Lionel Heinrich
Defenceman scored one goal in 35 games with Boston Bruins:

Jim Mikol
Lantern-jawed forward played briefly for Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers in the 1960s:

Edgar Laprade
Stylish New York Rangers forward was a hockey Gandhi:

Ross Lonsberry
Checking forward won two Stanley Cups with Philadelphia Flyers:

Ralph Nattrass
Bruising defenceman played good defence on bad Chicago Black Hawks teams:

Brian Marchinko
An original member of the expansion New York Islanders:

Larry Zeidel
Tough player known as The Rock endured anti-Semitic barbs on ice:

Guy Trottier
Tiny forward nicknamed The Mouse:

Carol Vadnais
Defenceman twice got his name on the Stanley Cup, played in six All-Star Games in 17-season career:

Milan Marcetta
Journeyman minor leaguer was playoff call-up on 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs:

Wally Hergesheimer
New York Rangers sniper slowed by broken leg:

Len Ronson
Forward whose wrist shot earned him nickname The Rifleman played in 18 NHL games with New York Rangers and Oakland Seals:

Pat Quinn
Big Irishman played nine seasons on blue-line for Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames, later had success as coach and general manager, winning Olympic gold in 2002:

Murray Oliver
Stylish playmaker scored 274 goals over 16 NHL seasons:

Gilles Tremblay
Two-way player won four Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens:

Jean Béliveau
Le Gros Bill. Ten Stanley Cups as a player, another seven as an executive, all with the Montreal Canadiens. Five hundred and seven career goals. Grace personified:

Connie Dion
Winning goalie in most lopsided NHL game ever played — a 15-0 victory for Detroit over Rangers:

Bob Solinger
Scored 10 goals in 99 NHL games:

Eddie Kachur
A stocky forward with the Chicago Black Hawks:

André Gill
Québec goalie recorded a shutout for Boston Bruins in his NHL debut, but was soon back in the minors:

Germain Gagnon
Québec forward slogged through minors for a decade before playing for Montreal Canadiens, New York islanders, Chicago Black Hawks and Kansas City Scouts:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Born again Blue Jay

The Toronto Blue Jays obtained Micheal Saunders in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. Saunders becomes the second player from Victoria, B.C., to play for the Blue Jays. Here's a feature article from 1997 about Steve Sinclair's revived effort to get to the major leagues. He made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays in 1998.

By Tom Hawthorn
Victoria Times Colonist
September 28, 1997

Not so long ago, Steve Sinclair had called it quits, had hung 'em up, had stepped down from the pitcher's mound for good, had seen his childhood dream go to that big bullpen in the sky. He had languished in the Toronto Blue Jays system for five yearsand the closest he got to the bigs was listening to Buck Martinez on TSN. He had had enough and came home to Victoria at age 24 to go to school, to get a job, to become a grownup.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fans flock to meet a part of NHL's holy trinity

By Tom Hawthorn

Special to the Globe and Mail
November 7, 2005

Monday, December 1, 2014

Watching movies the old way

By Tom Hawthorn
Boulevard Magazine
December, 2014

Each yuletide, a smallish Christmas tree took up a corner of the living room in our apartment. All magazines but one were removed from the top of the end table to make way for a cardboard crèche. 
On winter evenings, our family quartet gathered around the warm, black-and-white glow of a cathode-ray tube to watch holiday specials.

The weekly TV Guide, hidden behind the crèche, was studied as carefully as holy text for the three shows my sister and I absolutely could not miss. These would be broadcast but once during the season and we were determined to view them.

We watched “Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with unforgettable narration by movie monster Boris Karloff.

We watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-motion animation with Burl Ives narration. One of the characters was a prospector named Yukon Cornelius and since the Yukon was in Canada it was easy to believe Santa's Workshop indeed could be found elsewhere in the Great White North.
We watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the sad-sack hero finding the true meaning of Christmas not in the commercialization of the holiday. The soundtrack was a revelation in a household favouring Elvis, as the Vince Guaraldi Trio's jazzy score remains as Christmassy to me as any carol.

The telecast specials offered a 30-minute reprieve for our parents from our constant requests for a Chatty Cathy™, an Easy-Bake Oven™, Battling Tops™, and Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots™ (“My block is knocked off!” “But you can press it back on again!”). Cindy Lou Who and all the Whos down in Whoville could make do without presents, but the redemptive holiday message of the specials was lost on two kids as greedy as any other.

By the time my own children were born, the shows were broadcast several times (including as early as November). Christmas movies were available on VHS tape and, later, on DVDs, while the soundtracks were on compact disks, technologies beyond imagination when those specials were first aired in the mid-1960s.

Many families maintain holiday viewing traditions, whether “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim, or “A Christmas Story” featuring Ralphie's pursuit of a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model BB gun with which he might put his eye out.

Rob Nesbitt, 46, a self-described traditionalist, watches “It's a Wonderful Life,” though he also holds an annual party with friends while screening “Bad Santa” with Billy Bob Thornton. Nesbitt's childhood favourites includes Charlie Brown's scrawny tree and the teacher's voice a sad trombone.
“It's got such a sweet centre, but it's not cloying and it's not clichéd,” Nesbitt said.

Christmas is an important season for Nesbitt, as it is for many other proprietors of small businesses in Victoria. He is a co-owner of Pic-A-Flic Video, the Cook Street Village landmark, where the holidays will be marked with a large display of movies with a holiday theme. The bottom shelves are dedicated to alternative holiday selections, including the likes of “Fubar” and “Die Hard,” the action movie that has become a classic in some circles as Bruce Willis takes on terrorists on Christmas Eve.

The seasonal offerings are among 48,000 titles stocked at the store, which is the region's largest and a survivor in an entertainment business decimated by online services such as iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We got Netflix earlier this year and the convenience cannot be matched, though the selection remains limited and the suggestions based on previous viewings are an embarrassment, if not insulting.

“How are we doing? We're doing unbelievably well,” Nesbitt said, “because every other store in the world is closing, and we're not.”

To browse a shelf at Pic-A-Flic is to immerse in the history of cinema. The blockbuster is equal to the cult offering, the Bing Crosby classic “Going My Way” sharing space with my CanCon fave “Goin' Down the Road.” (The store's online catalogue describes the stars of the latter as “two hosers.”) 

Talking movies with the store's staff is like having a one-on-one with the late Roger Ebert. Recently, John Threlfall of the University of Victoria curated a selection of movies featuring time travel. That's beyond what's on offer from online streaming services.

“Netflix is an algorithm, it's not people,” Nesbitt said.

I'd feel bereft if the curtain ever dropped on Pic-A-Flic, as important in its way to cultural life in Victoria as Munro's Books. So, this holiday season I'm going to rent a stack of movies and support a local business. Think of it as an early new year's resolution.