In the years I've had Centre Ice, I've not had the chance to see all the retirement ceremonies that I've wanted to. Sometimes the coverage I get doesn't begin until after the ceremonies are over.
That being said, Saturday was especially nice. The chance to see not one, but two, retirement ceremonies. Patrick Roy's #33 in Montreal and Wendel Clark's #17 in Toronto. Two different people. Two different ceremonies. But one great Saturday night for all of us that had the pleasure.
I'll start with saying how different the ceremonies were, for two of hockey's greatest cities. I've seen Montreal Canadiens retirement ceremonies before. Most recently the ceremony for Boom Boom Geoffrion before the Rangers and Habs game in March of 2006. Montreal does hockey. Montreal is hockey. There is no denying they can put on some great ceremonies. Historic class.
Add Patrck Roy to the list of French Canadians that I love to hear speak. I greatly enjoy the opportunity to hear the French language spoken, especially in regards to hockey, and this was no different. Patrick's departure from Montreal might not have been under the best of circumstances. But, his return, undoubtedly, was done well.
Wendel Clark's ceremony was different from any I have seen. And I will note, I do not think I've seen a Maple Leafs one before. But from all indications, Clark would have wanted no different than a simple ceremony. Both teams lined up - the Maple Leafs each wearing a "C" and #17 jersey - which to me, gives a sense of passing the torch to new generations. They showed a video montage. Clark spoke. It was just he, his wife, two daughter and son on the ice. He dropped the ceremonial faceoff puck between Jonathan Toews and Tomas Kaberle, which I thought was pretty cool. My favorite part, without fail, was the banner raising itself. Toronto has always had the perfect music for great moments. And this was no different. Clark's ceremony was simplistic class. And I'm sorry, but there may not be prettier banners than those raised for the honored Maple Leafs.
To me retirement ceremonies are nice. Sometimes long and overdone. But it's a special night for the player, his family, and his teammates. And you have to respect that. I've had the incredibly fortunate opportunity to see three such ceremonies in person so far, Mike Richter, Mark Messier, and Brian Leetch. Regardless of whose number is getting retired, my favorite moment is not the speeches or the tribute videos, or the tears, although all those are all special. It's the moment the arena goes dark, and the banner makes its ascent. That always gives me chills. It's a true sense of permanency in the world of sports where sometimes it appears so little stays the same.
Congratulations to #33 and #17.
*Watching PJ Stock with his Wendel Clark moustache on Scoreboard Saturday was worth the price of admission. You cannot fake his facial reaction as the moustache began to slip. And the laughing. You try not cracking up when watching that. It's just classic.
*Enjoyed the interview with Mike Cammalleri on After Hours. He told a great story of how Tommy Kostopolos "got" former coach Marc Crawford with shampoo. And how he got traded on Draft Day this year and found out by watching TV. Also, how he is a true fan of Joe Sakic. There are few better than Joe. Good stuff.
*On that note, I am not sure I love Marc Crawford. I don't love his voice. Perhaps at this point it's his hesitancy to ask good questions or questions at all. He seems unsure. And maybe that's natural for a guy who isn't accustomed to doing this. But Scott Oake is carrying the After Hours team. And poor Kelly Hrudey is stuck with coach Millbury. *sigh*
*I couldn't include this above but I had to mention it. Patrick Roy's son is hot. (Actually all of his children are incredibly good looking). But even though his son has his father's temper, Jonathan is pretty to look at. Apparently he's a rap artist now too. His music is on myspace under J.O.E. Daking. Seriously folks, you can't make this stuff up. I'll add a link when I can.
Random Around the League:
*Watched the end of the Habs/Bruins game and the shootout. Amazing announcing team. A true pleasure. And Boston is legit. No question about it.
*Watched the late game - Sharks/Capitals. Didn't quite live up to all the hype (in my head that is), as the Caps were less than stellar. But still a heck of a game. Nice little fight between Brashear and Jody Shelley. Just how fast is Milan Michalek? Jeeze. And just how fast is that whole San Jose team? [Makes me almost shed a tear to think about how slow the Rangers looked against, well, against anyone so far this year.] Rob Blake, Christian Ehrhoff among the league leaders in defensive scoring. A nice feature on how Devon Setogucci stays in shape in the off-season. Badminton. You heard it here first. Badminton. Although I must say it was one of my favorite gym class activities, although nothing beat floor hockey - am I right? And lastly, Joe Thornton got called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, for icing. Not that icing. But for icing Brent Johnson, the Caps goalie. I heard the announcers say it was in the rule book, but I have never seen that called in my memory. [also, did you know there was comcast out west? I turned from the caps feed to the sharks feed and BOTH were comcast which really threw me off. Good deal though when you get the choice of announcing teams, although no complaints of either on Saturday night.]
Rangers play the Coyotes tonight as Wayne Gretzky returns to the Garden for the 2nd time in two seasons. Last I heard Scott Gomez might be more than 50% to play, and if so Nigel Dawes will take a seat to make room for him. But will anybody skate, shoot, or score? That plays for the Rangers? Yeah, I'm not sure what to think about tonight. I'm not trying to get down on them. I'm really trying to be realistic. And the realistic honesty about this is the Rangers stole a lot of points when they were not playing complete games. They are now losing points because they can't seem to stop the bleeding. Big game tonight. Big game.