Thursday, August 24, 2006


The Dog Days

This is the toughest time of year for me, as a hockey fan -- training camp is still a few weeks off (though my subconscious keeps telling me, perhaps as protection, that it's due to start any day now), the majority of interesting off-season news has passed (if we're relying on Anson Carter, J.P. Dumont and Nikolai Zherdev to make news, it's a slow period), and I'm left desperately reading Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories about Kari Lehtonen's off-season workout regimen (things learned: he's very committed, he's still a bit chubby, and his nickname is "Kärpät," which is a type of weasel).

In lieu of anything really going on, how about a trip down memory lane?

The first hockey player I ever adopted as a "favorite" was Wilf Paiement, during what were his final days as a Colorado Rockie. I didn't really know anything about the sport at the time -- I was too young to appreciate anything other than the colorful uniforms zipping around -- but I'd eagerly devour box scores and newspaper articles. That's, in retrospect, probably why I seized upon Paiement. As one of the only good players on the team, his name was much more likely to show up.

Paiement is largely forgotten now, except as the answer to an overused trivia question (who was the last player to wear #99 besides whatshisface), but in his time he was a pretty good player, (and this is in retrospect -- my fuzzy childhood memories lack anything near the depth needed to back this up) generally good for around 70 points and 120 penalty minutes. On those hideous Rockies teams, he was really the only consistent threat other than Barry Beck.

Unfortunately, my fandom was to be short-lived. Within the first season that I was paying any sort of attention, Paiement was sent to Toronto in the Lanny McDonald deal. That was undoubtedly a good trade, but I think on some level it embittered my young, pliable mind, and I didn't really give McDonald proper credit for his talent until after his retirement (and the Rockies botched his acquisition anyway). I didn't really grasp the concept of "trades" at that stage in my life, and the idea that my favorite player was no longer playing for his team struck me as evidence of something fundamentally wrong in the universe. (When baseball fandom forced me to deal with my favorite players departing due to free agency, several circuits just flat-out blew up.)

Paiement bounced around for much of the '80s, having a few really good years with the Leafs and Nordiques, and a few lousy years with the Rangers, Sabres, and Penguins. The Rockies, of course, didn't last much longer in Colorado than Paiement did -- and if you think it was tough for me to understand a player leaving Denver, just imagine my confusion when the whole team did.

Ol' Wilf did make one more contribution to Colorado hockey lore. Years later, when Kris Draper tripped and hit his face on the McNichols Arena dasher, an old incident got dragged back into the light -- Paiement whacking Detroit's Dennis Polonich in the face with his stick back in 1978, effectively ruining Polonich's career (and drawing a big ol' lawsuit from Polonich, too). Writers used that as evidence of a history of violence between Colorado-based teams and Detroit, which strikes me as a bit of a stretch, but then I'm not trying to churn something out every day.

Georgians muck up again. Lehtonen's nickname is most probably 'Kärppä', which would be the singular instead of plural kärpät.

By the way, am I the only one thinking that the Quebec Nordiques had a great logo? I always thought it looked like an elephant. Which is cool.
I was at University with Wilf's niece and on trip to Florida we went to Rosiare's (the ex-Canuck and Wilf's big brother)watering hole in Ft. Lauderdale, a big hanf out for teh hockey starved snow birds in the pre-Pantehrs mid 80's.
If Wilf played today he'd be called a powerforward. He had soft hands and a terrible temper and I remember watching a game (TOR) years ago when the commentator said something like "he packs a wallop with or without the puck."

It's stuck in my head (along with that Deborah Harry poster and the Slinky jingle) all these years.
Wilf's kid - Adam was/is a player - he attended the Bruins camp last year but did not catch on.
Wade Belak was my first "favourite player" in hockey. I'm relatively new to the game [I've semi-followed it for 10 years but didn't get really involved until I went to a Leafs/Sens play-off game in 2001]. I saw Belak beating the snot out of Randy McKay one day and just became an instant fan. I've taken a ton of ridicule for it, especially when I wear my Belak jersey in public, but I've never faltered. Unfortunately it seems as though Wade's willingness to pound people's faces has, though. But I still remain a fan!

- Jer [aka some guy who reads this "blog" far too often]
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?