For those not preoccupied with valet parking at the mall, two Christmas ghosts emerged last week to foreshadow the NHL's future. There was the ghost of Christmas to come - Donald Fehr, freshly minted National Hockey League Players' Association executive director, who popped up like Alastair Sim on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. CBC's Elliotte Friedman did a fine backgrounder on the former baseball union legend, showing Fehr's mentor Marvin Miller describing NHL owners as "miserable human beings … who don't know the meaning of competition."
Then Ron MacLean led Fehr through an interview so reverential you'd thought the Hockey Night host was addressing the Dalai Lama. Sensing a captive audience, Fehr was all aw shucks, tweren't nothin' about his legacy and goals. MacLean largely avoided his usual interview tics - the rambling preamble, the cryptic reference - in Fehr's first public appearance as the NHLPA's latest saviour.
Luckily for Fehr he wasn't interviewed by former NHLPA staffer Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury of the Hot Stove panel. The pair ripped MacLean for his polite approach - "When you setting the date?" Milbury jabbed; "You didn't ask him his favourite colour," Healy snipped.
There were no questions about Fehr hiring his brother, his insistence on living in New York and his possible role in undermining his predecessor Paul Kelly. MacLean explained this was a "get-to-know-you" session and that harder questions will follow in time.
Begging the Dickensian question: "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
Ghost Of A Chance
The ghost of Christmas present is HBO's 24/7 series. The four-part documentary following the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins is the brainchild of HBO's Ross Greenburg, NHL vice-president John Collins and enlightened owners such as Ted Leonsis of Washington. With its candid camera, 24/7 breaks into a new dimension of intimacy and honesty. Some players may be playing to the lens but there was enough passion in Caps coach Bruce Boudreau's profane rant for 10 men.
Can you imagine anything this creative emerging from Gary Bettman's NHL dungeon before the lockout? But the shock to the hockey system of a needless cancellation of the 2004-05 season prompted original thought at league headquarters. Voilà: Outdoor classics, 24/7, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby playing plinko on The Price Is Right … okay, two out of three ain't bad.
Naturally, with anything so positive, segments of the hockey community - starting with Boudreau's mom- were aghast. "Maybe we're giving too much access?" But the toothpaste is out of the tube. Welcome to the Funhouse.
The backroom hockey boys of 24/7 are a revelation. But they'll need to step up their candour if they wish to compete with the top golfers who keep Twitter hopping. Usual Suspects subscribes to a few - Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Stewart Cink, Rory McIlroy - and the cross-talk is precious. Recently, the man formerly known as Tiger Woods was giving it to Ian Poulter for a gaffe that cost Poulter a penalty stroke in Dubai.
"Settle down No. 2," Poulter shot back in a cutting Tweet revenge to Woods losing the top ranking in the world to Westwood. The Wall Street Journal tracked several exchanges as Poulter teased Westwood about his battle of the bulge. Poulter distributed a picture of an alleged Westwood treadmill littered with food wrappers and "offered to sell his friend a pair of XL 44-inch-waist trousers from his clothing line. "It's 42 by the way," Westwood countered. "Lost a bit of weight carrying you at the Ryder Cup!" Zing.
Finally, Vancouver's green men beat the crepe out of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. You can find it on youtube.com. Despite getting a comfortable 4 p.m. local start time, Toronto still got waffled.
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