I wonder what it'd be like to get traded? Maybe that's part of the fascinaton when it comes to NHL trade deadline day, or Christmas in February, as Stephen Brunt calls it. There you are trundling along in your out-of-the-playoffs life, wondering if it's time to start rebuilding and boom your agent calls to say such-and-such team thinks you are the key to getting over the hump and they're going to trade some prospects -- some of their FUTURE - for what you can bring them NOW. That'd be kind of cool; that would make a guy's day, probably. So here's to you Thomas Vokoun and Dustin Penner and Jean-Michael Liles; here's hoping you get that text message saying: pack your bags, you're urgently needed in the the present.
1. A Canadian tradition:
There is no doubt that the hype around the trade deadline is over-the-top. The thing is it's become like the Super Bowl -- the hype is part of the show. Brunt tries -- with some success -- to explain trade deadline day to us: Other sports are followed passionately here and around the planet. Other games inspire an obsessive interest in even the most trivial details. And talk about sport has always had almost as much entertainment value as the games themselves. Still, there is really no point of comparison, not in North America, not anywhere beyond that, not in football or basketball or baseball or soccer. Whether committed hockey fans are in fact more committed than their confrères who follow other sports, or whether they've been conditioned by TSN and others to respond like Pavlov's dogs is an open question: what isn't is the fact that deadline day works to a degree that the NHL brain trust could never have imagined, that it is still growing, and that even as networks and newspapers and websites and radio stations jump on board, there is no objective evidence that the point of overkill is even close to being reached....And a year from now, it will be bigger, with more bells, more whistles, at a time of years when the hockey season used to be mired in the pre-stretch-drive doldrums. You will be watching, or listening, or surfing. You cannot help yourself. It's February. It's Monday. It's the perfect escape, the perfect vacation, or at least the perfect excuse to unleash the imagination.
2. One year after Sidney's golden goal:
There is a certain sadness that Crosby, a year after scoring arguably the most important goal in Canadian hockey history, remains sidelined with a concussion. But there is something else at work too. As the awareness of concussions as a real and significant health issue increases, there is the potential that Crosby's injury will resonate as loudly through the sport as his Olympic goal. Roy MacGregor's column today about the way Crosby's injury is being perceived among elite young hockey players suggests how: Edite Ozols is also a trained psychologist. Her university research was in neuropsychology. Before she went to work in the school system, she worked directly with patients who had suffered head trauma, often severe, and usually in motor-vehicle accidents. She has noticed something of late. Her son and his teammates had been looking forward, keenly, to the introduction of body-checking next year. Anyone who has ever coached at the minor-league levels knows of this phenomenon: the almost visceral excitement that comes over a team about to move into more competitive, more NHL-style hockey. It is also the time when so many youngsters, especially those down the growth curve, decide to bail on the game when, in a seeming instant, it jumps from no contact to full body contact. Crosby, she says, is a living god to these youngsters, whether they play in Mississauga or Moncton or Maple Ridge. "These are all boys who live and dream hockey 24 hours a day, and he is their hero. "They all were looking forward to checking next year. They wanted it. But now they're all afraid of hits to the head. And it's all because of Sidney Crosby."
3. New York Knicks -- Doing it with defense:
The excitement that accompanied the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks was justified for a lot of reasons, but the sober-minded were quick to throw a note of caution on the whole thing, pointing out that elite teams usually play pretty good defense, and the Knicks, with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in the fold, couldn't possibly be a good defensive team. But they were last night as they won against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Miami, no less: Mike D'Antoni's Knicks actually won this game on stops. They allowed Miami 52 points in the last three quarters, 35 in the second half. "Most of defense is just effort," [Chauncey]Billups said, "and being willing to do it." D'Antoni's previous teams in Phoenix and New York never had the know-how or desire, but these Knicks just might be different. As Billups was stealing the ball from James and Chris Bosh in the final minutes, and following up his wild runner in the lane with a long and lethal three launched from the sands of South Beach, Pat Riley wore that grim, I've-seen-this-movie-before look in the stands. Riley's Heat lost three consecutive sudden-death playoff games to the Knicks on their home floor from 1998-2000, and ol' Riles surely expected Allan Houston to suddenly appear and get another lucky bounce, or Clarence Weatherspoon to emerge from the scrum to take an ill-fated shot. Instead he saw his blue-chip recruit, James, take the ball and face up Anthony with Miami down one. Riley saw LeBron make his move to the left, and saw Melo move his feet laterally in a way Melo is never supposed to move his feet on the defensive side of the ball. "I just wanted to stay in front of him," Anthony said. So stay in front of James he did. Anthony bothered LeBron just enough, taking the steam out of his drive and allowing Stoudemire the time and opportunity to rush in from the weak side. "It's something we'd been talking about the whole game," Anthony said. Funny, but Stoudemire and Anthony are seen as two of the more defensively-challenged stars in the league, now playing for the sport's most defensively-challenged coach. And yet Stoudemire and Anthony were plotting this stand for two hours, hoping James or Dwyane Wade would fall into their trap. "Right now we're just a bunch of good individuals," D'Antoni had said before the game. The Knicks would be notarized as an honest-to-god team on this sequence. James floated the ball over the extended arms of Anthony, and Stoudemire batted it out of the sky