As if more proof were needed that the loon on the Canadian dollar is the perfect symbol for this country.
The Americans put God on their paper money; we put kids playing outdoor shinny. We stumble through our national anthem, yet know every verse of Stompin’ Tom Connors’s The Hockey Song. The most-successful recent prime minister, Jean Chretien, leaves office and compares himself not to Mackenzie King or to Laurier or to Macdonald, but to Rocket Richard because he felt he had “an eye for the net” when it came to playing politics.
On the very weekend the Oscars are given out, the highest-grossing movie in Canada is not a Hollywood production, but Goon, a “comedy” about hockey violence that grossed $1.2-million at the box office.
And then comes Monday, the most-anticipated day of the year for hockey fanatics, a single day each February where this country’s 34 million general managers get to separate the winners from the losers.
Never been easier than Trading Day 2012: winners were those who had other things to do on Monday; losers were those who waited and watched – or, even worse, had to work this event that made a federal-provincial conference on transfer payments seem a college orgy by comparison.
Those who rose at dawn to await the first move had to wait until 10:32, only to learn that the Montreal Canadiens’ Andrei Kostitsyn was off to Nashville to join his brother Sergei on the Predators. The brothers were all trouble when they were together in Montreal, but it is hoped a little brotherly love will help Andrei get out of his season-long funk.
After the Kostitsyn deal – Montreal receiving a 2013 second-round pick and a conditional 2013 fifth-round pick in return – viewers had to wait to discover who had first “tweeted” this breaking news (ESPN’s well-connected Pierre LeBrun) and then were treated to a highlight “replay” of the moment the trade was announced, complete with highlight footage of him scoring (obviously ancient film).
You just had to feel for those panelists who were, rather appropriately, sitting around like a bunch of funeral directors in their dark three-piece suits. No BlackBerries buzzed, nothing happened, viewers dozed off.
They should have seen this coming. The salary cap has created so much parity in the NHL that there is a massive gridlock in the centre, with most teams not knowing whether they are buyers or sellers. In the end, there was so little shopping that it felt like Sunday in Toronto in the 1950s.
Whereas only two years ago it felt like trades were arriving every few minutes, the downturn has continued unabated. There were few deals, and most of them involving names even avid hockey fans had never heard.
As for the one big name supposedly in play these past weeks, Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, nothing happened at all. He stays put, undoubtedly inspired to lead a team that left him hanging in the store window this past month.
The one team that did make changes worthy of note was the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks sent a couple of fourth-round picks to Columbus for Sami Pahlsson, the checking forward who, almost singlehandedly held off the Ottawa Senators’ line of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley in 2007 and helped deliver the Stanley Cup to the Anaheim Ducks.
“He’s from Sweden,” Anaheim’s then GM, Brian Burke, said at the time, “but he plays like he’s from Red Deer.”
Vancouver can only hope that abridges now to, “He might be 34, but he plays like he’s 29.”
The Canucks also swapped rookie Cory Hodgson for the Buffalo Sabres’ Zack Kassian, a big forward described by TSN’s Ray Ferraro as “a rumbling bull.”
The reasoning is obvious: if the Canucks and Boston Bruins were to meet again in the Cup final, the Sedin twins are not going to be run aground by the likes of Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara.
As the day wound on, there were certainly matters to debate – did Nashville pay too much in a first-round pick for Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad, did Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff fleece his old team, Chicago Blackhawks, by getting a second- and third-round pick in 2013 for defenceman Johnny Oduya – but all this could have been dealt with in an hour or less.
Canadians may be hockey mad, but they are not insane.
So next year, please, wait until noon to convene the first panel.