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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has denied that a deal to send the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg has been completed. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) (Richard Drew/AP)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has denied that a deal to send the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg has been completed. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) (Richard Drew/AP)

Usual Suspects

The quotable Gary Bettman Add to ...

It's no secret NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has no self-esteem issues.

Talking to the authors of Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside the World of ESPN about how the NHL left the all-sports U.S. cable TV giant after the 2004-05 lockout, Bettman is quoted as saying: "People say, 'It's ESPN, you had to be on ESPN.' You know what? I was also the first commissioner to shut down a sports league for an entire year. We weren't going to be treated the way we were being treated."

You can understand someone in his position, being squeezed by ESPN after the NHL's disastrous lockout, saying: "People say, 'It's ESPN, you had to be on ESPN.' … We weren't going to be treated the way we were being treated."

Fine. But, "You know what? I was also the first commissioner to shut down a sports league for an entire year" …?

Is that bragging? Self pity? A brush-off to the fan base that suffered through the lockout?

"I was also the first commissioner to shut down a sports league for an entire year."

Are you scared yet?

Monster Chiller Horror Theatre wonders if Bettman now has this quote on his business card yet - just to keep the boys in Winnipeg in line.

Wha' happened?

These are challenging times for hockey play-by-play announcers looking for the old "History Will Be Made" tag line.

First, it was Sidney Crosby's bad-angle surprise shot that won the 2010 Olympic gold for Canada. Next, there was Patrick Kane's phantom goal that won the 2010 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving PxP guys grasping for a memorable catch phrase. Okay, a coherent thought.

Then, there was Kevin Bieksa's screwball winner on Tuesday - off the stanchion, off the stick, three bounces, nothing but net - that left the four major announcers calling the game with "Wha' happened?" Which, after almost fours hours of wrenching drama, is understandable. (Maybe Americans are right, you can't follow the puck.)

Most Canadians sorta saw the double-overtime winner on CBC, where the main camera and Jim Hughson were both baffled by the whereabouts of the puck. "Burrows is fresh, knocked the puck loose to Edler … back in for Alex Burrows, it's up in the air. … [pause]Scores!"

Even then, Craig Simpson speculated the puck hit the netting, ergo no goal. Credit to CBC's low-angle back camera (give that man a raise), we eventually learned the facts.

Versus PxP guy Dave Strader was similarly flummoxed: "Back to the line, Edler … and that puck … [pause]in the net! The San Jose Sharks, I think, thought this puck was out of play!"

Sharks radio voice Dan Rusanowsky on KFOX 98.5 couldn't find the old rondelle, either. "The Canucks keep the pressure on … [pause]and it's in the net! The puck was in the net, fluttering out of the air …" Err, no. It bounced in.

The winner of the "which way did they go?" award - and perpetual sound bite - goes to (sound of envelope tearing) John Shorthouse doing Canucks radio on TEAM 1040. Shorthouse was possibly the only one - outside Bieksa - who saw the play. "Burrows hustles after the puck … works it free to Edler … now knocked down by a high stick deflects back to Bieksa. He shoots, He scores! Kevin Bieksa!"

Clearly home-ice advantage is knowing the location of the one wonky stanchion in the whole building.

Hendrix Lived Here

Usual Suspects is sure it's pure coincidence, but just as the NHL loses its perpetual stalking horse city in Winnipeg - the one used to get Arizona mayors to fork over dough - suddenly Seattle is talking about attracting a team.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly even sanctified the notion by suggesting a new arena might be a nice amuse-gueule for NHL admission. An arena? Who'd have thought?

"You're always intrigued by rivalries," Daly told Seattle's KING 5 TV.

But we're sure it's all just serendipity. Maybe Neko Case could sing the national anthem …

Miller Time

Okay, maybe the Canucks are not Canada's team. But they are Dennis Miller's team.

The comedian turned conservative radio host tried to enlist GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty in a little hockey talk about his favourite NHL club. (Miller's wife is from Vancouver.)

Look it up on YouTube.com. It went about as well the Winklevoss twins suggesting Facebook to Mark Zuckerberg.

Smart Guys, Eh?

Here's Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault telling media how he focuses his team with a chance to clinch a trip to the Stanley Cup: "By giving them a precise plan with precise things to focus on. Our guys are a mature group. They know it's going to be a real tough game. We're just going to do what we've been doing all year long: focus on our process, focus on our game, go out there and play real hard."

For all the media overkill, one crucial factor about Vancouver has been missed by most media. The Canucks have made a point of recruiting intelligent players. Not necessarily book smart or educated, but players open to different concepts on sleep, travel, diet or stress. (Steve Yzerman would be their model.)

Seeking competitive advantages over opponents, they've tried to avoid grunts who are wedded to the testosterone theory of hockey. The last player they want is someone who will reject innovation and tell players around the league that Vancouver's management is nuts for trying something unconventional.

You could see this at work in how they calmed the temper of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows to make them more effective. (Kesler got 41 goals, Burrows the clincher versus Chicago.)

There is far to go for Vancouver, but should it win the Stanley Cup it will be interesting to see if clubs driven by blind passion decide to change to a more cerebral style. Because it's been an advantage so far for the Canucks.

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