DENVER, CO - What do you think they are saying?! SEPTEMBER 28: Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche and Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings talk during warm ups prior to their preseason match at the Pepsi Center on September 28, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
"We had a very nice party at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver — Arnold Palmer won the (1960) U.S. Open there," recalls Tanguay, who, as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, cinched the 2001 National Hockey League crown. "We had a nice dinner. The whole team was there — but Ray Bourque wasn’t there for some reason. But the magician doing the entertainment at the end of the night, he made Ray appear with the Stanley Cup rings. He wasn’t there, then, all of a sudden, boom, like Houdini he came in.
"It was great. Very interesting."
Then there was the plane crash that wiped out an entire Kontinental Hockey League team on Sept. 7. Like those poor three dead enforcers, the loss of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl will hang over the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk wore No. 24 in pre-season as a tribute to the late Ruslan Salei; goaltenders from Jaroslav Halak of St. Louis to Jimmy Howard of Detroit to Minnesota's Josh Harding had masks painted with images of dead friends. It is everywhere.
All you can do is go on, and honour those who were lost.
Several teams will carry commemorative patches or stickers into every opposing arena this season; wives for several NHL players will sell designer bracelets in some of those same arenas, with proceeds going to Lokomotiv families. The league will be full of metaphorical gravestones, and that is as it should be and needs to be.
At the heart of it all there will be hockey.
"Jusqu’aux Fêtes, j’ai dû prouver constamment que j’avais ma place lors des entraînements et des matchs.
"Cette année, avec les Leafs, je suis un peu dans le même état d’esprit. C’est comme si j’avais constamment un fusil sur la tempe."
[My translation: Up until the Holidays, I had to constantly prove myslef to earn the spot, during training and matches. This year, with the Leafs, I'm kinda in the same post. It's like I constantly have a gun to my temple" ]
Apparently the USA Today covers hockey (who knew?) and Kevin Allen dropped his list of 20 rookies to watch. Not surprisingly, a certain Avs rookie made the list.
9 Right wing Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche): Of all the players drafted in June, winger Landeskog seems to be the one who is the most physically ready to play immediately. He's the kind of player all coaches love because he will do whatever it takes to win, whether it is blocking a shot or scoring an opportune goal in heavy traffic. Landeskog wasn't the most talented player in the draft, but he was probably the most complete package. He was the Kitchener (Ontario) Rangers' captain last season, scoring 36 goals in 53 games. When he gets comfortable in the NHL, Landeskog will be a player who wins all of the battles in the corners and is a bullish presence in front of the net.