Martin St. Louis Shows Us How Hockey Helps Overcome Even the Greatest of Tragedies

Getty Images
Getty Images

Once again, we’re reminded there are things in life that are bigger than hockey.

As a Penguins fan, it hurt watching the Penguins get spanked by the Rangers Friday night in game 5. It was difficult to watch a team come out so flat at home with a chance to close out a series. It was frustrating to hear the boos from thousands of people who spent a significant amount of their income to attend the game. All they got was a front row seat to their favorite team getting embarrassed in their own building.

However, as a Penguins fan it was also a blessing to see what the boys did for Martin St. Louis.

In case you haven’t heard, St. Louis’ mother, France, unexpectedly passed away on Thursday. She was 63 years old. No one would have questioned St. Louis if he had decided to stay at home in Montreal and be with his family. Players have missed games for far less, but St. Louis decided he wanted to be with his team and take the ice just 24 hours removed from one of the worst days of his life.

People love to rag on Sidney Crosby, but what he did for his Olympic teammate before Friday’s game exasperated nothing but shear class. Crosby seeked out St. Louis and found him warming up on an exercise bike. He shook his hand and had a brief conversation with him, which was caught on camera – you can view the footage here.

What amazes me is that St. Louis has only been with the Rangers for a few months. Remember, he was traded for Ryan Callahan at the trade deadline. This isn’t the Lightning team that St. Louis played the majority of his career with, it’s dozens of new faces and a completely different atmosphere than that of Tampa Bay, Florida. I’m sure he’s found camaraderie, but anyone who has played juniors can tell you that getting a player midseason is always a transition.

However, hockey players are a strange breed.

St. Louis decided to take the ice and his brothers in red, white and blue followed him out onto the ice at Consol Energy Center. The Rangers came out flying and dominated the Penguins in the opening period. They gained a two-goal lead and the Penguins never recovered. It’s impossible to be certain what it was that made the Rangers the most energized they’ve been all season, but I’m sure it had something to do with St. Louis. When one of the boys is struggling off the ice, it’s amazing how it translates on the ice.

The beauty of the game is that it allows us to take our minds off of the rest of the world and be free for a couple of hours. When one of my best friends passed away during the summer heading into my junior year of high school, I decided that I was no longer just playing for myself. At the end of every national anthem, I would get on one knee, touch the ice, hit my heart and then point up to the sky and say the same thing.

“I know you’re watching down on us, I miss you and I love you.”

During my senior season, I scored in overtime against our rivals in the playoffs and I broke away from my teammates so I could point to him. At the time, it was the biggest goal of my career – I wanted him to share the moment with me.

Martin St. Louis’ story isn’t sad because his mother passed away, it’s sad because it was so unexpected. In this world, we will all eventually flatline, but being able to say goodbye is the only thing we can ever ask for. Some of us will be lucky to do so, but some of us sadly won’t.

I have always respected St. Louis. He was a player that was told he would never make it. He’s only 5-foot-8 and went undrafted, yet he’s been in the league since 1997 and at 38 years old is one of the elite players in the game. The fact that he decided to play on Friday night makes me respect him even more.

We all have our own ways for handling tragedies, and for most hockey players, it’s taking the ice when no one else thinks you should. St. Louis flew back to Montreal to be with his family, then flew back to Pittsburgh to play with his brothers.

Marty, you’re the man.

TC1 TC2 TC3

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The Story of New York Rangers Forward Dominic Moore Will Break Your Heart

Dominic Moore jumps Into Dan Boyle's arms after a goal in game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Getty Images
Dominic Moore jumps Into Dan Boyle’s arms after a goal in game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Getty Images

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own adversities that we never stop and think about what the athletes who we call our heroes have gone through.

Dominic Moore, an NHL forward currently playing the New York Rangers, recently shared his story with Jeremy Schaap and it will bring even the strongest of us to tears. Moore, who could be called an NHL journeyman having played for nine NHL franchises, walked away from hockey during the midst of a playoff run in 2012; he then sat out the shortened 2012-13 season.

Some of us never knew why, but his story tells the tragedy of his wife, who he met as a sophomore at Harvard, and her eventually fatal bout with cancer.

The life of an NHL girlfriend or wife is not easy and it is a story that is seldom told. Hockey players might be the toughest athletes in the world, but many of them are only able to be so strong on the ice because of their other half, who consistently give up their own dreams in order to allow their significant other to chase theirs.

Moore’s story is a sad one, but it shows how professional athletes are people just like you and me. It shows that under all of the equipment, there’s still a heart. It shows that hockey players aren’t invincible. It shows what hockey wives will go through and how supportive hockey players can be.

Hockey players, coaches, fans, mothers, fathers, girlfriends, wives… This is a must watch.

The complete E:60 on Dominic Moore can be seen here on Vimeo.

Why Sergei Bobrovsky Will Be the Story of the 2014 NHL Playoffs

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Getty Images

First off, writing this as a Pittsburgh Penguins fan isn’t easy. I want to believe that the Penguins will steamroll the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs, but there is one landmark standing in the way.

Sergei Bobrovsky is only 25 years old, but he has already carried a city on his shoulders for the last two years. The Blue Jackets are the only major professional sports team in Columbus, and even though there is the Columbus Crew and Ohio State University, Bobrovsky has finally brought some life into a city that used to be the laughing stock of the NHL.

Rick Nash just couldn’t do it. He was the face of the franchise for years, but he couldn’t get the Blue Jackets that precedented first playoff victory in franchise history. Many people said he wouldn’t really thrive until he was sent to a city with a larger market, but after only 39 points in 65 games with the New York Rangers this season, that argument isn’t looking too strong.

Bobrovsky on the other hand spent his first two years in the NHL in Philadelphia, which has proved to be one of the worst locations for talented goaltenders. The media ran out Ilya Bryzgalov and now it’s Bobrovsky who has been striving ever since he departed Philly.

The expectations in Philadelphia were always too high. It was win the Stanley Cup or get out of town.

Bobrovsky only played a total of 223 minutes in the playoffs with the Flyers, so the amount of pressure placed on the starter has never been felt by him; however, there will be no pressure felt by the Blue Jackets or Bobrovsky when their first round playoff series against the Penguins begins on Wednesday night.

The Penguins are supposed to destroy the Blue Jackets.

The Penguins are 5-0-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and have the four most established offensive players between the two teams in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz.

But remember two years ago when the Penguins took on the Philadelphia Flyers and Marc-Andre Fleury basically blew the entire series after allowing 26 goals in only six games? Or how about last year, when the Penguins escaped a first round matchup with the New York Islanders, even though they had no business coming out on the better end of that series.

Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by Tomas Vokoun last year as well after he struggled once again when it mattered most.

Fact is, if past years have taught us anything it’s that goaltending wins championships, which is ironic considering the NHL has been working for the past decade to find more ways to create offense.

When you think of the Chicago Blackhawks‘ championship run last year, the first few names that come to mind are probably Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, but Corey Crawford was just as important to their championship equation; he had a 16-7-1 record, .932 save percentage and allowed under two goals per game.

Are the Blue Jackets the more talented team in this matchup? Of course not – it isn’t even close – but they have the one weapon in between the pipes that can make average teams in the regular season great in the playoffs.

All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if the Blue Jackets turn some heads. There is no reason why the 2014 Blue Jackets can’t become the next 2003 Anaheim Ducks or 2012 Los Angeles Kings.

The pressure is all on Pittsburgh, which can be enough to make a team fail.

 

Brooks Orpik Booming Hit on Jonathan Toews Springs Ridiculous Comments from Mike Milbury

Brooks Orpik Booming Hit on Jonathan Toews Springs Ridiculous Comments from Mike Milbury

Anyway you look at it, the hit was clean.

The two points that were up for grabs Sunday night when the Chicago Blackhawks took on the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t matter much statistically, but if Jonathan Toews – the Blackhawks’ captain – was severely hurt after taking a vicious body check from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, then it may have cost Chicago a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Thankfully, it’s been reported that Toews’ shoulder injury wasn’t too serious and he’s listed as day-to-day, but perhaps the most newsworthy thing to come out of the play was the absurd comments made by NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury.

“He hits to hurt people,” Milbury said. “He looks for players in a vulnerable position,” was another one of my favorites.

Now it’s no secret that I am a Pens fan, but saying that about a player like Brooks Orpik is just ridiculous. Sure, he’s a tough guy to play against and uses his body to his advantage, but the last thing he should be classified as is a dirty player.

That’s like calling Niklas Kronwall a dirty player just because he is known for his huge hits.

When someone donning the Penguins crest does something questionable, I’ll be the first to recognize it. Matt Cooke did eventually clean up his act, but there was a two-year span with the Penguins when he probably didn’t deserve to be on the ice.

Hell, six days ago I wrote an article about how James Neal’s antics are getting old.

Milbury’s solution on how the Blackhawks should have solved the issue was even more comical. Had Orpik kneed/elbowed/speared/sucker punched/jumped Toews, then I can understand the need for someone to step right up and force Orpik to fight.

Like I said, the two points didn’t really matter and an instigator penalty would have been worth it in that scenario.

But he didn’t. The hit was as clean as they come and Toews was simply caught on the tracks with his head down right before the train was coming through.

If it was 1985, then yes, Orpik would have had to immediately pay for his hit on the opposing captain, but it’s not, it’s a different game and guys like Mike Milbury need to learn to understand that. Orpik has 14 career fighting majors in the NHL, but jumping a player for a clean hit will never be justified.

Many of the guys in the current NHL didn’t grow up with the goon mentality. I’m sure many of them saw it at one point or another in their career, but it wasn’t the norm when they began to reach the elite levels of the game.

There is still a place in the game for fighting and I will always defend that, but the role of an enforcer has changed while the game has evolved. People like Mike Milbury either fail to accept that or fail to understand it.

Orpik knew that he had a target on his back for the rest of the game; Andrew Shaw attempted to take a run at him in the corner, but ended up doing more damage to teammate Patrick Sharp.

People that think Orpik should have immediately been jumped are, in my mind, the same people that don’t see an issue with what happened to Steve Moore. The fact that Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play in the NHL has always made me a bit nauseous. The psychology that goes on in a players mind has changed after a huge, legal hit – it’s one of the many changes that has taken place in the game over the last decade.

Mike Milbury is the Skip Bayless of the NHL and I understand why he’s on television. He creates controversy like this one, which in turn will lead to higher ratings for NBC Sports.

It’s just really difficult to take the guy who once climbed into the stands of Madison Square Garden and beat a man with his own shoe seriously.

 

 

My Goodbye Letter to Hockey

I never thought the time would come.

On Sunday, I took off my jersey and untied my skates for the last time. Sure, there will be beer leagues and drop-ins, but it will never be the same. 

Throughout the last 20 years of my life, I dedicated my life to hockey. Some of my first memories growing up are roller blading around my garage at my old house in Traverse City, Michigan, making up situations in my head. We all did it. It’s the championship game in overtime, and the puck is on your stick.

I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap and watching Pittsburgh Penguins games with him. He would occasionally have a rum and Pepsi with him in a big glass, and when he’d jokingly offer me a sip, I always forgot there was booze in it and would take a drink anyway, only to spit it out in disgust.

I met my first friends through hockey, many of whom I still keep in contact with to this day. There’s something about the game that creates untouchable bonds between a group of people. Bonds that distance doesn’t break, which is something so rare.

Looking back, I was pretty lucky with all the things I got to experience. I got to be a captain in high school, juniors and college; I broke scoring records; I was first-team all-state twice; I got to play competitively until I was 23 years old.

However, there is no accomplishment that begins with the letter “I” that will ever come close to what I will miss most about playing hockey. One thing you learn early in hockey, is how much more important “we” is than “I.” The things I will miss most aren’t scoring goals, big hits and back-door feeds. I’m going to miss the locker room, the road trips, the stories, the chirps, the parties, the heads that turn when everyone walks into the bar together, and just the overall atmosphere that is created when a team is clicking on all cylinders.

I did it for the story” lives deep inside many of us.

There is something to be said about hockey players. We’re a breed unlike any other, and it may be cliché, but the only way to understand it is if you have been a part of it. It’s never just a team, it’s a family. You will fight with your family, but when it comes down to it there isn’t a thing in the world you wouldn’t do to look after them.

Hockey has taught me more about life than anything else on this planet. You learn about discipline, courage, toughness, teamwork and communication, but most importantly it was the first aspect of life that will make you look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “how far am I willing to go? How far am I willing to push for what I want?”

On the ice, as in life, the person who is rewarded is the person who scratches and claws the farthest.

While the amount of turmoil I went through growing up pales in comparison to many others, the ice was always my therapy. You can’t ever skate away from your problems, but you can at least avoid them for the hour or two you are at the rink. When you step on the ice, life is perfect and all your problems have been resolved for the time being.

There’s a reason why it’s much easier to go to the rink at 5 a.m. than it is for work or school.

When life gave me adversity, hockey was my counseling. Watching my Mom go through breast cancer treatment when I was in high school wasn’t easy. Most of the time, I didn’t know how to act or what to say. I was a stubborn kid who refused to accept what was happening. But when I was on the ice playing in front of her, I always knew where she was. After games, she was always the first to greet me. Win or lose, she didn’t care. She knew I was happy. 

During those moments at the rink, nothing was wrong. 

While we all chased the dream growing up, there’s a reason why so many of our relationships fail. We’ve already fallen in love with the game because we know it’s something that will never leave us.

Hockey never cheats on you; Hockey never gets divorced; Hockey never dies. There is always a fresh sheet of ice somewhere. There is always a net to be sniped, and that first deep breath of cold air when stepping onto the ice is a feeling that can’t be topped.

Without hockey, my life would mean little. Without the people I’ve met through hockey, my life would mean nothing.

So after 20 years, it kills me to say goodbye. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, I will always be grateful. You’ve taught me more about myself and about life than I could have ever imagined.

To those still in action, keep chasing your dream. Keep bettering yourself. But most importantly, enjoy the ride and don’t miss a moment.

My career may be over, but the memories will last forever.

Shane Darrow is a Graduate student studying Journalism at Ohio University. He is currently an NHL writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow.

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This picture means the most to me. Pointing to Johnny after beating Alpens in OT. RIP buddy.
This picture means the most to me. Pointing to Johnny after beating Alpena in OT. RIP buddy.

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Ohio University Division 2 Club Hockey Team will Lockout for 2012-13 Season

The biggest story in the hockey world today is that the NHL is currently locked out until a new bargaining agreement, which expired on September 15th, can be agreed upon by the NHLPA and the league. What people are not talking about, is the trickle down effect it has had on the Ohio University Division-Two Club Hockey Team, who have decided to lockout the upcoming season unless a new bargaining agreement with the ACHA can be made.

The D-2 Bobcats, who of course play in the prestigious Southeastern Midwest Lakeside Jurisdiction Hockey League, or SEMWLSJHL, have refused to touch the ice after the Gatorade vending machine in their home arena’s lobby was changed from $1.25 to $1.75.

8th-year Captain Nicholas Frasse had this to say on the situation, “People don’t think $.50 is a big deal, but do you have any idea how expensive it is to park under Baker?” He would continue to say, “This was just the last straw, they are making us decide between parking in a metered spot, and getting our daily electrolytes.”

The Bobcats, who had their inaugural season in 2010, have made great strides in the last few years. For example, their first tryout consisted of attending a rigorous meeting where Graduate Student and Head Coach at the time Matt Staehely had to make sure the players showed full commitment.

“I made them sign their names on a sheet of paper and be at most of the practices on time,” Staehely noted on the grueling first season.

Since then, The D-2 heroes from Ohio University have instated former Mr. OU, former manager of The Junction, and former Division 1 Club standout Phil Oberlin to take over the reigns, and things have escalated ever since.

“Our tryout consists of them scrimmaging now,” Oberlin said, “we figured it would be easier to judge their talent if we actually saw how good they were at the game.”

Last year, the D-2 “Bobkittens” finished an impressive third place in the SEMWLSJHL, and watched as attendance for home games skyrocketed. During a Friday Night game against West Virginia, there were over 50 people in the stands to watch them warm-up. Most of them however, were simply trying to leave the rink after attending the D1 game, but overcrowding helped the D2 team win over some fans.

“That’s who those guys were?” said 47-year-old Ron Thomas, an Athens resident for the last ten years, “I thought they were an intramural team or something.”

After making these strides, the Division 2 Club Hockey team decided that they would not continue to play until the ACHA and SEMWLSJHL agreed to renegotiate their bargaining agreement. Some of the matters at hand are:

  • The amount of pucks to practice with be raised from 25 to 35.
  • Each player shall receive their own spot in the cage for their equipment.
  • A paid trainer, preferably an undergrad female, attend at least one of every four practices.
  • The ice to be zamboni’d before every practice, not just went the staff feels like it.
  • The Gatorade Vending Machine in the lobby of Bird Arena to be reduced from $1.75 to $1.25.

This lockout could be long and devious, and the players have decided to stand by their teammates as they demand more from the leagues in which they contribute so much.

“We put dozens of people into the stands every year who don’t pay a dime to watch us play,” former football player turned hockey player in college Tyler Smith said, “imagine all the money we are generating for them just through that!”

One thing is for sure, the amount of people that will be affected by these lockouts could easily climb into double digits, but the players know they deserve better, and as the Beastie Boys once said, they will fight for their right to party.

The ACHA and SEMWLSJHL were both unavailable for comment, as neither knew this was even happening.

Members of the D-2 Club Hockey Team are seen attending Happy Hour, which has become a serious, pregame ritual.

My response to Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis

OU students and alumni everywhere, here is the e-mail that was sent out to every parent of an OU student regarding Palmerfest:

“Dear OHIO Parents and Families,

The purpose of my message is to seek your help in sending a clear message to students, reinforcing the importance of smart, civil, safe behaviors. My request parallels that of Ryan Lombardi, our Dean of Students, who has made you aware of the unauthorized multi-house parties in Athens that have historically occurred in off-campus neighborhoods each spring.

On Saturday, April 28th, a number of Ohio University students and their guests engaged in dangerous and illegal behaviors, which have been widely reported in newspapers and on websites. This media coverage has “opened a window” to Ohio University and the Athens community, revealing images that are offensive, frightening, and embarrassing to our students, our distinguished alumni, our local community, and the parents and families of OHIO students and graduates.

We are better than this!  People that live in the Athens community, whether for just a few years or for a lifetime, reject these behaviors and their distortion of what our community is about.  The City of Athens and Ohio University join with your students and their friends and neighbors in condemning this behavior, which posed life-threatening risks and harmed our community.

Last week, our Student Senate issued a resolution condemning these dangerous behaviors.  The Senate resolution supports the stance of the overwhelming majority of our students, faculty, and staff who find this type of behavior destructive to the culture of Ohio University and the relationship that binds the University and the City of Athens.

We have scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for 5 pm this Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium, on the College Green.  Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and I have invited all community members, including students, to attend.  We will be joined by other University and City leaders to discuss these serious issues and answer questions. Please encourage your son or daughter to attend.

Ohio University, the City of Athens, our students – your sons and daughters – are better than this and we must show it.

Cordially,

Roderick J. McDavis

President

Ohio University”

If you are like me, this e-mail was not only unnecessary, but ridiculous. We can not sit back and have our University’s president degrade us like this, share your voice! I have e-mailed him my response, and here is what it reads:

President McDavis,With all due respect, the e-mail that was sent out to all the parents of Ohio University students was not only overly demeaning, but 100% unnecessary and untrue. I understand that you have a job to do, and rebuilding our reputation as something more than a party school is a top priority, but responding to the incidents of Palmerfest in that manner is not at all the right thing to do.Saying that “a number of Ohio University students and their guests engaged in dangerous and illegal behaviors, which have been widely reported in newspapers and on websites,” is an egregious stretch of the truth. If you consider police officials abusing their power and tear gassing innocent students “dangerous behavior” on the students behalf, then yes sir, you are correct. If you consider one of my fellow students getting a police baton to the face and being sent to the hospital for, soberly I might add, crossing the street “dangerous behavior,” then yes sir, you are correct. If you consider undercover officers running into a bar and putting myself in handcuffs because they thought my ID from Michigan was fake “illegal behavior,” even though I am 21 years old, then yes sir, you are correct.

But most importantly, you are attempting to put a scare tactic out to all of our parents and have them diminish their image of our college, and that sir, is dangerous behavior.

Every single student that is lucky enough to call themselves an Ohio University Bobcat has an immense amount of respect for their college and their campus, and maybe you are not out enough on our campus to realize this.

As a leader of my organization, and a representative for all of greek life, the disrespect here is absolutely undeniable. Saying that we embarrassed our local community… Well sir, let me state my rebuttal on that statement. While you collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in perhaps the poorest community in Ohio, we (and by we, I mean all of greek life, as well as many other student organizations) are out finding new ways to make our community better. Tens of thousands of dollars are collected every year that go out to respected charities, as well as our community to help rebuild and make it better.

A week ago, all the fraternities on campus pitched in to help a student who was affected by the tornado last year. The kid has almost no money, works 2 jobs, plays 3 sports, and is a great example of perseverance. His dream was to have a suit for prom. So we all helped out by purchasing a suit, shoes, a watch, cologne, hair gel, etc. But that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Just this Saturday, my fraternity raised hundreds of dollars to help students with disabilities, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Next weekend, Sigma Kappa is holding a golf outing in which they will raise over a thousand dollars for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Earlier this year, the language department held a can drive that ended up raising an 8-foot-tall pyramid of canned goods for our struggling community, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? These are just a few examples, and believe me, I could go all day.

President McDavis, I respect your position, I really do, but handling the situation in the way you have is not even close to the right one. Obviously, there are students that made poor decisions that day, I’m not denying that. But you are looking at a number around 25 students. Deciding to send a message with that aggressive of a tone, and placing it upon 20,000 students is absolutely absurd.

Some drunken student that was visiting attempted to set a house on fire, not an OU student. Out of all the arrests made during fest season, not even half of them are OU students. The aggravated rioting charge from two years ago during palmerfest, which is perhaps the most aggressive offense in my college career, was not an OU student. And most importantly, the people that have the dearest respect, and absolute love for this campus and our community, are OU students.

My greatest fear as a student here is that my degree will be diminished by our school’s reputation; however, having the interview skills to find a way to turn our social life into a positive is what helps me realize this will never be problem.

But having our University’s president exaggerating the actions of OU students is in no way helping the 20,000 of us who share this same fear of our degree’s being somehow lessened. You sir, are better than that.

Once again, with all due respect,

Shane Darrow
SD195408@ohio.edu
President – Pi Kappa Phi: Theta Chi Chapter