Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2009 (4819 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sure, I dress up my cat in miniature suits purchased from Don Cherry's tailor. That's just normal. And the cat doesn't seem to mind. Although, all of a sudden he starts every other sentence with, "All you kittens out there..." and keeps complaining that Swedish and Russian Blue Cats are "pussies." Whatever.
But like I said, normal stuff.
However, there is clearly a trend unfolding in this edition of the NHL postseason that -- in Manitoba, at least -- is quite abnormal, given this province's recent history. It is this: Almost every night, in most every series, there is at least one player of local heritage contributing to a game's outcome.
You see, it wasn't so long ago that Manitobans with an impact on the NHL playoffs consisted almost exclusively of two individuals; Carman's Ed Belfour and Winnipeg's Mike Keane. For the most part, those were pretty much the Keystone province's marquee names in the world's most grueling hockey tournament.
Maybe you could throw in a James Patrick here or Mike Ridley there. Or a Ron Hextall or Butch Goring if you want to go back an entire generation.
But you get the point. As they say in Nashville, it was Slim Pickins.
This just in: Slim has left the building. Just turn on a television set this past weekend and what do you see? New Jersey's Travis Zajac from Winnipeg scoring the overtime winner for the New Jersey Devils. Or Boston's Shane Hnidy, the grizzled veteran from Neepawa, potting a huge goal in a 5-1 victory over the Canadiens. Or Winnipeg's Alex Steen, son of Thomas, one of the most dangerous St. Louis Blues in a loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
The list goes on. You've got Kenora's Mike Richards (Close enough. Besides, who doesn't like Richards' old school game?) going noggin-to-noggin with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. Lanky forward Eric Fehr (Winkler) is getting his shifts in between the Alexander Ovechkin Show in Washington. Then there's depth players like defenceman Bryce Salvador (Brandon) and tough guys Riley Cote (Winnipeg) and Aaron Asham (Portage) of the rugged Flyers and Rangers' enforcer Colton Orr.
And, of course, there's the Winnipeg, er, Chicago Blackhawks, who employ captain Jonathan Toews (who scored twice in Game 2 versus Calgary), defenceman Cam Barker, who has emerged this season as a Hawks star on defence, and fellow rearguard Duncan Keith, who was born in the Peg and raised in Fort Francis.
In fact, the Hawks lineup alone contains more Manitoba content than has graced the entire playoffs in most of the last decade, at least when it comes to every-night production. So I'm not sure about you folks, but isn't it a little sweeter to see the local lads representing on almost every channel?
And that's not even necessarily counting the myriad of bubble players on NHL playoff rosters, including Calgary's Dustin Boyd (Winnipeg), Detroit's Darren Helm (St. Andrews) and Derek Meech (Winnipeg), Columbus's Andrew Murray (Selkirk) and Anaheim's Troy Bodie (Portage), who was a healthy scratch for the first part of the Ducks series with San Jose.
But the beauty part is that virtually every one of these players are 20-somethings who are only -- outside of the likes of Hnidy, Asham and Salvador -- in the embryonic stages of their NHL careers. Heck, just wait until next April, when Winnipeg's Colin Wilson, a first-rounder who just signed with Nashville, helps the Predators into the post-season. That team could also include head coach Barry Trotz (Dauphin), Jordin Tootoo (Rankin Inlet, via Churchill) and goaltender Chet Pickard (Winnipeg), another first-rounder.
Sure, this might not seem revolutionary to some Manitoba puckheads, but it wasn't so long ago that the only Winnipegger who'd come close to getting his name on the Cup on a regular basis was Keane. In fact, Keane liked it so much he got it engraved on Lord Stanley's silver chalice three times.
Times are changing. Helm and Meech had their names engraved on the Cup last year. The year before that it was Winkler's Dustin Penner, then with the Anaheim Ducks.
This year, who knows? Maybe it'll be Zajac, given the Devils' sterling Cup track record. Maybe Helm, recalled to the Wings just prior to the playoffs, will double up in Detroit. And don't rule out the Blackhawks, either, as Toews and the boys already have Calgary on the ropes.
Regardless, there's a better than even chance a Manitoban will be hoisting the Cup again this June. Perhaps even more than one.
Around these parts, that will be an annual event worth the wait.
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.