March 30, 2020

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ABOVE THE FOLD

Dump & Chase

Play it again, Dick Irvin

What a week for NHL hockey on the tube!

That was a heck of a Jets game on the other night. People knew that kid Patrik Laine could fire a puck, but a five-goal game in St. Louis? A couple of nights later, it was fitting to see Kings centre Wayne Gretzky score late against the Oilers in Edmonton, passing Gordie Howe to become the NHL’s all-time point producer (1,850).

Just wish the brawl-filled battle between the Habs and Nordiques wasn’t on TV opposite The Bachelor. We missed that one. But we’ll be glued to the set when the Canada Cup gets going, and Dale Hawerchuk joins Gretzky and Mario Lemieux on a formidable squad that’s bound to give those pesky Soviets — led by the KLM line — all they can handle.

Despite the turmoil the COVID-19 threat has caused Canada and the rest of the world, at least there’s NHL hockey – albeit of the blast from the past variety. Enduring, ever-present, unconquerable NHL hockey.

We’re all living in strange times, not knowing exactly what comes next. Our hope, as always, is to provide a few laughs and a little levity to your day.

So until the next broadcast with Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin Jr., hits the small screen, enjoy our latest edition of Dump & Chase.

It was produced in partnership, while following the dos and don’ts of social distancing – not exactly a hardship for Mike and Jay who, by mid-March, can barely stand the sight of each other, anyway.

First period

The timing of the potential end of the season couldn’t have been worse for the Winnipeg Jets, who were playing perhaps their best hockey of the season and had finally gotten healthy just before the NHL season was put on indefinite pause.

Winnipeg had won four straight games, and whether they get a chance to build on that remains to be seen.

But there are much more important things to worry about right now, and captain Blake Wheeler set the perfect tone this week when he took to Twitter to send a message to his followers. 

Our favourite is the sound of Blake’s children in the background, repeatedly ringing iron on the backyard rink. Which prompted a number of funny comments, including one person asking if Patrik Laine had come over to skate given his propensity for hitting the post. 


Wheeler quickly had some online company as a number of his isolated teammates took to Twitter to share their messages.

Not only is this an effective way of staying in touch with the fans who pay your freight, but it’s also a great use of the platform these athletes have.

Defenceman Nathan Beaulieu was quick to thank all of the front-line workers who are putting it on the line every day. 

Forward Adam Lowry followed suit, urging folks to stay safe and check on each other – from a distance of course. 

Recently acquired Dylan DeMelo, who has impressed on the ice, is also impressing off it with his obvious leadership abilities, urging folks to rally together and stay strong.

And alternate captain Josh Morrissey weighed in on Thursday morning. 

Let’s face it. There are still people out there with their heads in the sand, balking at the request to practice social distancing to help halt the spread of coronavirus.

Those messages pack a lot more punch when they come from someone with a large following and big voice. Well done to all.

Second period

With so much idle time suddenly on our collective hands, people are finding creative ways to fill the void.

One hockey fan came up with a brilliant idea this week, borrowing from the NCAA March Madness bracket to crown the NHL player with the best name.

Twitter followers vote on each game with the winner advancing to the next round. 

The tournament is still in the early stages, so allow us to offer our predictions for the Final 4.

We’ll take Zemgus Girgensons in the Atlantic, Elvis Merzlikins in the Metro, Slater Koekkoek in the Central and Vinnie Hinostroza in the Pacific.

And in a close vote, we’ve got Merzlikins edging out Koekkoek in the final.


There hasn’t been a lot of actual sports news to sink our teeth into, with the exception of the National Football League where free agent frenzy has proven to be just that.

The biggest news, of course, was the announcement that Tom Brady was breaking up with the New England Patriots and putting himself on the open market.

That’s a bombshell any time of the year, but especially when you have a somewhat captive audience just starving for something meaty to happen.

Kudos to the Anaheim Ducks, who quickly made their pitch to try and turn perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history into a two-sport athlete.

 

 

Alas, it looks like the Ducks came up just short, as Brady appears headed for Tampa Bay. No, not the Lightning. The Buccaneers.

Third period

Perhaps one silver lining to all of this is a chance to get to know players and coaches in a way the rigours of a regular-season normally wouldn’t allow.

We’re seeing some real personalities shine through, and Jets skaters weren’t the only ones to reach out this week. Here’s just a small sample of what’s out there:

There was Connor McDavid and his four-legged friend, Lenny… 

New York Islanders coach (and pride of Dauphin, Manitoba) Barry Trotz… 

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno… 

New York Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau… 

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel… 

Even our favourite mascot, Gritty, got in on the act with a missive to the masses. 

Which prompted one person to ask: How is Gritty better at this than the U.S. president? 


It’s good to know that when the going gets tough, the tough stay petty.

Such was the scene this week at an Ottawa store, where paper products were flying off the shelves, with one notable exception.

Turns out no Senators fan could stomach the idea of purchasing a pack of Maple Leafs-themed tissues.

 

Now that is staying committed to the cause.

Overtime

Jason Pominville’s NHL career is likely over, as the 37-year-old veteran of 1,060 regular-season games didn’t land a contract this season.

But that doesn’t mean the guy who scored 293 goals and added 434 big-league assists is out of the sport entirely.

Pominville has spent the past few months skating in something called the Performax Hockey League, which is an adult hockey league in Buffalo.

And, not surprisingly, he kind of tore it up against Beer League competition.

Pominville’s stats in 19 games are eye-popping: 57 goals, 48 assists and 105 points. That completely lapped the rest of the league. The second-leading scorer, for example, has 51 points. 


In this time of social distancing, Netflix and video game platforms are certainly seeing a spike in usage.

And that goes for both players and teams, who have found creative ways to keep the competitive juices flowing.

A number of teams, including the Los Angeles Kings, have taken to simulating and broadcasting postponed games on their schedule. 

And Minnesota Wild forward J.T. Brown ad Toronto forward Zach Hyman are among a number of players to go online inviting followers to join them in some video game action. 


 

Got a suggestion for a future edition of Dump & Chase? Let us know about it.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca and jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

And: follow Dump & Chase on Twitter.

Mike is @mikemcintyrewpg, while Jason can be found @WFPJasonBell

Your weekly trip around the world of hockey.

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