Spouse and I did make the drive down to Kitchener last night (earlier this evening, actually) to watch the Leafs rookies vs. the Penguins rookies. I’ll have more to say about the game later – right now it’s late and I need to get to bed if I’m going to be a productive member of society tomorrow – but here are some preliminary thoughts:
Kid Kadri!!!!1 He’s the real deal, people. He could use some bulking up, especially up top, but the guy is slick smooth with incredible hand/eye co-ordination and a retinue of subtle moves, little shifts from side to side, slight changes of pace, small stick movements, etc. – that put his opponents off balance and allow him to sift through defenders and to find open space. I don’t think he’s NHL ready right now, but I would be willing to bet he’ll make the Leafs next year;
Jesse Blacker has a howitzer for a shot. That kid is some steady, too. I was impressed with his play, though he was on the ice for the Penguins’ second goal, scored on a soft little spinerama move on the goalline by Moon;
Stalberg and Stefanovich showed lots of promise and combined on the Leafs’ only goal of the evening – basically a short 2 on 0 after a Penguin defender turned it over to Stralberg in the high slot;
I didn’t notice Bozak and Hanson as much as I thought I might. I did see Hanson a lot, and he seemed to be playing well positionally, but they didn’t seem to accomplish much. The power play (which featured these two prominently) was an abomination worthy of an actual big league Maple Leafs power play – it was that bad;
Dale Mitchell continues to get noticed. He’s full of energy and plays a smart positional game, especially defensively. He played on a line with Gilati and Kurtz, and these three were more visible to my eye (especially in the late stages of the game) than Bozak and Hanson (though Stalberg, the third forward on that line, did impress me);
Andrew Engelage (former goaltender for the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires) unfortunately didn’t do much to increase his chances of landing and keeping a big league deal – the Leafs had scored to make it 2-1 and were coming on in a big way and threatening to tie the game midway through the 3rd when Engelage coughed up a Raycroftian hairball and whiffed on Robert Bortuzzo’s weak shot for the 3rd Penguin goal, effectively extinguishing the Maple Leaf comeback attempt. Too bad for Andrew, I’d like to see him get a shot somewhere.
Here’s a quick mashup of some video I shot at the game. There are no fancy transitions, ’cause I haven’t figured out how to use that part of my new video editing software yet. Shown in this video are:
A picture of the teams lined up for the national anthems;
The Leafs skating out on to the ice for the 3rd period;
The Penguins first goal, the one iPhone and I combined to describe on Twitter as a “Quasimodo breakaway” – you gotta love “autocorrect”. And yes, those people in front of me DO have rather large heads, and yes, I should have used the “zoom” feature. Thanks for your help;
The fight between Slaney and Bortuzzo. Bombs away, this is truculence;
A bit of the play – featuring Bozak, Hanson and Stalberg, if I recall correctly; and
Kid Kadri doing some stuff, and then unfortunately getting drilled – he’s the guy taking the draw and wearing number 43.
I’ll take a little closer look at the footage I’ve got on Friday night and see if I can’t cobble together a little something better than this. In the meantime, enjoy.
4 comments to Rookie Tournament: Leafs 1 at Penguins 4
Thanks for the insight, mate.
I really hated the fight you filmed. Watching it in person made me feel a bit sick as I watched that kid’s head go plunging towards the ice. All I could think about was that other kid who lost his life last year in a hockey fight. I don’t think there is any excuse for this kind of fighting in hockey (or in any sport). I realize that most people who smash their melon on the ice don’t die but any kind of head injury is serious (goodness knows I deal with enough head-injured people every day — the world does not need any more of them!). Plus I find it a bit sad that from what I saw a number of these very talented kids appeared to be spending more of their time trying to prove to the “powers that be” that they can fight. Why can’t they just play hockey?
Damien Cox, is that you?
Just kidding. I understand what you feel and you are of course entitled to feel that way. I don’t disagree that the fight in question was basically pointless except in the sense that at least one of the kids involved is auditioning for a job doing exactly what he did in that fight.
But I’ve made the point elsewhere that it is somewhat false and artificial to condemn violence in hockey (at least in such absolute terms) without considering the role it plays elsewhere in our society. I won’t repeat the argument here again, except to summarize: fighting and violence exists in hockey because it exists in our society. We DO tolerate it elsewhere, and can’t be surprised that it then shows up on the ice, field or gridiron.
I respect your viewpoint; I know it is honestly and sincerely held. Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up with the culture surrounding the game for so long, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it does you. In fact, I admit to enjoying watching a good bout every now and then. It’s odd, because when I play hockey, I agree with you that there’s so much nonsense involved, but when I watch it – as entertainment – it doesn’t get me upset very much at all.
Okay… We could talk about this in person and I’m sure we will, but since you write all your thoughts on this blog I am going to reply to your points in this forum as well:
(1) In your first paragraph you say “at least one of the kids involved was auditioning for a job doing exactly what he did in that fight”. THAT is exactly my point — I think it is really sad that some of these talented kids feel that they have to prove that they are a fighter if they have any chance of getting a job in the NHL. Until the “powers that be” change the culture from the top down, talented young kids are going to continue thinking (correctly I am sure) that the only way they can get a gig in the NHL is if they are an enforcer/ fighter/ goon/ thug — whatever you want to call it. I don’t understand why this has to be a part of the GAME of hockey. Let me be clear that I am not talking about the odd fight that comes out of normal, competitive play where, for example, two players are jockeying for the puck and have a bit of a problem pulling back after the whistle goes. I am talking about the superfluous, gratuitous, mindless fights that happen well after the whistle goes — exactly like the fight you taped. There were a lot of fights like that in the game we watched. I am deeply disappointed that this is what a lot of these kids have to do in order to get a job.
(2) I am not condemning competitiveness in hockey. I understand that violence, in the broad sense of that term, is a part of hockey. It is a part of football and rugby and soccer too. What I do object to is society’s blind acceptance of needless and gratuitous fighting as a part of the GAME. It turns my stomach that the crowd at that hockey game were never as loud as they were when the fights took place. Have we not evolved at all since the days of the gladiotors? I checked when we left and, much to my surprise, none of these people had their knuckles dragging on the ground as they left the arena. These were normal-looking folk many of whom had even brought their kids to the game with them. Worse yet, a number of these youngsters were clearly enjoying the fights as much as their parents. No wonder we struggle as a society to deal with violence that crosses the line and turns criminal. I accept as a basic premise that not all violence is criminal: many, many fights are not assaultive in the sense that they are consensual. That having been said, judging by the number of people who are charged with assault (domestic or otherwise) on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis, I suggest that a good number of people don’t care to distinguish between criminal and non-criminal violence. In my view, your suggestion that because we “tolerate” violence elsewhere we shouldn’t be surprised to see it in organized sport is the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any misguided believe that we should all live in some purple / Barney / everybody loves everybody kind of world but I do believe (very strongly) that we should seriously examine why we “tolerate” violence as much as we do. I also strongly believe that unless and until we (as a community) teach kids that there are ways to settle differences with others that don’t involve violence, we will never see a decrease in the number of people who get charged with assault (particularly domestic assault).
(3) You say that my viewpoint is honestly and sincerely held. It is. But you cannot deny that I grew up with the culture surrounding the game of hockey probably even more that you did: I am from Sudbury for heaven’s sake!! My brother played organized hockey his entire childhood and my father is a level 5 hockey coach. I spent many, many hours in areas throughout the Greater Sudbury area watching countless hockey games. As you know I disliked fighting in hockey then as much as I dislike it now. I have NEVER found fighting entertaining and I expect I never will. I must admit that I didn’t much like watching hockey at all when I was a kid (probably b/c I didn’t have much of a choice) but I do enjoy watching as an adult. That having been said, as much as I like watching a good GAME of hockey, I will turn the t.v. off when the fighting gets out of control and I will get up and walk out of my seat when a stupid fight breaks out on the ice (just like I did the other night).