2. Men's 200-metre dash, Beijing Olympics. Usain Bolt owned the track in China, through both his personality and performance. His record-setting 100m final was incredible, especially since I was standing next to Donovan Bailey, whose Olympic mark he smashed. (Bailey was a brilliant ambassador for the sport that night, playfully pretending he was taking a crown off his head and giving it to Bolt.) But the 200 was even better. You'll remember how he didn't go all out in any race, telling both Bailey and his own agent he didn't have enough gas to break this one. When Bolt came around the stretch and didn't let up, you could hear the crowd stir: first a murmur, then a buzz, then screams of encouragement. When he crossed the line and "WR 19.30" flashed on the scoreboard, there was total bedlam. Then, 91,000 people started singing "Happy Birthday" (he'd turned 22 that day). Crazy, crazy scene.
3. 4x100 men's freestyle relay, Beijing Olympics. This was Michael Phelps' second of a world-record eight gold medals, but, for me, the most memorable. Phelps set a U.S. record in the first leg, but the Americans trailed as the final swimmers entered the pool. Jason Lezak had to catch Frenchman Alain Bernard, who was the world-record holder at the time. The mouthy Bernard had predicted his team would "smash" the Americans, but Lezak swam the fastest 100m split in history to catch him. The reporters who regularly covered swimming were completely stunned. They couldn't believe it.
4. The 2001 World Series. Diamondbacks-Yankees was a thriller, with the home team winning every game - many in dramatic fashion. Tino Martinez hit a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to send Game 4 into extra innings. The next night, Scott Brosius did the same thing. The Diamondbacks’ revenge also came in their last at-bat, scoring twice off god-like Mariano Rivera to win Game 7 and the Series. I've never heard a louder crowd than when Randy Johnson came out of the bullpen that night. I've rarely felt more emotion than when President Bush threw out the opening pitch before Game 3. It was six weeks after 9/11, the first Series game in New York since the attacks. No matter what you think of him now, the world was behind him then. It was very powerful.
5. Al Arbour's tears. Of all the interviews I've done, this one stands out. The Islanders brought back Arbour for one night in 2007, so the awkward "1499" in his games coached total could turn to 1500. He was the subject of an Inside Hockey for the occasion. I phoned Glenn Healy and Kelly Hrudey for info, since both men spoke very highly of him. Hrudey said that his father did a great job with him, but if he had to call anyone his second dad, it would be Arbour. Arbour broke down and couldn't continue (see if we still have it on our player). You could see how much that meant to him.
6. The Washington/Pittsburgh second-round playoff series, 2009. Worst thing about the NHL? Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin can't meet in a Stanley Cup Final. What a series. Great players pushing each other to the highest possible levels. Marc-Andre Fleury was the difference, stopping Ovechkin on a breakaway with Game 7 still scoreless. Fleury was devastated after Ovechkin's Game 2 hat trick, but Martin Biron relayed a message, saying, "You can't get down when that guy beats you. He's that good." Fleury really perked up when he heard that.
7. Raptors/76ers second-round NBA playoff series, 2001. The only time Toronto ever advanced past the first round was a seven-game loss to Philadelphia. Both Vince Carter and Allen Iverson were at their peak. Iverson scored 54 points in Game 2, Carter came back with 50 two nights later. Then, Iverson had 52 in Game 5. Carter's response: "only" 39 in forcing Game 7, which the Raptors lost as he missed a last-second jumper. That morning, he'd taken a private plane to get his degree at North Carolina, and it ripped apart the franchise. Iverson was MVP that season. Owner Ed Snider said the ferocious little guard reminded him of Bob Clarke.
8. 18th hole, 2000 Canadian Open, Glen Abbey. Grant Waite, owner of exactly one PGA Tour victory, refused to back down from a one-on-one challenge with Tiger Woods. His second shot was on the green, giving him a chance at eagle and the tournament. Woods – who'd driven into a fairway bunker – grabbed a six-iron and stepped into the sand about 215 yards from the stick, with a lot of water in between. I stood about 25 yards back of the green, on a hill behind the pin. His shot came right at me. The Canadian crowd's reaction to this shot was exactly the same as the Chinese reaction to Bolt – a murmur, a buzz, then "Oh, my God." Woods stuck it on the fringe, 18 feet past the cup. It was the 2000 PGA Tour shot of the year. Waite lost by a stroke, and, according to Sports Illustrated, told Woods, "You're not supposed to do that ...You're supposed to hit it in the middle of the green." Well, we've learned that Woods does a lot of things he's not supposed to do.
9. Ottawa Renegades 33, Calgary Stampeders 18, July 16, 2005. In the grand scheme of things, a nothing game, but the strangest things used to happen when I worked sidelines for our CFL on CBC broadcasts. The game was delayed about an hour by a lightning storm. The coaches, Tom Higgins and Joe Paopao, went out to
midfield for a conversation with the referees, and I went out to listen. After reporting what happened, Brian Williams, still the host back then, laughingly asked why I was not using an umbrella. (I was completely soaked, while the panellists were under a canopy.) Why not? The CBC-issue umbrellas were made of metal. If I was going to be electrocuted on live TV, the price would be substantially higher. I got the last laugh: I was wearing one of Williams' ties. Hosting those games was great, but the fans were a riot. In Saskatchewan, I mixed up the suit jacket and pants I brought to a game, although it was barely noticeable. Some Rider fans picked up on it, though, and mercilessly rode me all night. Plus, the most feedback I've ever received: interviewing Pamela Anderson at the 2005 Grey Cup.
10. Sept. 29, 2003. The day I was hired by Hockey Night In Canada. Greatest job ever.
1. Martin Brodeur supporters (and I'm one of them) had to eat it last season when Scott Clemmensen had a great year behind the Devils' suffocating D. But, for the last 15 years, most NHL goalies played behind defence-first systems, and no one put up his numbers. You still have to make big saves and you still have to win games. Patrick Roy is my No. 1, but Brodeur belongs in the discussion.
2. And, how many guys make that toe save off Brett Hull in the 2002 gold medal game? One of the biggest clutch stops ever.
3. Ottawa fans: give it a rest with Zdeno Chara. He wanted to stay.
4. Very unfortunate that it took a fire for all of us to recognize how important equipment guys are.
5. Niklas Backstrom surprised people by playing against Ottawa. In a league full of superstitious/picky goalies – especially when it comes to equipment – Backstrom might be the most anal-retentive. No doubt he wasn't comfortable (four goals on 24 shots), but he scored bonus points with his teammates, because most of them weren't comfortable, either.
6. Theory is the fire was caused by the torches players use to mould their sticks. They don't need to be manually lit any more. Now, they're twist-ons. If they get twisted into the "on" position, they can ignite.
7. Will Drew Doughty miss out on the Olympic team because he shoots right? That side of Canada's defence will include Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, probably Brent Seabrook with Doughty and Mike Green (although it appears unlikely) as possible seventh guys. But, does Steve Yzerman take an extra left-handed shot with Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger struggling? (I'd guess Duncan Keith will join them for sure, with Jay Bouwmeester a possibility.)
8. Could none of Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr make Team Canada? Who would have bet on that at the beginning of the season?
9. What are the Canucks going to do with Willie Mitchell? He did a great job on Alexander Ovechkin last Friday in a 3-2 win. He'll be 33 in April, coming off four-year deal at $3.5 million US per. Vancouver has $39 million committed next season to 12 players. Mitchell is probably their second-biggest priority after Ryan Kesler.
10. Something to remember: Mattias Ohlund said this season he knew he wasn't staying in Vancouver a year before he hit free agency, when the Canucks didn't sign him.
11. Jim Rutherford's made it very clear that he’s open for business. But, teams who have spoken to him learned that two players are not available: Joni Pitkanen and Ray Whitney. Whitney, in particular, is desirable because he's a UFA-to-be with scoring touch. But, he’s got a no-trade, and Rutherford wants to re-sign him.
12. Please don't take that to mean Eric Staal might be. That's insane.
13. Equally crazy: Did someone really suggest Colorado was going to trade Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly for Ilya Kovalchuk? Greg Sherman may be new, but he isn't dumb.
14. Who is available? Well, from what I understand, the list includes Mathieu Schneider, John-Michael Liles and maybe one or two defencemen in Washington. (Don't ask for names, because I don't know who. However, the Capitals have a surplus.)
15. Liles is a tough one. He was benched last Tuesday against Washington (playing only 12 minutes), then averaged 16 in the next two games. He carries a big ticket ($4.2-million cap stretching over two more seasons) and a limited no-trade. Every summer, he must submit a list of 12 teams he will accept going to. The Avalanche can only deal with 40 per cent of the league, and I'm not sure how much interest there would be.
16. Draft picks are so important now in a cap world that many teams don't want to part with them. At this point, they'd rather trade equal cash for equal cash (see Pouliot/Latendresse) and keep the picks. That will change closer to the deadline. This is another reason it's so hard to trade.
17. Rare that Bob Gainey would admit calling Philadelphia about Jaroslav Halak. Thought it might mean he was ready to commit long-term to Carey Price, but agent Gerry Johanssen said there have been no discussions. Price apparently has no problem with that, wanting to worry about the season, not his contract.
18. Okay, the Islanders. It's no secret that Charles Wang's had enough. He wants out. Two guys who do a great job covering them online – Chris Botta and BD Gallof – have different takes on this. Botta thinks no one would buy the team without a land deal. BD Gallof reported Wang met with former MSG president Bob Gutkowski. All I've been told is that a New York-based hedge-fund manager has interest. (Despite my best efforts, could not nail down a name.) The source is good, and says we will know more after the holidays.
19. Now, you'd think the NHL would use this kind of report as leverage, right? Wrong. Flat-out denial. And, I don't think Gary Bettman will allow them to move. It's New York, and John Tavares has a chance to do for that team what Sidney Crosby did for his.
20. Tavares reminds me a lot of Crosby at 18. Crosby’s true personality began to show at 20. Curious to see what Tavares will be like in two years. He is ALL business.
21. Seen some teams beset by jealousy when a highly touted rookie comes in. The veterans don't like how much attention he gets, etc., etc. Didn't happen in Washington with Ovechkin and it’s not happening on the Island with Tavares.
22. Both Dwayne Roloson and Doug Weight offered Tavares a place to live. Originally, the plan was to live alone, but staying with Weight is a much smarter decision.
23. Weight joked Tavares and roommate Matt Moulson nearly come to blows over video games. Tavares says it's because Moulson only plays games he can win.
24. One Oiler on Pat Quinn: "I like playing for him because he’s brutally honest. He tells us when we think we’re better than we really are." He's probably been saying that a lot since the road trip.
25. Was talking to Kris Draper for a story the other day and he was saying, "I look around the room every day and wonder who is getting hurt next?" Answer: Henrik Zetterberg. Who cursed this team? Marian Hossa?
26. Following the Edmonton blowout, the Blues are 10-3-3 on the road, 6-11-2 at home. Players say they fool around too much at Scottrade Center, trying to impress the fans. Better stop. No playoff team this decade had a losing record at home.
27. The Blues' other big problem: They are dead last among Western Conference teams against the East (2-5-2). The West is killing the East this season, as 11 of 15 teams are above .500. Columbus is even. The other two stragglers are Anaheim (4-5-1) and Edmonton (3-6-1). No coincidence they are the conference’s four worst teams entering Tuesday’s games.
28. Not surprised Wade Redden reacted so negatively to his benching. Bryan Murray once told the media he'd had a private meeting with Redden about his play. I asked the defenceman about it, and he said, "I hate it when [Murray] tells you guys that stuff."
29. That said, can't fault Tortorella for doing it. The Rangers are a mess, with Glen Sather in semi-retirement.
30. I don't watch American Idol (there's nothing I hate more than karaoke), but I do remember finding out when Mike Fisher was dating Carrie Underwood. It was after a game in Toronto, and Fisher was surrounded by a huge entourage, which didn't really fit his classy, understated personality. I asked, "When did Mike Fisher become Vincent Chase?" Someone pointed to Underwood, and I had no idea who she was. (Not that she'd know who I am.) Congratulations to Fisher, one of the most genuine people in the NHL.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Or, if you don’t celebrate it, Happy Holidays.
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