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Twitter: @BrynMightyMouth @Robin_Brownlee @SNKenReid @GerryModdejonge
Who are The OUTSIDERS?
The Outsiders are Edmonton media veterans Bryn Griffiths and Robin Brownlee. Together, they intend to bring us a different perspective on sports gained from decades inside the business. They’ve been around for a while, and both have rolodexes literally overflowing with the contacts of some amazing sports figures.
This is a new weekly sports podcast with a keen eye on the hottest topics of the week in Canada. Expect them to serve up some outstanding conversations with a sports luminaries new and old.
Above all, expect lots of opinions!
“NOT always right but willing to listen.” – Bryn Griffiths
Bryn Griffiths and Robin Brownlee take a weekly look at the World of Sports from their unique perspective. Great guests. Outstanding conversation. Lots of opinion. NOT always right but willing to listen.
Gretzky Was Magic, Now He Sees It
Gretzky Was Magic, Now He Sees It
If you ever watched Wayne Gretzky – or even if you know the reputation but have never seen him in action – you probably know one of his major skills. Largely due to his dad’s early encouragement, Wayne developed a sense of where the puck was going long before his rivals zeroed in.
The advantages of his anticipation were obvious, of course., probably the biggest reason why he collected more than 200 points in four separate seasons and his National Hockey League records for career points (2,857), goals (894), assists (1,963) and hat tricks (50) are still unchallenged long after his retirement.
One memory in particular stands out for me. It didn’t lead to a goal, or even a point but I’ll never forget it. Gretzky was alone near the opposing net when line mate Dave Hunter got tied up scuffling for a loose puck. Gretzky left the zone and went, uncovered, to a corner about 30 feet away. Immediately, the puck followed him.
“..what he’s got is unique hockey sense…”
Gretzky picked up the puck and made an easy pass back to the point, then left for the bench. Later, I asked what prompted him to change position. “There was only one place for the puck to go,” he smiled.
I learned something shocking this week: that talent for reading the future has followed the game’s all-time leading offensive player into outlining many of the possibilities in the upcoming playoff series between his old team, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Please note, there is no suggestion here that Gretzky, or anyone else, predicts the future. But several pages in “Stories of the Game” leave the clear suggestion that he might have done it in this case.
The book was co-written by Gretzky and Kirstie McLellan Day several years ago, just as Connor McDavid was establishing himself in Edmonton as one who needs only time (and freedom from injury) to join the roster as one NHL’s greatest ever. “He’s already started to drive the bus,” says one sentence that also mentions Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau and Maurice (Rocket) Richard. “McDavid makes everyone better.”
One paragraph later, Darnell Nurse is described as “a Kevin Lowe type” and the long-ago (much under-rated) Charlie Huddy is seen as a role model for Oscar Klefbom. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, in whatever role he plays, reminds Gretzky of winners like Kenny Linseman and Mark Lamb – who were not fully appreciated on teams as powerful as the Oilers dynasty. “I think we’ll see more success now (in Edmonton) with McDavid at the centre.”
It was equally instructive to read occasional references to what weapons Chicago could unfurl, recognizing the claim by some astute fans that Hawks’ sub-par record should not have given them a berth in the playoffs.
Only twice since 2007-08 has Jonathan Toews surpassed 70 points in a season, but his leadership qualities and consistency are beyond question. At one time, he was the third-youngest team captain in NHL annals, behind only Sidney Crosby and Vincent Lecavalier. Early last season, Toews rivalled Patrick Kane as Chicago’s leading scorer but the gifted Kane was back on top by the end of the partial season cut short by COVID-19.
Says Gretzky, whose skill with the puck remains legendary, “Kane has probably the softest hands in the game.”
In addition, “what he’s got is unique hockey sense.”
Well, Wayne, you’ve finally led to the perfect old cliché: It Takes One to Know One.
More questions than answers on NHL scheduling
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
Rumours are the lifeblood of sports. Few will argue the accuracy of such a statement. Perhaps the reason they draw so much attention on talk shows and in face-to-face conversation is the inevitable growth of broad and open discussions over a period of time.
Often, in sport and in every attention-getting issue, these debates take the simplest possible form: one group of gripers against another group of gripers. In the best of circumstances logic takes the place of emotion and the reasonable point of view is accepted.
Not always, of course.
Edmonton has much to offer in its bid, obviously starting with the region’s success in its war with coronavirus.
NHL scheduling — do they play or not? should they play or not? – has dominated these arguments almost since the first wide knowledge that COVID-19 had brought its crippling threat to North America. At times, the noise of fans desperate for the game and those who find desperate reason to keep everything, including sports events, locked down for the longest possible period has threatened to overshadow all but the most vital question of personal health and survival.
Self-distancing is at the root of all debates. Stay home as much as possible. Wear masks. Stay at least three metres away from other humans, except those who live in the same residence. Obviously, this has been good advice and continues to be.
But calls for a looser application of these valid regulations have apparently become the majority opinion. Larger social groups have been approved. More customers are allowed in many businesses than was the case only a few days ago. Haircuts are allowed, at long last.
Most important in the context of sports, golf courses and other athletic and fitness facilities have been opened. Beaches, too, but indoor swimming pools – in Edmonton anyway are still off-limits.
As I’m sure you know, the two-metre (roughly six feet) between unrelated individuals is still recommended.
Nowhere is the debate more heated than in talk of the NHL playoffs. Edmonton’s anxiety to become a so-called “hub” city for half of the games has been covered to the point of mental exhaustion for me, but still there are more questions than answers.
The biggest complaint seems to be articulated by those who think the NHL should live by the same rules as the rest of us. Many have complained in public at any suggestion that the 14-day isolation requirement for newcomers to the province should stay in place, even if it means the NHL and communication outlets in both North American nations would have to take their attractions to a city more welcoming.
Government officials insist that all possible precautions will be kept in place as newcomers arrive for the necessary training. The testing and recovery ratios are among the best in the world, but still concerns are expressed in strident tones. Edmonton has much to offer in its bid, obviously starting with the region’s success in its war with coronavirus.
From the standpoint of supporters, the status of Rexall Place among the very best facilities in the world should count as a major plus in the argument. Vancouver and Toronto have placed what they consider strong competitive bids. Vancouver’s COVID-19 numbers are in the same positive category as Edmonton’s. The same cannot be said for Toronto.
In only a short while, we’ll all learn whether Toronto’s financial opportunities overshadow the clear health advantages in smaller, western cities.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS.
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