The average hockey fan would be thrilled for a personal invite to dinner from Wayne Gretzky.
Seems that goes for NHL head coaches, too.
This week, Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau got the call to break bread with No. 99 — Boudreau was in Vancouver playing the Canucks, Gretzky for a speaking engagement — and the Ducks bench boss was admittedly awestruck by the entire affair.
“Coolest moment of my life,” Boudreau told the Edmonton Journal. “I was blown away. I phoned my wife at two in the morning. I said, ‘You’ll never guess who I was with.’ I was really excited.”
Part of the reason Gretzky sought out Boudreau was because of his playing career. From 1972-75, Boudreau played junior hockey with the OHA’s Toronto Marlboros, a team Gretzky watched growing up.
“I was really shocked how knowledgeable Wayne was,” Boudreau explained. “He knew so much about me. I thought I knew a lot about him and I didn’t think he knew anything about me.
“But he knew an awful lot from 30 years ago and that’s another reason why he’s so great. He loves hockey.”
Of note, that 1974-75 Marlboros team was definitely one worth watching. In addition to churning out some quality NHLers like John Tonelli and Mark Napier, the team also developed a legion of NHL head coaches: Boudreau, Ron Wilson, John Anderson and Mike Kitchen.
As for dinner — Boudreau didn’t say what he and Gretzky ate, but I think it’s safe to assume ice cream factored heavily into the dessert selection.
The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.
“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.
“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”
While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.
“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”
Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?
News and notes from around the crease…
Jones goes for San Jose
Martin Jones, acquired by the Sharks this summer, will make his first regular-season start for the club tonight against his old team — the Los Angeles Kings.
Jones, 25, spent the last two years in L.A. as Jonathan Quick‘s understudy. He was flipped to Boston at the NHL Entry Draft, then shipped to San Jose. Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasted little time locking Jones in — signing him to a three-year, $9 million extension — and Jones wasted little time locking up the No. 1 gig, putting together a stellar preseason.
For the Kings, Quick will get the start in goal.
Markstrom out for Vancouver
Jacob Markstrom wasn’t scheduled to start for the Canucks tonight — No. 1 Ryan Miller is getting the call — but the Swedish ‘tender won’t even dress when his club takes on the Flames in Calgary.
Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury at practice this week and is being held out of tonight’s action. In his place, the Canucks called up AHL netminder Richard Bachman, who’ll serve as Miller’s backup.
For the Flames, Karri Ramo is the opening-night starter.
Habs at Leafs: Carey Price vs. Jonathan Bernier
Rangers at ‘Hawks: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Corey Crawford