Borje Salming

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
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With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

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As mind-blowing as it is to type this, it’s true: Tom Brady said goodbye to the Patriots on Tuesday. It’s something that’s difficult to process, even if you’re not a Patriots or even a football fan. Yet, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra chronicles for baseball, legends donning strange uniforms late in their careers is no new phenomenon, and certainly not limited to the land of pigskins. So what about hockey and the NHL, then?

Hockey fans have been treated to quite a few one-team legends, including Mario Lemieux saving the Penguins more than once.

Even so, there are plenty of legends who ended spent time in jerseys that just felt wrong. Let’s ponder the hockey answers to Brady leaving the Patriots, Johnny Unitas on the Chargers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards, and Babe Ruth on the Boston Braves.

Orr down hockey Brady comparison
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque leave Boston with very different results

At least with Brady, Boston-area fans couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Meanwhile, Bobby Orr’s career concluded with questions of “What could have been?”

Knee injuries ravaged his later career, and after 10 seasons, Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks. Between two seasons, Orr could only appear in 26 games for Chicago.

In something of a sequel, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque during his 21st season with the team, setting the stage for Bourque to eventually win a Stanley cup inspiring enough to essentially demand a parade in Boston.

Brodeur Blues Brady leaving Patriots hockey comparison
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Brodeur finishes with the Blues

If Orr on the Blackhawks isn’t the Brady comparison you think of for hockey, then it’s probably Brodeur appearing in seven games for the Blues after winning three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, and setting the all-time wins record over 1,259 games with the Devils.

(That contrast still makes me chuckle, to be honest.)

As awkward as Brodeur’s brief Blues stint was, it lacked the angst of how Orr’s career ended. That might make it closer to a 1:1 hockey comparison for Brady, although the QB could easily prove that his tank isn’t empty.

Much of this list shows examples of players trying to prove that they could still play, with most sputtering out after running on fumes.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hull of a change, and Howe

Bobby Hull already experienced quite a journey going from the Blackhawks to the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets (scoring 303 goals in the WHA alone). Hull’s final hockey and NHL season was especially odd, though, starting with 18 NHL games for the Jets before being traded to the Hartford Whalers, playing nine games for The Whale. Gordie Howe ended up being a Whalers teammate of Hull, which is … yeah, pretty mind-blowing. Bobby Hull also attempted a comeback with the Rangers.

(Howe’s legendary career featured quite the second [and maybe third?] acts after his Red Wings days, including playing with his sons, and somehow managing 15 goals and 41 points with the Hartford Whalers at age 51.)

Bobby’s son Brett Hull experienced a journeyman career of his own. Brett convinced the Coyotes to unretire Bobby’s number 9, but that story ended with a whimper (five games) as Brett realized he couldn’t adjust to the post-lockout style of play in 2005-06.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Random Red Wings

If you’re playing trivia and “This player finished his career/briefly played for this team …” comes up, blurting out Detroit Red Wings isn’t the worst bet.

Lightning round, sometimes involving Lightning

  • Mats Sundin stunned Maple Leafs fans by joining the Canucks. There was some Alfredsson-like logic of linking Sundin with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, yet the experiment lasted just 41 games.
  • Brian Leetch playing for the Maple Leafs was a little strange, but Leetch in a Bruins sweater will never look right.
  • Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens legend, as a Quebec Nordique? Yes, that happened. Jacques Plante bounced around quite about post-Habs, too, including eight games with the (gasp) Bruins.
  • Like Plante, Grant Fuhr pinballed around the NHL quite a bit after parting ways with the Oilers, but joining the Flames? Wow. Fuhr didn’t just play for the Calgary Flames, either, as he suited up twice for the Saint John Flames.
  • File Ed Belfour and Igor Larionov under “people you might not have known played for the Panthers.”
  • Olaf Kolzig was persistent in Washington as Godzilla could be in Tokyo, playing 711 of his 719 games for the Capitals. The eight other games came with the Lightning. (Vincent Lecavalier playing for the Kings was strange, but softened by his years with the Flyers.)

Feel free to mention other fish-out-of-water memories in the comments. Also, if you had to guess, which hockey legend will Brady mirror the most?

(Hopefully we won’t ever get that “Halloween Olajuwon as a Raptor vs. Patrick Ewing with the Magic” feeling from Brady’s final act.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL renames GM of the Year Award after Jim Gregory

via NHL
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The NHL’s GM of the Year award will now be known as the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award.

Gregory passed away on Oct. 30 at the age of 83. Gregory was a longtime NHL executive, including serving as Toronto Maple Leafs GM from 1969 to 1979. Gregory was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

The name change was unanimously approved during the annual November GM meetings.

“This is a terrific tribute to a wonderful man by a group uniquely qualified to appreciate his many contributions to our game,” Gary Bettman said. “During his tenure as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jim Gregory transformed the art of team-building. Through the many years he spent at the League, our general managers regularly sought his counsel. They universally revere his lifetime of service to the NHL.”

NHL.com notes that Gregory stood out for many reasons, including having an eye for international talent.

Gregory was a hockey ambassador around the globe and among the first NHL general managers to sign and import players from Europe — most notably, the legendary defenseman Borje Salming. Steeped in the game’s traditions, he was integral to the implementation of some of the League’s most transformational innovations — including the use of video to review goals and the expansion of the role of the Central Scouting Bureau.

The NHL’s GM of the Year award was first handed out in 2009-10. Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney was the most recent recipient in 2018-19.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Mats Sundin to have number honored by Maple Leafs

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According to a report from Aftonbladet in Sweden, the Maple Leafs are going to honor one of their own in the best way they can. Pension Plan Puppets shares the translated story about how Toronto will honor the number of former captain Mats Sundin.

The Leafs don’t retire numbers, but they will honor the hell out of them and Sundin will be the 16th player honored by the team with the ceremony being held on February 11 before a game against the Canadiens. Sure is nice to do these things with your hated rival in town.

Sundin played for 13 seasons in Toronto and spent 11 of those as the team captain. He was always their best forward and their top scorer and a guy who goes down in Toronto as one of their modern legends in the company of Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. Sundin will also be the second Swede recognized by the Leafs joining Borje Salming in that exclusive club.

Amazingly enough, Sundin wasn’t originally a Maple Leaf. Sundin was traded to Toronto in 1994 as part of a monster package deal that saw Wendel Clark head to Quebec, a trade that makes Leafs fans feel really awkward as it sent one hero out of town and brought another into the fold.

Must be nice to have a trade that works out pretty well as Sundin finished his career with 1,349 points and 564 goals and one really awkward season in Vancouver to end it all.

Yzerman, Roy, Roenick and Salming added to NHL 12’s legends list while nitpicking begins

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EA Sports is wisely generating a steady trickle of buzz for NHL 12 by slowing releasing its list of legends who will appear in the upcoming video game.

Last week, we took a look at the unveiling of the first three: Wayne Gretzky, Chris Chelios and Ray Bourque. Through various means – apparently at least one of the names leaked – we now know four more of the former NHL stars who will appear in the title: Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Borje Salming and Jeremy Roenick. The speculation continues as the next two legends might be revealed, with names like Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe and Pavel Bure surfacing the most often. (Perhaps EA Sports might have a trick up its sleeve involving legends via downloadable content or some other venue? We’ll need to wait and see.)

First, let’s look at the video of Yzerman and Salming (Again, PD reveals that Salming’s name leaked, an idea that is strengthened by the release date on this video. The actual planned release date is September 13 rather than September 9.)

[vodpod id=Video.15202544&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

Kudos to EA for showing off the fact that legends can be on any team by having Yzerman skating with the guy he recently signed, Steven Stamkos. (There’s a lot more finesse to going that way instead of having Stevie Y in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, for instance.)

Later on, EA Sports released a new legends video that featuring Roy and Roenick – a playful nod to the two players’ smack talking rivalry – which you can see below.

[vodpod id=Video.15201029&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

So, this all looks awesome, right? I think most people would agree, but as per typical with anything that’s being dissected on the Internet, the nitpicking has already begun. The sticking point, at this moment, seems to be the authenticity of the legends’ gear.

Doug Miller tackled some complaints that Yzerman was using Reebok gear rather than Easton gloves and sticks.

I didn’t even notice this myself at first, as I was more excited about the news itself, but I knew something didn’t look quite right. It is quite surprising that EA would make such a simple oversight, considering what we have seen in the few teaser trailers for Legends so far, and it looks like they went to great lengths to capture each Legend’s smallest little nuances… yet made such a simple and basic oversight when it comes to Stevie Y’s equipment.

Personally, I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal… I’m just thrilled that he’s going to be in the game, as life-long Red Wings fan. Plus, you can always go in and “edit” players in the game, so if you are really anal about this kind of thing, you can go and “fix” this little oversight by slapping on the “correct” gear. As I’ve had to do for the past two seasons with Jimmy Howard’s neck-guard. That is if this minor oversight isn’t already fixed in the game by the time it is released, via a roster update, in which they not only adjust stats, but also update equipment to be accurate, usually for goaltender’s pads.

Meanwhile, Rick Moldovanyi of Houses of the Hockey wishes that Roy’s Habs-era mask was replicated.

Not that it will matter to the gameplay at all, but it bothers us a bit that Patrick Roy’s iconic Montreal Canadiens mask was not properly duplicated for the game.

In defense of EA, the equipment quibbles might be related to the fact that these players are available to all 30 teams. Maybe the company will indeed “patch” the players’ vintage equipment, but it seems like a small quibble if the legends emulate their real-life counterparts.

We’ll keep an eye out for the final two (or maybe more?) legends who will be included in the game. Which players are you looking forward to being on the “roster” the most in NHL 12?