Mats Sundin

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
Getty Images

With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

2 Comments

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.

Sundin says he was ‘almost disgusted’ by Russia’s performance in Olympics

17 Comments

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin won a gold medal with Team Sweden in 2006, so he knows a bit about what it takes to win on the international stage.

That’s why when Sundin sounded off to TSN Radio in Toronto about the performance of Russia, it’s worth at least paying attention to.

“I was almost disgusted by their performance when they played Finland,” said the 43-year-old who played 18 seasons in the NHL. “I look at the Finnish team and they’re missing key players. They don’t have any of their big stars and now [Rask] is hurt and that Russian team is stacked with great players and to come out and have that performance they had in the quarterfinals. It was an absolutely heartless performance.”

Sundin went on to question the Russians desire further saying if the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin couldn’t inspire them, he didn’t know what else could do it.

As Sundin mentions, Finland had a host of key players missing including Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula, and Aleksander Barkov. Russia’s key players like Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin had less-than stellar performances in the Olympics but for the most part their offense didn’t do enough to help them win on the whole.

Still, when retired players are coming out of the woodwork to pile on, it’s a sign things in Russia need to change if they’re going to win a medal in 2018.

Swedish national team hires Sundin

Even though he’s retired, Mats Sundin will be plenty busy this season.

The all-time leading scorer in Maple Leafs history — and 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee — has been named as an adviser for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, according to a report from Swehockey.se.

Sundin will serve alongside the Tre Kronor braintrust — GM Tommy Boustedt, head coach Par Marts and assistants Roger Ronnberg and Peter Popovic — in what promises to be a big year for Team Sweden.

The 2013 World Hockey Championships will be hosted in Stockholm (along with Helsinki) and the Swedes will be looking to make amends for last year’s disastrous finish — they were knocked out in the quarterfinal stage and finished in sixth place.

It marked the first time in four years the Swedes didn’t medal at the tournament.

Looking further ahead, the hire could be a precursor to Sundin playing a big role in Team Sweden’s entry at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Sundin was a key member of  the gold medal-winning side at the 2006 games in Turin, arguably the biggest victory in Swedish hockey history.

What they’re saying about the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class

7 Comments

Earlier today, the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class was announced, with Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure earning the honor.

Names that failed to make the cut include first-time eligible players (Brendan Shanahan, Claude Lemieux, Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph) and those denied multiple times (Dave Andreychuk, Phil Housley, Eric Lindros, Alex Mogilny.)

Needless to say, it was a tough decision — here’s what the hockey world is saying about the four inductees.

Joe Sakic

“Joe’s numbers and records place him among the best of all time and we can’t fully express what he meant to this franchise and our community. He was a complete professional and we are all grateful to have watched him for so many years. Congratulations to you, Joe, on a Hall of Fame career, you truly deserve it.” — Colorado Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix

Adam Oates

“He has the most elite hockey mind I’ve ever come across. Talking to him about the game or watching him play was a real special thing. When you’re able to play with guys like Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Mike Modano, Martin St. Louis and Oatsey, those are some great players…. And even though it was toward the end of his career when I played with him, I always thought Oatsey’s mind for the game and knowledge of the game was unlike anyone else’s.” — Jeff Halpern, former Capitals teammate

Pavel Bure

“If you look back at his career, he was a very consistent scorer, an electrifying player, he made highlights every time he stepped on the ice. He’s one of those players whose style represented what Russian hockey was all about. He played a game that was fun to play. He was unbelievable in the way he played. He brought fans out of their seats.” — Igor Larionov, Hockey Hall of Famer.

Mats Sundin

“He became a tremendous hockey player. Every time you played Toronto, you circled one guy. Mats was just a force.” — Fellow 2012 HHOF inductee Joe Sakic

Kings great Marcel Dionne says Anze Kopitar “needs a wake-up call”

8 Comments

As one of the leading scorers in NHL history, former Los Angeles Kings great Marcel Dionne knows a thing or two about creating offense. Apparently Dionne isn’t shy about critiquing the current Kings’ best source of production, either.

Mayors Manor caught up with Dionne, who compared Anze Kopitar to Mats Sundin – and not in a good way – but hopes to see an Evgeni-Malkin-without-Sidney-Crosby transition.

“I think Kopitar’s at the point in his career where he has to decide what he wants to do,” Dionne said. “Does he want to be the guy? He should be looking at the situation and what’s going with (Evgeni) Malkin. When (Sidney) Crosby was playing, Malkin was happy to be second fiddle. Then, when Crosby went out, Malkin took over.”

“[Kopitar] reminds me a little bit of Mats Sundin. They’re big guys, but when they get close to the net, they’re not aggressive enough. I still have confidence in him. But, sometimes, management [is] too nice to stars. He needs a wake-up call.”

Kopitar leads the Kings in goals (18), assists (36) and points (54) this season, but that still might be a disappointing output for some. Do you think Dionne has a point about Kopitar’s supposed lack of assertiveness or does it really come down to a lack of support from the players around him?

Either way, Kopitar will get his next chance to heed that “wake-up call” against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

(H/T to Jewels from the Crown by way of Kukla’s Korner.)