By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (June 23) — I was in that wonderful, relaxing crossroad between lucidity and full slumber when my damned BlackBerry roared to life at three minutes past midnight this a.m. Snapping awake and momentarily pissed off, I noticed on call display that a fairly reliable hockey source from the Pittsburgh area was on the other end. As I fumbled in the darkness for my BlackBerry, I was jolted entirely awake by a blinding flash of light and nearly simultaneous explosion of thunder.
Yup, it’s a rather noisy weather night here in the Big Smoke with warm and cold–fronts colliding directly over midtown. It made for a difficult few moments on the blower with my Steel City pal but he conveyed enough syllables to get me out of the sack and on to my laptop.
“I’m told the Leafs are working hard on a trade for Phil Kessel and that Philadelphia and the Penguins may be involved,” said my friend. “I’m gonna try and get more info tonight but it was made quite clear to me that Toronto would like to trade Kessel — probably sooner than later.”
PHIL KESSEL (81) LOOKS ON AS PRONE JAMES van RIEMSDYK CELEBRATES A GOAL AGAINST PHILADELPHIA AT AIR CANADA CENTRE, DEC. 20, 2014. GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM
The latter point will come as less than a shock to followers of the Maple Leafs. Speculation that Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock are looking to move Kessel has been surging as we head toward Friday night’s National Hockey League draft in Sunrise, Fla. That Philadelphia and Pittsburgh could be among the inquiring clubs is newsworthy but also not startling; both (according to TSN) are on Kessel’s eight–city menu of potential trade habitats, as per his limited no–movement clause.
What the Leafs might be capable of wrangling for Kessel is a matter of pure speculation. As it pertains to this year’s draft, Pittsburgh does not have a selection until No. 46, having dealt its first–rounder (No. 16) to Edmonton for David Perron on Jan. 2. Philadelphia, on the other hand, sits rather appealingly in the No. 7 hole, behind the Leafs, Carolina and New Jersey. As with Toronto, the Flyers have a second pick in the opening round — No. 29 — as a result of the trade–deadline deal in March that sent defenseman Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay. Guessing out loud here… the Leafs would almost certainly like to add that seventh pick to their No. 4 selection. It would enable Toronto to draft two players among the prospect cluster that includes Dylan Strome, Noah Hanifin, Lawson Crouse, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov and Pavel Zacha.
Imagine, if you can, the Leafs somehow landing Hanifin and Provorov. With Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner already in blue and white, their back end would be set for the next 10 years. Alternately, acquiring the No. 7 pick would enable Toronto to draft an elite defenceman and forward. From my standpoint — and as I’ve previously written — that pick alone would be more than enough return for Kessel, even if the Leafs begrudgingly have to eat part of the winger’s massive contract. Shanahan, Babcock, Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas are all about draft picks and prospects right now. Kessel is not part of any long–range plan.
So, let’s see what might unfold over the next four days.
The Leafs seem to be making clear their intentions with No. 81.
Now, back to bed — with earplugs.
NHL MEDIA GUIDES — PART 8
Next up in my 50–year collection–series of National Hockey League media guides — the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild:
BUFFALO JOINED THE NHL IN THE SECOND WAVE OF EXPANSION (WITH VANCOUVER) IN 1970–71. AND, THE SABRES KEPT IT SIMPLE FOR THE COVER OF THEIR INAUGURAL MEDIA GUIDE.
ON THE SABRES SECOND MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT), FORWARD GERRY MEEHAN IS LITERALLY FLIPPING OVER THE PUCK. VETERAN GOALIE ROGER CROZIER, WHO PLAYED IN BUFFALO’S FIRST NHL GAME (2–1 VICTORY AT PITTSBURGH, OCT. 10, 1970), WAS ON THE COVER IN YEAR 3, AS THE SABRES DEFEATED ST. LOUIS ON THE FINAL NIGHT OF THE SCHEDULE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FIRST TIME. BUFFALO THEN LOST TO MONTREAL IN SIX GAMES.
ODDLY, IT WASN’T UNTIL THE SABRES FOURTH YEAR THAT GILBERT PERREAULT — THE CLUB’S FIRST–EVER DRAFT PICK AND BEST PLAYER IN FRANCHISE HISTORY — APPEARED ON THE MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT). PERREAULT’S LEFT–WINGER ON THE “FRENCH CONNECTION” LINE, RICHARD MARTIN, GRACED THE ’74–75 GUIDE AND BUFFALO ADVANCED TO THE STANLEY CUP FINAL BEFORE LOSING IN SIX GAMES TO PHILADELPHIA. MARTIN DIED OF A HEART ATTACK WHILE DRIVING IN CLARENCE, N.Y. ON MAR. 13, 2011. HE WAS 59.
THE “FRENCH CONNECTION” RIGHT–WINGER, RENE ROBERT, MADE THE 1975–76 COVER, WHICH SURPRISINGLY OFFERED NO REFERENCE TO THE 1975 STANLEY CUP APPEARANCE.
FOR THEIR 10th SEASON, IN 1979–80, THE SABRES FEATURED CRAIG RAMSAY ON THE COVER OF THEIR MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT). A DURABLE FORWARD, RAMSAY DID NOT MISS A GAME FOR TEN CONSECUTIVE SEASONS: 1972–73 THROUGH 1981–82. HE AND CENTER DON LUCE FORMED THE BEST PENALTY–KILLING TANDEM IN THE NHL DURING THE MIDDLE–TO–LATE–70’s. IT WAS ALL GILBERT PERREAULT ON THE 1982–83 SABRES GUIDE (TOP–RIGHT).
DEFENSEMAN MIKE RAMSEY WAS ON THE COVER IN 1983–84. HE HAD PLAYED AN INSTRUMENTAL ROLE IN THE “MIRACLE ON ICE” FOR THE 1980 U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM, WHICH SHOCKED THE RUSSIANS AND WON GOLD IN LAKE PLACID, N.Y. GAME ACTION AGAINST THE MONTREAL CANADIENS AND HARTFORD WHALERS ADORNED THE MEDIA GUIDE IN 1986–87.
BUFFALO CEREBRATED ITS 20th NHL SEASON WITH STAR DEFENCEMAN PHIL HOUSELY ON THE COVER. HOUSLEY WAS DRAFTED SIXTH OVERALL BY THE SABRES IN 1982 AND MADE THE TEAM AS AN 18–YEAR–OLD DIRECTLY FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN SOUTH ST. PAUL, MINN. HE BECAME ONE OF THE BEST OFFENSIVE BLUE–LINERS IN NHL HISTORY, WITH SEASONS OF 97, 86, 81, 77 AND 76 POINTS FOR BUFFALO AND WINNIPEG. WITH 1,232 POINTS, HE REMAINS THE SECOND–HIGHEST–SCORING U.S.–BORN PLAYER OF ALL TIME, TRAILING ONLY MIKE MODANO.
IN 1987, FOR ONLY THE SECOND TIME IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, THE SABRES HAD FIRST PICK IN THE NHL DRAFT. THEY CHOSE CENTER PIERRE TURGEON (GRANBY QMJHL) AND TURGEON CAME THROUGH WITH SEASONS OF 88, 106 AND 79 POINTS — MAKING THE GUIDE COVER IN 1990–91. ON OCT. 25, 1991, HE WAS TRADED TO THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS IN A MULTI–PLAYER SWAP FOR PAT LaFONTAINE, WHOSE ARMS WERE RAISED ON THE 1992–93 GUIDE.
IT WAS SILVER, BLUE AND GOLD FOR THE SABRES 25th MEDIA GUIDE, IN 1994–95.
IN 1995–96, THE SABRES MEDIA GUIDE COMMEMORATED THE 26th AND FINAL SEASON AT THEIR ORIGINAL HOME — THE BUFFALO MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM.
UPON MOVING KITTY–CORNER FROM THE AUDITORIUM TO THEIR NEW HOME — THE MARINE MIDLAND ARENA (NOW FIRST NIAGARA CENTER) — THE SABRES UNDERWENT A RE–MAKE IN 1996–97. TEAM COLORS WERE NOW BLACK, RED AND WHITE, WITH NEW UNIFORMS AND LOGO. THE 1998–99 MEDIA GUIDE APPROPRIATELY FEATURED GOALIE DOMINIK HASEK, WHO WON THE HART AND VEZINA TROPHIES THE PREVIOUS YEAR AND LED THE CZECH REPUBLIC TO A GOLD MEDAL AT THE ’98 WINTER OLYMPICS IN NAGANO, JAPAN. HASEK WOULD BACKSTOP THE SABRES TO THEIR SECOND (AND MOST RECENT) APPEARANCE IN THE STANLEY CUP FINAL, LOSING IN 1999 TO BRETT HULL (“NO GOAL!!!”) AND THE DALLAS STARS.
HASEK AND CAPTAIN MICHAEL PECA WERE STARS OF THE ’99 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP AND RIGHTLY FEATURED ON THE SABRES 30th ANNIVERSARY GUIDE. BUT, AGAIN, AS IN 1975–76, THERE WAS NO REFERENCE TO THE STANLEY CUP FINAL APPEARANCE.
BUFFALO’S RED THIRD JERSEY AND ALTERNATE LOGO APPEARED ON THE 2001–02 MEDIA GUIDE, AS WORN BY FORWARDS MIRO SATAN (TOP–LEFT) AND ROB RAY (BOTTOM–RIGHT).
MY TWO MOST RECENT SABRES GUIDES (2006–07 AND 2007–08) SHOWED THE CLUB RETURNING TO ITS ORIGINAL COLORS AND INCORPORATING A THIRD LOGO.
AFTER AN ABSENCE OF SEVEN YEARS, THE “STATE OF HOCKEY” WAS BACK IN THE NHL: THE MINNESOTA WILD JOINING IN EXPANSION FOR 2000–01 WITH THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS. MINNESOTA NORTH STARS — PART OF THE FIRST EXPANSION IN 1967–68, WHEN THE LEAGUE DOUBLED TO 12 TEAMS — HAD RE–LOCATED TO DALLAS FOR THE 1993–94 SEASON.
MINNESOTA’S TEAM COLORS OF RED, PINE–GREEN AND GOLD QUICKLY BECAME POPULAR AMONG LICENSED APPAREL. HERE, THE WILD’S SECOND AND THIRD–SEASON MEDIA GUIDES.
YEAR 4 FEATURED THE 2004 NHL ALL–STAR GAME, WHICH WAS PLAYED AT THE XCEL ENERGY CENTER IN ST. PAUL. MINNESOTA HAD HOSTED THE 1972 ALL–STAR GAME AT THE HOME OF THE NORTH STARS — THE METROPOLITAN SPORTS CENTER IN SUBURBAN BLOOMINGTON.
MY TWO MOST–RECENT MINNESOTA BOOKS — 2006–07 AND 2007–08.
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