One Remarkable Night (Just One)

TORONTO (Nov. 10) — So, which result of this past Tuesday night came as more of a surprise to you: Donald Trump being elected 45th president of the United States or the Los Angeles Kings wood–shedding the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre? I’ll go with Door No. 1. Infinitely. To be honest, I still cannot comprehend Trump as commander–in–chief of the American military; yet, time may view him as one of the nonpareil leaders in U.S. history. Who knows? As for your favorite hockey team… well, a lesson learned is a lesson earned.

Mike Babcock overreacted to the 7–0 flogging by L.A. He conducted a “Pat Burns” practice on Wednesday at MasterCard Centre — though no one apparently hurled during the 45–minute skate–a–thon. As head coach, it is Babcock’s prerogative to react as he sees fit, and Tuesday may have provided his leanest hour in command of the Blue and White. From my point of view, it was just another game; merely one of 82 on the schedule. The components were neatly in place for a trouncing of the home side — namely, a three–game win streak capped by Saturday’s tag–team conquest of Vancouver at the ACC. The Leafs bullied the Canucks, 6–3, and swaggered into Monday’s workout as you might imagine a group of testosterone/dopamine–spiked youngsters. What better time for the large–and–in–charge Kings — twice Stanley Cup champion in the past half–decade — to offer a not–so gentle hint of the National Hockey League’s pecking order?

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A FAMILIAR AND UNSUSPECTING SITE ON TUESDAY FOR AUSTON MATTHEWS AND THE MAPLE LEAFS.

Were he truthful, Babcock might confess to a form of gratitude for the L.A. beat–down. Not even the highest–paid coach in the NHL can provide a real–life experience. The 2016–17 Maple Leafs aren’t seven goals inferior to the Kings — not then; not now. The newbies were simply full of themselves; bloated beyond measure as they approached what would surely be their fourth consecutive win. Did it really matter that the Kings were coming off a 5–0 home–ice pummeling of Calgary, which followed a 3–2 overtime conquering at Staples Center of Stanley Cup–champion Pittsburgh? “Hey, we’re the new Leafs. The chumps on the other side don’t have Jonathan Quick or Marian Gaborik. How many can we score? Let’s get this party started!”

Whomp!!

As electoral votes were being tabulated south of the border, the cavalier locals groveled to the dressing room — their back–sides charred. Determined to expend minimal energy on “Guaranteed Win” night, the Leafs were appropriately humiliated. It was not, as others opined, typical of how the club will be subdued by a beefy, Western Conference foe. Rather, it indicated what the Maple Leafs have in store on any night they choose to abandon their work boots. That it occurred against an experienced and accomplished team was somewhat alarming; Los Angeles no longer sneaks up on the opposition. As such, the punishing response from Babcock on Wednesday. After all, the decorated coach appeared hapless, too, the previous night.

Still, and as mentioned, it was only one hour of 82.

A swelled head may earn you the top political office on the planet.

On the ice, you’ll encounter doom.

CAN WE SAY IT?

It is apparently the height of sacrilege in these parts to even imply that Auston Matthews may be foundering in his rookie NHL season. So, allow me: The NHL’s No. 1 draft choice is mired in a prodigious slump. Yes, you read it correctly. A massive dry–spell. Two goals in 12 games after four goals in one. A measly point (an assist) in his last seven games. All magnified — fairly or otherwise — by the lamp–lighting artistry of the No. 2 draft choice: Patrik Laine of Winnipeg. Heading into action on Thursday, the Finnish phenom led the NHL with 11 goals and was fifth in scoring with 15 points. In the long run, of course, this is likely to mean nothing. Matthews could get hot and Laine could cool off. But, Auston is now in the big league and therefore open, as others, to reasonable observation. He needs not to be “protected” by those that cover the team for print or electronic media. Just as there is no apparent limit, after all, to the praise with which he’s been showered.

DARRYL SITTLER REDUX

Among the plethora of hockey books for the Christmas shopping season is a second effort by Maple Leafs legend Darryl Sittler. CAPTAIN: My Life and Career is a handsome, 212–page compilation of photos and observations from the now–66–year–old Hall–of–Fame center and captain of the Blue and White. In conjunction with veteran hockey author Mike Leonetti, the book differs from the autobiography Sittler penned in 1991 (with Chrys Goyens and Allan Turowetz). This is more of a coffee–table production, and it notably incorporates the time since October 2001, when Sittler’s first wife, Wendy, lost a battle with cancer.

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DARRYL SITTLER’S NEW BOOK (ABOVE) AND HIS 1991 AUTOBIOGRAPHY (BELOW), INSIDE OF WHICH HE PENNED A MESSAGE TO YOURS TRULY.

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FROM THE INSIDE–FLAP OF CAPTAIN: MY LIFE AND CAREER.

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THE FIRST CHAPTER OF SITTLER’S BOOK FEATURES HIS MAGICAL YEAR OF 1976, WHICH BEGAN WITH A NOW–MYTHICAL, 10—POINT GAME AGAINST BOSTON (MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, FEB. 7); A FIVE–GOAL PLAYOFF EFFORT AGAINST PHILADELPHIA (MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, APR. 22) AND A SERIES–WINNING GOAL IN OVERTIME (SEP. 15, MONTREAL FORUM) THAT DECIDED THE INAUGURAL CANADA CUP TOURNAMENT. DARRYL IS PICTURED, TOP–LEFT, WITH THE SCORE–SHEET FROM HIS 10–POINT GAME — STILL AN NHL RECORD. BELOW, HE IS MOBBED BY LINE–MATES LANNY McDONALD AND ERROL THOMPSON AFTER HIS FLUKY 10th POINT: A PASS FROM BEHIND THE NET TO THOMPSON THAT CAROMED IN OFF THE SKATES OF BRUINS’ DEFENSEMAN BRAD PARK AND GOALIE DAVE REECE.

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TYPICALLY, SITTLER DEDICATED CHAPTERS (ABOVE AND BELOW) TO THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MEANT MOST TO HIM OFF THE ICE — HIS CURRENT AND FORMER WIFE… AND A CANADIAN HERO.

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SITTLER SKATED ALONGSIDE HIS BEST FRIEND IN HOCKEY — LANNY McDONALD — FROM 1975 TO 1981. THE EVENTS OF 1979–81, INVOLVING HAROLD BALLARD AND PUNCH IMLACH (WHICH INCLUDED THIS LETTER TO BALLARD), PUT AN END TO THE PROLIFIC MAPLE LEAFS COMBINATION.

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ON DEC. 31, 2013 — AT COMERICA PARK IN DETROIT (HOME OF THE BASEBALL TIGERS) — SITTLER TOOK PART IN A CEREMONIAL FACE–OFF WITH STEVE YZERMAN (19) BEFORE AN OUTDOOR ALUMNI GAME BETWEEN THE MAPLE LEAFS AND RED WINGS. DROPPING THE PUCKS WERE THE LATE GORDIE HOWE (LEFT) AND “PRODUCTION LINE” WINGER TED LINDSAY.

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THE INSIDE–REAR FLAP TO SITTLER’S NEW BOOK…

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… AND, THE BACK COVER.

CAPTAIN: My Life and Career is published by McClelland and Stewart (a division of Penguin/Random House Ltd.). It retails for $37.00 CAD or $32.00 USD. It can also be found at Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/2fhVexl) and Chapters.Indigo.ca (http://bit.ly/2eGj6qe).

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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