Maybe it’s like this in other sports and my NHL tunnel vision doesn’t allow me to see it, but every year in hockey, we always have some sort of inane media-generated controversy.
The latest came Tuesday when San Jose Sharks 19-year-old Tomas Hertl, a 2012 first-round pick from the Czech Republic, scored four goals in a 9-2 rout against the Rangers. The fourth goal — and eighth Sharks goal of the night — came by Hertl skating in on a breakaway, slipping the puck backward between his legs and flipping it against the grain under the bar.
The Shark Tank went into a frenzy. Insane goal, one that went viral on YouTube and trended on Twitter, not simply because of Hertl’s stunning move, but because it came from a baby-faced teenager that few people — other than scouts paid to know these kids — had ever heard of.
Hertl officially had taken the hockey world by storm — not just Silicon Valley.
The next day, though, questions started to rumble: Did Hertl, now nicknamed “Sharknado” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl,” disrespect the Rangers (like they didn’t do that to themselves) or disrespect the game?
It especially blew up when Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates, a Hall of Fame center who was as skilled a playmaker as there was during his playing days, told Caps reporters he was “upset.”
“I was just talking to [GM] George [McPhee] and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand,” said Oates, quoted by the Washington Post. “But would he have done it on his first goal? He hasn’t scored yet tonight and he gets a breakaway, is he going to do that on his breakaway?
“I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I’m sure they talked about, because they didn’t play him after that. I’m glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you’re not sharp. Don’t disrespect the league. I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”
It’s true Todd McLellan sat Hertl the final eight minutes, and the assumption was he was trying to protect Hertl in case the Rangers wanted to retaliate. The Sharks coach denies this and can’t believe folks are criticizing the kid.
Oates is as respected as you get, but his quotes made my forehead boil Thursday. Coincidentally, as I was simmering, I happened to overhear (OK, I was eavesdropping on) two guys at a salad bar.
Ojars Linde and David Jordal were going on and on about Hertl’s goal. Linde said, “That’s the stuff we love about hockey.” Jordal said, “Reminded me of you in your younger days.”
This is what NHL dinosaurs and old-school media folks need to hear. The NHL is about entertainment, not a bunch of robots cycling in the corner or blocking shots. Hertl flashes impressive skill on a fourth goal of a game, and he’s accused of making a “rookie mistake?”
Hertl’s goal got the NHL on ESPN, Deadspin, had 7-year-olds asking their dads to rewind the DVR so they can see the goal again (former Wild defenseman Shane Hnidy, now a broadcaster with the Winnipeg Jets, recounted that story).
“You score three goals in a game, you can do whatever you want. We’re in the entertainment business,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Added Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, “He scored a beautiful goal. It was fun to watch. If I were a fan of the game — which I am — I loved it. Is hockey the only sport where if you do something nice, you talk about showboating?”
Exactly. This wasn’t Nail Yakupov sliding the length of the ice on two knees after scoring a tying goal last season.
This was a kid being a kid, a kid excited he did something that hadn’t been accomplished by a rookie in 25 years.
A Selanne production
I got a chance to chat with Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne last week about the Ducks video he helped produce to announce his return to Anaheim and the NHL for one final season.
The video, which Selanne starred in and basically directed, was a YouTube sensation.
Filmed at Selanne’s Orange County country club, the shoot took an hour. Selanne plays a retired hockey player who breaks a window off the tee box, gets caught in bunkers, has to search for his ball in the woods and finally plops his ball in the water.
Selanne reacts by throwing his golf bag into the water. After realizing he left his phone in the bag, he jumps in the lake, drags out the bag, dries off the phone, calls GM Bob Murray and says, “Hi, Bob, it’s Teemu. I’m coming back. Yeah, but this is it. This is my final one.”
“I’ve heard great stories about frustrated golfers throwing their bags in a lake and I was like, ‘We’ve got to do that,’ ” Selanne said. “I thought it would be a big hit, but I didn’t think 2 million hits on YouTube.”
Flyers training camp ‘a disaster’
Flyers owner Ed Snider authorized Paul Holmgren’s decision to fire Peter Laviolette three games into the season: “There’s no question in my mind that anybody looking at this from the outside looking in would say that three games is totally unfair. But quite honestly, training camp was a disaster. I’ve been at 47 training camps and I’ve never seen one that I thought was worse. Now that’s not talking about Peter, that’s talking about our players. And it carried right on over to the first three games of the season.”
Martin St. Louis is 37 and 5 feet 7, and he got the captaincy on Tampa Bay over superstar Steven Stamkos.
St. Louis told a season-ticket holder it was unfortunate for Stamkos the criteria for captain was “short and old” and not “goal-scoring machine.”
The Vancouver Canucks have lost 11 in a row to San Jose, which appears to be in midseason form. Canucks center Ryan Kesler doesn’t buy that: “They’re not better than us.”
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: at Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tuesday: at Toronto, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Thursday: at Tampa Bay, 6:30 p.m. (FSN)
Saturday: at Florida, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo
The Austrian-born former Gophers star and current Stillwater resident is in the final year of his Sabres contract, meaning #VanekWatch to the Wild is in overdrive.
“He’s shown a lot of maturity the way he’s approached every game.”
— Wild coach Mike Yeo on Nino Niederreiter, 21, who scored his first NHL goal Saturday