One year ago, after leaving a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bobby Carpenter was looking for something to do.
“I was bored because my wife was working,” he said with a laugh on Tuesday. “I didn’t want to sit around all winter and get fat.”
He remembered an old friend who was an accomplished marathon runner.
“I told him, ‘Listen, I have two questions for you.’ There first one was, at 52, can you teach me to run a marathon? He said, ‘What’s the second question?’ I asked him if I could run it in under four hours. He said he needed 22 weeks. We ran 750 miles. He did a great job.”
In 2016, Carpenter, who scored 320 goals in 1178 NHL games from 1981 to 1999, completed the Boston Marathon. And he did it in three hours and 47 minutes.
“At the end of the race, I did an interview with a CBS announcer named Steve Burton. He asked if I would ever do it again. I said probably not if it was just for myself. But, while running, I was just so impressed with people who were blind, or handicapped, or in a wheelchair. If I was to do it again, it would be for something like that.”
A few months later came the idea. He has multiple connections to Denna Laing, the hockey player who suffered a spinal injury at an outdoor game in the lead-up to the 2016 Winter Classic.
His daughter, Alexandra, a three-time World Championship gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist, grew up playing against Laing in Massachusetts. Carpenter himself played with and against Denna’s father, Dennis.
“He was a defenceman, a tough player,” Carpenter remembered. “He worked like crazy, competed like crazy. Hard-nosed; pain in the ass with the stick when he was behind you on the ice. You knew when he was out there.”
Denna played college hockey at Princeton. Sisters Brianna and Lexie currently dress for Harvard.
“Dennis did a great job with them, they are good players. Really smart.”
Carpenter approached Dennis Laing with the idea of running the marathon with Denna. She agreed, but they had to qualify. That meant a race in Clearwater, FL. WBZ-TV in Boston did a story on their journey.
How much harder was it than running alone?
“It’s definitely different, lot of new challenges,” Carpenter said. “You feel the pressure to get it done, because it’s not just about yourself. But we learned what we needed to work on. Pushing the carriage uphill was hard, because there was a 40 mile-per-hour wind in my face. That was tough. The conditions may actually be better in Boston.”
There’s no time goal this year, either.
“This will be more of a social run. You stop, talk to people, do interviews, raise awareness.”
Carpenter wants to try and get back into the NHL next season. For now, he can watch his son Bobo, who plays at Boston University. And he works on completing this particular journey, which has opened his eyes to a lot of good.
“What you don’t realize is that over half of the people who run the marathon do it for charities. The carriage Denna is using is from Ainsley’s Angels of America. She now works at Journey Forward. People are incredible, they go above and beyond for events like this. Every time you turn the corner more people help out.”
“People ask me about running a marathon, say they could never do it. I say, ‘I know you can, you should see some of the people who do it. If they can, you can.’”
As long as you follow the right plan, you’d be surprised what you can do.
1. We’ve been hearing about high prices for rentals. Word is Arizona’s initial ask from Montreal for Martin Hanzal was Michael McCarron and two draft picks — one a first-rounder, the other conditional. I look at it this way: You never know until you ask. But it also tells you why Hanzal is not a Canadien. We’ll see if both teams circle back.
2. Since we’re talking about first-round draft picks, I sense there is more willingness to consider trading them in 2017. This draft is not considered to be a great one, so if it gets you a good piece, picks will be in play.
4. Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch last Thursday, and Calgary GM Brad Treliving got his share of texts/calls about it. He told compatriots Bennett isn’t getting traded.
5. Buffalo GM Tim Murray threw cold water on rumours Robin Lehner was destined for elsewhere after his angry removal in Toronto last Tuesday. Adding to the theory was Anders Nilsson facing Detroit three days later despite missing practice with the flu on Thursday. Whatever the case, Lehner made 36 saves the next night in Montreal as the Sabres won in overtime. The organization did a great job of keeping things in-house, but word is it was a tense 72 hours after the loss to the Maple Leafs.
6. One story about Lehner: Last year, I worked a game of his in Montreal that Buffalo won. He was our interview post-game and he was terrible. This was odd, because anyone who’s ever dealt with him knows he’s normally the exact opposite. Then, another broadcaster came up to me and said, “He’s pissed at you.” That made sense and I knew exactly what it was. I’d talked about his injury issues, the fact his weight gain affected his health and play, which was true, but clumsily written. (Generally, I don’t like writing about conditioning, because my own is so bad.) So, I made a point that the next time I saw him, I’d bring it up. That was in training camp this season and we talked about it. We hammered it out very professionally. It’s not in the heat of the moment like last week was, but Lehner’s got that calmness in him.
7. St. Louis is trying to move money for flexibility. I wondered if a Kevin Shattenkirk/Ben Bishop deal would make sense since both teams are looking for that kind of help, but Bishop is struggling and might not be the Blues’ answer. Doug Armstrong and Steve Yzerman are tight. I think Armstrong saw Tampa Bay up close last week.
8. What if Yzerman doesn’t believe that, for whatever reason, the Lightning are worth some kind of move to save this season? It doesn’t necessarily mean Tampa Bay will stand pat, but is it possible their moves will take more of a long-term focus? Yzerman has checked out the rental market, but wakes up Tuesday morning five points out of the playoffs with no games in hand. There are seven teams between Tampa and the second wild-card. Steven Stamkos still has a lengthy recovery, and the way they’ve played without him may be another reason not to think short-term. The Lightning still have cap issues, so I don’t think he’s backing away from all trade talk, but you have to wonder if anything he does will have ramifications into 2017–18.
9. There’s always a lot of debate about getting John Tavares a winger, but are the Islanders looking instead for another centre? If you really want to lighten the load on him, might the better answer be strengthening the club down the middle?
10. Tried to find out last week if Gerard Gallant was still in New York’s head-coaching mix, or if that ship had sailed. Islanders GM Garth Snow totally deflected the question, so I didn’t get far. It’s safe to say Gallant is weighing all options and waiting to see exactly what transpires.
11. This is my read on Claude Julien and the Bruins: Julien is tired of being made a public scapegoat, which is why he took a shot at the roster last week. But he’s a pro. He feels he has a responsibility to the players and coaching staff, so he will push forward because that’s the right thing to do. But I’m sure part of him is saying, “Look, if you want to fire me, just do it already.”
Why hasn’t it happened? A couple of things. First, GM Don Sweeney would rather make a trade and see how things play out. I’ll always remember a conversation with him when he took over, Sweeney bristling at the suggestion he wouldn’t give Julien a fair shot. He didn’t like that assumption, and it stuck with me. Second, the Bruins know Julien is a good coach. He’s going to go somewhere else and make that team better. You can make the argument it’s time but fans forget that your guy can go elsewhere and improve another club.
12. I know Bruins fans are also screaming for a trade, but Sweeney strikes me as the kind of guy who knows you make your worst trades when your team is taking on water. People despise inactivity, but in a salary-cap world, panic mistakes bleed you dry. He was on the scouting list for Anaheim/Minnesota last Saturday, but did not attend.
13. Sounds like Tomas Jurco wants a new opportunity and Detroit is trying to find a match.
14. A few weeks ago, a couple GMs figured Washington would be an underrated match for one of Colorado’s forwards. But now, with the Capitals streaking to the top of the NHL, why would they even think about changing anything?
15. Now that Zack Smith is signed for four more years, don’t be surprised if Senators GM Pierre Dorion’s next target is goalie Mike Condon. He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season. Condon’s trial-by-fire in Montreal last year brought a new perspective — a desire to focus on the next task, not the big picture. He’s become a student of mental preparation. Who are you reading? “A lot of Deepak Chopra,” he replied. “When I was in Pittsburgh as the third goalie, I was reading The Power of Now.” That’s written by Eckart Tolle and fits with one of Condon’s new philosophies: “Don’t hide from your negative feelings or fears. Accept them, confront them. If you resist, they persist.” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan saw Condon reading that book “and did a bit of a double-take. Then he said I should read The Inner Game of Tennis. So that’s next on my list.”
16. Statistically, the biggest positive difference with the Senators is on the penalty kill. In 2016–17, Ottawa allowed 61 power-play goals. This year, the pace is for 49. (It was 46, but they gave up three to Toronto and Columbus on the weekend.) Craig Anderson’s save percentage while killing penalties was .862 a year ago and Andrew Hammond’s was .790. Anderson is at .873 this season. Condon was at .892 before the last two games — that was 11th among starters — but dropped to .879. The Senators led the NHL with 17 short-handed goals last season, but are on pace for five now. That’s not an accident. “We told the players to stay home,” head coach Guy Boucher said. “Protecting our end had to be the priority. Don’t cheat.”
17. Another change? The focus of Erik Karlsson’s ice-time. Was chatting with Senators play-by-play voice Dean Brown and he suggested I look at it. It’s interesting. A year ago, Karlsson played the most in the NHL (2,375:55) and had the longest shift length (1:04). But he was tied for 72nd in shifts per game and 34th in overall shifts taken. It’s not like he’s stapled to the bench, as his overall time is eighth. But he’s now second in the NHL in shifts per game, going from 27.1 to 32.2 per night. His length has dropped to 0:50, which is 38th. He’s agreed to stay out a little less, but the trade-off is minimal as they put him out there more.
18. The decision to shut down Clarke MacArthur did not come without a battle. Number one, as Nick Kypreos reported Saturday, MacArthur wants to play and will do whatever he can to try and get back. From a purely hockey point of view, the Senators would love to have him. They see him as a big part of their team on and off the ice. On Ottawa’s medical staff is Dr. Mark Aubry, who is one of this country’s foremost concussion specialists. He’s got a great reputation and you have to think he’s a driving force behind not clearing the winger. MacArthur’s biggest challenge will be convincing Aubry.
19. Condon added that Karlsson is a terrific shot-blocker. Not just because he can do it, but because of how he does it. “He can go on one knee as well as anyone,” the goalie said. What the captain tries to do is control the block, turn it into a change of possession and a transition chance. Karlsson tries to “deaden” his body, so if the puck hits him, it drops in front of him. That allows the opportunity to grab it and go.
20. Toronto’s Curtis McElhinney had a great line about his young son. “He’s a defenceman,” the newest Maple Leaf said last week. Did he ever try playing goal? “Yes, he did. But he found it too boring. I told him it was the best decision he ever made.”
21. Most interesting thing about last weekend’s conversation with Nazem Kadri? That Mike Babcock gives him latitude in selecting his particular matchup. “Often times he thinks (that it’s) not necessarily the top line that’s producing or playing the best on a certain team,” Kadri said, “So he’ll give you the option between two centres or two lines and you… pick between the two.”
How many coaches did that with him in the past? “Uh, none, to be honest,” he laughed, but then added a qualifier. “Obviously I was a little younger back then, so it was a little tougher. I think now I’ve become a little more mature so I can pick who I’m going to be more successful against.”
What’s the “smallest detail” he’s improved the most? “Playing away from the puck, for sure. I always used to get mesmerized by the puck because I always wanted it…. I’d always follow it and forget everything going on behind me…. Now I’m always facing the puck but not drifting toward it.”
22. So, if Mike Babcock walks up to Kadri before a Pittsburgh game and says, “Crosby or Malkin, who do you want?” “I’m taking Sid every time. Just because he’s such a great player, such a great challenge for me. It really is such a hard assignment…. (You) try to get under his skin the most. It’s very hard to do because he’s very composed and very patient. I always appreciate that challenge.”
23. Another player who had a similar response to Kadri’s about coaching trust: Mikael Backlund. Calgary teammates say Backlund benefits from generally being left alone by head coach Glen Gulutzan. “It’s all about confidence for him,” one Flame said. “Tell him what you need and leave him be.”
Backlund’s having a terrific year. How many meetings has he had with his coach? “I think two,” Backlund responded. “It was different with (Mike Keenan, Brent Sutter and Bob Hartley). But don’t forget I was younger then. I probably needed it more.”
Thought it was interesting both Backlund and Kadri recognized youth as a reason, rather than taking shots at their previous coaches.
24. Argue all you want about plus-minus and whether it is a legitimate marker of a player’s ability, but there’s no questioning some believe in it. One is Johnny Gaudreau, who has never been a minus player over a full season. (Oldest results I could find dated back to 2010–11 with USHL Dubuque.) He’s at minus-17 this season and it bothers him — a ton. I think the Flames are trying to convince him to say, “Let’s work on it game-by-game, rather than getting overwhelmed by the big picture,” but it’s weighing on him.
25. Calgary’s Brad Treliving is the only NHL GM without a contract into next season. He won’t discuss it, and neither will the organization. One exec (from elsewhere) noted that the Flames are comfortable with the way they approach this and don’t consider it to be “ominous.” I suspect it’s because they’ve decided to fire coaches and don’t want too many extra salaries on the books. That’s fine, but in the NHL world, it’s weird. Before the season, Columbus gave two-year extensions to its management team, not wanting them going into this season on the ends of their deals. In Vancouver, it’s led to constant job speculation with Willie Desjardins. In St. Louis, there’s some question how it’s affected the Blues’ struggles because players know Ken Hitchcock is to be replaced by Mike Yeo.
26. In prepping for Hockey Night in Canada last week, we discussed whether fans were getting “Olympic fatigue” from updates about the situation with no firm resolution. The consensus? Yes. That said, here’s an update: We’re still waiting for the official paperwork, but, assuming the players do go, their families will stay in Seoul and take an hour-long train trip to the facilities when necessary. They have seen the setup and find it acceptable. However, a resolution after the Board of Governor meetings this week at All-Star appears unlikely. Word last weekend was the Olympics may not even be on the agenda, since the NHL has yet to see a proposal worth discussing. So this might not be settled until later in February. This is now an NHL-vs.-IOC issue above anything else.
27. One of the more intriguing questions about the NHL’s trip to China? How much the league will help the country develop a successful hockey program and national team. At the 2004 Olympics, one of my coverage responsibilities was tennis. Li Ting and Sun Tiantian became the first Chinese to win a medal in the sport, taking the women’s doubles. It was a huge deal for that country, with one reporter saying not to underestimate how important it was to put on a good performance in every possible sport four years later in Beijing. As we move towards another trip to that country, I’m sure the attitude is no different.
28. Goalies now know they must be wearing the new, slimmer pants by Feb. 4. But it looks like the chest-protector changes won’t happen until next season.
30. Canadian diver Roseline Filion retired last weekend, ending a terrific career complete with two Olympic bronze medals. Fillon has one fantastic post-competition interest — her family owns Immersia Escape Games in Laval, Que. I tried one of these last year in Toronto, and am still annoyed my friends and I did not get out in the allotted hour. (Burns me just thinking about it.) If you’ve ever tried The Crimson Room or Doors & Rooms online, you will love it. And if you haven’t, it’s great entertainment. Someday, I will make a trip to check out her family’s business. Great stuff.