Charles Barkley — already an honourary Torontonian — is also an unabashed lover of puck. The round mound of rebound has followed the sport for some time, and is as free with his thoughts on the NHL as he is on pretty much everything else.
In town for the NBA All-Star weekend, Barkley stops by Hockey Central on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. ET to impart some hockey wisdom on Sportsnet.
In honour of his appearance we took a look at some of Sir Charles’ more sagacious contributions to the hockey conversation.
Way back in 1996, Barkley foresaw the difficulty the NHL would experience in Arizona, when the Winnipeg Jets were about to move to Phoenix. “To support for franchises in Phoenix is going to be more difficult than people think,” the Suns power forward said at the time.
Despite his correct prediction, Barkley is happy the game has remained in the desert all these years. In an interview with Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The Fan last March, Barkley let it be known that the Arizona Coyotes are his favourite team, even if he is a somewhat disgruntled fan: “We’re just trading everybody,” he complained. “We suck in hockey."
But even if his team wasn’t doing as well as he hoped, Barkley still intended to catch the NHL post-season.
“I think the NHL playoffs are the best playoffs in the world," he said. "I have all the games on. There’s nothing more exciting than the hockey playoffs, so I’m getting pumped, man. I got about a month before everything gets started, and I can’t wait."
He also offered some support to long-suffering fans north of the border: “I’m pulling for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. We need a Canadian team to win the Cup. It would be great for hockey. I know it’s been a long time."
And this wasn’t just surface-level hockey talk put on because of his audience. Later last spring, Barkley was distracted by the NHL playoffs while he was on set for TNT’s coverage of the NBA.
“I was watching that game in the back,” he said when banter turned to the success of the Washington Capitals, who had won a game in overtime.
“Why don’t you do your job and watch these games?” chirped co-host Kenny Smith.
“I got two eyes, fool,” Barkley said. “I was watching the Islanders. And the Blackhawks were going into overtime when I came out here…”
“Which eye were you watching that one out of?” asked Ernie Johnson.
“The left eye. My dominant eye,” Barkley said. “That’s my hockey eye.”
Going to break he gave a shout out to the team coached by his buddy, Jon Cooper: “Come on Tampa Bay! I ain’t give up on you yet coach Coop.”
When the Lightning made it to the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks that June, Barkley sent ‘coach Coop’ to his favourite steakhouse and picked up the cheque.
Given his appreciation for the Lightning, we’d love to know Barkley’s take on the Jonathan Drouin saga and the future of Steven Stamkos.
We’re all ears, Chuck…