One of the great moments of this year’s Winter Classic was the mending of fences between the Philadelphia Flyers and Eric Lindros, long the scorn of both the franchise and its fans.
And it got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if every year each team involved in the game made some peace with their past? After all, the Classic is supposed to be about the roots of hockey where the game is pure; back to a simpler time when it was just about the joy of playing and nothing else.
In that spirit I submit two names, one from the Leafs and Wings I’d like to see get the Lindros treatment from their former franchises.
Dave Keon: This story is well told already. The animosity goes back to the Harold Ballard era and the hatred between the infamous Maple Leafs owner and Keon predates the Leaf player bolting the franchise for the WHA, to the moment Ballard nixed a trade Keon and his agent had worked out that would have sent him to the New York Islanders for a Stanley Cup run.
Now, Keon did come back to the ACC when the organization honoured the 1967 team and he has told people he harbours no hatred towards the organization, rather he just prefers not to be in the spotlight. Many still feel there is a rift that still needs mending, however. A final twirl at the Winter Classic by No. 14 would go a long way to bringing the perceived conflict to a close.
Larry Aurie: Detroit’s first true superstar player, Aurie flirted with scoring crowns, led the Wings to two Stanley Cups (1936, 1937) after never having qualified for the playoffs before he arrived. Aurie was nicknamed “Little Dempsey” because of his likeness to former boxing champ Jack Dempsey (to say nothing of his own fighting prowess) and “Rags,” due to his uncanny ability to rag the puck while killing penalties.
Aurie was a favourite of former Wings owner James Norris, who immediately retired Aurie’s No. 6 after he hung up the blades. However, after Mike Ilitch bought the Wings he un-retired the number, although it still remains out of circulation.
The Wings maintain that Norris never officially filed the retired jersey with the league and since the team now only retires the numbers of players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Aurie’s No. 6 remains in limbo. The Aurie family has lobbied long for the Wings to officially recognize Larry’s achievements but their wishes have fallen on deaf ears. The Winter Classic is a great chance for the Wings to do right by the Aurie family and officially retire his number.
Other Winter Classic thoughts
Many have stubbed their toes on the elephant in the room that is the CBA, which expires in September. So technically, until a new CBA is put to bed there can be no outdoor game (or any for that matter).
Is this a concern? I suppose so, but unlike the NHL/PA strife in 2004 there doesn’t seem to be a sense that either side is willing to go through hell and destroy an entire season. I’m not saying games won’t be lost, but I can’t see a lockout lasting into 2013.
The Winter Classic announcement should fill hockey fans with optimism about a labour deal being achieved with minimal pain, since there’s no way with this much at stake that the league will let CBA drama cost them a record-breaking event. This is a nice pressure piece in the negotiations.
With the Classic featuring both an alumni game and two Ontario Hockey League games the potential for the first father and son moment is upon us. I’d have to assume that Tie Domi will suit up for the Leafs alumni while his son Max, who plays for the London Knights, will take on the Plymouth Whalers.
Everyone has their personal favourite player they’d like to see at the alumni game and I’m no different. Like everyone else I’d love to see Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, Darryl Sittler and Borje Salming. But the one player I’d love to see strap ‘em on one more time is Johnny Bower.
In my estimation Bower is the most popular Maple Leaf player ever — cross-generationally nobody compares. And to see him put the pads on would be an all-time highlight. Seeing Bernie Parent out there again was special but Bower getting out there is a whole different level. And if you know anything about Bower, even at 87 he’d be up for it. Fingers crossed.