Top Five Fridays: Hockey Goalies
This is my regular feature called Top Five Fridays. Here I'll list some of my favorite things like, Top 5 Ways to Annoy a Michigan Fan or Top 5 Most Overrated Athletes (cough cough, Brett Favre, cough cough)..... Have no fear, we'll get to both those topics in good time. At the end there will also be a section for those that just missed the cut.
The Stanley Cup Finals ended last week, not that many of you noticed. The Detroit Red Wings closed out the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games after failing to finish them in the fifth game, which happened to be on home ice. For those that missed that gem, and I missed the majority of regulation, this is the reason that hockey is so great. Anyone who caught the final five minutes of regulation and the three overtimes couldn’t have possibly walked away not wanting to watch game six. The Penguins led early 2-0, lost the lead, and then scored with 34 seconds left to tie the game at three and send it into overtime. Two and a half exhilarating periods later, the Pens finally put the puck in the net to force a game six back at the Igloo. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep it alive again despite a heart stopping final few seconds that almost saw them push that game in overtime as well.
Now I’ll get off my hockey high horse and onto the topic of this post. This week saw several retirements in the sports world; Michael Strahan (NFL - New York Giants,) Marcus Robinson (NFL - Chicago Bears,) Jonathan Ogden (NFL - Baltimore Ravens,) Trevor Linden (NHL - Vancouver Canucks,) Bret Boone (MLB - Washington Nationals,) as well as announcement of Sammy Sosa's retirement after the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and the speculation of former Atlanta Braves aces Tom Gavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz all retiring together at season's end so they could enter the Hall of Fame on the same ticket. None of these were extremely shocking news, and none of them affected any of my teams.
Another one that didn’t effect my teams, but had significance to me personally was that of Detroit’s goalie (who didn’t play a minute in the finals mind you) Dominik Hašek. The Dominator is by far my favorite non-St. Louis Blues player. In fact, during my childhood I was more of a Buffalo Sabres fan than a Blues fan and Dom was it for me. Then he got traded to Detroit and I had to root against him at all costs. My loyalty to the great state of Ohio and my anti-communist political beliefs come first.
I think he will be remembered best for the breath-taking saves he made during his tenure with Buffalo. Although he never won a Stanley Cup there, but took hom two in Detroit, he did single handedly take the seventh seeded Sabres to a Finals appearance in 1999. In overtime of the sixth and deciding game the referees and replay officials robbed Buffalo of their chance at glory when the Dallas Stars’ Brett Hull scored the winning goal with his skate in the crease. Along with the Bills losing four consecutive Super Bowls, this game helped push Buffalo to second on the list of most heartbroken sports cities in America behind Cleveland. In honor of The Dominator’s retirement, I now present you with the…
Top 5 Hockey Goaltenders of My Lifetime
1. Dominik Hašek
I’m very likely to take some flack for my selection here, but I’m extremely biased and this is my list. Sue me. He finished his career with two Stanley Cup titles, six Vezina Trophies (Top NHL Goaltender,) two Hart Trophies (NHL MVP,) and one Olympic Gold medal. All of those awards, in my mind, add up to a dead heat with the number two goalie on my list. Aside from pure bias, there was one other thing that separated him in my opinion. When the Dominator was at the peak of his career he was playing for the small-market Buffalo Sabres. They never had the star quality players surrounding him that the other goalies on this list had and yet, he was still able to get his team in the playoffs almost every season and within an eyelash of tasting Lord Stanley’s coffee. MasterCard also featured him in one of my favorite sports related commercials highlighting his unorthodox style and slinky-like spine. He is considered a flopper by most hockey experts as he has a tendency to drop to his knees and use his flexibility to cover the entire net using every body part he can to stop the puck. For me, he was worth the price of admission.
2. Patrick Roy
Aside from my love for pissing Gene Honda off by pronouncing his name like a dumb American instead of the correction way (W-AH,) I also appreciate Roy for being the greatest butterfly style goalie of all time. He only won three Vezina Trophies and never won the Hart, but he did become the youngest player to ever win the Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP) when he won his first Stanley Cup title with the Montreal Canadians in 1986. He went on to win another title with Montreal and two more with the Colorado Avalanche. Among others, he also holds NHL records for most games played by a goaltender (509,) most NHL Regular season wins (551,) most playoff wins by a goaltender (151) and most Conn Smythe wins (3.)
3. Vladislav Tretiak
It was a tough choice to place Tretiak on this list considering he never played in the NHL and he retired in 1984 when I was five years old, but it wouldn’t be a complete list without him either. He won three goal medals with the Soviet Union and would have won a fourth had it not been for the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 when he took home silver. After surrendering two first period goals he was benched and the rest, as they say, is history. Despite being drafted to play in the NHL by Montreal, he was not allowed to leave the country while under Soviet rule and instead retired early at the age of 32. He is one of very few members of the Hall of Fame that never played in a North American league. However, in fourteen seasons in the Soviet league he won thirteen titles. Since the Soviet block fell, he has served as a goal tending coach and consultant right here in Chicago with the Blackhawks. During his time with the Hawks he has coached Ed Belfour, Dominik Hašek, Jocelyn Thibault, and Martin Brodeur. While portraying USA head coach Herb Brooks in the movie “Miracle,” Kurt Russell is quoted as saying, “If you score on Tretiak, keep the puck. It doesn’t happen often.”
4. Martin Brodeur
This guy has had a phenomenal career and if you talked to anyone from New Jersey, they would have you believe that Marty belongs at the top of the list. However, as was the case with the Colorado Avalanche at the peak of Patrick Roy’s career, Brodeur always had the benefit of tremendous blue-liners in front of him. His New Jersey Devils were so good at their style of neutral-zone trapping that they single handedly caused the NHL to change several rules to create more scoring. Nobody benefited more from the old rules than Brodeur, who is second on the all time list for wins and shutouts. He has spent his entire 15-year career with the Devils, only missing the playoffs once. After sitting on the bench during the 1998 Olympics and watching Patrick Roy lead Canada to Bronze, he was the starter in Salt Lake City (2002) and led them to Gold. It was just announced today that Marty won his fourth Vezina Trophy and he also has several NHL records to his credit. Among his other achievements, he is also the only goalie in NHL history to score a game-winning goal.
5. Tony Esposito
Like Tretiak, it was a tough call placing Esposito on this list considering he retired in 1985 and I was only born in 1979. Also like Tretiak, it wouldn’t be a complete list without him. He didn’t play much with the Montreal Canadians, but won a Stanley Cup there in 1969 before being left unprotected and taken by the Chicago Blackhawks off waivers. It was with the Hawks that he won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in 1970 and eventually three Vezina Trophies. He is also considered one of the pioneers of the butterfly style, the most common goal tending style in the NHL today. He is one of just eight goaltenders to ever with the Vezina Trophy catching right handed and is credited with the first ever victory against the Soviet Union while playing for Team Canada in 1972.
“Juuuuust a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.”
Grant Fuhr – Five Stanley Cup titles with the Edmonton Oilers and one Vezina Trophy, Wayne Gretzky has often been quoted as saying that Fuhr was the single greatest goalie of all time. Born of biracial parents, he became the first black Hall of Famer although the focus on his race took away some of the luster from his induction ceremony.
Ed Belfour – Won the Vezina twice with the Chicago Blackhawks and took them to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose to Mario Lemieux’s Penguins in 1992. He finally won the Stanley Cup when the Dallas Stars and referees cheated in 1999 and also took home gold with Canada in 2002.
Mike Richter – He played fourteen seasons with the New York Rangers and is considered one of the best American-born goaltenders in NHL history. Won a Stanley Cup in 1994 and a silver medal while backstopping the United States in the 2002 Olympics.
Curtis Joseph – A solid goalie for the better part of eighteen NHL seasons, Cujo also won gold with Team Canada in 2002. He gets mentioned mostly for his six fantastic seasons in St. Louis, but also because it was at this point in his career where Mrs. Miami and friends used to stalk him while they were still in high school.