Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quoteless Joe and The Turtle...

In all the drama surrounding Jiri Hudler yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to mention a couple of noteworthy retirements. Former Wings rivals Joe Sakic and Claude Lemieux both announced that they are calling it quits (Lemieux for the second time). While I realize that it’s long dead, I came of age as a Wings fan during the heat of the rivalry, and there is a part of me that will always hate the Avs. Also, the title I chose for this post sounds vaguely like one of Aesop's Fables...

I can honestly say that the one Avs player who I never quite grew to hate was Joe Sakic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I wanted him to score against the Wings, but it never seemed to make me as angry as it did when other Avs found the back of the net. In their analyses, a lot of other fans are suggesting that part of the reason we never hated Sakic was because of his similarities to Steve Yzerman (mostly that they were both long-time captains who wore #19), but I never cared about that. I always had a grudging respect for him that prevented me from achieving the level of hatred that I had for the rest of the Avs. There was something about him that always struck me as classy. Even back then when I was a little kid. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have a few laughs at his expense after the Snowblower Incident last year, but I kind of did feel bad for the guy. I’m not going to write up some big career eulogy comparing his numbers to those of The Captain because, frankly, we all know which player I would choose. Sakic’s a nice guy and all, but I’m a Wings fan, and with that come some insurmountable biases. Namely the belief that Steve Yzerman is as close to a deity as I will ever see don hockey skates. But that being said, for someone like me who spent the better part of my formative years despising the Colorado Avalanche, it says a lot about Sakic that I always respected him and am a little sad to see him hang up the skates for good. And there’s really no higher compliment that I could give him. Except maybe for calling him a near-deity in hockey skates…

On the other side of my hatred scale is the other notable former Av who announced his retirement. Claude Lemieux. It’s been thirteen years since that fateful day when he rearranged Kris Draper’s face with what was one of the nastiest checks I’ve ever seen, but simply hearing his name is still enough to make me groan in disgust. I do have to give him credit for one thing: he taught me how to hate. There was literally no one in the world that I despised as much as Lemieux back in the day. Actually that hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years. He remains the most celebrated cheap-shot artist in recent memory (although to be fair, Chris Pronger’s giving him a run for his money), but even worse, he had this terrible knack for coming up big against the Wings. It was like he would lie low until the Wings came into town and then find a way to elevate his game three notches and drive me absolutely batty. Some might say that this is a compliment to his abilities, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Puck Daddy had a big post celebrating his career today. It was the most distasteful thing I’ve read on a hockey blog this side of that Pens Blog post making fun of Vladdie. That famous picture of Darren McCarty absolutely destroying Lemieux while he huddled into a turtle position is tied for my favorite hockey image of all time. There’s a reason that it’s hanging on my bedroom wall. One of my saddest days was when I lost the Free Press comic that featured Lemieux’s head Photoshopped onto the body of a turtle. It was stuck in my mirror for years before it finally disappeared.

When Claude popped back up in San Jose this year, I was a little upset. At that point, it looked like the Sharks were going to be the biggest obstacle to the Wings repeating as champs. The thought of Lemieux having a hand in that once again was far too distasteful for me to accurately put into words. Oh how silly and naïve those thoughts seem now as I look back in retrospect. There are some guys for whom I would feel bad if their final season ended up with a massive first round upset. Claude Lemieux is so far from making that list that he couldn’t even read it with a telescope.

Now I leave you with this little beauty. Because, really, is there any other way I could end this post?

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to miss Darren. I always thought he was a great Red Wing. Always ready for whatever.