Look at that guy. What a beauty. With a gorgeous mug like that, he could have starred in Youngblood. Instead, because a league that can afford to pay marginal players an asinine amount of money to play hockey but consciously travel in planes built back when Brezhnev could still lace ‘em up, a defenseman, a coach, a Stanley Cup winner, a friend, a hockey player, a son, a husband, a dad has spent the day being memorialized. Being remembered. Being remembered is the fucking worst. It means a genuinely likeable dude who people had legitimate respect for is gone, gone before his time, and for preventable reasons.
Make no mistake about it. All these once household hockey names that would be absolutely unbelievable if they were dead are exactly that, and it’s for preventable reasons. It blows my mind to think that Pavol Demitra is gone. That Karel Rachunek, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skratsins, Ruslan Salei, are all gone.
Brad McCrimmon is gone.
I don’t want to think about it. Brad McCrimmon, it seems, had some sort of correlation on every player currently in the NHL, based on his coaching days in the show and in the Dub. He won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames. He was their captain. The team loved him. When your teammates call you “Beast” or “Sarge”, you better believe that comes laced with respect and admiration. He fought for his players. He protected them. Nik Lidstrom might not be Nik Lidstrom today if Brad weren’t there to mash the faces of anyone that tried to beak the rookie Swede a few years back. 1222 NHL games. Over 1400 penalty minutes. Pretty fitting for a guy from a place called Plenty, Saskatchewan.
And that’s what I want to think about. A good hockey guy, who played on great teams and ultimately reached the apex of the hockey mountain, then drank champagne from it as a reward.
In the face of another tragedy in the worst summer for the hockey world ever (fuckin’…another tragedy. It doesn’t even sound out of place to say those words anymore), the only thing I want to think about is the dawn of hockey’s solstice born anew. The game these men were born to play, and worked hard to make it a reality. Instead of lamenting more devastating news to hit a close fraternity of people, I want to witness the simple grace and hardrock grit of the thing that unites them in the first place and draws us out to cheer them on.
We need the game more than ever this season, and we need those who commit their lives to it to exceed the level of passion and heart that only hockey can illicit. Not for the fans, or the media, or coaches, or their roster spot, but for their fallen brothers who helped them get to where they are. For every hockey player out there right now, there’s a Brad McCrimmon in his life that made him a better person and a better player, and this year, every single player in whatever league they play in has to go out there and battle as a way of saying thanks.
So for all those guys that THE Brad McCrimmon made better but never had the chance to tell him, let me do it for them. Thanks Brad, and thanks for the memories. You were a beaut.
May there never be another summer of 2011.
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