End of the ice age

It is with great sadness that the sporting world announces the death of the National Hockey League.
She died after a long battle with “cost certainty” cancer, which eventually took her life at 12:01 a.m. on our Lord’s Day of Sept. 16, 2004. She first was stricken with the disease in ’94 and became increasingly ill with each passing year until her inevitable collapse.
Frank Calder gave birth to her on Dec. 19, 1917 in Toronto, when the Arenas met the Montreal Wanderers. Her popularity quickly grew in Canada, with her reach continually extending to other parts of the country, continent, and world.
She became drastically ill in 1919 when influenza took the lives of some of her children on the Montreal Canadiens team, which also left her biggest toy, Lord Stanley, not being awarded. But she bounced back from that setback and became stronger.
Days turned, seasons passed, years became decades, and her intrigue never ceased to falter. She grew to be appreciated and loved by people from all walks of life. From young to old, from far and near, from Canada to America to Europe to Russia and back again—she was loved and will utterly be missed.
She was a soft blanket, when things were cold and uncomfortable. She was a loan with no interest, when things looked bleak. She was a pat on the back, when things were failing. She was a kick in the butt, when we got cocky. She was a burst of excitement, when things went stale.
She was a breath of fresh air, when things were smoggy.
She was there to cheer us. There to encourage us. To support us. Teach us. And was simply always—there.
She gave us such beautiful memories.
She brought us so much and should be celebrated, yet still be mourned. To be remembered and never forgotten—and we must vow to always remember her and her gifted children.
She gave us Terry Sawchuk in ’51, when he allowed only five goals in eight games. She gave us Mario Lemieux in ’91, when he amassed 44 points in 23 playoff games. She gave us Bobby Orr in ’70, who soared through the air like Superman after scoring the game-winning overtime goal against the Blues.
She gave us Patrick Roy in ’01 and his 1.58 goals against average over 23 playoff games. She gave us Normie Smith in ’36, who held the Montreal Maroons goal-less over six overtime periods.
She gave us Ken Dryden in ’71, who helped the Canadiens win Lord Stanley after playing only six regular-season games before 20 playoff ones. And, of course, Wayne Gretzky in ’85, when her favourite son amassed a record 47 points in the playoffs.
There was Brett Hull’s “foot in the crease goal” in ’99, the non-call on Gretzky’s high stick against the Maple Leafs in ’93, Lemieux’s return from cancer, and “the hit” on Eric Lindros courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood enforcer, Scott Stevens.
You can’t leave out Mark Messier’s “We will win tonight” declaration that he made prior to Game 6—down 3-2 against the heavily-favoured Devils in ’94 and eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Rangers.
And you certainly can’t forget ’97 when Steve Yzerman handed the Cup to Vladimir Konstantinov, who was wheelchair-bound after being involved in a horrific car accident.
She left behind her an array of unforgettable teams that always will stand the test of time—the Ottawa Senators of the 1920s, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the ’40s, the Detroit Red Wings of the early ’50s, the Montreal Canadiens of the late ’50s, the Maple Leafs of the early ’60s, the Canadiens of the late ’60s and ’70s, the N.Y. Islanders of the early ’80s, and the best of them all, the Edmonton Oilers of the late ’80s.
She gave us Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Doug Harvey, Mike Bossy, Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito, Grant Fuhr, Dave Semenko, Dale Hawerchuk, Jari Kurri, Guy Lafleur, Pat Lafontaine, Bill Ranford, Georges Vezina, Billy Smith, Ron Hextall, Cyclone Taylor, Paul Coffey, Don Cherry, Lanny MacDonald, Darryl Sittler, Jean Beliveau, Eddie Shore, Jacques Plante, Stan Mikita, Johnny Bower, Frank Mahovlich, and many more.
She was the cultural fabric of Canada, which intertwined people of various backgrounds, who simply had one thing in common—her.
Her good name slowly began to be tarnished years ago by her “new generation” of children, who took advantage of her. And even as she is laid to rest, they still ask of her.
They used her. Put a price on her head and brought shame to her family. They sold her out for useless materialistic properties, and along with their greedy uncles, contributed to her tragic death.
Like spoiled children, Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow have cried and argued over things that shouldn’t be theirs to decide. They ruined her and gave her sickness instead of treatment. But the whining brothers had help:
Tony Amonte ($5.8 million U.S. last season salary), Adrian Aucoin ($4.25 million), Ed Belfour ($8 million), Robert Blake ($8.4 million), Donald Brashear ($2.2 million), Martin Brodeur ($6.9 million), Sean Burke ($4.25 million), Zdeno Chara ($4.6 million), Eric Desjardins ($4 million), Sergei Fedorov ($6 million), Bill Guerin ($8.9 million), Jaromir Jagr ($11 million), Curtis Joseph ($8 million), Olaf Kolzig ($6.25 million), John LeClair ($9 million), Nicklas Lidstrom ($10 million), Scott Niedermayer ($7 million), Owen Nolan ($6.5 million), Chris Pronger ($10 million), Jeremy Roenick ($7 million), Joe Sakic ($8.8 million), Mats Sundin ($8 million), Jose Theodore ($6 million), Sergei Zubov ($6 million), and many others.
The least we can do is remember her for the good she brought, not for the turmoil she had no control over.
Comments? Suggestions? Who’s to blame for her death? E-mail me at emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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