Ah the school yard crush – what a magnificent thing. When I was 5 years old working my way diligently through the 1st grade I met a girl - Mindy McAlister. She was fantastic, my first official crush. She had it all – shiny hair, a big smile, and a blue bedazzled jacket she wore every Monday. Of course she was way out of my league, Mindy could already tie her shoes by herself, hang upside down from the monkey bars with no hands, and say the entire alphabet successfully (at least 50% of the time anyway).
Yes she was the perfect woman, but as with all crushes the changing of the seasons brought about new options and my eye began to wander. Sarah Jones kicked my shin on the playground shortly before Christmas break and with that, I was over Mindy. Sarah remained my primary crush until the summer – when she moved. Of course both Mindy and Sarah were tainted with girl coodies so my crushes never materialized into anything further then glances across the classroom and name-calling.
What does this have to do with the wonderful world of hockey? Well nothing, really – other than not much has changed in 20 years. My “Man Crushes” in the NHL seem to change even more frequently these days. A great hit, some solid smack talk, a pretty goal and my eyes begin to wander around the league....
As we move out of the autumn season and into the doldrums of winter I thought it best to update my current top 5 Man Crushes:
5. P.K. Subban – Yea yea I know he is a Montreal Canadian, and as a Leafs fan I should be beaten just for mentioning his name on this list – but hear me out. As a 20 year old playing in his first full season in the NHL he had the guts to stand up to Mike Richards for a teammate, against a flyer team with enough dirty SOBs to seriously hurt him. He has a loveable big smile and speaks confidently, but with candour, and lays people out like a young Scott Stevens. If he can continue to mature as an offensive defenseman we could be looking at one of the future stars of the league.
4. Chris Pronger – He is the classic case of a guy we love to hate. He is about as dirty of a player you’ll ever find in the NHL – we despise him and everything her represents on the ice – but I’d take him on my team in a second. He wasn’t on my top 5 list until a few nights ago when he treated us to this “precious” sound bite that will go down as an absolute classic. Hard not to have a crush on a guy 6-4, cannon of a shot, soft hands, and a sense of humour to boot – stud.
3. Claude Giroux – Maybe it’s because I drafted him wayyyyy to early in last year’s keeper draft, or maybe it’s because he is ugly as sin. I dunno, but there is just something about this guy. He has arguably the best on ice vision of any player not named Crosby in the league and a nose for the net both shorthanded and on the power play. Despite a small frame he loves to mix it up in the corners and never shy’s away from contact. You probably don’t know a lot about him now, but 3 years from today Claude “the bod” Giroux will undoubtedly be a household name for hockey fans.
2. Joe Thornton – Jumbo Joe has taken a lot of heat in recent years for the Sharks lack of playoff success. I think much of this is media driven, as I can’t imagine fans are that upset with perennially winning President’s Trophies and contending in the playoffs. What has really impressed me this year is the physical element Joe has added to his game. Blessed with a giant frame he has been criticized in past years for a passive demeanour on the ice. This year (as evident by his suspension) he appears to be leading he team both on the score sheet and in the trenches. I hope he can keep this compete level up for the entire season, as it makes him one of the most fun players to watch in the league.
1. Pat Burns – I was very saddened to learn last night that Pat Burns had passed away at the age of 58. Even though I was very young during the Leafs triumphant runs through the playoffs in the early 90s I still have vivid memories of Burns behind the bench. My favourite being the classic exchange with Barry Melrose - then head coach of the kings - during the playoffs. After a few angry words Pat was down off the Leafs bench and making his way past fans and team officials to get his hands on Melrose. In the end Burnsy was held back by a couple police officers – but it was that sort of bravado and “never back down” attitude that propelled the buds to great heights during those magical runs. When I think of a pure hockey guy, the first name that comes to mind is, and always will be Pat Burns – he will be sorely missed.