Tag Archives: NHL

What is With All the Wife Rumours in the NHL?

Those who follow hockey know that there has been a long tradition of starting rumours about players sleeping with other players’ wives. It seems like every time a star player got traded there were whispers that the cause was either the player had slept with a teammates wife, a teammate had slept with the traded player’s wife, or some combination of the two. If you had a friend who lived in that city he would swear that everyone knew that the rumour was true, but of course there would always be at least three degrees of separation between him and the actual source. The rumours have just been limited to players. When a highly successful coach was suddenly fired in one NHL city, rumours circulated that the real reason was an affair with one of the star player’s wives.

What was once merely confined to sports bar gossip has suddenly become mainstream news. First, Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks felt the need to go public to denounce the local rumours he had torn the locker room apart by sleeping with a teammate’s wife. Then just a couple days later TSN, the Canadian version of ESPN, inexplicably aired a tweet suggesting that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupol had slept with teammate Dion Phaneuf’s wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert. TSN later issued a formal apology for somehow letting such an inappropriate tweet air during their trade deadline coverage.

The question is, why is this happening? One explanation would be that hockey players are all a bunch of amoral, conscienceless cavemen who would sleep with any woman who batted an eye at them. That may be true, but I doubt that they would be any more so than professional athletes in the other major sports leagues. The other explanation could be that both hockey players, and perhaps more importantly, hockey fans, are far more gossipy than in other sports. I suspect both may be true, but it is the gossipy nature of hockey fans that is the primary cause.

Hockey, unlike the other big three sports, remains much more regional in nature and much more dominated by regional coverage, particularly in the United States. If you are a hockey fan most US cities, you are listening to much more hockey discussion at your local sports bar than you are on television. Hockey gets the most prominent coverage of any sport in Canada, but outside of Toronto and Montreal, most teams play in relatively small cities where half the population is probably only a couple degrees of separation from someone connect to the hockey team. Montreal and Toronto are very large cities, but the passion for hockey there creates a form of mania that is fertile ground for all forms of gossip and rumours. All this has combined with social media to make the NHL the most gossipy of all the professional sports leagues.

Toronto Maple Leafs Worst Organization in Professional Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs hold the curious distinction of being both the worst run yet also one of the richest franchises in all of sports. They have all of the money of the New York Yankees with the competitive performance of the Cleveland Browns.

That they are rich is not a matter for debate; Forbes routinely lists them as the NHL’s most valuable franchise and despite the highest ticket prices in the league, their games have been continuously sold out for several generations. Both the Ontario Teachers Union Pension Plan and scalpers owe their comfortable future retirements to the money making machine that is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Though not even the most die-hard Leafs fan would argue that the Leafs have been a great team, many would argue that calling them the worst team in sports would be an exaggeration, and that they are merely one of many not very good teams. They might say that a lot of the negativity directed at the Leafs is a result of jealousy that the Leafs are always on Hockey Night in Canada and receive a disproportionate amount of media coverage. It is no doubt true that much of the negativity directed at the Maple Leafs is purely due to rivalries and jealousies, but if you step back and look at the facts, it is clear that even their critics do not appreciate just how awful this team has been for over a generation.

Great organizations like the Detroit Red Wings generally build their teams by making smart draft picks over time and developing their prospects. Teams that draft well don’t just have a smart GM; they have talented and hard working scouting and minor league coaching staff that follow strategic and methodical system of identifying and developing young talent. While any one pick could turn out to be a bust, in the long run a team with a solid system will outperform. The Toronto Maple Leafs on the other hand have displayed a shocking inability to either draft or develop prospects.

In the last 28 NHL drafts, the Leafs have not drafted and developed a single star with a first round pick. The first round picks by the Leafs in the last 28 NHL drafts have scored a cumulative total of 284 goals for the team. Not a single first round pick in that timeframe scored more than 30 goals for the team. More players have scored less than 20 goals in their Leaf careers than have scored 20 in a season in a Toronto uniform.

In fairness, Toronto traded their first round picks in several of those draft years. One year they traded their pick to New Jersey and they picked Scott Niedermeyer. Another year they traded a pick to Florida and they picked Roberto Luongo. A couple of years they picked a goalie. One of them was Eric Fichaud, who never made the NHL, and the other was Tukka Rask. Rask was then traded to Boston, where he went on to win the Vezina Trophy as the League’s top goaltender.

To put things in perspective, Nik Andropov has more than twice as many career goals (113) as a Leaf than any other player picked in those 28 years. You think that sounds bad? Luke Schenn is in fourth place with 14 career goals. A blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a draft board would literally have produced better results than Toronto has managed over the past 28 years.

The reason why the Maple Leafs have been so awful for so long at drafting suggests the team is suffering from some fundamental organizational deficiencies. This is no doubt due to being lulled into complacency from being the only NHL team in a city filled with affluent and rabid hockey fans. Toronto simply never really needed to build a top notch organization, because they knew that they knew no matter how terrible a team they put on the ice they could still continue to raise ticket prices every year and still sell out. As long as the fans keep forking over money to watch an awful hockey team, the Leafs will continue to be an awful organization.