There are going to be some changes in the future of the HEC bag... nothing that would disrupt the actual content of the Mailbag. The HEC Mailbag is moving to the top sports website on the Web, InformativeSports.com. The only thing big that will come from it is that the Mailbag will be posted on Tuesdays instead of Saturdays... and that you will have to click one extra link to read it, a very small sacrifice. I will still be leaving a page open here for comments.
Now that all the administrative shtick is out of the way, it's time to delve into the questions, eh?
What's the difference between a hat trick and a natural hat trick? Also, how many players can get an assist on one play?
-Hockey Novice in New Jersey
As many of you know, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in a single game. However, a natural hat trick is when a player scores three consecutive goals without another player on either team interrupting his string. It is by far the more difficult to accomplish.
One player to get a natural hat trick this season is Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal. In a game against the Red Wings in November, he scored three times in the third period to send the game to overtime, where the Penguins wound up winning. One of the most famous natural hat tricks in NHL history was recorded by little-used Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty, in Game One of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. McCarty popped them past Colorado Avalanche netminder and Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, to lead the Wings to a 5-3 victory.
As for the helpers, there are a maximum of two assists handed out on each goal. They are the last two player on your team to touch the puck before you score. However, if fewer than two touched the puck after the opposition had control, then there are fewer assists.
My next question comes from across the pond, from the land of Steve Thomas and Joe Hall...
What is your take the on wearing of face shields and neck guards? Do you think either of these should be compulsory?
-Your Friendly Neighbourhood British Hockey Fan
The issues of face shields and neck guards are difficult ones to tackle. Both are mandatory all the way through youth hockey. When you reach Jr. A, neck guards are not regulated, but face shields are. In the pros, though, neither are mandatory.
These are two very separate issues. I personally like the idea of face shields being mandatory. Pucks very often rise up towards the face, and people are very often at risk of receiving a high stick. Almost all young players heading into the NHL are wearing face shields, because that's all they've known. It would be a perfect time to grandfather them in.
However, neck guards are things that I feel very differently on. Most of the push to have neck guards has been spurred on by the accidental slicing of Richard Zednik's carotid artery last year by a skate blade. The reasons why forcing players to wear neck guards might not be as great an idea are quite simple. One, very few players wear neck guards today. Two, several players feel uncomfortable wearing neck guards, saying that it restricts their breathing.
Three, I don't believe that neck guards provide nearly as much protection as their proponents say. All they really consist of is a padded piece of cloth. That's not going to slow down a puck shot directly there. You're still going to feel pain and suffer an injury.
I don't believe it's worth forcing players out of their comfort zone as a knee-jerk reaction to a freak accident. Bottom line, that's what Zednik's injury was: a freak accident. It's was a one-in-a-billion shot that isn't worth changing the league and inconveniencing the players for.
Here's a history question...
Is Wayne Gretzky the clear cut best hockey player of all time?
-The Animal, Telford, PA
Most people see the Great One as the greatest hockey player of all time, casual and hardcore hockey fans alike. I would have to say that I personally believe he is. However, he is definitely not the clear cut best of all time. Why? Because you can quite easily make cases for other stars past and present.
There is a significant faction that clamours for the great Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr to be the greatest. A defender who was supremely skilled offensively and defensively, Orr won the Norris Trophy for eight consecutive years in the heart of his career. He was also the only defenseman to ever lead the NHL in scoring, and won three consecutive Hart Trophies for league MVP. His career may have been unfortunately shortened at 31 due to knee problems, but his absurd dominance lets him have a say in the debate.
Among the forwards, you can also make a case for the NHL's resident Iron Man, Gordie Howe. Howe played an astonishing 26 seasons in the NHL, playing in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's... and every one of those years was a showcase for his excellence. He was an All-Star in every one of those decades, and won six Hart Trophies and Art Ross Trophies. Not only was he an offensive star, but his toughness and physical play is unparallelled among the NHL's top players. He was always willing to muck it up, and often was seen delivering a bone-crushing check or laying out a pesky player with a flying elbow. Gretzky was never a physical players.
I believe that Gretz is the best, but he's far from clear-cut.
After talking about the best, it's time to look at the worst...
Who is the worst team to have ever won the Stanley Cup?
-The Rookie, Germantown
There have been tons of teams who have all won the Stanley Cup. Finding the best one is easy, but finding the worst is not even close to as easy. After careful consideration, though, I have come to the conclusion that the worst Stanley Cup winner in hockey history is the 1907 Kenora Thistles.
Who? The Thistles were an amateur team that decided to challenge the ECAHA Champion Montreal Wanderers for the Cup, in a two game, total goals series. They won the first game 4-2, and the second 8-2. They are also known as having the shortest tenure as Stanley Cup champions, with the Wanderers winning the cup back in two months. They were named in a city-wide contest by a local carpenter, Bill Dunsmore.
But why is this team below the rest? Two simple reasons. One, the main reason that they won the play was because of Art Ross. Ross was a very successful rushing defenseman... and he didn`t even play on the Thistles. He was loaned to the team by the Brandon Kings just for the series.
The other reason was because of the series played months later against the same team, without Ross. There, Montreal dominated the first game 7-2, and hardly even needed to show up for the second game thanks to the incredible effort. This shows me that Kenora was just a mirage.
THE HOCKEY GLOSSARY!
where I define basic hockey terms
Grinding: when a player plays with an edge, i.e. physically
Obstruction: a penalty that occurs when a player stops another from freely moving
Screening: a classic hockey technique that consists of a player shielding the opposing goaltender's vision
Please FanMail any terms you want to see defined!
Time for one last question...
What do you think about the NHL's 82 game season? Is 82 games enough to determine playoff seeding? Or would you rather see a more extensive playoff at the sacrifice of some regular season games?
-Johnny Appleseed, Detroit, MI
To be perfectly honest, I love the current schedule, and I don't want to see it changed in the slightest.
One of the great facets of the 82 game schedule is the ability for every team to play every other team in the league at one point in the season. It eliminates silly scenarios where Canadian teams can't play each other, or where teams can't welcome some of the biggest draws into their building.
The schedule also allows divisional rivalries to prosper. Six games are more than enough times for us to see the Leafs and Sens drop the gloves, or for the Flyers and Penguins to spill blood. It's always great to see rivals throw down, but not to the point of overkill.
As for the playoffs, I think they're more than extensive enough. The beauty of a seven game series is that the best team normally wins. In seven games, you don't have pretenders stealing games and making runs at the championships; it's a war, not a battle. The playoffs are beautiful times for fans, largely because you see the most intense, exciting hockey you ever will. If you stretch it too long, then the shine wears off; it almost becomes a second regular season.
Thank you for reading this week's Mailbag! Please FanMail me any questions you want to see answered. Hope you enjoyed!