Chris Lund

chrislund

Chris is one of the founders of Always OUA and currently a web editor at theScore. He was the editor of theScore's University Rush blog during the 2011 season. His work can be found at The Hockey News, The Hardball Times and JaysProspects.com and whatever other projects he has roped himself into.

Recent Posts

Toronto: Hockey Town (?)


Neither of these teams will exist in a couple of months. Also, that’s Wojtek Wolski for Brampton. Retro!

We know the line of argument. Toronto, according to Torontonians, is the capital of the hockey world. However, Toronto, according to non-Torontonians, is the capital of Leafs town — in the heart of Loser Region — and if it disappeared off the map tomorrow nobody would be sad. Sound extreme? Sure, a little, but this is muted in comparison to some of the opinions I’ve received from friends who are Alberta or BC natives.

The non-hockey town line of thought is pretty defensible actually. Ever been to a non-Leafs game in Toronto? Crickets. You could fire off a cannon in most rinks under those circumstances and not even worry about killing someone. And now, with another Greater Toronto Area OHL team relocating, it looks as though the Toronto as hockey capital argument has been dealt a crippling blow.
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According to the IIHF’s world rankings page, there are 47 countries that play men’s hockey and 36 that play women’s hockey. Obviously the sport is played in plenty of other places without national programs, but those are the official numbers according to the world’s governing body and I’ll be damned if they aren’t given their due.

The pipelines of said countries are not created equal. Hockey Canada is a much more well put together and financially stable machine than Mongolian Ice Hockey Federation (a real thing) and as such the talent development is hardly comparable. An interesting twist in hockey is that anyone who becomes a citizen of a country that has lived their for two years can play for their national team. Are you an exceptionally talented beer league player of Greek heritage? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to live in Athens. Their team, 44th in the world, could use you! Just get your citizenship and an apartment.

It’s very simple, very effective but at what point does this stop being a legitimate rule and start being a workaround for countries?
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In a few days, the latest class of NHL Hall of Fame inductees will take their place in the Great Hall at the corner of Yonge and Front St. in Toronto. Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin all deserve to take their place amongst legends after careers that spanned at least two decades apiece while amassing many accolades along the way.

The 1990s were a golden time for prolific talents. Many stars from the decade prior were still running out their string in impressive fashion while a new wave took the game over — imprinting a legacy and serving as a catalyst for the infinite number of changes we’ve had in the game since. Yet, for an era in perpetual flux, one player, in my mind at least, simultaneously imprinted his mark as the most feared player of the era and the most dismaying cautionary tale and I firmly believe he deserves a place in that Hall sooner rather than later.

For his dominance and the excitement it brought, Eric Lindros should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
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The NHL needs its LeBron James

Let’s pretend there’s no lockout for a moment. The NHL, at its peak, has a massive identity crisis on its hands. I know we traditionally include it as one of “the big four” when looking at professional leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA being the others — but if we’re to do an honest appraisal of where it sits, perhaps “the big three and their semi-relevant friend” is more accurate.

It’s unfortunate. We know what a quality product the NHL is; any given night affords you the opportunity to have your mind blown by a thoroughly entertaining game. At some point though, the focus of the league has to be how to get additional interest in the daily goings on. The product is there, but the marketing plan is not. While it’s obviously a problem that cannot be solved overnight, there are cues to be taken from other leagues and applied to the game of hockey so this sport can be grown to its appropriate size in North America.

Step one won’t be easy, but it will be necessary. The NHL needs its LeBron James.
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With many hardcore NHL fans now migrating to smaller venues to take in their hockey, there has been a predictable need to adjust yourself to the atmosphere of a small rink. Gone are the days of losing your voice in the gargantuan multi-purpose arena. In are the days of booming your cheers in the little barns sprinkled across the continent.

If we’re doing a face value appraisal of what it’s like to lend your voice to an NHL game, the fact of the matter is that unless you’re sitting next to a bench — or you’re watching a game at the Air Canada Centre, where a conversation in the men’s room echoes throughout the building (zing) — players aren’t going to hear you.
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I have some bad news.

It appears that we, as a community — hockey fans — have made ourselves considerably more vulnerable to impostors than other sporting fanbases. As somebody who is a willing interloper between these circles, I can certainly attest to this as an undeniable truth.

What is an impostor, strictly speaking? Somebody who plays the role of something which they are not in reality, most likely for some sort of gain.

What is an impostor, under my definition, and in this context? Somebody who invents rubbish about the game of hockey or its constituents for some sort of personal gain. The gain in question could be monetary, social — if we can call Twitter followers that — or just kicks at-large. Ever been duped on a fake trade rumor? This post, my friend, is for you.
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I saw my first game at Maple Leaf Gardens as a six year old kid in 1996. As someone who was unfortunately born into the sado-masochistic cult known as Leafs fans — Thanks Dad! Great taste! We’ll discuss the Buffalo Bills later! — this was a big moment in my life. February 24, 1996. The Dallas Stars rolled into town and the big storyline was recently acquired winger Dave Gagner was playing his first game against his former team. It also turned out to be Pat Burns’ last ever home game as Leafs head coach because that team was definitely his fault and had nothing to do with an utter lack of depth.

The Leafs lost that game by a 3-2 score because of course they did. Andy Moog narrowly outdueled Felix Potvin but hey, Dave Gagner scored so take that Dallas. I will say though, one thing I recall much more vividly than the soul-sucking way the Toronto Maple Leafs continued to do what they do was the awe I had at six years old for this arena. The banners, the pictures, the scoreboard, even the way the rink was painted. It was an opiate well before I knew the term and it came courtesy of Maple Leaf Gardens.

That rink closed, we thought, for good a little under three years later. But, as it turns out, hockey came back to MLG courtesy of the Ryerson Rams this past Friday night.
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