Near the tail-end of the Colin Campbell “Wheel of Justice” era of NHL discipline, I wrote a piece on operant conditioning and how Campbell and the league could change their policies if they truly wanted to affect behavior change.
I had some interest in reading Bob Probert’s autobiography Tough Guy before the events of this tragic offseason given his *ahem* interesting career path. The passing of pugilists Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak this summer provided an added impetus for me to pick up the book, however. I wondered if Probert’s own experiences would perhaps give me a glimpse into the tribulations enforcers have to face, as well as their potential impact on their lives outside of the rink.
Probert and co-author Kirstie McLellan Day provide plenty of details of his experiences both on and off the ice. The book is liberally peppered with discussions and anecdotes from his career as a player, including details from his junior days all the way up to contract negotiations with the Red Wings and Blackhawks. The tone and feel of the prose is informal and has the feel of a friendly discourse with Probert over a few beers (he drops more than one F-bomb). It mostly works, although the book sometimes suffers for this style – the constant weaving in and out of subject and phase makes reading somewhat erratic and disjointed. So while stories about pranks in the locker room or why Probert called Sheldon Kennedy “Mo Melly” are amusing and humanizing in isolation, they often act as figurative speed-bumps when they interrupt sections on the direction of his career, problems with the law and struggles with drug abuse.
The NHL landscape has been marred by tragedy this offseason with the recent deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and now Wade Belak. It’s possible that their passing in such close proximity is entirely coincidental and a mere artifact of chance alone. Sometimes unlikely occurrences don’t necessarily carry graver implications.
Posted by Kent Wilson under Analysis, Editorial on Aug 30, 2011
The summer doldrums were disturbed yesterday by a rare late-August swap. The Calgary Flames traded aging two-way center Daymond Langkow back to the Phoenix Coyotes for speedy winger Lee Stempniak. The deal cleared some $2.6 million in cap space for Calgary, while the Desert Dogs were desperate for more center depth beyond Martin Hanzal.
The Flames have been one of the quieter teams in free agency this year, mostly re-inking their own pending UFA’s and little else. In fact, Jay Feaster’s one year, $1 million signing of Scott Hannan on Saturday probably stands as the club’s biggest off-season acquisition.
Posted by Kent Wilson under Analysis on Aug 07, 2011
And for seemingly good reason. As Bryan Reynolds notes from the link above:
One season in the Q that showed any real promise, ninth overall pick, thrown into the NHL without earning the spot, development completely ruined by the HWSRN regime, a career on a downward spiral, all fittingly punctuated by an ATV accident during a training trip to Colorado that ended his make or break season before it ever started. James Sheppard has been a punchline in Minnesota for nearly seven years, and Chuck Fletcher got something of value in return for him.
Well done, Mr. Fletcher. Well done, indeed.
To Sharks fans, we offer our sincere thanks, and our deepest sympathies. What your general manager sees in James Sheppard escapes me. Six points in 64 games in his last season played, with no real hint at anything more before that crash does not tell me that there is lighting in that bottle. If Wilson wanted a helium balloon on the ice, I’m thinking a trip to the local party supply store would have been cheaper.
The bolded portion can’t be overemphasized. James Sheppard stands as singular case study of how not to develop young players or leverage an entry level contract in the NHL.
Posted by Kent Wilson under Analysis, Editorial on Aug 05, 2011
The recent $7.5 million contract awarded to the Predators Shea Weber is a major blow to the Nashville organization for a number of reasons. When Weber straps on the skates this October, it will mark the first time the club has iced a player with a cap hit north of $4.5 million (aside from 17 games of Peter Forsberg in 2007…which obviously doesn’t count).