Favorite Moments of the Season

Since last year’s list included a lot of on the road moments, this year, I stayed close to home, so the stories will be a bit more homegrown. These are in no particular order.

BEST INTERVIEW

It’s still NOT Zach Parise.

So who was the favorite interview this season?

Last season, John Madden won that award. This season, David Clarkson wins the award for the two-part series on “The Goon With A Big Heart.” The most popular of the two-piece column was part two when Clarky talked about Clarky’s Kids, his charitable organization that works with kids with cancer in conjunction with his junior club the Kitchener Rangers.

David Clarkson (c) 2009 Michelle Kenneth

What made that part so special? The part where he started tearing up (and almost had me crying along with him) when he talked about one of the kids that was going to pass away. The Goon With a Big Heart (part 2)

The reason why this article is the Best Interview this season is for one simple reason…it turned a lot of Clarky’s haters into fans. For those who said that Clarky was a goon and a horrible person…found out he was one of the classiest guys in the NHL…and that’s what changed the haters’ opinion of him to now rank him as one of their favorite hockey players.

Amazing how one article can change the mindset of many.

[Side Note: I interviewed Clarky about another topic matter in the second half of the season. Due to my schedule, I was never able to release it. It will be released sometime this summer. Clarky has the ability to change your mind about things...especially when he knows what your opinion is. He fights fair, and then will explain his position to you to the point where you can't help but agree with him.]

BEST INTERVIEW RUNNER-UP

Going on the popularity of the ‘Goon With A Big Heart’ series, I decided to seek out another so-called goon that I knew had a big heart. But while I was doing my research on the player’s website, I saw in his blog that he had decided that he would no longer talk to the media.

My hopes plummeted when I read that. But I decided that it didn’t hurt to ask.

So I went into the Montreal Canadiens locker room and saw that Georges Laraque was nowhere to be found. So I asked the communications director if I could speak to Georges. He went in to get Georges and in less than 20 seconds, Georges appeared and gave me a ten-minute interview.

He was so nice about it. The article turned out so nicely that my editor emailed me and said that Dido’s guitarist loved it! Montreal’s Goon With the Big Heart

MORE RECORDS

One thing I am thankful for is Martin Brodeur. I don’t think everyone gets the whole ‘watching history being made.’ For those who do, it’s just one of those things where it takes your breath away and you are left saying, “Wow!”

This year, we watched Marty beat Terry Sawchuk to become the official Shutout King in the history of the NHL. Not only did he become Most Winningest last season, but he hit the 600 wins mark.

While a Stanley Cup would have looked nice alongside that gold medal from the Olympics, Marty, the franchise hero, is not only setting the new records, he’s making it hard for the next guy that comes along to beat him. That’s what being a legend is all about. Only a legend can create the new records that are difficult for others to break.

MOST SURPRISING – HELL HATH FROZEN OVER MOMENT

The last time I ever said that Hell must have frozen over was when I got news that I had been credentialed in for the first time to cover the New Jersey Devils. I thought, “Is this a joke or are you being serious?” Ends up, my editor was serious.

Well, a similar moment happened, but this time with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Being credentialed by the NHL is one thing in covering the New York Rangers, quite another when it’s by the team.

I spent the final three weeks going to the various New York Rangers home gigs, including the 3-D event where security couldn’t figure out what to do with me, so they sat me in the VIP section…and then bumped me…and then bumped me again. That is, that’s how long it took before security could figure out where to seat the media!

The 3-D event reminded me a lot of how it feels to sit in the front row at MSG. Sitting in the front row is a unique experience. There is one row in MSG that I love to sit in because it makes you feel like you are sitting on the ice…you can experience the game in a whole new light in that spot. Will I do another 3-D event again? No. I’d rather fork over $300 for the real thing, not the fake experience.

As far as covering the Rangers for the first time at MSG…some people said ‘you finally made it.’ I, on the other hand, realized that when hell froze over when I was allowed into the Devils domain. For others, the pinnacle of success is being able to cover the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

I measure success differently, because the guys from the NHL told me the story about how I was cred in the first time ever to cover a NHL game. I like their take on the story.

COOLEST MEDIA MEMBERS TO MEET

Don’t think I run around and socialize with members of the media or try to mingle with them. I respect them, but I’m not trying to be their friend. It’s a trust thing. You can’t trust everybody, because some people you think you can trust will only try to sabotage you. That’s the way it is in most businesses.

But one thing is for sure…I did meet some really cool media folk out there this season (yep, I actually stopped snubbing everybody). Russ Cohen, who covers the Flyers and runs Sportsology.com is also the writer of various sports books, including “100 Ranger Greats.”

Russ has helped me out with a lot of different stuff. So he’s good peeps.

I also FINALLY got to meet Eklund. :) We talk on the phone so much (for hours at a time) so to finally meet up…FINALLY…was a great moment. Ek always tells me the real deal as far as what’s going on. What he publishes at Hockeybuzz.com is a different matter.

He hasn’t swayed me yet to switch to Hockeybuzz, because I’m very loyal to my editor, Kevin Greenstein.

After all, it was Eklund that called me up and told me that the Devils were the frontrunners in the trade for Kovalchuk. We were only contemplating WHO would be the guys to go.

NHL KEEPS GETTING COOLER

That is…their corporate office. Now, the joke next door at the NHL offices has been…Michelle is always downstairs at Starbucks. They all think it’s funny. I even get teased by a few hockey players…or hockey broadcasters…about my coffee livelihood.

It’s not an addiction, it’s a livelihood.

What can I say? Most of the staff at Starbucks knows who I am. They know me so well, I let a few of them decide what I’m drinking for the day (they also swing some freebies here and there to me).

But enough about the NHL Starbucks (the NHL hosts the closest Starbucks to my location)…this past season I met a lot of cool guys working for the NHL corporate office. These are the guys that make the big events happen.

Seriously, they have the coolest jobs in the world…every single one of them (including the receptionist).

Since I started this gig, a lot of people have asked me when I plan on switching to the NHL corporate office. As of late, I’ve been thinking about how the NHL for years had been brandishing and preparing Brendan Shanahan for the days when he would retire and go work for the corporate office. Then I realized…wow…my journey seems to be similar.

Who knows…it may happen…but only if and when I’m ready. I still feel like I’ve got a few other things I need to do before then (like publish my book).

But I will say…all of the people I meet from the NHL corporate office are soo cool. Including that Vice President of Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah and Blah Blah Blah that I found looking like a tourist outside of my office the other week. His name is Brendan Shanahan. He lives in New York City and still walks around like a tourist. [At least I didn't say you were LOST, Brendan. Or did I?] [LOST pun intended.]

What has also been very cool…meeting the extended friends of the NHL corporate office. The extended friends are just as cool as the guys working in the corporate office.

FAVORITE TEACHER

Something the media didn’t expect from Coach Lemaire was that he would be totally different than Coach Sutter.

We could count on one hand how many times Coach Sutter had cracked a joke in the entire season. Coach Lemaire always had something funny to say at every press conference.

I learned a lot from Coach Sutter, but Coach Lemaire opened my mind to see hockey at a much more elevated level. To me, it was the best knowledge around. There were times that my mouth almost dropped at this newfound knowledge.

The things that Lemaire taught were just amazing. I’m actually glad he stopped in for a season to teach us a few things about hockey before he retired. He was the master, and we were his students. Or at least, I shouldn’t talk for everyone else, but I was definitely his student.

FAVORITE GAME

Ok, I can’t say there was one. There were actually two.

Both star (as usual) Captain America coming to save the day. Last year’s favorite game also starred Captain America doing something wonderful like…I don’t know…saving the day.

The first one was against the Ottawa Senators. The Sens were playing some absolutely dirty hockey against the Devils. One starred a Sens player running Martin Brodeur’s head, no one on the team went swinging after that player. Daniel Alfredsson came by and took another run at Marty’s head. No one came to Marty’s aid.

And then while I was steaming up in the press box, questioning how the Devils are not going in to stick up for their beloved goaltender, a miracle happened…his name: Jamie Langenbrunner.

Jamie went out there and took care of business, the way a captain does. One blow too many came to a screeching halt in the third period as Captain America went after the guys that were bullying his team.

Thank God for Jamie Langenbrunner.

Another incident starred Captain America doing what he does best…taking care of business as the Devils went undefeated for the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins (wins like that always feel good when you have a lot of respect for the other team…just like the Devils have in the Penguins).

Case in point…my absolute favorite moment of the season (I can’t get enough of this video):

More favorite moments to follow…

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