Friday, February 10, 2006

It wasn't such a great day for hockey

Even Badger Bob Johnson would have had a hard time Thursday putting a happy spin on the events of the game he so loved. Each hour seemed to bring upon us another revelation, rumor or recitation of fact in the now infamous Project slap shot.

Names were dropped like celebrities at the opening of an awards show. Have you heard? So and so was involved, or I think we're going to hear a few more names later on today. The rumor mill is running overtime as each competing journalist or broadcaster, tries to be the first to break the big names, the ones that will make us go oh no really, him too!

An owner, a skater or a hockey stick maker, you name it everybody is a candidate for what could be a new season of HBO's big hit The Wire. And that's the problem this whole mess is causing, without any actual names on indictments it seems that everyone is a suspect as is the game.

What is sure is that Mr. Tocchet is in a world of trouble at the moment, his newly hired lawyer doing his best to try and deflect some of the heat, but it's a hard to road to hoe that one.

Going down the same sidestreet might be Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet who has apparently blossomed from being a bit player in the melo-drama into a starring role, no longer a B list actress with few lines, she unfortunately may now receive the role of her life and be asked to deliver what may be the valedictorian address of this entire affair.

Then there is the tragic figure in this drama, the fate of King Wayne of Canada. One of his best friends is implicated as the ringleader of the operation and his wife is suggested as one of the best supporters of it. All apparently without his knowledge, nor approval or monetary support (we truly hope).

One hopes it's true that he was so in the dark that he can remain untainted by the tangled web being woven by the New Jersey State Police. But the more the investigators dig, the more dirt that seemingly is uncovered. Each passing hour of no comments from the principals leaves more and more questions unanswered. The league waits for the other shoe to drop, while at the same time calling in a US legal heavyweight to conduct its own investigation.

The nation of the games' birth finds a little more of its innocence taken away, the game of our youth suddenly cast under an unwanted glare. Sometimes we're just a tad too naive in the great White North, refusing to believe that our game can be tainted by unwanted influences.

As if to provide a diversion from the gambling fiasco, we found ourselves embroiled in a possible drug scandal to go with our bad news days. The Montreal Canadiens called a press conference to release the news that Habs goaltender Jose Theodore, at one time on the Team Canada list for Torino, had tested positive for a banned substance.

Theodore had delivered a positive test for propecia, a hair regrowth agent that can sometimes be used to mask steroid usage. The Canadiens provided some background on Theodore's health and family history and his worries over hair loss and suggested that this is much ado about nothing. Judging by the look of Theodore's thick mane, a serious endorsement contract should be in the works if nothing else! In fact, the league was quick to clear him of any suspicion and stated that he had no concerns about his future in the NHL.

It remains to be seen if the answers provided by the Habs will quell the inquiring minds, though the cynics will be investigating this whole situation (pardon the pun) with a fine tooth comb.

Regardless, the development comes at a rather inopportune time, casting more suspicion on the NHL and it's handling of the drug issue over the last years and giving Dick Pound more ammunition in his battle with the NHL powers that be.

All in all, a day that hockey could have done without. The events of the day providing more worries for a league and for a nation, which was thinking of bright gold medals and media spotlights and now thinks of things a little less shiny and from a place a little darker!

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