The fast and not furious
Canada doesn't make power fowards like it used to
Posted: Monday February 5, 2007 2:16PM; Updated: Tuesday February 6, 2007 11:38AM
I spent most of the day in front of the tube on Sunday, but there was no Super Bowl for your faithful scribe. While every other guy in North America was pounding beers and chicken wings and rating the commercials, I was poring over two-week-old game film of 16-year-old hockey phenom John Tavares.
If you're not familiar with the name now, you will be soon. Despite his tender age, the Oshawa Generals forward is leading the Ontario Hockey League both in scoring and jaws dropped. He's a superlative offensive talent, the kind that Canada has excelled at developing of late. Two years before he's draft-eligible in the summer of 2009, some scouts are calling him the next Sidney Crosby.
To have another Next One in the pipeline so soon is good news for hockey. To be sure, the game needs the kind of sizzle that a human highlight reel like Tavares can provide. But it also needs a little steak, a point made abundantly clear by another element of my Sunday viewing.
I can't wait to see what Tavares, Angelo Esposito and the next generation of speedy, creative snipers can do in the NHL. But after repeated viewings of that video on the heels of another relatively listless slate of matches on Saturday, it left me wondering: Where's the next Wendel Clark? Where's the next Cam Neely?
There's so much time spent trying to improve the game. Fix the schedule. Bigger nets. More power plays. Any or all of those may make a difference, but all hockey really needs is an influx of the kind of fury and passion Clark and Neely brought to the rink in 60-minute increments, 82 times a year.
These godsons of Gordie Howe played the game with white-collar talent and blue-collar ferocity, facing every opponent as though he wanted to take food out of his children's mouth and every shift as though it were his last. Those guys were hockey players, for cryin' out loud.
While I occasionally suffer through a bout of Good Ol' Days Syndrome, I don't think that's the case here. I just don't see anyone today who brings that type of game. To be sure, there are plenty of wingers who play with jam. Steve Ott of the Stars, Chris Neil of the Senators and Erik Cole of the Hurricanes come to mind. All three are fan favorites for their work ethic, their scoring touch or their fearlessness, but none bring the complete package of a Clark or Neely.
Todd Bertuzzi comes closest to matching the archetype, but it's not really the same with him, is it? Even before the Steve Moore incident, when he was among the league's most feared scorers and physical presences, Bertuzzi was more a figure of joyless menace than a folk hero admired around the league.
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