Mad Mike Milbury tees off
Well, it appears that Tiger Woods hath raised the hackles of one Mike Milbury, who is mad as hell at the iconic golfer for having the temerity to say earlier this week that he didn't give a ripe old fig about the now-concluded Stanley Cup Final, adding, "I don't think anybody really watches hockey anymore."
Mad Mike's response on TSN:
"You know what? I'm gonna change the name now. It's gonna be Tiger Wuss. Here's a guy that took about three months to get over a simple arthroscopic surgery. You look at [Penguins forward] Ryan Malone. His face exploded with a slap shot last night -- he's back out in 10 minutes! Keep your yap shut, Tiger, or I'll send a couple of wingers down there -- [Penguins forward] Gary Roberts -- to tidy you up a little bit, meathead."
This little opinion piece was par for the coarse, if you'll pardon the painful pun. Milbury is the former Boston Bruins defenseman who notoriously clambered into the stands at Madison Square Garden one fine evening in 1979 to beat the goosedown out of a fan -- by using the fan's footwear. It's my understanding that the fan uttered something that irked Mr. Milbury, who has been known to express his displeasure from time to time and in such a colorful way that NBC has made him America's version of Don Cherry: a Slap Shot-style ambassador for a game that has comfortably settled into its niche, although recent TV ratings suggest that more than a few people do, indeed, watch hockey.
Mad Mike (see our little companion gallery), who took his nickname from his brash, impulsive, constant and often disastrous trades during a 12-year stretch as GM and coach with the New York Islanders, is trainwreck-fascinating and -- particularly if you're an Islanders fan -- polarizing. After I opined in this space last March that I wished the long-mediocre Isles would stop wheeling out their old Stanley Cup championship teams at every drop of a hat-trick and actually do something like win a playoff round once in a while, I spotted a comment on a fanboard that suggested the team stage a crucifixion of Milbury every so often at Nassau Coliseum. In such esteem is he still held on Long Island, where he traded Zdeno Chara and the pick that would become Jason Spezza for the ultimately despised floater Alexei Yashin, and publically referred to Isles' star Ziggy Palffy's agent as a village idiot.
Milbury's reputation followed him into the broadcast booth, where he often spars (verbally so far) with Pierre McGuire, who suggested during one recent Cup finals exchange that it was no mystery why the Isles and Bruins, whom Milbury also coached, had gotten so fed up with him. Mad Mike also figured in a bizarre segment during the Winter Classic game in Buffalo on New Year's Day in which his infamous shoe incident at Madison Square Garden was shown between periods -- to a TV audience made up, so NBC and the NHL hoped, of casual sports fans and newbies who were just dropping in to see what this hockey business was all about.
Lord knows what they made of that lovely little replay. It was a bit like inviting the vicar over for tea only to have your loud Uncle Mike running around in his boxers and wifebeater telling dirty jokes, spewing cigar smoke and spraying cheap beer. Not exactly what you call polite company, but it has a certain perverse charm.
Mad Mike's prominence as a hockey personality reinforces the notion that the NHL is shucking its best courting duds and getting down to the business of serving and satisfying its core audience -- the rest of those sissy, golf-playing dandies be damned. A guy like Milbury or Cherry appeals to the red-blooded, old time hockey fan. He's a thumb in the eye on a cold day, a bone-rattling jolt into the boards, the damp sweater pulled over your head followed by the sharp left hook to your ear.
And as much as I hate to admit it, Milbury is right about Tiger Woods. Hockey players will lose a leg, an eye and three pints of blood and be back skating regular shifts before the end of the period, but then again, no one really questions Tiger's mental toughness. And there's really no actual need to send Gary Roberts down to throw the man a beating.
As it is, I suspect that ol' Tiger was just making a little glib, off-the-cuff fun at hockey's expense. It wouldn't be the first time. Outside of its legion of devotees, of which I am one, hockey is often the butt of jokes. Among major pro sports, it's the rented redheaded stepchild with the missing tooth and taste for a good fight. There's really no need to pretend otherwise. Mad Mike certainly doesn't.