A goaltender, as Osgood demonstrated, can take cold comfort in snow—especially late in periods, when the ice deteriorates. If it escapes the attention of officials and cruising forwards, a nicely constructed mound at the goalpost can foil a pass through the crease or a wraparound shot. One Eastern Conference goal-tender says he even builds piles inside the posts in the hope they might stop a puck from trickling over the goal line.
In 17-plus NHL seasons Chelios, a Detroit defense-man, often has been called wild. When Chelios chats up an official, he turns into Oscar Wilde, a conversationalist of considerable wit if not brevity. "He'll skate over, question a call, maybe ask how the summer went," Lewis says. "For a guy with Chelios's style, he's got a pretty good rapport with the refs."
Chelios isn't interested in chitchat as much as he is a rest. The options for grinding the game to a halt are plentiful: a goalie surreptitiously undoing straps on his pads; a phantom injury; an intentionally broken stick; and sneaky coaches tossing nickels and other coins onto the ice to delay a face-off. ("You have to know what coins you're tossing," says a former coach of a Canadian team. "The refs find Canadian coins in a U.S. rink, they know you did it.")
There's also that old standby, the phony stick exchange. "You skate over to the equipment guy, hand him your stick [as if it's broken] and then tell him to give you the same stick back," says Detroit winger Brendan Shanahan. "A classic."
Then there's this Coke classic, which helped Toronto in the first round of the 1996 playoffs against the St. Louis Blues. Back then television timeouts were called by a TV producer, not regulated by the league. A Leafs assistant coach persuaded a sympathetic telecaster to move his soft-drink cup to the edge of the booth whenever the producer passed the word through the announcer's earpiece that a TV timeout was imminent. The Coke-on-the-ledge gambit tipped off the Toronto assistant in the adjacent booth, who would walkie-talkie the information to the bench. The Leafs had the luxury of putting their best line on the ice knowing it soon would get a rest and be ready for another shift following the timeout.
In the privacy of a deserted locker room, a veteran Eastern Conference defenseman stands before a reporter, knees slightly bent, choreographing the moves of the NHL miscreant with great de- liberation, as if he were teaching the cha-cha to a particularly dense pupil. "See, you can get away with cross-checking a guy, but you have to do it with one arm, almost like a punch," he explains. His right hand flies out while his left hand stays flush to his chest, the imaginary stick whacking the imaginary forward at a 45-degree angle. "Extend both arms and referees will get you, but this is in tight where they have trouble seeing. It's like the butt end."
His top hand now slides six inches down the shaft of the imaginary stick. "A guy tries to get by, your hand goes down, and you have a few inches of butt end you can either stick under his armpit or get tangled in his sweater. That stops him. Usually it's in the corner, where there are lots of bodies. It's impossible to spot."
"For a defenseman it's all timing," says Ramsey, the Wild assistant and 18-year NHL veteran. "Everybody expects you to hold. The key is to know when to let go. To give the little tug that disrupts the timing of the play but goes unnoticed."