Summary

In this engaging episode of Jeff Merrick’s hockey podcast, the spotlight is on the NHL, with a special focus on the Vancouver Canucks’ remarkable journey in the league. Merrick, a renowned voice in hockey podcasts, reminisces about his fondness for the Detroit Red Wings, weaving in nostalgic narratives that resonate with hockey aficionados. The podcast takes a deep dive into the Canucks’ transformation from playoff outsiders to Pacific Division frontrunners, a story that’s capturing attention in hockey news circles.

Discussion pivots to other NHL teams, highlighting the defensive prowess of the Winnipeg Jets and the unexpected triumphs of the Florida Panthers. Merrick points out key players like Quinn Hughes and Alias Pon, whose performances are central to the Canucks’ success. The conversation also touches on potential Jack Adams Award contenders, underscoring the impact of coaching strategies in the NHL.

Taking a historical angle, the podcast celebrates hockey legends like Borje Salming and Jim McKenney. Merrick shares personal memories, emphasizing the profound influence these players have had on generations of hockey fans and aspiring players. These stories not only enrich the podcast but also connect with listeners keen on hockey history and player legacies.

Concluding with a broader view of hockey’s global landscape, the podcast addresses the rising prominence of the USA in the sport. This segment is particularly relevant for those following international hockey dynamics, offering insights into the evolving competitive scene and what it means for the future of hockey.

Chapters

Introduction and Catching Up
Marek and Weekes greet each other warmly and mention looking back fondly on working together in the past. Weekes notes he still has signed copies of Marek’s hockey books.
Vancouver Canucks’ Surprise Success
They analyze the Canucks emerging as one of the league’s top teams and biggest surprises this season. Marek highlights standout rookie performances from players like Quinn Hughes and consistent scoring behind coach Bruce Boudreau.
Underrated Jets’ Defense
Both praise the Winnipeg Jets’ defensive corps as unheralded contributors to the team’s stingy goals against numbers through players like Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon.
Remembering Outdoor Hockey Memories
Marek shares a story about encountering Maple Leafs legends Borje Salming and Jim McKinney while playing pond hockey as a young kid. Weekes also recalls Salming’s skating skill and fearless shot bloking tenacity.

Summary
The transcript summarizes a conversation between Jeff Marek and Kevin Weekes about hockey stories and players from the past. They discuss grumpy yet passionate players like JT Miller, underrated defensemen, the evolution of international competition, memories of playing outdoor hockey as kids, and the toughness of former Maple Leafs defenseman Borje Salming.
Chapters
Introduction and Catching Up
Marek and Weekes greet each other warmly and mention looking back fondly on working together in the past. Weekes notes he still has signed copies of Marek’s hockey books.
Vancouver Canucks’ Surprise Success
They analyze the Canucks emerging as one of the league’s top teams and biggest surprises this season. Marek highlights standout rookie performances from players like Quinn Hughes and consistent scoring behind coach Bruce Boudreau.
Underrated Jets’ Defense
Both praise the Winnipeg Jets’ defensive corps as unheralded contributors to the team’s stingy goals against numbers through players like Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon.
Remembering Outdoor Hockey Memories
Marek shares a story about encountering Maple Leafs legends Borje Salming and Jim McKinney while playing pond hockey as a young kid. Weekes also recalls Salming’s skating skill and fearless shot blocking tenacity.
Action Items
No action items were found in the provided transcript.


Speaker 1 00:00
Greetings and welcome to a Simmers morning skate with none other than an old friend, Jeff Merrick. Holy smokes, Jeff Merrick.

Speaker 2 00:08
Buddy. Oh, has it ever, eh? The Louis Vuitton’s we wear under our eyes are well earned, my friend. We’ve been at it quite some time. I was thinking about you the other day. Uh -oh. Because I was going down memory lane about some old Red Wings stories and I picked up your old great Red Wings books.

Speaker 2 00:25
So there’s a couple of have actually on my shelf that have the Rob’s signature to it. So you’ve been good? You’re all right?

Speaker 1 00:34
Doing all right, hanging in there at Seattle and a little controversy in Vancouver, but we’ll see what happens. But yeah, the winged wheel, that was my favorite of all of them because of the pictures in there mainly because there was a number of photographs in that book.

Speaker 1 00:46
But there’s been some fun stuff produced. Of course, Jeff Merrick, he’s sitting in front of a sports net. Mike, he has the Jeff Merrick show on radio. And of course, the famous podcast with Fridge, I ran into Elliott Freeman at the some of the winter classic festivities the other day.

Speaker 1 01:02
You two guys kicking ours when it comes to your third.

Speaker 2 01:08
We’re fooling people, Simmer. We’re fooling people.

Speaker 1 01:12
Hey, let’s talk about the team that my prop behind my shoulder here these canucks those are the retired sweaters They might have a couple more retort retired sweaters Down the road a ways with some of the play that’s going on right now with Quinn Hughes and alias petterson But yeah, is that the biggest surprise in the league consistent surprise this year in the league as I?

Speaker 2 01:34
It’s a great question. I think it’s between Vancouver and Winnipeg. Like I really do. I think as far as like, well, I think first of all, I think Florida is a good story too. Because I think everyone was just sort of wondering was last year’s, you know, cup run considering they had to, it took until game 82 until they made it in that infamous Chicago Pittsburgh game on the Tuesday night that opened the door for all of it.

Speaker 2 01:54
I think we wondered whether that was legitimate or whether that was Fools goal from the Florida Panthers. Make no mistake about this team is legit. Although we’ll see what the Barkoff injury here and what happens there.

Speaker 2 02:05
But I think as far as, you know, comeback teams, maybe a little bit of surprise. I think Vancouver and Winnipeg, you know, Winnipeg, like it’s a team that you just can’t score three goals on. Like, they just do not surrender more than three goals a game and they’re doing it with, you know, a defense that I still think is very unheralded.

Speaker 2 02:22
We all know about Josh Morrissey, but you know, how many conversations have you had about Dylan DeMello lately? How many conversations have you had about Brendan Dillon or Neil Pionk lately, Summer. So, and they’re doing it all without Calconer as well, which is remarkable.

Speaker 2 02:37
And that’s probably why Rick bonus is going to get some Jack Adams consideration. But you look at what Vancouver is doing. Like they’re not, they’re not just, they’ve gone from being, you know, way outside of the playoff picture to being a team that’s tops in the Pacific.

Speaker 2 02:52
And specifically right now, where the Vegas goal, the Knights have taken a step backwards. And the Los Angeles Kings have taken a step backwards. I know Thursday night wasn’t exactly kind of the Vancouver Canucks.

Speaker 2 03:03
Tough one there. But you know, consistently, this has been one of the best stories in the NHL. And you have players at every position who will be significant candidates for trophies. And you have someone behind the bench as well will be a candidate for a trophy as well.

Speaker 2 03:20
So yeah, Vancouver’s got it going on. And it’s a fun thing. Here’s the thing too, like they’re a fun team to watch. Like there are just so many different personalities and players that have so many different, you know, styles and ways to play as well.

Speaker 2 03:33
Like just from an entertainment point of view, Vancouver’s a, I always talk about speed, I call them speed bump teams. Teams like, oh, I’m flipping by, oh, Vancouver’s on. You have to stop. And you have to watch when the Vancouver Canucks are playing.

Speaker 1 03:46
and leading the league in goals per game. And I think St. Louis happened to play probably their best game of the season.

Speaker 2 03:52
Robert Thomas was great. Like, honestly, Robert, that was one of the best games this season for Robert Thomas, too. Yeah, they just shut them down.

Speaker 1 04:00
But they rack up the goals and huggy, Quinn Hughes. I loved it when they got Ronick because they talked about ad nauseam. I mean, Luke Shin felt filled in admirably as kind of his protector, right? But they needed a right hander.

Speaker 1 04:13
They needed a right hander. They talked about it, talked about it, talked. And Phillip Ronick, you know, it was just time. It was a change of scenery after Detroit and it fit in.

Speaker 2 04:21
You know, I always wonder about, you know, the hardest shot competition. And I know that’s, you know, it’s, they just bring in the all stars and then they choose from, from there who’s going to take the hardest shot or who’s going to compete for the hardest shot.

Speaker 2 04:32
I like the idea of bringing in specialists at the all star. And for hardest shot, I want to see Ryan Poulac versus Philip Roanick. That to me is the showdown for who’s got the hardest shot. I’ll take now the char is out of the mix.

Speaker 2 04:45
Right. That that’s who I’ll take. I mean, they see the Ryan Poulac, Philip Roanick showdown for who’s got the real hardest shot in the league.

Speaker 1 04:53
By the way, speaking of Char, when does 33 go to the rafters? I sent him a tune on that topic and he’s kind of like, soon as possible. That guy’s going on.

Speaker 2 05:02
You know, there was, I think it was, was it 2000 and what probably was their Stanley Cup year that when you look at the underlying numbers when Patrice Burr, look at the possession numbers, when Patrice Burgeron and Zedato Chara were on the ice together, like nobody touched the puck.

Speaker 2 05:18
Like there was like the possession number like 65, 70, because it’s obscene. Like it’s like, it was a real luxury for Claude Julian to be able to look at, you know, Chara and Burgeron and say, hmm, my two best offensive players are also my two best defensive players.

Speaker 2 05:34
It’s impossible for me to lose a line matchup. Both you guys over the boards. Right.

Speaker 1 05:39
By the way, yeah, it’s funny that we’re talking Canucks, of course, and that was, you know, seven -game series. They lose at home. Patrice Bergeron with the Cup winner. But you talk about the personalities of this Canucks team.

Speaker 1 05:51
I’ve never had a problem with JT Miller. I love the guy’s intensity. I don’t mind he’s a little bit pissy at times. I mean, that’s just the way he is. He’s a competitive guy, and he’s kind of, I think, folded that into the personality of the Sockee team.

Speaker 1 06:03
Now, you’re, of course, radio, podcast, man, television, here comes that transition. You ready for this, Jeff? Go for it. The world juniors. JT Miller beating Sweden in Ufa 11 years ago. Yeah. And I bring this up because I ran into Andrei Burakowski in the dressing room for the crack in the other day.

Speaker 1 06:24
And I said, you were he on the two? Were you 2014 world juniors? He was not stoked because that was the year they lost in overtime with Finland of the gold medal game. And US had beaten Sweden the previous year.

Speaker 1 06:36
We’ve got a USA -Sweden game going on right now as you and I chat. So we’re going to get into that. But we can get into Canada being bounced by the Czechs, who ended up coming back to win the bronze.

Speaker 1 06:48
What’s the fallout or the reaction?

Speaker 2 06:53
First of all, can I have a quick comment on GT Miller? I don’t know whether this is just a byproduct of me getting older, but the older I get, Simmer, the more I love being around grumpy people. Yeah.

Speaker 2 07:08
I don’t know what it is. I love, like, I love, I love the, like, once upon a time used to bug me. Now I find it funny. I really love, I love Grouchy. Hockey players who show up to the rink and the first thing they do is complain about the coffee or just like a grump, like the prongers and the Ryan Kesslers and the, I love being around people like that.

Speaker 2 07:31
It doesn’t bother me at all when people are crusty. So I’m with you. Like I love the intensity of GT Miller. The player is outstanding. I don’t even mind that he’s grumpy. I don’t. I kind of, I kind of like it, man.

Speaker 1 07:44
You know why you like it and you don’t mind grumpy guys. And I had this conversation with John Tordor all the last week and now I’m starting to ask other head coaches. I’m from the physicality. Where are we at right now?

Speaker 1 07:56
And is it always seemed to be misdirected? And my direct question was, when’s the last time you saw a momentum fight? In other words, my team’s flat, tie score, or we’re down a goal, we’re playing like crap.

Speaker 1 08:10
It’s the five minutes into the second period. You know what? I’m gonna find a dance partner, we’re gonna get this crowd going and we’re gonna get my team spark. That hasn’t happened in forget week to months.

Speaker 1 08:21
That’s just, all the coaches are like, yeah, it just doesn’t happen anymore.

Speaker 2 08:25
Despite Patrick Maroon’s best efforts to bring that vibe back, and we’ve seen him try it a number of times, and listen, we saw him in Austin, Watson on Thursday night in a very spirited bout, Minnesota and Tampa.

Speaker 2 08:39
You’re right, that really doesn’t exist anymore. But to the question about the World Juniors and Team Canada, I mean, I think everybody understands that winning back to back is hard and three -peating is nearly impossible, and that’s what was being asked of this Canadian crew.

Speaker 2 08:55
I know there’s always the common Canadian excuse, well, Conor Bedard is playing with Chicago, and Fantilli’s in Columbus, and Benson’s in Buffalo, and Kortchinsky is in Chicago, like, there’s always that, well, if we really did send our best, I mean, Sweden would be saying, yeah, well, what about that Leo Carlson guy who’s in Anaheim?

Speaker 2 09:13
We’d love to have him right now. Thank you very much. I think that a couple of things, I think people understand how hard that is, and I think that now more so than ever, and I think this is a great thing for hockey, there are a lot of other countries that have, quote unquote, caught up to Canada, and I think the big one, and they’re poised for success for a long, long time, is the United States.

Speaker 2 09:38
One of the things that I think people have always feared, hockey people around the world have always feared is, what happens when the elite athletes in the United States start choosing hockey first? Right.

Speaker 2 09:52
Like, it used to be like that the top American athletes, they would choose football or track and field or baseball or basketball or whatever it was, and hockey was like way down the ladder of athletes.

Speaker 2 10:04
That’s what, you know, the, as far as a hierarchy goes, that’s what they would choose. But now what you’re seeing, and you can make the argument that maybe Austin Matthews is the best example of it, or maybe Anders Lee is another great example too, you’re getting the elite athletes playing hockey, and that should frighten everybody around the world, because A, the athletes are fantastic and you have, you know, 300 million people to choose from.

Speaker 2 10:31
You have a great hot house for hockey, and you have the money, and you have the facilities, and you have the infrastructure. Like, you know, I was saying this the other day on the radio, like, I have these, as best I can call them immigrant fantasies of what it must be like to be trained, you know, in America as a hockey player, where, I mean, you’ve been to all these rinks, you’ve been to these workout facilities, like, it’s first rate, and the trainers, and the brain trust, and the structure, and, you know, the development programs.

Speaker 2 11:03
It’s incredible. And now Canada has to compete against that, and Sweden competes against that, and Finland competes against that. And if Russia, if that situation ever resolves itself to the point where they’ll be welcomed back into the mix in international hockey, they have to compete against this American model, and these American teams.

Speaker 2 11:24
It’s, like, I think that the one lesson I think that everyone should take from this is that, A, it’s hard to 3P, and 2, man, the USA looks really good, and are poised to be great for a long time. We’ll see what happens next year when the tournament comes back to Canada, and they’re playing on the small array surface, and not the 200 by 100.

Speaker 1 11:46
Yeah, and they just announced Mini St. Paul for the following. Yes. So that’ll be great. Last things, I know you got a boogie. You’re talking about kids and growing up and playing hockey. So we both did a little bit of that.

Speaker 1 11:59
In the pond, it’s really froze. When I first started skating, it was November to March. Maybe I would skate every single day. Now it might be one weekend on that same pond. We just had the holidays. We just had the New Year.

Speaker 1 12:14
What’s your fondest? By the way, nice is your old Malak.

Speaker 2 12:18
Yeah, and the old seal is Jersey too. Yeah. I still I still I still a quick aside. I still maintain if this man in the 70s played on either the Montreal Canadians or the Philadelphia Flyers or the Boston Bruins or the New York Islanders, we’d be talking about him as being one of the greats of all time.

Speaker 2 12:38
He would be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Instead, Milos played for the seals and the Barons and a bad Minnesota team. Yeah, that’s the guy that I always point like, man, if only he would have played on one of those powerhouse.

Speaker 2 12:50
If he if he had Perant spot or if he had Billy Smith spot or if he had Dryden spot or Chiever spot, we would be talking about Joe Milos is if he was one of the best. Very clear. I got a good memory for you.

Speaker 2 13:02
This one, I love telling the story and it’s got a good punchline to it as well. So when I was a kid, skating outdoors was commonplace like you. And in the West End of Toronto, there’s a park called High Park and there’s Grenadier Pond there and that’s Pond Lisa Skate on.

Speaker 2 13:18
But the actual arena itself, they had one rink for pleasure skating and one rink for hockey. And my dad would always take me there as a kid. Now, this happened when I was about seven years old. So he’d always take me Sunday mornings before it started to fill up.

Speaker 2 13:31
So we would get there at seven o ‘clock in the morning and just be my dad and I passed in the park and I’d be working on my empty neck goals or whatever it was that I was doing. And one one week, simmer, out of nowhere, it’s like a field of dreams like out of the corn.

Speaker 2 13:46
So out of nowhere, Boria Solming and Jim McKinney show up. Wow. OK. And I’m like, oh, I like I just watched these guys on Hockey Night in Canada last night. This is where Boria Solming lived around the corner at High Park High Park Avenue and Jim McKinney lived on Ellis.

Speaker 2 14:05
So they were sort of right then High Park was right in between those two streets. And I could just see like my dad is beaming because Boria Solming’s passing me the puck. And I’m like doing one timers of Boria Solming.

Speaker 2 14:17
This is like the coolest thing in the world ever. Like I still remember it like it was yesterday. So years later, I’m going to high school at Humberside in the West End. And on our hockey team is Jim McKinney’s son, Jason.

Speaker 2 14:31
And so we’re at Jason’s house one day. This is when Jim McKinney later went on to become a sports capture for sportscaster in Toronto. And I go up to Howie and it’s like, you probably don’t remember this, Jim.

Speaker 2 14:42
But like, I’m like a little kid and I was out there with my dad and you and Boria showed up and it was incredible. So early in the morning and we’re playing hockey and I got some memory I’m going to have forever.

Speaker 2 14:53
And he goes, oh, yeah, you know, I’ll be honest with you. Like that was we hadn’t been home yet. And we needed to have a skate to sort of clear our minds before we went back home to our wives. It said, she’s like, yeah, we need to sober up, skate.

Speaker 2 15:09
And you just happened to be there. And I’m like, OK, I kind of get that now. Like, I never thought of like, why would Boria Solving and Jim McKinney be out here skating? But there it is. And that’s my fondest skating outdoors memory of all time, skating with Boria Solving and Jim McKinney, two great defensemen.

Speaker 1 15:26
Amazing. By the way, you must have been going through it with the all the boreas stuff a couple of years back when he had that.

Speaker 2 15:33
He was my favorite player, number 21. And I still maintain he was the toughest player of the NHL. At least there’s the toughest player of the NHL. There’s two ways to be tough. There’s physically tough and impose your strength on someone else.

Speaker 2 15:45
But I think the stronger version of tough is being able to endure and not quit. And you know what the Flyers did to Borgesalming. You know what the whole league did to Borgesalming? And he just kept coming right back.

Speaker 2 15:57
And I never saw an athlete in finer shape than Borgesalming. I mean, the stories of him like going to morning skate on a Saturday morning and then going skiing all day and then coming back and playing hockey.

Speaker 2 16:10
And I’d still been the first star and the best player on the ice. I mean, those stories are all true and they’re all legendary. Like everything about Salming was great. A larger than life personality, great skater.

Speaker 2 16:22
And I still remember because Canada Cup 76 was the first big tournament for me. I’m too young for 72. 76 resonated with me. And I still even just thinking about it. You know, watching Salming playing for Sweden on the blue line, being announced before a game against Team Canada, and the standing ovation from everybody at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Speaker 2 16:44
As he’s wearing the, he’s wearing the gold in the blue. He’s wearing the green corner. And that to me is one of my great memories of Borgesalming. And it was such a delight to watch him play for the Maple Leafs for all those years.

Speaker 2 16:58
What a graceful skater. Like could play today. Like how, again, like he’s one of those guys who could play in any era because he was strong and he was a brilliant skater as well. And fearless. Like in that era of the flamingo, you remember the flamingo, go out to block a shot and stick up one leg.

Speaker 2 17:16
Warrior Salming dove in front of everything, taking shots off his head and his shoulder and his chest. And occasionally there’s shin pads and his pants. Like that guy was a, that guy was like a puck vacuum.

Speaker 2 17:28
Fearless, fearless player. Love them.

Speaker 1 17:32
Well, as my friend Jeff Merrick often likes to say, we’ll leave it there because you’ve just rounded it out perfectly. And I think that’s why I use that phrase because it’s the perfect conclusion. Jeff, always a pleasure.

Speaker 1 17:48
And let’s do it more often since we’ve really our schedule been whacked over the last, probably the last year. So it’s been a long time coming. But I’m sure we’ll be chatting again. And I miss our, we used to be on the air together two, three times a week.

Speaker 1 18:03
It seems like. Loved it.

Speaker 2 18:05
Love that miss it. Yeah, buzz back anytime. Love to be at the lodge with you. I love the uh, love that the hockey lodge here

Speaker 1 18:11
Kevin, the hockey lodge, Jeff Merrick of Sportsnet Radio, and of course with Fridge on the 32 Thoughts podcast. Great stuff, enjoy the hockey. Thanks, pal. And we’ll be talking to you soon. You be good.

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