Tampa Shines with 2018 Hockey All-stars

Posted In: Sports, ,   By: Richard Curry

24th February, 2018     0

by Richard Curry

Tampa Florida is hockey town south (my Red Wing family hates that when I say it).  Tampa hosted the two-day all-star hockey event this year & was flat out awesome.  My wife Paulette, daughter Christine & I started out Friday with lunch at the Marriot Waterside hotel, hoping to meet some of the players.

The 1st hockey person we met was Jimmy Devellano (has 7 Stanley cup rings, 15 pro team titles, part owner of the Saginaw Spirit, V.P. of the Wings/Tigers & is in the Michigan Sport’s H.O.F.-1982). I asked him if he remembered drinking at Carl’s bar in Detroit when he 1st arrived and told him I sat there and tossed drinks with him for the rest of the afternoon.  He told me, “With the Red Wing team I had, drinking seemed like a good plan”.  As we drank I gave him ideas on how to improve the team & even wrote power plays for him on paper napkins. Thinking back, here I was a high school hockey coach telling a man how to run a team, the very man that drafted: Potvin, Trottier, Bossy, Gillies, Tonelli, Flint’s Ken Morrow, & Sutter - all Hall of Famers. Jimmy has lost weight & is a very pleasant & funny man.

Next up: Brendan Shanahan - he was in a sports coat & jeans setting outside looking over the marina on the Hillsborough River. What a resume: 8 time all-star, 9-time Red Wing, 3 Stanley cups, 656 goals-1354 pts, 2489 p.m. (only NHL player with 600 plus goals & 2000 plus penalty minutes), hockey Hall of Fame, 21 years in the NHL, in 2011 he was the NHL senior V.P., & is now the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I asked Brendan, “How could anyone with the amount of penalty minutes & fights you had become the person handing out league rulings on infractions? ” Shanahan: “You have to be a dog to be the dog catcher.” I told him I loved the games with the Aves, Brendan “best rivalry in sports.” Brendan has a nice smile & still is in great shape.

Steve Yzerman came down the escalator wearing black slacks, shirt & sports coat. At 53 he looks like he could suit up for the Wings today. He is hockey success: the game’s best captain, 692 goals, 1755 pts, 3 Stanley cups, 2 gold medals, 9 time all-star, GM of the year, hockey Hall of Fame, number retired by the Wings, team Canada GM, & Tampa Lightning GM.  I was wearing a game used Cal Foote (Kelowna Rockets jersey-Tampa’s 1st round pick).  Steve said, “That kid can play”. Richard: “You keep picking the good ones, he is having a great year this season. Steve, you’re the best GM in this game.” Steve: “Thank you”. The Curry family loves this guy & we always have - there is no finer gentleman in this game. 

I had the honor to meet Willie O’Ree, the 1st black player in the NHL (1/18/1958). At 82 he is in great shape and still coaches kids. He lost an eye at a young age but still played in the minors till he was 43 years old & played well:  394 goals-803 points & two scoring titles. In NHL rinks Willie was harassed for being black (45 games: 4 goals-14 pts). I asked Willie “how he handled it?” Willie:  “I talked to my brother, & he told me, ”Let it in one ear and go out the other and I did”.  Willie also told me he met Jackie Robinson (I met Jackie in Vero Beach, Fla in 1954 when I was 11 years old - they won the world series in 1955) today 32 black players are in the NHL. O’Ree should be in the hockey Hall-of Fame. The NHL gave Willie $ 100,000.00 for his hockey program. 

Went to the skills contest to a sold out stadium to witness serious hockey talent. Winners:  fastest: Connor McDavid 13.454 (second: Tampas: Braydon Point: 13.579.  Alex Ovechkin had the hardest shot: 101.3 (two over 100). He is the first forward since Sergei Federov to win it (2002). Accuracy champ: Brock Boeser - this kid is good. Passing: Alex Pietrangelo: 46.61. Save streak: Marc Andre Fleury 14 saves….Pekka Rinne 13. To me the best two goalies in the NHL. 

Game day Sunday at the Marriot we met Brock Boeser (acted like a spoiled kid), Drew Doughty (NHL’s best defenseman), Anse Kopitar, & Luke Robitalle –a ll three gentlemen. Also met Gary Bettman - NHL commissioner (makes $9 million a year). Every time I think of him I see him saying “Steve Yzerman come on over & get your cup.” 

There were 5 Tampa bolts elected into this game: Victor Hedman (hurt-couldn’t play), Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, & Andrei Asilevskiy. Nikita Kucherov scored 3 in a 7-4 win over the Metrolitans. Then the Pacific All-Stars killed the Atlantics 5-2 to win the 3 on 3 title. Rakell scored twice & MVP Brock Boeser had a goal & 2 pts. My three favorite moments: Pekka Rinne stoning Connor McDavid 4 times during one shift, cheering for former Tampa Lightning player Brian Boyle (cancer victim), and Kid Rock tearing it up at half time.  He was booed by some at the performance for his political beliefs - all forgotten when he got going…it was awesome. The game jerseys are already up for auction: Kucherov is at $2050.00, Matthews $2800.00, Boeser $3000.00, & McDavid $3020.00.




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