Off the Top of My Head

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
2 years ago
For all the years I’ve watched hockey, it’s absolutely ridiculous that when I think of the most spectacular 10 or so goals I’ve seen, most of them have been scored by Connor McDavid, who’s only 10 games into his seventh NHL season with the Edmonton Oilers. That’s about 15 minutes in old guy time.

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With Pavel Bure’s skate-to-stick goal long ago left in the dust by No. 97 on my list of greatest individual efforts, McDavid added another in Friday’s 6-5 overtime win over the New York Rangers. His goal to make it 5-5 made me blink in disbelief as it zipped by that sweet move he made on Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. What is it that the cool kids say these days? Sick. Filthy. It was both.
“I was unhappy I couldn’t keep the puck in the zone,” McDavid said in his post-game availability. “I kind of lost the handle. I kind of lost the handle of the puck all night, but I just tried to pick my way through there. The guys did a good job of getting back on-side, and I tried to just pick my way through. Find my way through.”
Talk about a sense of timing. Beyond setting the table for Leon Draisaitl’s overtime winner to improve the Oilers to 9-1-0 their first 10 games for the first time in franchise history, McDavid’s masterpiece came on a night the team retired Kevin Lowe’s No. 4 with most of the team’s HHOF brigade there to see it.
“Yeah, it was a nice goal,” McDavid said. “I’ve scored some nice goals in my career, and that’s up there with a few of them. The timing of it, with the timing and the night, it definitely felt a little bigger than just a game in November. I’m paid to score big goals, and I’m paid to do that type of stuff. You know, just doing my job.
“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s 10 games in, a good start. It’s a special night with all the legends in the building Honestly, we wanted to perform well, and we didn’t do that for a large part of the game. But finding a way to win a game like that? You can build on it.”
A nice goal. Just doing my job. Sure. “It’s the best goal I have ever seen,” Zach Hyman said.


With Lowe’s number retired and no other members of the Oilers poised to take a run at the HHOF until we’re into the 2030s when McDavid and Draisaitl are done their playing days, Bob Nicholson talking about establishing a Wall of Honour at Rogers Place Friday was timely.
Having a place to mark the careers of notable Oilers players and personnel not in the HHOF is an idea that’s been batted around for a long time by fans. Now, it’s on the way, possibly as early as this season, with Nicholson having a hand in it. There was plenty of chatter about that on Twitter Friday with people offering up names of players they’d like to see honored.
I’m not sure there are many bad answers when it comes to picking the first names that will be considered by a committee put together to oversee the process. Judging by the suggestions we saw Friday, players who didn’t get in on any of the five Stanley Cup parades, like Ryan Smyth, Doug Weight and Ales Hemsky, are locks. Who else from the post-1990 years?
You’d think Cup winners like Esa Tikkanen, Bill Ranford, Andy Moog, Craig Simpson, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg, Steve Smith and Craig MacTavish, to name just eight, would be on that wall in the first few groups, no? What about Lee Fogolin, Dave Semenko and Kelly Buchberger?
For something like this to be meaningful, what you don’t want is to turn this into some sort of participation ribbon where anybody and everybody gets in. The way I see it, the committee could add two or three names to the wall every year for at least a decade and not be stretching to come up with legitimate people.
If you were asked to select the first two groups of three, what six names would you put forward? My first three are Smyth, Weight and Huddy followed by Tikkanen, Semenko and Ranford.


Hockey doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a microcosm and reflection of society at large. Framed in that, we’ve obviously still got a long way to go to get things right in both the small and big picture when it comes to how we treat each other.
We got yet another ugly example of that last week at a high school game in Pennsylvania when students from the Armstrong River Hawks directed vulgar chants at the female goaltender of the other team, the Mars Fighting Planets. Fans can be heard chanting “She’s a whore” and “Suck our dicks” during the game. Yes, really. The video of that is here.
“In my mind, this should’ve been stopped immediately by anyone that was there who has any moral value at all,” Kirk Lorigan, the principal at Armstrong, said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m disgusted by it.  There were a lot of people there who could’ve handled this differently.”
Word is Armstrong students will be banned from future games and there could be more discipline coming – it says here being expelled would be a reasonable punishment if the imbeciles involved can be identified. What I don’t get is what could make anybody think that kind of chant is OK in the first place? That’s messed up.


One of the best accounts I’ve seen written about Lowe’s story before he got to the NHL was done by team staffers Jamie Umbach and Paul Gazzola as part of the build-up to his jersey retirement. It really is outstanding work. You can find it here. It’s worth a read.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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