We’re in the stretch run now of this countdown, which means that regular-season hockey (erm, at least played on North American ice) is just a few days away. Today’s player, when healthy, was an utter force on the ice that could play any style possible. Perhaps that’s why ESPN Magazine once deemed him as The Ultimate Player back in the late 90s. Presenting #3: Peter Forsberg.
When you look at #4 in our countdown of The Hockey News’ Top 50 players from the 1998-99 yearbook, so many negative associations come into play: moodiness off the ice, lack of heart, one of the worst mullets of all time. Looking back, though, it’s easy to forget just how damn good this guy was before his career took a wrong turn in Washington. Presenting #4 in our countdown: Jaromir Jagr.
We’re halfway through the big countdown of The Hockey News 1998-99 Top 50 players, along with a comparison to their 2008-09 counterparts. Here’s the list so far:
At #5, we’ve got one of the most prolific players of the 1990s and one of the best players in Russian hockey history: Sergei Fedorov.
While Tampa Bay celebrates having the Devil Rays actually do something meaningful, I’m much more interested in the beginning of the Steven Stamkos era. It’s 8:45 AM PST and I’m revved up for an actual regular season game. This post will be a liveblog of the first period between the Rangers and Lightning from Prague, Czech Republic (unfortunately, a family event will force me to Tivo the rest of the game) but rather than just comment on the game in general, I’m gonna answer the damn “Seen Stamkos?” question and put an emphasis on Stamkos and his shifts.
If you flipped open the 1998-99 The Hockey News yearbook today, you might do a double-take when looking at the #6 player. That can’t be right, you might think, because that’s the same exact player as in 2008-09. How is that possible?
Here’s something to consider. At age 38, Wayne Gretzky was at the brink of retirement. Bobby Orr wasn’t skating anymore. Ray Bourque was still great but not considered the top defenseman in the league. Yet, up in Detroit, something just doesn’t follow that pattern of skill deteriorating with age.
One of the funny things about doing a countdown like this is that you forget how dominant a player was in a particular era—and just how much injuries can change the trajectory of a career. 1998-99’s #7 top player is none other than big #88, Eric Lindros.
During the total system meltdown of the US financial system, you may have noticed an increase in commercials talking about the value of gold. Well, about 20 years ago, a few hockey players and a Hollywood hanger-on had the foresight to invest in this market. They just didn’t get anything out of it.
Tom Arnold—yes, that Tom Arnold—was on the Howard Stern show today and among many other stories (including how he found a passed-out Britney Spears on his apartment building’s stairs during her shaved-head days) was a discussion of his investment in a gold mine with a few friends. Friends who happened to be NHL Hall of Famers.
This ain’t a metaphor for a hot new company or anything like that, it was a literal gold mine. A gold mine, as in a big hole in the ground where people hope to unearth precious metals. He said the logic was that they would purchase the land then unearth $100 million worth of gold. Sounds like a solid plan, right?
Fellows, you better stick with making guarantees on pivotal Game 7s or setting up plays from behind the net.
#9 in our countdown of 1998’s THN Top 50 players brings a familiar face: Chris “Stompin’” Pronger.
Let’s just pretend for a moment that Nikolai Khabibulin passes through waivers unclaimed. After all, a $6.75 million bill is a hefty chunk o’ change and the cap hit isn’t pretty, even if it’s only for one season. Ok, so then let’s pretend that Chicago GM Dale Tallon rolls the dice and sends Khabibulin to the minors and then recalls him, effectively placing him on re-entry waivers (Chicago keeps half his cap hit and salary while Team X gets the other half).
A one-year no-risk deal for a Stanley Cup-winning goalie that has (in the past, at least) been a solid #1, all for $3.375 million. Who will go for it?
There are two things to consider here: