I got this question from a reader the other day:
You seem very knowledgeable on hockey. In your opinion, who are the twelve players with the most unique backstories (from a human interest perspective) to have won the Stanley Cup over the past three years?Wow! Is there a right answer to this question? Is this a final exam? Unfortunately, this reader didn't leave a name or email. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it's actually Barry Melrose, ESPN's hockey analyst. He's always bothering me for insight and analysis. As if I have time for that.
Anyway, I thought I'd give it a shot. Let's take a closer look at the question. The players with the most unique backstories to have won the Cup in the last 3 years. First, that's obviously a trick question. With the lockout in 2005, there have been only 2 Cup winners in the last 3 years. Ha, you can't fool me, Melrose! So that leaves us with last year's Cup champs, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the 2004 champs, the Tampa Bay Lighting. Second, you want me to give you 12 players from two teams with interesting back stories? 12?? That's too many. I'm not doing that. That's not fun. You hear me, Barry? That's excessive.
(Let's be honest, not all these guys are interesting. They're hockey players. They either grew up on the Canadian prairies and spent all their free time playing shinny with their pals, mom drove them to early morning practice, etc., etc. Or they grew up playing in Scandinavia and never learned how to check or fight. Those are the simple facts, folks. So, I'll name a couple interesting players, not 12.)
Martin St. Louis (Mar-tan San Loo-ee) - Yes, he's French-Canadian. No, I don't hold that against him. Well, not really. St. Louis plays for the Lighting and won a load of awards when he won the Cup in 2004. He was the league scoring champ, league MVP, and Stanley Cup playoff MVP all in the same year. Not bad. Of course, none of this would be particularly interesting if he weren't 5'2". Yep, he's just a little guy. The NHL lists him at 5'9", but he's closer to 5' than he is to 6'.
In fact, he's so little no team wanted to draft him when he came out of the University of Vermont (no word on if he did the "elephant walk" like many UVM players before him). He was signed by Calgary as free agent, played in the minors until he was released, and Tampa Bay picked him up soon after. Blah, blah, blah. The rest is history.
Mike Commodore - In stark contrast to Little Martin St. Louis, Commodore is 6'5" and 230lbs. He's a man among men. Anyway, his story isn't all that interesting, he grew up playing on the Canadian prairies, he stayed out on the pond all night skating, etc., etc.,...you get the idea. (Commodore hails from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, which I hear is beautiful this time of year. It's the Naples of Alberta, I'm told.) But here's why I like him:
1. He played for the Fighting Sioux. Enough said, I think.
2. Voted "Best Hair" in the NHL. (Ladies, I know what you're thinking. Open the window if you're feeling a little flushed.)
3. Around the locker room, he wears a white bathrobe with his number embroidered on it. (Actually, that might be the best thing about him.)
4. Shockingly, it turns out, he's the other guy molesting the Stanley Cup with Rod the Bod in the previous post! (I'm not sure how I feel about this).
5. He's tough (despite the weirdo Stanley Cup pic). The guys at goonblog.com (yes, that's a real website) offer a wonderful description of one of his scraps in the minors:
When they decided to go, Commodore got his gloves off, and lowered the boom on Thompson. Brent went down like he’d been shot. Commodore went in for more, picking up Thompson by his jersey, noticed he was out cold, and dropped him like 8th grade Spanish. Thompson finally made it to the box, were he asked the penalty box attendant why he was in there, and when he got out so many times, the attendant was compelled to inquire if Brent was OK. Hilarious turn of events. Well, not for Brent Thompson.(Seriously, though, who drops 8th grade spanish class? Is that even allowed?) One of his more recent scraps follow...Oh and Barry, I hope that answers your question!