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It is unclear where the disconnect occurred with Robin Lehner, who believes he was coerced into becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 with promises of relaxed league protocols. No other player has seconded his tale.
So either someone unidentified by the Vegas goaltender flat out lied to him or there was a rather significant misunderstanding derived from his conversations about the NHL/NHLPA virus-related restrictions.
But an individual with knowledge of discussions between the league and the union has told Slap Shots that medical consultants for both parties are in constant communication about whether it might be appropriate to revise the rather stringent protocols depending upon the state of the pandemic and the differing circumstances in which teams play.
Our translation, which is hopefully more accurate than Lehner’s, is that it is possible that protocols could be relaxed for playoff series depending upon the state of the virus in the participating teams’ locations.
This could play a role in deciding where in the U.S. to locate the Canadian team that advances out of its hermetically sealed division into the semifinals. The league presumably would arrange for players on that team to become vaccinated once relocated.
At the same time, it is extremely unlikely that the NHL or the NHLPA would simply issue get-out-of-jail-free cards to players and staff at the most important time of the year. This will be a balancing act similar to the ones we have all been living under and making for the past 13-plus months.
Patrick Marleau’s feat in surpassing Gordie Howe’s record for NHL games played when he participated in his 1,768th match Monday when the Sharks were in Vegas is a remarkable one worthy of celebration unclouded by controversy.
On the night the 41-year-old Marleau broke the record, he was playing in his 899th consecutive game. Imagine not only the physical commitment, but the mental fortitude necessary to record those achievements. Is he Hall of Fame worthy despite never having made a postseason all-star team, winning a major award or playing on a Stanley Cup champion?
Look, the man has posted 566 goals and 1,197 points, so come on, this is not a one-trick pony career. Would he be included in a greatest 150? It would be close, but probably not. Do you think Don Sutton merited election into Baseball’s Hall?
Quick: Who do you want for your team? Marleau, whose numbers translate to 0.32 goals-per-game, 0.36 assists-per and 0.68 points-per?
Or Pierre Turgeon, who recorded 575 goals and 1,327 points over a 1,294-game career that translates to 0.40 goals-per, 0.63 assists per and 1.03 points-per?
By the way, there is not a single retired player to have scored both as many career goals and as many career points as Turgeon, who is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
And this is certainly true: There are not many players in or out of the HHOF who ever had a year as dominant as Turgeon’s 1992-93 for the Islanders, when he recorded 58 goals, 74 assists and 132 points.
Marleau holds the NHL record for games played, but add Howe’s 419 matches in the WHA and Mr. Hockey metaphorically stands alone at the top with 2,186 games played in North American major league hockey.
The NHL does not incorporate WHA achievements into its records. The NFL includes AFL feats, but the NBA does not acknowledge ABA accomplishments. So this is a matter up for discussion.
The WHA may have been an inferior league during its 1972-79 life as compared to the NHL, but have you taken a look at what was a watered-down NHL those years?
When I had my seat in 419, Row B, there was a fellow in the row behind me who, just about every time Bob Nevin would commit a miscue, would scream, “Nevin, you’re terrrrrrrrible …”
Well, the NHL had some terrrrrrrrible teams through the life of the WHA, against whom the best and brightest beat up on night after night after night.
Listen to this: From 1925-26 through 1971-72 that encompassed 358 team-seasons, 16 clubs posted winning percentages of .300 or worse. That represented 4.4 percent of all seasons.
But during the life of the WHA that encompassed 121 team-seasons, 12 clubs were .300 or worse. That represented 9.9 percent of all seasons.
There has never been anything like this in hockey. From 1979-80 through 2003-04, 3.5 percent seasons were .300 or worse. From 2005-06 through last season, 0.04 percent ended .300 or worse.
So if the WHA was inferior, so through its life was the NHL even as we don’t tend to view the all-time, ’70s Canadiens through that particular lens.
What would happen if the NHL accepted WHA records? Well, Howe would leapfrog Wayne Gretzky as the all-time leading goal-scorer, Mr. Hockey with 975 to the Great One’s 940.
Bobby Hull would move from 18th on the all-time list with 610 to third with 913 including the 303 he scored for the WHA Jets.
And, dramatically, Marc Tardif, the winger who left the Canadiens at age 23 and emerged as a star with the WHA Nordiques, would not have 194 goals to his credit, but 510. Instead of 401 points, he would have 1,067. He would be in an entirely different category.
So a player slams into an opposing netminder on a play where no goal is scored and a goaltender interference penalty is (presumably or hopefully) is called.
But a player slams into an opposing netminder on a play in which a goal is scored, and the goal is taken off the board but no penalty results.
Is this managing the game, too, or simply incompetence, or both?
Finally, memory lane time: Has there ever been a stranger sight than Jacques Plante playing goal for the Boston Bruins?
The 1973 Rangers say thank you.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Larry Brooks