Monday, April 27, 2009

Blog blast past: No place for homers

Belleville Bulls goalieMike Murphy, who hails from the Kingston area, capped his major junior hockey career today by being named the OHL's top goaltender for the second season in a row. From Jan. 5, 2009, here's a reminder that he might have won another prize.

There was no excuse not to argue on Mike Murphy's behalf a month ago — guilty as charged.

It is hard not to wonder, with the Canada-Sweden world junior final starting in a hour and our boys going in as underdogs (maybe even for real this time), how the Kingston-born Belleville Bulls goaltender might have done. Hockey Canada didn't invite the OHL's leading netminder to its selection camp. Its starter out of the Western Hockey League, Dustin Tokarski, has given up nine goals in the past two games. (One has to believe Tokarski will be fine tonight; it's not like this is Hardy Astrom.)

It is even harder to take issue without seeming hickish and dickish. What are you going to do — cheer for Sweden because Hockey Canada didn't invite the best goalie in the OHL who's from your hometown, and also cut the league's leading scorer, Taylor Hall, who's also from Kingston? Only a complete maroon would go that far.

It probably comes down to how junior hockey is followed and covered by the media. Who really has the legitimacy to argue for this player over that player, outside TSN's Pierre McGuire, ESPN The Magazine and's Gare Joyce and professional scouts. We're all Al Capp schmoes by comparison, even though the Contrarian Goaltender at the above-linked Brodeur Is A Fraud made a pretty convincing case that Murphy is outstanding when his numbers are put side-by-side with the other goaltenders Belleville has had across the past two seasons. Please keep in mind that includes Philipp Grubauer, who stopped 44-of-49 shots for Germany against Canada last week.

There's a fat chance that anyone other than a chap calling himself the Contrarian Goaltender will point out that Hockey Canada is prone to simply taking the goalies off the best defensive teams in the Western Hockey League. It's like fans, pun intended, are Stockholm Syndromed into going along with Hockey Canada's selections. How can you really take issue without looking provincial, or a hater who doesn't want to Canada win? Noam Chomsky, eat your heart out.

Murphy, by all accounts is the real deal, and while this will come as mewling by the wannabe president of the Mike Murphy Fan Club, it bears noting. Writing about junior hockey is already enough of a one-way ticket to obscurity, even by the standards of being a meaningless blogger. The way it works with this tournament, to echo the Jack Todd column from this morning's Montreal Gazette, is that it's very much "you're with us or you're against us," when it comes to Team Canada at the world juniors.

Chances are, if Canada should lose tonight — and please don't say this amounts to jinxing them — no one will say, well, they should have gone with Murphy. Tokarski will probably be fine, anyway.

They should have gone with Murphy. No one will ever know the difference. Sorry, Mike, for not saying it sooner. Go get that OHL championship.

He didn't, but he still had a hell of a run.

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