Monday, November 01, 2010

30-for-30 on the occasion of a special sibling's big 3-0: celebrating a great sister who plays goal, with a list of 30 great goalies

You try coming up with a list of 30 Trinas.

In hindsight, our parents were prescient to bestow a somewhat rare first name on their only daughter. They must have had some hunch their second-born would be the pony to bet on, so picking one of the trendy girls' names of the day — Brooke, Shannon, Ashley and so on and so on — would fail to suffice.

Man, did they ever call their shot. My sister, Trina Sager, who celebrates her Big Three-Oh on Monday, has matured into a young woman whose many facets are always turned on. She has found her calling as a professional engineer working at a Fortune 500 company without being overly careerist, as witnessed by the presence of my wonderful brother-in-law, Amer Murad.

It is not self-deprecation when I talk about Trina and say, "She's the successful one." Trina has just never let anything hold her back from using her gift. She can visualize a finished product and all the steps needed to make it reality and she will get everyone around her enthusiastic about being on that track. The Top 40 Under 40 awaits.

She has expanded upon a family calling. Our dad is builder. Trina became an engineer. Our mom is an educator. I make a reasonable stab at a living by using words. Having a daughter follow dad and a son follow mom kind of fits that age.

Still, that name has posed a challenge for almost a year. A first thought that came to mind last year after writing a birthday tribute post to our brother — 25 Shawns — was "how am I going to come up with list of 30 Trinas for next year?"

There are not that many famous Trinas this side of Scandinavia. Using Katrina would be a cheat. Our mom made it a point to clip the K-a. The only moderately well-known Trina is a mediocre rapper whose given name is actually Katrina.

Fortunately, Trina being a goaltender was a perfect write-around opportunity. Goalie is the only position in hockey that defines the individual for perpetuity. Say, "I played goal," and people will intrinsically understand that your take on things will be out of the ordinary. There aren't many positions in sports that someone can use as self-defining shorthand long after their playing days end. The quarterback in football and the catcher and pitcher in baseball are the only others which come to mind.

It is specious, but fun to wonder if being a goalie sowed the seeds of Trina's success. That line from that famous sketch with Margaret Atwood ("a good goalie anticipates play; a great goalie influences play") applies to her. Trina has influenced everything she has touched.

So in honour of her 30th birthday, here is a list of 30 goalies who have been great, with one catch. Each one must have done her/his best work during Trina's lifetime, since the 1980-81 season.

30. Kim Martin (2001-) — The Swedish netminder who upset Team USA in the 2006 Olympic women's semifinal.

29. Gilles Meloche (1970-88) — Being mostly on lousy teams obscured that he was good; in the spring of '80, he drove the final nails in the Habs' chances of winning five consecutive Stanley Cups.

28. Shannon Szabados (2006-) — Quite possibly the best women's goalie ever.

27. Mike Richter (1988-2003) — Reputation suffered by playing on apathetic Rangers teams, but was good enough to back Stanley Cup- and a World Cup of Hockey-winning teams.

26. Kelly Hrudey (1983-98) — He is in the top 100 in adjusted goals-against average and at did his best to make the Wayne Gretzky L.A. Kings looked defensively sound.

25. Dwayne Roloson (1994-) — Still going relatively strong at age 40 with the New York Islanders. Could have had a Stanley Cup ring and a world championship gold medal within a span of 12 months in 2006-07 if Marc-André Bergeron could have contained Andrew Ladd.

24. Cristobal Huet (1994-) — The best French-born goaltender in NHL history. Well, there's actually only been two.

23. Olaf Kölzig (1989-2009) — Class act who won a Vezina Trophy.

22. Sean Burke (1987-2007) — Canada's goalie in two of last Olympic hockey tournaments when it was a quasi-amateur affair; had a better career than most realize.

21. Mike Liut (1977-92) — The first goalie to win the Ted Lindsay (then Lester B. Pearson) Award and the only one to ever help the Hartford Whalers win a playoff series.

20. Jaroslav Halák (2005-to date) — One of the best 'tenders of the post-lockout era.

19. Ron Hextall (1984-99) — The volatile temper overshadowed that he could play. How's this for long-term success? Hextall led the NHL in save percentage once in the high-scoring 1980s and in goals-against average once in the low-scoring '90s.

18. Grant Fuhr (1981-2000) — Wasn't necessarily great, but a generation of impressionable kids thought he was during the '80s.

17. Andy Moog (1980-98) — Better numbers and more longevity than his flashier and more famous Edmonton netminding partner.

16. Miikka Kiprusoff (1994-) — Good enough to trick people into believe the Calgary Flames have a competent front office. Helped Finland win the Olympic bronze medal in Vancouver.

15. J.S. Giguère (1996-) — One of the better Dead Puck Era netminders and won a Conn Smythe Trophy despite playing on a non-Cup winner.

14. Billy Smith (1973-89) — The Islanders probably could have won with many different goalies when they ran off four Cups in a row in a diluted league (just check Smith's stats vis-à-vis his backups' numbers). Battlin' Billy was their guy.

13. John Vanbiesbrouck (1981-2002) — Got the third-year Florida Panthers to the Cup final once.

12. Curtis Joseph (1989-2009) — The second-best undrafted goalie of the entry-draft era, who helped some mediocre teams go deeper into the playoffs than they were otherwise entitled.

11. Marty Turco (2000-) — Lack of playoff success has hurt how he is perceived, but he's been awfully good. Only Tony Esposito surpasses him as the best goalie to ever grow up in Sault Ste. Marie and play at a Michigan college (Turco at the U of M, Tony O at Michigan Tech).

10. Jonas Hiller (2001-) — Better than most people know.

9. Ed Belfour (1989-2008) — The best undrafted goalie of the entry-draft era

8. Tim Thomas (2002-) — The best late bloomer since Roli; not his fault he was almost 30 by the time people realized he could stop the puck.

7. Ryan Miller (2002-) — So good that some Buffalo Sabres on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls would not have minded if the U.S. had won in Vancouver.

6. Tomáš Vokoun (1996-)— Criminally underrated. Started out in the Canadiens system and they failed to hold on to him, so you know he's good.

5. Martin Brodeur (1991-)— Calling him overrated has come into vogue, but he is a unique athlete. Name how many other teams in one of the big North American ball-and-stick leagues have had the same starter at a key position since the year Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton each took office.

4. Roberto Luongo (1998-) — Probably the best of the aughties, or at least the best one to play exclusively in cities which are never seeing a Stanley Cup parade. Saved his best Olympic performance for when it mattered the most, which was no doubt appreciated by Canadians who were based in the U.S. during the Vancouver Games!

3. Henrik Lundqvist (2000-) — Wow, just imagine how good he could be if he had a glove hand? Three-time goalie of the year in the world's second-best pro league, the Elitserien, and a Vezina might just be a matter of when. Also has an Olympic gold medal.

2. Patrick Roy (1985-2003) — Helped make the butterfly ubiquitous while winning four Stanley Cups and becoming an antihero for the ages by telling off Montreal Canadiens president Ronald Corey.

1. Dominik Hašek (1980-) — The best ever. Put it this way: if Roy had played half his career in Europe and Hasek had spent all of his in North America, would anyone need convincing the Dominator was the most dominant? His peak is right up there with any player's best, as The Contrarian Netminder recently argued:
"In the calendar year of 1998, including the regular season, playoffs and Olympics, Dominik Hasek had the following stat line: 54-20-14, 1.75, .943, plus 16 shutouts. He averaged nearly 1 shutout every 5 games, playing mostly on a Buffalo Sabres team that was the worst team in the league at shot prevention in 1997-98 and 5th worst in 1998-99. The Sabres' win threshold over those two seasons was .917, meaning that they needed a very good goalie just to be a .500 team." (Brodeur Is A Fraud)

Trina, hope you enjoy the list if it happens to come to your attention. Happy birthday.


Amer Murad said...

Thanks Bro,
Very cool prospective from a very talented brother.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the touching tribute Neate. You made me feel all warm inside. Yes, I think being a goalie, and especially being a female goaltender among the boys, definately influenced who I am today.

I was also glad to see you put my old favourite Hasek at the top of the list. Although his time at the top of the NHL was brief, no one in my lifetime was as dominant as he was in his prime.


Your loving sister,


Anonymous said...

I have always enjoyed your words, Neate. Your tribute to your sister is a fine one.