"... the greatest five-man defensive unit of all time..."
Unless I've lost my mind from playing too much on-line poker this week, he can only be talking about The Fantastic Five from the '93 playoff drive; Jamie Macoun, Bob Rouse, Sylvain Lefebvre, Dave Ellett, and everyone's favorite underdog, Todd Gill.
For 21 playoff games, these 5 were Felix the Cat's claws, blocking shots, clearing pucks, and swinging fists. Collectively, their greatest talent was not scoring goals or thrilling rushes through the neutral zone, it was smashing players like Dino Ciccarelli and Brett Hull into the boards, knocking them to the ice, and then standing over them and not letting them get up until long after the play had moved up the ice. That's Pat Burns hockey. "Pay attention to detail" means "put your knee on his back".
Fond memories indeed, but this post is not about reflection. Instead, we look forward to the future. Seeing nothing there, we take a sideways glance at the present - oh, here's something interesting! After learning that Gill was still very much involved in hockey as a coach in the CJHL, I was curious to see what the other Super-Buds of the Buds' Blue and White Blue-Line (wow that's awkward) were up to now. So I called up my good friend, Ric Nattress, and he said he didn't know who I was, but he's not as out-of-the-loop as I thought, and after some quick research (did you know they have internet on computers now?) I barely have enough material for a new post. No, not another one. This one.
* Update - minutes after this post was published I learned that the Braves had won their 3rd game, beating Cornwall 12-4. So now their GF vs. GA stands at 13-14. Heart. Pylons...
For more great writing about Todd Gill you may have to really look around, but one of my earliest and sloppiest pieces is here if you wanna read about how Todd Gill would make a far better coach for the Leafs then Ron Wilson.
"Gilmour to Bobby Rouse - shot! SCOOOORESSSSS! ... Nikolai! Borschevsky! Has scored for Toronto! Leafs win! Leafs win!"
Sorry. Don't know where I drifted off to just then. Currently, Bob Rouse is an assistant coach with the Chilliwack Bruins (WHL), and has been since last year. The 'Wackers (I wonder if they like being called that) open their season Saturday at home against the Kamloops Blazers.
One thing we know for sure, wherever Sylvain Lefebvre is, Rob Brown isn't. Who'll ever forget that magnificent moment when we heard those brilliant words "Brown really got corked by Lefebvre with a straight right-hand!" 15 years later, that iconic phrase is now a popular website, BrownReallyGotCorked.com, but I'm not providing a link because it's disgusting what they do there.
Our buddy Sylvain, who was the model stay at home defenceman that The Cat seemingly couldn't do without, is today working in tandem with another former Leaf, Joe Sacco. Together they form the coaching duo for the Lake Erie Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, whose hilarious marketing slogan is: It's Alive! Sacco, the head coach, is in his third year with the Avalanche orginization, and has been credited with being a "key figure in the development process" of current Leaf defencman, Jeff Finger. Hopefully, he's been taught how to play hockey like Sylvain Lefebvre.
On the left in the picture above is Dave "the Ankle of Death" Ellett, one of 5 members forming an ownership group , and the Governor for the new CHL franchise, the New Mexico Scorpians. It must be weird being out there in the desert, but it's probably part of Ellett's secret plan of one day sneaking up on Wayne, drugging him, and driving out to the desert with the Great One in the trunk of his car. That's when Wayne has a mysterious "scorpion accident" and isn't seen again for some time. Eventually, an autopsy will reveal that Greztky died in the desert from scorpion venom, but that won't explain the missing foot. Bizarre.
The New Mexico Scorpions sounds like a really cool name for a hockey club, and I wish them, and Ellett, and his secret little plan, the best of luck.
Good ol' "Crazy Legs" Macoun seems to be the least involved in hockey of The Fantastic Five but he is still around. Mostly he's been appearing in Calgary, popping up at charity Golf tournaments, participating in the Juno Cup (an exhibition hockey game involving Canadian rock stars for the Juno's, whatever that is), and being the primary organizer for an NHL Alumni 3-on-3 Pond Hockey tournament. Sounds like an awesome idea. It seems to be a Calgary thing, but the list of former Leafs participating is impressive: Lanny, Tiger, Jeff Brown, Gary Valk, and Ric Nattress.
Speaking of Ric Nattress, who I really only consider a distant acquaintance now, maybe he, and not Mironov is really the missing guy from this group. Continuing on the theme of Leafs That Should Have Been, imagine if Nattress had not departed in the summer of '92, but instead was part of this group for the '93 run. Wow. No way the series with L.A. goes anywhere near 7 games. And just think, then Dave Ellett wouldn't have to invest all his money in a crazy desert hockey franchise scheme just for the chance of catching Gretzky with his back turned.
Ric Nattress is currently the head coach for the Stoney Creek Warriors of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). Nattress was born and raised in Hamilton, so the Niagara area is very much in his comfort zone. The Warriors season began exactly two weeks ago, with Leaf legend and local deity Wendel Clark on hand to drop the puck. No doubt, Clark's inspirational presence and sheer omnipotence has helped the Warriors to a 4 and 0 start this season. It's quite possible, in fact, that if Wendel intentionally dropped the puck at the right angle, Stoney Creek might run the table and have an undefeated season.
So, there ya have it. A "Where are they now?" for the "greatest five man defensive unit of all-time" and the one That Should Have Been there. Thanks everybody.