Sheahan

Drunk driving is anything but a laughing matter, but one has to wonder if the abuse Detroit Red Wings’ draft pick Riley Sheahan, who was arrested recently while driving intoxicated, will face from teammates, opponents and opposing fans will far outweigh any penalty handed down by the law.

Sheahan, the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2010 NHL draft, was wearing a purple Teletubbies costume (see above) when he was pulled over on a drunk driving charge in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late October, according to police.

Video taken by Grand Rapids Police Department dashboard camera shows Sheahan apparently wearing the costume of the purple Teletubby known as Tinky Winky when he was stopped.

According to a police report obtained by MLive.com, Sheahan blew a .30 at the police station after his arrest, almost four times the legal limit, and almost twice the limit needed to add a “super-drunk” charge to his current charge of driving under the influence.

Michigan’s “super-drunk” laws punish drivers charged for the first time with operating a vehicle under the influence who blow a .17 or higher — that’s more than twice the .08 limit deemed illegal for driving on Michigan roads, The Huffington Post reported.

So-called “Super-drunk” convictions carry a heavy price tag.

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Twenty-plus-years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many hockey fans don’t realize how special it was when the USSR began allowing some of their top talent to come to North America to play in the National Hockey League.

Among the biggest names that came over in the late 1980s were members of the so-called “K-L-M Line”: Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. The trio formed one of the most potent offensive lines in hockey history.

Together, they won two Olympic gold medals and several world championships before leaving for the NHL.

Krutov, who tallied 288 goals and 215 assists in 438 games during 12 seasons in the USSR, never made it big in North America, lasting just one season before returning to Europe.

Sadly, he died last week from internal bleeding at the age of 52.

“We lost a great friend, someone with whom all of us would go to war, without any doubt,” said Vladislav Tretyak, the Hall of Fame goalie who is now the Russian ice hockey chief.

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The National Hockey League draft still pales in comparison to its NFL and NBA counterparts in terms of popularity, but it gets considerably more attention than it did a generation ago.

Several thousand fans, for example, were on hand for the most recent draft, held this past Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Compare that to 1974, when the NHL draft was held in secrecy, part of the league’s efforts to hold off the upstart World Hockey Association.

How secret was the 1974 draft? As it neared its conclusion, Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach had become so bored with the long process of selecting players that he decided to have some fun and sent public relations director Paul Wieland off to find a relatively common Japanese name, according to the Buffalo News.

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It’s not quite a man-bites-dog story, but an East Hartford, Conn., man was arrested after he allegedly tackled and punched “Pucky the Whale,” the mascot for the minor league Connecticut Whale hockey team, over the weekend.

Kevin O’Connell, 28, has been banned from the XL Center after he allegedly assaulted the mascot in the stands during an American Hockey League game Saturday night, according to the Hartford Courant.

O’Connell, said to have been intoxicated, told police he attacked Pucky over a bet. He was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree breach of peace. He was released on a promise to appear in Superior Court in Hartford.

Pucky was greeting young fans in the stands near section 105 Saturday night when O’Connell tackled and punched the whale, police said.

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How dominating was National Hockey League legend Wayne Gretzky?

Since he retired in 1999, more than 13,000 NHL games have been played. Yet, only one of his 61 records has been broken.

Gretzky’s 2,857 career points are nearly 1,000 more than runner-up Mark Messier’s total; no one has come close to his 92-goal season in 20 years; and he scored more than 180 points seven different season. The only other player to break 180 was Mario Lemieux, who did it once.

Today, the Great One turns 50 and his influence is still felt throughout not just the NHL, but all of hockey.

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The retirement of NHL defensive standout Chris Chelios Tuesday after 26 seasons ends the career of one of pro hockey’s greatest players. It was a career that almost never got started.

Chelios grew up in Chicago but moved to San Diego in the mid-1970s, when his father decided to try his hand at running a business in Southern California. With the trade that would bring Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings and spark interest in hockey throughout the region still more than a decade a way, Chelios was limited to playing in recreational leagues after his arrival in San Diego.

Unable to play high school hockey, Chelios wasn’t recruited by any US colleges. His only scholarship offer came from local San Diego-based US International University, the only NCAA Division I hockey team west of the Rockies.

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One of the unintended consequences of the rapid expansion that’s taken place in major US sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) over the past few decades is that with so many more teams, the odds of a club winning a championship have diminished dramatically.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers play game one of the Stanley Cup Finals Saturday. Should the Blackhawks prevail, it will be their first title since 1961. That team included such notables as Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote and Reg Fleming, among others.

The Flyers aren’t a whole lot better, not having won the Cup since 1975.

But with 30 teams in the National Hockey League nowadays, going 35 years between Stanley Cup titles, as the Flyers have done, isn’t that much of an anomaly.

Statistically speaking, an NHL franchise should win a championship, on average, once every, oh, 30 years, right?

Unfortunately for Blackhawks fans, and fans of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs (last title in 1967), Los Angeles Kings (no titles since the club started up in 1967), ; St. Louis Blues (founded in 1967 – no titles); Vancouver Canucks (founded in 1970 – no titles); Buffalo Sabres (founded in 1970 – no titles); and Washington Capitals (founded in 1974 – no titles), championship rarely average out in a nice even manner. 

Over the past 50 years, the Montreal Canadiens have won 13 Stanley Cups, the Edmonton Oilers five, the Detroit Red Wings four, the New York Islanders four, the Maple Leafs four (the last, of course, in 1967) New Jersey Devils three and the Pittsburgh Penguins three. That’s 36 of 49 championships (73.5 percent) spread among just seven teams since 1960.

Even the Flyers, who have gone 35 years without a Cup, could be said to be overachievers in terms of championships, since they’ve won two Cups since they began in 1967, an average of one every 21 seasons.

The 1980 US Olympic hockey team is credited with sparking interest in the sport in America, but it was a club a decade earlier that helped make the Miracle on Ice squad possible.

The 1970 Boston Bruins, led by Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and Gerry Cheevers, captured Beantown’s first Stanley Cup in 29 years when they swept the St. Louis Blues in the finals.

The series-winning goal was scored 40 years ago today, when Sanderson fed Orr in front of the net and the future Hall of Fame defenseman put the puck past Blues goalie Glenn Hall just as St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard lifted Orr’s skate with his stick.

The result was Orr’s celebratory flight (seen above), a photo as famous as any in sports.

With the Big Bad Bruins’ win, and their second Stanley Cup two years later, hockey became the game throughout much of New England, and several of the players who would go on to lead the United States to the Olympic gold in the 1980 games were inspired by Orr and Co.

Longtime Boston Globe hockey writer Kevin Paul DuPont remembers that game here, writing about his thoughts as he recently replayed a tape he made of the contest as a youngster. As usual, DuPont’s writing is as picturesque as the game he writes about:

It was May 10, Mothers Day, with temperatures in the low 90s outside and things steaming hot inside the Garden. Derek Sanderson returned a pass to Orr, the puck went behind Blues goalie Glenn Hall, and defenseman Noel Picard launched the 22-year-old Orr into an orbit that, for our part of the planet, was just as important and glorious as any of those Apollo missions out of Florida.

I took my own flight the other day, for the first time dusting off the Sears Silvertone audio cassette recording I made of that game, sitting that afternoon in my parents’ house with one eye on the TV broadcast from Causeway Street, the other on the volume meter of my trusty, Sears-bought Ampex recorder. Lots of Sears shopping in our house in those days. It was about the only big box store we knew, other than Jordan Marsh and Somerville Lumber.

Fred Cusick handled the radio call, with John Peirson his partner. Always a minimum of banter between those two, and it was a joy to hear them work again, especially when it came to the winning goal with 40 seconds gone in overtime.

“Orr to Sanderson, back to Orr . . . SCORES!’’ Cusick bellowed, “. . . and what could be better than THAT?!’’

The New York Times features an interesting graph showing high-frequency data on water consumption in Edmonton, Alberta, during the men’s Olympic hockey final on Feb. 28, comparing it with the more-regular pattern seen the day before.

The Times’ Justin Wolfers suspects, probably correctly, that the spikes reflect toilets flushing in response to earlier beer consumption.

Zandie3

It’s no illusion that professional sports in the US appears to have succeeded over the decades in spite of itself.

Consider that Major League baseball kept blacks out until after World War II, pro baseball, football and hockey have all had labor disputes that have cancelled all or parts of seasons, and NASCAR and the NHL have turned their backs on their core base of fans in an attempt to expand into new far-flung markets.

The latest stupidity: The NHL voted down businessman Jim Balsillie’s bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, 26-0. This, despite the fact that Ballsillie tendered the highest offer for the team, which is bankrupt, being run by the league and has had financial difficulties since relocating from Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1996.

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