Top 5

Kyle Clifford

Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford is known for taking — and receiving — some of the most punishing checks in the NHL. He lists teammates Dustin Brown and Matt Greene among the hardest hitters in the game. Who are his hardest-hitting opponents?



  1. Ryane Clowe

  2. Milan Lucic

  3. Niklas Kronwall

  4. Cal Clutterbuck

  5. Alexander Ovechkin



NHL Confidential

Willie MitchellFlorida Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks, recommends Hawksworth restaurant in downtown Vancouver, located inside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. "Kind of a west coast with a little bit of a French twist to it – a lot of depth to it," he says. "A lot of meat and a little bit of texture. … The scallops are outstanding – anything for that matter."

JP

The Secret Season begins.

Part two in a series. Read part 1 here.

Secret Season rink

DATELINE UNKNOWN – It probably wasn’t a good idea to house the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins in adjacent buildings. Players from both sides engaged in a war of words in the village commons that transpired into fisticuffs and caused a ruckus so crash-banging loud, it awoke the entire complex.

Sigh.

We’re new at this, but what a numbskull decision.

Seriously, Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty within a 100-foot radius? That’s like placing Donald Trump alongside Rosie O’Donnell. Damage is sure to follow. It certainly did here.

Chairs flew. Walls crumbled. Windows broke. Ceilings caved. Heck, it was so ugly, so bad, Brad Marchand grabbed a fire extinguisher and threw it toward P.K. Subban.

Thankfully he missed, but that’s what happens when the Bruins and Canadiens change their sleeping schedules, hit the snooze bar, roll out of bed, then see one another on the stroll to the parking lot.

Maybe we should’ve extended an invitation to coaches for this Secret League. Claude Julien could have played peacemaker between his old team (Montreal) and his present-day team (Boston).

Our Secret Season Intelligence Agency tried to break up the scene, but the barrage of punches made our agents cower and bolt for safety. (You would too, if you were their size — the height of jockeys, the weight of sumo wrestlers.) Then again, they’re not here to break up fights, they’re here to track the oncoming charge of Gary Bettman’s baying hounds, who are determined to destroy our league. More on that later.

The housing situation was not our lone failure in the opening week of hockey. Having players drive themselves to the games wasn’t bright, either. This “old-school donnybrook,” as Milan Lucic calls it, spilled over into the most massive road rage seen in recent history.

Chara tried to steer Pacioretty into a highway dasher.

Subban and Shawn Thornton stopped their cars, got out, made a motion like they dropped the gloves, then started trading punches in the middle of the street. (They were bare-handed, but pretended like they dropped the gloves. Really bizarre.)

The worst part? This:

At a traffic light, Marchand put his car in reverse, backed into the fender of Scott Gomez, then dove into the street and embellished the impact. Yes, Marchand embellished a car accident. And you thought his dive Washington series was fake!

Our bad.

You don’t wanna know the damage in the village commons. Long story short, it will exponentially trump the Jeremy Roenick/Chris Chelios post-Olympic rampage in 1998.

And the structural damage probably won’t get fixed. The Secret Season has no secret funds. The only expenditure we can afford is the Secret Season Intelligence Agency.

We can’t expect players to cover the costs of their own vandalism for several reasons: One, if not for Lucic and his fellow goons, we never would’ve gotten this village, so we won’t ask. Two, everything else in this league is funded by the players, who dish out money for refs, food, cars, buses, gasoline or diesel, and any other expenditures. We have to draw the line somewhere. Three, it was hard enough to get the players here. Commissioner/Head Traitor Marian Hossa convinced them the level of play in this “Secret League” would trump their temporary European leagues, so they bolted their respective contracts like fellow traitors and came here, to our otherwise undisclosed location.

So, no, the village commons will not be fixed anytime soon.

At this point, we’re just thankful their mischief didn’t hurt anyone else. Onto more concerns.

Besides the Bruins and Habs, there were some issues for the 28 other teams. We figured there would be.

Remember: There’s two rinks in the village area, which means everyone else drives to another rink. The good thing is, there’s 200 rinks here in the subliminal suburbs.

But the bad thing is, that was too much area to cover for the Detroit Red Wings, who got lost and missed their opener, which translates to an automatic forfeit.

They were furious, but we don’t care. Rules are rules. Next time, we suggest they don’t make the mistake of assigning that numbskull Todd Bertuzzi to drive the team bus. Of course, he led them across several wrong turns en route to another destination. (We cannot print the destination, whether it’s a city, town, country, province or state. It’s not worth the risk.)

Another problem: The lack of equipment managers came into play, too. A few weaklings pulled muscles carrying their equipment bags into the rink.

Oh, yes, we had reported injuries from Jiri Hudler (Calgary), Alex Burrows (Vancouver) and Patrick Kane (Chicago) — whose bag weighs more than him.

“This is hogwash,” Kane snorts. “I haven’t carried my bag since Pee Wees.”

He better get used to it.

And they better get used to the dank locker rooms.

“What is this? A bench?” Henrik Lundqvist barks. “I have to dress on a bench?”

Of course, Lundqvist is whining. He was the prima donna who asked for “chauffeurs” to games, and now he’s complaining about the locker rooms. Unbelievable.

Hey, we don’t have the comfy chairs and wide lockers of those multi-million-dollar NHL dressing rooms. These are recreational rinks. There’s a flat wooden bench and community showers. That’s it.

“What’s this man? The ice is flooded!” Ryan Miller says. “My crease looks like Lake Ontario!”

Hope he brought a wetsuit.

The Zamboni drivers aren’t paid like the NHL’s head-maintenance chiefs. Our guys are hourly workers. They may be drunk, hit walls or, sometimes, flood the ice.

You just have to play through it until the ice freezes.

“Heck, I don’t care about the locker rooms or the flooded ice,” Ryan Callahan says. “I play for Columbus. How bad can it be here in suburban ——–.”

Whoa, Ryan. That’s twice you nearly slipped. This location cannot be unveiled, remember? If you do this again, we’re getting a muzzle.

Again: If fans catch wind of this, we’re done. Twitter will explode, the media will follow, then Pierre McGuire, then Bettman’s baying hounds, and then we’re screwed.

This. Must. Stay. Secret.

A couple more things to remember: There’s three games a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Our time slot of games: Midnight to 5 a.m.

By the way, there are no shootouts. If a game ends tied, it’s a tie.

We will provide weekly reports via our Intelligence Agency, which also is responsible for tracking perpetrators (Bettman, et. al.). This report tracks our first week: Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

Here’s the division-by-division breakdown:

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. New Jersey 2-0-1
2. N.Y. Islanders 2-0-1
3. Pittsburgh 2-0-1
4. N.Y. Rangers 1-1-1
5. Philadelphia 1-1-1

Breakdown: Too bad there were no cameras here.

Quite a scene developed when the Rangers made their trek to the rink. Rick Nash was so happy to be out of Columbus, he was drooling – literally.

Good thing Lundqvist listened to us and spent some of his “Benjamins” on a team bus. We certainly wouldn’t want Nash to foot the bill for cleaning a rent-a-car. That would be pricey.

And what a great disguise is a big yellow bus, eh? Nobody will ever notice these guys rolling through the anonymous avenues. Plus, Lundqvist bought one of those “new age” buses that has the tinted windows. That helps, too.

Anyway, the Rangers started the season against the New Jersey Devils, a rematch of last year’s conference finals.
Too bad John Tortorella and Peter DeBoer aren’t here (remember: no coaches), otherwise we’d surely have a pre-game and post-game media session filled with insults, barbs and jabs, followed by another classic mano-a-mano tilt between the benches.

Who needs these coaches when the players can police themselves?

Or cannot police themselves, we should say. The opening face-off was delayed by 20 minutes. Ryan Carter met Stu Bickel during pre-game warmups, and, just like that, they were throwing haymakers. Let’s just say it made the full-line brawl look like a pillow fight.

Not helping matters was the lack of referees. They didn’t make it to the darn rink on time. But it’s not our fault. Marian Gaborik was too cheap to pay the referee crew the mandatory $100 bill. Of course, they refused to take the ice until they were paid.

Finally, Nash ponied up and paid them – but Benjamin Franklin’s face was soaked in saliva. (Pretty gross, but money is money.) The puck dropped and the Secret Season began.

Lundqvist displayed his Vezina form in the opening period, Nash scored twice in 10 minutes and the Rangers were dehydrated after 20 minutes.

“You know what we need here?” Marc Staal says during intermission.

“No, what do we need?” Brian Boyle says.

“Water bottles.”

The Devils might be less potent without Zach Parise, but they can sure take advantage of a sluggish dehydrated opponent in the third period. Nash lost too many fluids drooling and sat out the final frame. The Devils scored four times en route to a 6-2 win.

Player of the week: Rick DiPietro. Yes, the overpaid, $67.5-million-over-15-years Rick DiPietro. He stopped 120 of 123 shots on the week. Too bad nobody saw it, which means they’ll never believe us.
Noteworthy: We cannot leave the Atlantic Division without talking about Sidney Crosby. From a scoring standpoint, he had a great week: 10 points in three games. From a whining standpoint, he had an even better week: 30 penalty minutes in three games.

Crosby isn’t a fan of the “dank” locker rooms, “idiot” scorekeepers, “fat” referees, “garbage” ice conditions and “terrible” end boards.

He received three 10-minute misconducts – one per game. It wasn’t one particular incident that set off the referees. It was a combination of hysteria, whining and pure annoyance that finally drew the officiating crew to its “wit’s end.” Amazing how it happened three straight games. That’s a Secret League record that may never be broken. Then again, everything here is a record, because it’s never happened before.

NORTHEAST DIVISION

1. Toronto 3-0-0
2. Ottawa 2-1-0
3. Buffalo 2-0-1
4. Boston 0-2-1
5. Montreal 0-2-1

Breakdown: The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 20 minute ride to the rink was like seeing a group of caffeine-loaded kindergarteners sprint to their first-ever recess.

Hey, they’re out of Toronto, which means they’re free from the immense pressure in the biggest hockey market in the world. They’re skating like prisoners escaping a correctional facility.

Phil Kessel looks like a kid eating his first-ever ice cream sundae. His face beams with joy every shift. Heck, he’s so excited, he actually crossed his own blue line – twice.

Three games, three wins for the Leafs. The new addition of James van Riemsdyk is reaping tremendous benefits. He has seven goals in three games, including a four-goal explosion against Montreal in the third game of the week.

But we’re skeptical if Kessel, Van Riemsdyk and the Leafs are gonna keep this going. Two of their victories were against Montreal and Boston. We think the Jerry-Springer-like brawl had lingering effects on the Bruins and Canadiens.

Speaking of that, the Habs and Bruins tied 0-0 in their opener. Go figure. They were dead from the village brawl. It’s pretty bad when the combined face-offs (44) quadruple the combined shots on goal (11).

Player of the week: Nikita Filatov.

You don’t even know who he is, do you? He was the sixth pick in the 2008 draft, but you never heard of him, because he played in Columbus, also known as “The Witness Protection Program of the NHL.” Well, Filatov is a machine thus far for the Senators. Four goals in three games.

Noteworthy: Ryan Miller is the first goalie to publicly whine about the lack of shootouts. Typically, goalies do not like shootouts, fearing gimmick moves. Miller, however, loves to shut people down and welcomes the competition. So when the Sabres tied the Carolina Hurricanes 1-1 on Friday, he threw a hissy fit at the end of overtime, demanding shots from “Jordan Staal and Eric Staal.” Strange.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

1. Carolina 0-3-0
2. Florida 0-3-0
3. Washington 0-3-0
4. Tampa Bay 0-3-0
5. Winnipeg 0-3-0

Breakdown: The good news – all the teams are in first place.

The bad news: None of them won a game.

We’re convinced Gary Bettman locked out the NHL for one reason: They needed a year to think of a remedy for this division.

This is embarrassing to us.

Player of the week: None.

Noteworthy: Alexander Ovechkin missed the entire week. We’re hearing reports that he’s more interested in “vodka” than skating. Hopefully this changes for the sake of the division.

CENTRAL DIVISON

1. Columbus 3-0-0
2. Nashville 2-0-1
3. Detroit 1-1-1
4. Chicago 1-2-0
5. St.Louis 0-3-0

Breakdown: No, that’s not a misprint: The Columbus Blue Jackets finished 3-0. It seems odd they played so well, but think about it: While their opponents saw empty crowds and struggled to get that “extra kick” of adrenaline, the Blue Jackets chuckled and thought, “We’re used to this.”

Meanwhile, the Blues are clearly a different squad without the services of head coach Ken Hitchcock and the magic he performed in 2011-12.

With no coaches here in the Secret League, the Blues play like they did under the guidance of Mike Kitchen, whose 2005-06 season was laughable in terms of offensive output. That’s when they scored 197 goals, far and away the worst in the league. (, if you ever heard of him, was their leading scorer with a whopping 49 points.)

And that’s the problem with these “Secret” Blues: Not enough scoring. One goal in three games, and that came from Roman Polak of all people.

Player of the week: Blue Jackets RW Ryan Callahan, who is clearly on a mission to humiliate the New York Rangers. His nine goals lead the Secret League. We’ll have to work on his zero assists; he tries to rush the puck end-to-end every shift. But we’re convinced he sees John Tortorella in his mind every waking moment of the day.
Noteworthy: Bertuzzi has openly discussed bailing the league for retirement. Little does he know: He’s not going anywhere. More on that later.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

1. Edmonton 3-0-0
2. Colorado 2-1-1
3. Calgary 1-2-1
4. Minnesota 1-2-1
5. Vancouver 0-3-0

Breakdown: Despite the lack of journalists, Roberto Luongo still manages to create a goalie controversy. Somehow he pulls it off.

He forced the Canucks to create a secret ballot for the opening-game starter between him and Cory Schneider. That’s stuff you see in Squirt hockey, but “Louie” demanded it.

Of course, it backfired on Luongo, and Schneider won in a landslide.

Louie was infuriated. We don’t blame him for being frustrated, but he needs to realize that starting a game with two goalies is unacceptable.

He refused to leave the crease when the season opener was set to begin against Calgary. It was so bad, he crouched into the net behind Schneider and fooled the officials. This never would’ve happened in an NHL rink for obvious reasons – cameras, fans, replays, coaches, off-ice officials, literate refs, etc.

But the play unfolded for six minutes until our head official noticed Luongo inside the net. What a disgrace. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen again. (It probably will.)

Player(s) of the week: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for a ridiculous 22 points in three games. The reason for their dominance is two-fold: The energetic youngsters take full advantage of our midnight to 5 a.m. time slot, and the summer-long video game battles between Hall and Eberle are reaping tremendous benefits. You should see the moves they make on the ice.

Noteworthy: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are a weird duo. They sit on the bus together, eat together, have adjacent lockers and have the same shifts. Parise, a forward, and Suter, a defenseman, have played 59:17 together. Precisely.

Not a second difference.

Typically defensemen can log more minutes, but Suter is making a “sacrifice” for his friend.

Strange stuff. This is where the lack of coaches hurts us.

The weirdest Zach & Ryan moment came in the second game against Colorado, when Suter took a penalty and Parise followed him into the penalty box. This is perfectly legal by league rules – as long as someone is bizarre enough to do it.

PACIFIC DIVISION

1. San Jose 3-0-0
2. Dallas 1-1-1
3. Phoenix 1-1-1
4. Anaheim 1-1-1
5. Los Angeles 0-3-0

Breakdown: It’s evident the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings are still hung over from a raucous party that spilled into the fall.

No NHL training camp? They just kept partying.

And partying.

And partying.

Drew Doughty looks like he hasn’t showered since June. Dustin Penner? The Geico Caveman’s cousin.

Jonathan Quick suddenly cannot stop a puck – but maybe he’s tired from facing 77 shots in Monday’s opening-night loss to Dallas. It’s pretty tough to recover on Wednesday and Friday when your season opener is the equivalent of facing hockey’s version of a SWAT team practice.

We tried to stage a pregame celebration to honor the Kings’ first Cup in their 45-year franchise history. There were some issues:

One, we chose a rink without rafters.

Two, for us to mimic a Stanley Cup ceremony is akin to poking fun at the prophet Muhammad. You just don’t do it. Those words are straight from Stanley Cup trustee Brian O’Neill, who fears he would be assassinated by “a dictator” over a similar trophy presentation. He didn’t specify the name of his “dictator,” but all signs point to Gary Bettman.

“If I have to travel to a secret destination, it still won’t work,” O’Neill says. “He’ll find me. I don’t know how, but he’ll find me. He’s like Kaiser Soze from The Usual Suspects, and I’m the Hungarian mobster waiting in the boat.
“If the Stanley Cup is seen in public …”

Thus ended our ceremony.

Player of the week: You will not believe the productivity of Joe Thornton. He looks like a 19-year old kid. The low-pressure environment is reaping huge benefits for Jumbo Joe. However, continues to mention the need for a “masseuse.” We don’t know why, but he does. Every night.

Noteworthy: Phoenix captain Shane Doan has a ferocious grudge against our officials. He’s still suffering the effects of referee-screwed-me disorder (a rare strain of post-traumatic stress disorder). In last May’s Western Conference Finals, several tough calls went against Doan. He went on a tirade in the locker room afterward, flanked by a herd of journalists.

Well, Doan is such a head case these days, he yelled furiously at officials during pre-game warmups in the opener against San Jose and earned the first-ever Secret League game misconduct.

It didn’t stop there.

In fact, Doan hasn’t seen a minute of ice time yet. He has three game misconducts.

We might need hypnosis here or something.

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