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

Brad RichardsonVancouver Canucks forward Brad Richardson, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, recommends John Elway's restaurant in suburban Denver. "It’s the best prime rib I’ve ever had," Richardson says. "Have it with the creamed corn."

JP

The Secret Season: Final report.

Part 6 in a series. Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Secret Season rink

SUBURBAN VANCOUVER – We had to take cover and bail the oncoming assault of mortars from you-know-who.

Red alert? This was more like taking shelter for a tornado-tsumani-earthquake disaster that opened the Earth and swallowed your soul.

Our Secret League threatened the NHL’s existence as the final grains of sand sifted through the time capsule and the NHL season threatened to die.

And then the NHL took action and launched a full-scale war.

Our “location” was no longer a secret: They discovered we were in suburban Vancouver.

Dang it. We should’ve known better than to pick Marian Hossa as our Commissioner, because he served as a double agent and squealed to Gary Bettman. From then on, there was never a wink of shut-eye here; the sky flashed repeatedly with fire amid the chaos that unfolded.

It was so bad here in the village, we canceled games for an entire week. We couldn’t take the chance and allow buses to get bombed into smithereens.

Practices? Canceled.

Our version of the “Winter Classic”? Canceled. Milan Lucic tired to construct the rink but shaped the end boards like a V, then an L, then like an idiot. Zenon Konopka grabbed glass to go around the boards – literal glass – not plexiglass as we instructed.

Despite the cancellations, we still had a chance for our secret season to survive as we took cover.
Alexander Ovechkin stocked village shelves with vodka and pizza.

Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers hid inside the pimpmobiles. The buses had “protective material to survive a nuclear war,” he says.

Todd Bertuzzi tried digging a hole for a “tornado shelter, like the ones you see in Kansas,” as if this is the Wizard of Oz or something, but that numbskull dug a three-foot hole, struck a power cord and electrocuted himself again.

Every NHL player suddenly became friends. Remember that Bruins-Habs brawl in week one? Forget it. Here was P.K. Subban and Brad Marchand hiding together in the same foxhole. Here was Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller mapping a solution, á la war generals, to take out Bettman’s oncoming assault, the largest amphibious attack in war history. (Think “Operation of Normandy” on a hockey scale.)

Bill Daly led a charge of tanks. Brendan Shanahan mastered an escapade of submarines. Brian O’Neill – yes, the guy who vanished as we discussed “Bettman” over the phone – was drugged and hypnotized into a psychopathic leader of an army.

We tried to combat their attacks but stood no chance thanks to Hossa, who advised 700 players to protect “The Strait of Georgia,” then turned around and secretly told Bettman to attack near “Boundary Bay.” Within a matter of time, our village was seized.

“What is this, Bettman?!? Capture the flag?!?” Miller barked.

Hey, it’s over, Ryan. But you can give Hossa a nice chop to the back of the legs next time you see him.
He was sabotaging us all along.

Among Hossa’s confessions: He arranged the Bruins-Habs brawl in an effort to destruct the league on Day One. He paid Chris Neil to take a run at Daniel Alfredsson. He hypnotized Shane Doan into a psychopath who tried to kill our refs.

It was Hossa who paid Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall to “tie down” Nail Yakupov to the locker-room bench. Yakupov, the No. 1 pick in the draft, nearly died of malnutrition, starvation and hypothermia before taking the ice in Edmonton, all because of Hossa’s sickness.

Hossa got us. He put us in a poor position and we were forced to surrender. It was our only option, and, quite frankly, a bizarre scene to see tears of fear running down the face of tough guys Chris Neil, Milan Lucic and Zenon Konopka.

(Sigh.)

And so it ends.

The players report to duty, back to their respective NHL cities, where they’ll wine and dine, and live lavishly in their 5-star hotels.

“At least we’ll get our million-dollar locker rooms back,” Sidney Crosby says.

“And our massuesses,” Joe Thornton says.

“And groupies,” Patrick Kane says.

Whatever. Enjoy the high life, boys.

They leave behind a season full of promise, full of comedy, full of fun. There were no player agents here, no contracts, no annoying interviews. There was no fear of getting cut, no coaches breathing down your neck, no stress, no worries.

It was a perfect world, hockey’s version of the fountain of youth. They played for the love of the game without a worry in the world.

But it’s all over now.

As they pulled away in their buses, our Secret League agents stood on the outskirts of the village complex, shedding tears down their chubby cheeks.

The Rangers were the last team to leave. Lundqvist pulled over and gave a hug to each of our pudgy agents. (This took some time; remember, they are the size of sumo wrestlers and the height of jockeys.)

“What’s next, Henrik?” we asked between sobs.

“What’s next?” he asked, pulling down the shades. “Hockey’s Grand Slam.”

“Hockey’s … Grand Slam?”

“Mmm hmmm.”

“What’s that?”

“Vezina. Hart. Stanley Cup. Conn Smythe.”

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