Dispatch from the Secret Season, Week 4/5: Gary Bettman makes it personal.

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

Secret Season rink

DATELINE UNKNOWN – It’s been a while since our last report from the “Secret League” — two weeks, to be exact — but the delay is not our fault. Our dispatcher was filing a report, only to see a mortar eliminate our satellite tower.

We were out of action for a week.

And we know who’s responsible for it.

Gary Bettman thinks he’s sly, launching missiles and mortars from unimaginable distances toward our village, all while pretending he’s too busy with press conferences and “make-whole money.” He’s not fooling anyone and needs to channel his anger in another direction.

The satellite tower should be the least of his concerns. If he’s really pissed at the players, there’s 750 other destinations he could’ve aimed. Hitting our satellite is the equivalent of enduing a bad day and taking out your anger on the 80-year greeter at Walmart.


But that’s Bettman, the owner of three work stoppages in 20 years. We wouldn’t expect anything less. Meanwhile, as our Secret League Intelligence Agency keeps an eye on the perimeter of the complex, we started our preparation for the Winter Classic.

Wait … did we say Winter Classic? Oh yes. The game must continue. We might not have a 110,000-seat stadium, television cameras, crews and hoopla, but we’re still holding the game between the Wings and Leafs.

We even texted some old-timers to pay a visit. None have responded yet but we’ll keep trying. (They’re probably not up to par with technology. Maybe we should try hand-written letters. How about telegrams?)

The outdoor pond location will be just outside the village, so we had to reconstruct our force field accordingly. That took some time. And it took out a few of our officials. It’s kind of like constructing a suspension bridge: There’s going to be a few casualties.

Anyway, we picked Milan Lucic and his “goon crew” to construct the boards on the rink. Remember, they were responsible for securing our village; why not have them construct the rink?

But enforcing fear is one thing … forming a rink is another. The end boards are supposed to be shaped like an oval. Lucic & Co. had it shaped into a V. Unbelievable. We’ll check with them again soon.

Back to the village – or should we call it, “The Base,” because there’s missiles being intercepted on a daily basis. We would ask Stanley Cup trustee Bryan O’Neill for a solution to halt Bettman and his baying hounds, but ever since O’Neill’s phone line cut off, he’s been out of our reach. We even called his family, who cannot find him either. This isn’t good.


Oh, no. Not another blast!

Cory Schneider was discussing Roberto Luongo “still being in Vancouver” with a fellow villager when an explosion occurred in the background. (It was erroneously reported by the Vancouver Sun that Schneider was signing a deal overseas, when in actuality he was inside our village.)

This one came within 100 yards. In fact, it was so close, Shane Doan felt a “heat wave” while looking outside his hospital window.
Damn it, Bettman. You wanna a war? We’ll give you a war.

In the meantime, here’s the latest report:



Pittsburgh 11-3-1
Philadelphia 9-4-2
New Jersey 8-4-3
N.Y. Rangers 7-6-2
N.Y. Islanders 3-10-2

Breakdown: Unscraped ice, courtesy of the lazy bastards at a nearby recreational rink, created a de facto pond hockey game between the Flyers and Rangers. It was like last year’s Winter Classic, except the ice was about 100 times worse.
Heck, it was so bad that Philadelphia didn’t get out of its zone for the entire first period. Fifteen consecutive icings. Eleven pucks out of play. Three stoppages caused by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who got so tired, so desperate, he twice pushed the net off its moorings.

Amazingly, New York never scored. In fact, nobody scored. The game resembled a Southeast Division snoozer: The patented 0-0 tie.

The Rangers were happy just to depart the rink in comfort. Their third bus finally had its transmission belt fixed. It was sitting across a deserted highway for a week, which forced the Blueshirts to cram 25 players into two buses. Only eight players typically fit into a Rangers team bus, because Henrik Lundqvist gutted the insides and replaced it with La-Z-Boy recliners, plasma screens, refrigerators and saunas. “Pimpmobiles,” he calls them.

But the comfort made them spoiled. Without that third bus, they became pissy and frustrated, and it showed on the ice.

Thankfully, a remedy came in the form of the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Flames forward Lee Stempniak is a graduate of Dartmouth and used his Ivy League wit to fix the transmission belt on Lundqvist’s “pimpmobile.” It’s pretty sad that an Ivy Leaguer was needed for a mechanical issue, but did you really expect guys such as Stu Bickel and Brian Boyle to figure it out? Plus, Lundqvist wouldn’t dare dive underneath the bus and ruin one of his lucrative suits. Same with Brad Richards. Marian Gaborik could figure it out, but he is still recovering from the concussion caused by Rick Nash’s terrible driving skills last week, when Nash tried to avoid a squirrel and took a sharp turn along the highway.

Stempniak went to work, fixed the ride – which, by the way, puts John Madden’s “cruiser” to utter shame – and the Rangers were back in business.

In return, those knuckleheaded Rangers promised Stempniak he wouldn’t be checked for an entire game. Idiots. Stempniak took full advantage, scored twice, and Calgary rolled 5-1. All that for a damn bus?

“Pimpmobile,” Lundqvist snorted.


Player of the week(s): Martin Brodeur posted a 0.77 goals-against average through two weeks. It’s a little easier for him to play without the taunts from enemy crowds in Madison Square Garden (Rangers), the Wells Fargo Center (Flyers), the Consol Energy Center (Penguins) and even those who still think the Islanders exist – where do they play again?

If Brodeur’s good play continues, the opponents will have to devise crafty ways to throw him off his game. Maybe they should use the patented line of, “You left your wife for your sister-in-law!” That will work.

Or maybe the Sean Avery stick-waving theatrics? That’s perfectly legal here. Or how about the Mike Rupp punch?

Noteworthy: There’s dissension in the Pittsburgh corner of the village. An incident occurred at practice this week when James Neal took a run at Matt Cooke. Remember: Cooke, the team bus driver, bailed without Neal twice last week, although he had good reason – Neal was too busy styling his hair. Well, it got ugly between Neal and Cooke.

Once Neal started running around, Cooke went into his old mindset. He became the Matt Cooke we used to see on a nightly basis, before all the hearings and all the suspensions that changed his game forever. Cooke used to be one of the biggest headhunters in the NHL, but Colin Campbell dummied him down into the equivalent of Steve Sullivan.

Not here.

Neal brought out the worst in Cooke, who delivered a blindside hit that rivaled the infamous Marc Savard incident in 2010.

Not good.

Neal is in the infirmary, alongside Bertuzzi, Doan, Gaborik and Jiri Hudler, who has yet to recover from his “pulled-muscle-from-lifting-hockey-bag injury.”

If this list continues to grow, we’re gonna have to start organizing a Bingo night.


Ottawa 8-5-2
Toronto 7-6-2
Buffalo 6-7-2
Boston 6-7-2
Montreal 4-9-2

Breakdown: It’s a sad state of affairs inside the village infirmary.

Daniel Alfredsson has yet to recover from the vicious-but-accidental hit from teammate Chris Neil the previous week.
To recap: Neil charged after Marian Gaborik on the game’s first shift like a bull in Pamplona – head down, eyes red, nostrils and earlobes steaming.

Gaborik ducked, Alfredsson got knocked through the glass and became so discombobulated, he believed he was playing “mite hockey” and called Neil “daddy.” Since, his condition has worsened: Alfredsson has been downgraded to a comatose state.

It’s heartbreaking. Here’s Alfredsson, a classy individual who’s respected around the league, laying in a hospital bed with his eyes shut and tubes running through his nose.

Alfredsson, who is likely playing the final year of his illustrious career, was downright giddy for our Secret Season. He was raving about our locker rooms (“How could Lundqvist hate these benches? These remind me of Pee Wees, man!”). And he even loved the recreational rinks (“Smell that? Ahh, yes. The Zamboni gasoline. Gotta love it. Just like old times.”)

And now? Let’s hope he awakes and remembers the moments of his 16 masterful seasons and six all-star game appearances.
Comatose patients sometimes awake when someone special visits. We’ll have to explore our options.

Meanwhile, Phil Kessel has been benched by the Leafs for “actions detrimental to the team,” according to Dion Phaneuf. It took good ol’ Dion three ties to say “detrimental,” but he finally got it. Remember: Kessel was “jealous” of James van Riemsdyk’s scorching production and locked him in the arena locker room. When Kessel went to “return the key” to the arena desk, he was nearly spotted by an arena worker – which, of course, put our “Secret League” in danger. (We cannot be seen or heard by the public.)

Phaneuf witnessed the scene from a distance, hid behind a garbage can, ordered the Leafs to “take cover” and waited for the right moment to board the bus.

On the 25-minute ride back to the village, Phaneuf attacked Kessel and smashed his head against the window, which caused driver Joffrey Lupul to swerve the bus into a guard rail and flatten a tire.

Now, those 25 men – 24, because Kessel is the 25th – have each signed a pact: No Kessel for one week. Technically, he could hop on the ice at any time, since we don’t have a rules committee to inflict an actual “suspension,” but he risks a beating according to the language of the pact.

Worst player of the week(s): Brad Marchand is a disgrace to our Secret League. He embellished the opening face-off against Buffalo and rightfully drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Then he had the audacity to embellish contact with our referee and was booted from the game.

You’re not fooling anyone, Marchand.

Noteworthy: We previously noted that Carey Price is the sole reason behind the Canadiens’ porous start. He was the lone bystander during the infamous Bruins-Habs brawl during week one. He simply didn’t care that his teammates were in the midst of the biggest pounding of their life.

The Habs responded by leaving opponents wide open in the slot, which allowed Price to get whacked repeatedly by sticks. They abandoned him entirely. It worsened this week when New Jersey’s Cam Janssen ran over Price – and nobody stood up to defend their goalie. They did back in 2010, but not this time.

We’re thinking Price’s psyche will be ruined permanently.


Winnipeg 4-7-4
Carolina 2-10-3
Florida 3-8-4
Tampa Bay 3-8-4
Washington 3-9-3

Breakdown: We found Alexander Ovechkin.

One week after barging into his room, a pig sty littered with Stoli bottles and piles of pizza boxes, we discovered that underneath the bottles and boxes … was Ovechkin.

It might take him a while to get into hockey shape. Heck, he didn’t even know there was hockey. He thought this was a vacation. Seriously, he did. He cracked open a bottle, started drinking and before you knew it, the bottles and boxes started piling.
Ovie is actually excited to play. The gap-tooth grin lit up the room when we informed him about our league: Three games a week, odd hours of the night, no coaches. Heck, he was so excited, he wiped off the pizza sauce, bolted to the team bus and drove to the nearest rink to start training.

Two days later, he was flying up and down the ice – until he leaned over the boards and vomited pizza into an ugly mess. Like we said, it’ll take a while for him to get going.

Player of the week(s): Jose Theodore posted three shutouts. That’s the good news.

The bad news: He’s under suspicion for “illegal activity.” Stay tuned.

Noteworthy: Alright, Dustin Byfuglien is our first-ever Secret League player to wear a tether. In the opening week, he checked a referee. Last week, he took out another ref, a scene that resembled Henrik Zetterberg’s hit on Nikita Nikitin.

Byfuglien swore he was innocent, but he looked like the Secret League version of Ndamukong Suh.

By golly, he is.

Consider this: Byfuglien, the Jets’ team bus driver, hopped onto the highway and drove 100 mph through our anonymous country land. An officer pulled over the Winnipeg bus, and panic struck the players, who feared the “Secret League” would no longer be secret.

Thank God the officer doesn’t know the difference between hockey and ping pong. He had the IQ of a squirrel and didn’t recognize a single face. Heck, he believed Byfuglien’s tale that they were “heading to a Home and Garden exposition downtown.”

Good thing Byfuglien is a professional liar. Nobody else could’ve pulled that off.

Well, maybe Suh.



Nashville 9-4-2
Chicago 8-7-0
Detroit 7-5-3
St. Louis 5-8-2
Columbus 5-10-0

Breakdown: Patrick Kane returns to the lineup and the Hawks win six straight. Go figure.

Kaner, however, is not a fan of the 3-minute warmups. He wants 20 minutes prior to each game. Oh, yeah. He wants to skate around, helmet off, hair flowing, showing of the Hollywood glamor for all the tomatoes pressing against the glass.
Warmups? He doesn’t care about handling pucks and unleashing the “Kaner snipe.” He wants the attention.

Same with Hossa, who still continues to piss off his teammates with his nicknames and prima donna attitude. Remember: Last week, he told Corey Crawford that he played like “Cindy Crawford”; he told Jonathan Toews that he’s a “spitting image of James Franco”; then he told Ray Emery, “you play goal like you drive a car: Reckless.”

This week, Hossa called Patrick Sharp “Patrick Dull.”


If a six-game win streak doesn’t create happiness, then Hossa will never be pleasant. This will likely continue all year long.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are wearing “TB” patches in honor of Todd Bertuzzi, who’s still stuck in the infirmary after nearly dying from electrocution.

Wait, did we say “patches?” It’s actually white-cloth tape affixed to the crest of each jersey. It was Johan Franzen’s idea. It’s no wonder they call him “The Mule,” because that jackass forgot to consider condensation and laundry machines. The “TB” tape falls off every game. It’s funny to watch a group of 20 skaters tape “TB” to their jersey before each game – all for a guy who tried escaping the village and paid the price with an electric shock.

The tribute to Bertuzzi didn’t sit too well with Shea Weber, who continued his torment of Red Wings skaters. Remember: He concussed Andreas Lilja in 2009 and tried to decapitate Henrik Zetterberg in last year’s playoffs. The “TB” just further enraged his “Red Wings hatred.” He says the “TB” stands for “The Bitches,” and showed zero sympathy for Bertuzzi. Heck, on the opening shift of the game, Weber speared Jonathan Ericsson – although that’s not saying much.

It actually wasn’t a spear, it was a jab to the shin guards. But Ericsson caught a rut and slammed his head to the boards. Only Weber can create such chaos with an innocent play.

Player of the week(s): Jaroslav Halak is displaying his 2010 form. That year, he posted a .939 save percentage for the Canadiens and eliminated top-seeded, Cup-worthy Washington in the first round. He single-handedly started the “Fire Bruce Boudreau” campaign.

Last week, he brought Sidney Crosby to tears after stopping back-to-back breakaways. It was amazing.

(Not the saves – Crosby’s tears.)

Noteworthy: There’s no sign of Ryan Callahan anywhere. League authorities found a “Hannibal Lecter-like mask” inside the village commons alongside a stack of lumber. Forensic experts determine it’s the remains of “wooden sticks.”

Did Callahan lose his mind and chew Sherwood sticks into a pile?


Edmonton 8-5-2
Colorado 7-7-1
Minnesota 7-7-1
Calgary 4-7-4
Vancouver 4-9-2

Breakdown: Luongo is nuts.

As we said before, it’s not his fault. Keith Ballard’s stick knocked him into another dimension and he’s not coming back. These things happen when you’re Luongo, who demanded a pick-the-starting-goalie-out-of-a-hat charade, hid inside the net during a game, and demanded a trade from Winnipeg when trades are not allowed in our Secret League.

The Canucks decided to bench him. We told Luongo to “kiss up” and make his teammates wanna play him again.

So he cooked dinner for the entire team.

And everyone got sick.

We think he did this on purpose, yet we cannot prove it. But we find it odd that there’s a bottle of “Dulcolax” inside Vancouver’s village hallway.

Player of the week: (Sigh) Zach Parise.

Ryan Suter begged and pleaded with our dispatcher to “mention Zach” as our player of the week. We laughed in his face every time he asked (17 times). Parise had four assists in six games, hardly an effort to garner player of the week honors. Suter, however, managed to increase his level of annoyance to profound heights, so we wrote “Zach Parise” just to shut him up. When you get to know the guy, Suter is more annoying than Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber.

Noteworthy: The Avalanche and Red Wings engaged in a full-line brawl reminiscent of their heated rivalry in the late ’90s. It started when Milan Hejduk found a note taped to his village door that read, “Sissies wear burgundy—Dread the Red.” (Little do they know, we placed the note on the Hejduk’s door. We got bored and wanted to see a brawl.)

The Avs responded by flattening the tires of the Red Wings bus, which nearly caused a forfeit. Good thing Bertuzzi is hospitalized. If he was behind the wheel, he would’ve tried to drive the bus on its axles. And he never would’ve solved the issue in a tight time constraint.

Thankfully Gustav Nyquist, a graduate of Maine, found a remedy to the solution and the Wings were on their way to the rink, red hot with anger.

The puck dropped and Jonathan Ericsson dropped one glove and slapped Hejduk – yes, a literal, five-finger slap.

Chaos erupted from there.

Franzen managed to get Matt Duchene into a half-nelson. He stopped when Duchene yelled, “I LOVE GORDIE HOWE!” Zetterberg’s hair, and beard, did not move. It’s official: He’s the NHL’s version of Pat Riley.

Pavel Datsyuk managed to punch three players at once (We’re telling you: Datsyuk ain’t human.)

Ryan O’Reilly made a “pretty-boy deal” with Valtteri Filppula and neither participated.

Cody McLeod dropped his gloves and – in perfect unison – Mikael Samuelsson and Ericsson both screamed and left the ice.

We cannot wait for another Wings-Avs meeting.


San Jose 12-2-1
Anaheim 10-2-3
Dallas 6-7-2
Phoenix 5-8-2
Los Angeles 4-9-2

Breakdown: It got ugly between the Stars and Kings, who played a home-and-home series. (Whoops. Nobody has a home rink in the Secret League; let’s call it a secret-and-secret series.)

Drew Doughty, who we previously said is notorious for sipping beers on the bench, decided to take a run at Loui Eriksson in the corner of the rink. Doughty had to be drunk. Why would he dive at Eriksson feet-first? A brawl ensued and the the scene was reminiscent of the 1995 brawl at The Shark Tank. Stephane Robidas stepped into the fracas, which meant something bad happened. He might be one of the toughest guys in the NHL, but he’s also the unluckiest.

He slammed Dustin Penner into pane of glass at the old-school rec rink. That pane of glass crashed into Robidas’ head, David Krejci-style. Krejci skated away; Robidas was knocked out cold.

The brawl had striking similarities to the Bruins-Habs – except the Stars-Kings tilt was mostly on the ice, while the former fight was mostly in the village commons. The common denominator is ugliness.

Anze Kopitar told Jamie Benn that he had a “girl’s name.” Mike Richards laughed hysterically at Ray Whitney and called him “grandpa.” The oddest moment was this: Jeff Carter and Jaromir Jagr stared at each other at a nose’s distance … and repeatedly called each other “traitors.”


Player of the week(s): Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan.

He had 12 points in the past six games, yet another player who skates with ease when trade rumors are not swirling. You should’ve seen the goal he scored against Minnesota: He can perform under any circumstance!

Noteworthy: We have bad news.

Shane Doan is contagious. He gave Mike Smith the post-traumatic-referee-screwed-me disorder (PTRSMD). We knew it was possible. Smith showed glimpses of it last May, but apparently he caught a strand of Doan’s condition. It started when Evander Kane ran into Smith behind the net. It worsened when Andrew Shaw did the same. Then in a matchup against the Kings, everything came into fruition – anger, depression, rage.

Smith ripped off his helmet Patrick Roy-style and challenged Jonathan Quick to a fight – although there was nothing to warrant a fight. He just snapped.

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