By now, you’ve almost certainly heard the war of words between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, ignited by Eric Gryba’s open-ice check on Lars Eller in Game One of their first round series.
Brandon Prust likened the Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean to a walrus and Michel Therrien was not pleased either, pointing out a lack of respect shown in MacLean’s comments.
“(If I’m Eller), I’m really mad at player 61, whoever he is, because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn’t looking,” said MacLean. “That’s always been a dangerous place as far as I know. Ever since I’ve been playing this game, that’s a dangerous place to be — bad things happen.
“I think it’s a hockey play that ended up going badly for Lars Eller.”
Whether or not MacLean was unconcerned about Eller’s condition is up for debate, as he simply voiced his opinion on the sequence that left Montreal’s third-year center lying in a puddle of his own blood.
What is certain, however, is that MacLean was impudent towards Raphael Diaz and the number 61, as he did not even bother to learn the defenseman’s name. He addressed him as if he were a replicant that Harrison Ford should be hunting down in ‘Blade Runner’, rather than a hockey player.
Had MacLean known that Eller once wore No.61 on his jersey during a brief stint in St. Louis, he may have taken it further.
“I’m upset that player 61 sent a daring pass to that other individual who used to wear No.61.”
With that in mind, we creep inside the heads of some stand-out players who once bore this jersey number and uncover the thoughts that would surface in the event of being called out as Diaz was.
“What is this dog house everyone keeps speaking of? I live in a beautiful, gigantic house; these newspaper writers need to get their facts straight. Coach referred to me by number today, but it’s understandable. I disappeared for quite the stretch of games and it must have been hard for him to spot me during my shifts. Now, if I can get him to forget my number too, I will be an afterthought and won’t have to worry myself with this back-checking nonsense he keeps speaking to me about.”
“New York is so unusual and different. Here, I’ve got teammates like Henrik Lundqvist and Brad Richards hogging a good chunk of the spotlight, while my boss is refusing to acknowledge me by name. I realize that I’m not the sole superstar with the Rangers, but this never happened in Columbus. And over there, I was among studs like Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger, who scored ten goals in the 2008 playoffs! I guess I’ll try to earn my coach’s attention and ensure that he remembers my name. Where are those two Phoenix defenders I ran into a few years back?”
“I’ve returned to the playoffs only once since winning consecutive Stanley Cups with both Tampa Bay and Carolina. Now, I’ve been reduced to representing the Florida Panthers, but I’m glad that number 61 has proven to my coach’s preferred label of me. At least I will not have to be associated with this club by name. My family is still under the impression that I’m a member of the Hurricanes and that they’re regular playoff postseason participants. I may have neglected to mention my move to Florida to them, but that’s beside the point.”
“I’m accustomed to this sort of treatment. Growing up, my little brother Pierre was constantly called down for dinner first and as a professional hockey player, the preferential support for him continued. I will not deny that he has enjoyed a terrific career, but it’s not as if I’ve got no accomplishments to brag about. Does anyone care to ask me about my 40-goal rookie campaign in Hartford? Of course not. Meanwhile, to this day, Pierre is peppered with questions about that stupid incident involving him and Dale Hunter.“
“This must be Randy Carlyle’s version of tough love on his players. At first, I believed it to be some sort of ritual where the rookies are not worthy of being greeted by their actual name, but then Ryan Getzlaf informed me that this was not the case. I asked myself what my former tutor in London, Dale Hunter, would do. I think I’ll rough Carlyle up a bit when nobody’s around and he least expects it. But first, I’ll change my number next season to see if it alleviates this issue. If so, I’ll spare Mr. Carlyle the suffering he deserves.”
“Defensive effort might not get as much acclaim as goal-scoring, but this is ridiculous. I try to ease the burden off my defense’s shoulders by hustling back in my own end and this is the thanks I get for it? Mark my words, one day I will play for a team like Pittsburgh and be placed on a line with that Sidney Crosby kid. Then, people will honor the name of Dupuis. If not, I will at least be recognized as the man who passes to Crosby, lets him do the rest of the work, while I sit back and collect the points.”
Note: this article is meant to be humorous, as, unfortunately, we are not granted access into the minds of professional athletes.