Archive for the ‘Give ‘Em the Lumber Issue 1’ Category


Dave “Tiger” Williams got his nickname when he first started playing hockey, after he refused to wear a mask when he was goalie. He was Tiger Williams from then on, and everybody knew his name. He never wanted to be a peacemaker. All he wanted to do, since the time he was, in his own words, “an egg in my mother’s stomach,” was to win hockey games. Born on February 3, 1954, the fourth child out of eight, to a poor family in the wilds of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Tiger was a battler. His mother died when he was fourteen, and that catalyzed the young Tiger to become the hockey player loved and feared by so many fans, players, and zamboni drivers across North America. Drafted 31st overall in 1974 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, he went on to set many National Hockey League records—in penalty minutes. Dave carved his own groove in the sin bin. The NHL was no picnic for a mucker like Tiger. He had difficulty doing anything, including fighting, at first. Keith Magnuson of the Chicago Black Hawks sucker punched him so bad once, it forced him to the minor leagues. He described this initial shift in the League as “being marooned in whale shit.” Given that whales are aquatic mammals, the scope of Tiger’s scatological metaphor reveals the depths to which he had fallen. You couldn’t keep Tiger Williams down for long. Tiger is an honest guy, and he doesn’t feel the need to hide behind things like ethics or decorum. He freely admits he played for the money, but he was never a “floater.” He knew what had to be done. While on the Vancouver Canucks, Tiger was playing against the Buffalo Sabres, and their notorious coach, Scotty Bowman. Tiger had bad blood with Bowman for some time, and even felt that the Sabres’ coach had “no class.” Well, there’s only one thing a hockey player can do when confronted by an opponent with no class (besides biting him on the nose during a fight, which is what he did to Dave “The Hammer” Schultz of the Broad Street Bullies). Bowman had a habit of yelling at players, both friend and foe, during games. Really inflammatory things, like “they’re gonna send you to the minors.” Bowman had a reputation around the league as a yapper, and in the heat of battle, Tiger took a stand. Bowman finally sealed his own fate. He yelled directly at Tiger, and Tiger did what Tiger does. He calmly skated over to the Sabres’ bench, and hit Scotty Bowman in the head with his hockey stick. Tiger didn’t plan to do this—it just happened. He even pulled back and didn’t use full force: “I would say there was twenty five percent force in the hit.” Tiger didn’t break his twig. Some think that he tried to deny that this happened. But Tiger completely admits to the charge. To run away from a fight was not in Tiger Williams’s playbook. In the end, Tiger Williams retired on top. He is the all-time leader in NHL penalty minutes at 3,966—not counting the 455 minutes during the playoffs. Tiger was an enforcer; he made sure that the skilled offensive players on his team were able to do their work without fear of being roughed up by the other team. He did his job, and he did it well. In the end, Tiger reflected on the Bowman incident: “Bowman had been behaving like a jerk, and I just thought, ‘Oh shit, let’s give him the lumber.’”

—Chris Ganchoff


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the whiskey robber laces 'em up
the whiskey robber laces ’em up

An Interview with Julian Rubinstein, Author of The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

1) With the publication of your book last year, you’ve probably made Attila Ambrus the most famous Hungarian hockey player in the world. The others are a pale reflection: Tamas Groschl (1999 draft), Levente “Szuperman” Szuper (2000 draft), and Janos Vas (signed a 3 year deal with the Dallas Stars farm system). Attila was a “walk-on” player for Budapest’s Ujpesti Torna Egylet (UTE). how did he “make the team?”

JR: That’s one of the funniest stories. He’d played almost no hockey before, but was in some miserable job at a glass factory. Out of the phone book, he called the best pro hockey team in the country, said he was a goalie from Transylvania and asked for a tryout. The story is in the book of course but there is actually a great hockey team in Transylvania, where he’s from. So they gave him a tryout–and he was so terrible that he actually was given a job with the team because no one could believe someone that bad at hockey would actually want to play for them so badly. But the job they gave him was: janitor. Among his duties was to drive the Zamboni. Eventually he did play his way onto the team, becoming, perhaps, the worst hockey goalie in the history of the sport. (He once gave up 23 goals in one game.)

2) At the end of the book you mention that UTE bought a whiskey robber banner which says “Harjra Viskis!” Would you translate that for us and comment on how Attila is treated by his former team & teammates? Is the banner on display at the rink? Have they retired his number?

JR: The banner translates roughly as “Tally Ho, Whiskey Robber!” It’s sort of a salute to him. It does fly over the rink to this day as far as I know. I don’t know if they’ve retired his number.

3) Attila must be a fan favorite…

JR: Attila definitely seems to be a fan favorite, in a very specific way. There was a very interesting thing that happened in Budapest. A popular soccer coach from a different club was fired and fans gathered outside the home of the general manager to protest. As the gathering got more raucous, the fans broke into a chant of: “Attila Ambrus! Attila Ambrus!” So he has become a real symbol of defiance and protest, which after all is what his robberies symbolized to people.

4) Attila won an award for sportsmanship from the hungarian national team. He seems to have brought the same courtesy to bank robbing. Did he bring his experience on the ice to the bank or his experience in the bank to the ice rink?

JR: Did he win a sportsmanship award? I can’t remember. But regarding which experience helped the other, it was definitely hockey first. That was his first love and he trained like a maniac. And he did of course realize that his sports training would augment his other career. He was also a maniacal competitor on the ice before he ever started robbing, so he also brought that mental focus and determination to robbing. They were absolutely connected.

5) One of the things that you touched on is the effect that access to cable televised nhl games had on the fans of the hungarian league – they learned that their players were lousy and that teams in other places only play outdoors as a novelty. There were other changes to the hungarian version of the sport imported from the west. Jeno “Bubu” Salamon, the UTE goon, had a canadian education on the ice…

JR: Yeah, it’s funny (and sometimes horrifying) how television really influences so much. But of course when cable television became much more widespread in the 1990s and they were able to watch the NHL much more, it was rather depressing for many of the Hungarian players. There was no money in the sport there. And indeed one thing that caught on, partly from TV and also from the importing of a couple of Canadian players, was a new way of fighting. In the past, the Hungarian players used to fight with their gloves on. But they soon switched over and went all out, gloves off. And there were some pretty crazy fights.

6) Does Attila follow the NHL?

JR: I know he tries to. I don’t think he’s able to watch much from his prison cell. (There is a TV but i don’t think they get a lot of channels.) He does follow it at least somewhat in the papers.

7) Did any NHL players come to Hungary during the lockout?

JR: That I really don’t know.

8) Attila’s team used to retire after games to an establishment called the “Thirsty Camel.” Is that a Budapest hockey bar? Do the players have drinks with fans like in Slapshot?

JR: The Thirsty Camel certainly used to be a Budapest hockey bar, particularly for his team. Each team sort of had their own hangout. And sure, not only did fans hang out with the players, but if you were lucky enough to be in the bar when Attila was playing, you would likely have been drinking for free. He often bought the entire bar drinks.

—Interviewed by Chris “Healthy Scratch” Dunlap

toasting the whiskey robber on his birthday

toasting the whiskey robber on his birthday

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What North Americans have to understand is that when you grew up in Europe in the 1970 and 80s, hockey didn’t mean the NHL. Not predominantly, at least. Sure, we knew of the NHL, and every now and again there’d be some 30-seconds footage on one of our sports’ programs (remember, this is before cable and satellite TV), and we also knew that the players there earned much more than our players did, and we knew that they claimed that they played the best hockey there was; but: that was all over there, some mythical hockey world of superstars and money and smaller rinks—while we had our own hockey over here: national federations that often enough struggled to keep a professional league going, European cups that nobody followed—and then what hockey to us Europeans was really all about: the World Championships! (Or, every four years, the Olympics, which for a while doubled as the World Championships). So, every April or May, once the national leagues were finished, it was hockey time in Europe for a good two weeks, and even folks who never watched s single puck netted during the winter would tune in to see, well, usually another triumph of the USSR. Between 1963 and 1990 the USSR won 22 out of possible 28 World Championships/Olympic titles. Not a bad record by pretty much anybody’s standards, I’d say. Way into the 1980s there were only eight teams in the Group A finals (there were Groups B, and C, and eventually D finals too, but no one ever paid attention to those, unless you happened to come from a country that didn’t have a good enough team to ever be in a Group A consisting of a mere eight nations—like Austria), and seven of them were basically always the same: besides the USSR, that meant Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the US, and West Germany (Canada making an exception in the early 70s when they didn’t play at all due to amateur/professional regulations). The eighth spot (that condemned a team to relegation to Group B) was filled, in rotation, by teams like Holland, Poland, Italy (all of which have meanwhile disappeared into hockey nothingness), or East Germany (which, well, has pretty much disappeared into nothingness altogether). At that time, not many Europeans played in the NHL yet. Like, the first Soviet player ever to play professional hockey in North America was Sergei Priakin who played a rather unadorned season for the Calgary Flames in 1988/89. This meant that when the World Championships rolled around, most of the European teams brought together the best players the respective nations had to sport—hence the excitement for the European hockey fan to watch the tournament. It was a different situation as far as the teams from Canada and the US were concerned: Along the lines of the infamous North American tendency to ignore whatever might be happening outside “the New World” (and of course following the logics of corporate ownership in sports), no NHL team would have ever considered releasing a player who was still engaged in NHL playoff battles for some insignificant “World Championships” (like, which world? over in Europe? you gotta be kidding!—should we be surprised that the Canada Cup was renamed the “World Cup of Hockey” in 1996?), especially when they were played in places with names as unpronounceable as Södertälje, Canazei, or Turku. (Sure, none of the players would have wanted to do that anyway. But it’s not their fault. They are only caught up in the machine.) So this meant that the Canadian and US-American teams usually consisted of NHL players from teams who hadn’t made the playoffs, and that the officials would leave a few spots on the roster open so they could register and fly in a couple of further stars on short notice should their teams lose a play-off series while the World Championships were already underway. Sometimes this meant that really big names did play at the Championships too Gretzky, Lemieux , Lindross: they all made an appearance at some point. (Even then the Russians couldn’t be beaten of course. Hmm, did that mean that the best hockey possibly wasn’t played in North America after all? No—the NHL cracks were just tired after a long season. Right! Like the European players hadn’t played any hockey in the winter prior to the tournament. But we don’t wanna get into petty arguments here.) Anyway, many, many things have changed since then: Due to cable and satellite TV, the ever-increasing number of Europeans drafted into the NHL (a process very much sped up by the collapse of the formerly “communist” Eastern European countries), and the glorious wonders (ya, right!) of free market dynamics, globalization, and neoliberalism, the NHL has become a global (well, hockey global) phenomenon; the World Championships Group A has expanded from 8 to 10 to 12 to 16 teams (more teams, more games, more money); and the Olympics separated from the World Championships, ‘cause since the US basketball “Dream Team”of the Barcelona Olympics (amateurism? are you kidding me? that’s so, like, 20th century!) made the NBA a worldwide trademark in 1992 (lucky the NBA still had Magic, and Bird, and Jordan then, and didn’t have to rely on “Dream Teams”coming in sixth at World Championships in their own country), the NHL figured that it too could make more money if the might of the NHL was to be presented to a worldwide audience and so it actually interrupted its season for the first time ever for the Olympics in Nagano in 1998 (where the Czech Republic still won the title— check this CNN report from the archives: “The Czech Republic’s hockey team took the swagger out of the Canadians and Americans in maybe the biggest surprise of the Nagano Games, snagging the Gold medal in a victory for the little guys.”The little guys? Jagr, Hasek, Straka, Rucinsky? Well. CNN logics, I suppose.). However, despite all these changes, one thing remains the same: the Hockey World Championships still don’t interest anybody in North America. (Actually, in regard to the righteous editor of this zine I will correct that: they don’t interest anybody in North America but the true hockey fan!) How this translates into the media coverage, for example, takes on really comical dimensions: Like, if you went on the Yahoo! Sports hockey site during the World Championships, the homepage would immaculately inform you about which games of the long cancelled NHL season would have been scheduled for today (face-off time included)—but in order to get any news on the World Championships you had to dig deep through the site’s hockey news links to eventually find a couple of game reports (proper standings, schedules, scoreboards? forget it!). So, in this sense I guess I was fortunate that, thanks to US Homeland Security protecting its nation spiritedly and dedicatedly, I was on a plane back to Europe much earlier this year than expected—just in time to catch the Group A Hockey World Championships that had returned to my native Austria after a ten year absence. And not only that: Apart from Vienna (Vienna always gets a slice of the cake, no matter what happens in Austria—it is a centralized autocratic country in that sense, no matter what they tell you), another town was blessed with the honor of hosting matches this time: Innsbruck, the Alpine metropolis (120.000 people – come on, that’s not bad! it’s in the mountains, man!) of Winter Olympics fame (1964 and—stepping in when the Colorado electorate voted down the state’s plans to finance the Olympics the IOC had awarded to Denver—1976), and, besides, the humble birthplace of these lines’ author. So, what else was there to to do than crash on old friends’ couches for a couple of weeks and try to sneak my way into the hockey stadium, right? The tournament’s facts are quickly told: The Czech Republic restored European pride by taking the title again from Canada who had won the Championships back-to-back in ’03 and ’04 (both times beating Sweden). The Czechs won the final in Vienna 3:0 (of course the final was played in Vienna—what did you think?). Russia took third place by beating Sweden 6:3. Slovakia, the US, Finland, and Switzerland (especially Switzerland) could still be content as quarter finalists. Latvia, Belarus, the Ukraine, and Kazakhstan performed within their capabilities and were ranked 9-12. Slovenia and Denmark were happy survivors in the fight against relegation on positions 13 and 14. And Germany and Austria – well, they better wouldn’t have shown up for the tournament in the first place (more about this below). Rick Nash was the top scorer with 9 goals, while Joe Thornton not only led the stats in both assists (10) and points (16), but was also decorated as the tournament’s MVP. Honors as best forward went to Viktor Kozlov, the best defenseman according to the directorate was Wade Redden. And Thomas Vokoun was proclaimed best goalie, even though the Belarusian Andrei Mezin led the stats with an impressive saving percentage of 97.14, and an even more impressive 1.01 goals against average. Belarus marked another impressive statistic: a 100% penalty killing. The Swede Samuel Pahlsson picked up the most penalties (28 minutes) while Russia led that ranking as a team—and if you wanna know more stats you can go to http://www.ihwc.net/english/. Overall, the tournament demonstrated some fantastic hockey, and everything that a tournament of this caliber needs: highlights (the Czech overtime victory over Sweden in the semis), suspense (the quarterfinal penalty shootouts between Russia and Finland or the Czech Republic and the US), drama (Jaromir Jagr’s injured finger), tension (the tournament’s administrators in Vienna had to take a fair amount of shit for sloppy organization—in Innsbruck I didn’t hear any of that, just to throw that in), and humor (one of the Eastern European coaches assessing the conditions of the ice at the Vienna rink by reporting that one of his players had broken a skate during the game “but fortunately was a good enough swimmer to make it back to the bench”). Needless to say, in the context of this modest article it is impossible to make all the trials and tribulations come alive that you live through at a collective social experience as tremendous as this 14-day hockey extravaganza (and joy—if you weren’t German or Austrian, that is); so in my function as the lucky and privileged Give ‘Em The Lumber’s exclusive correspondent to the Hockey World Championships 2005 I will content myself with listing the three single most important realizations forced upon the observer at the event: 1.Due to the NHL lock-out all star players were available to represent their respective countries at this year’s tournament—however, the US still didn’t even make the semis, and Canada did not score once in the final. What’s up, Europe! 2.The top teams’ level of play seems to become more and more evenly balanced: Out of the four semifinalists each one could have taken the title, and so could have at least three of the quarterfinalists (sorry, my Swiss neighbors, but this would just go too far…)—in the end it all came down to how things played out that particular day and to a touch of luck. 3.Hockey fans rule: During the course of the tournament Innsbruck hosted hockey fans from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Slovenia, the Ukraine, and Denmark (Germans don’t count—they are always there). Having these folks in town was a real treat. All of them. Even though the special supporters’ award probably has to go to our Latvian friends—they were a lot of fun! And they well deserve hosting next year’s World Championships (May 6th to 21st—in case you’ve always wanted to make that trip to Europe and were just waiting for an excuse). Unfortunately, the article has to end on a sad note: The Austrian performance. The Austrian team managed to lose all their games except one, including defeats to teams considered “easy” opponents, such as Slovenia, or especially Denmark. The only point the Austrian team won was in a draw against Germany. Austria’s overall showing was atrocious. After their last games they got booed out of the arena. (Austrians are mean. But they aren’t that mean. There were reasons for the jeers.) The explanations for the disaster were the typical ones : injuries, bad coaching, bad attitude. As always, probably everything played together. In any case, it was embarrassing. But the players have to bear most of the burden themselves: Next year there will be no playing against no Niklas Kronwall or Zigmund Palffy; Austria’s hockey aces will battle it out with the teams from Lithuania or Croatia in the Group B tournament in Estonia. I’m sure Thomas Vanek or Thomas Pöck (both, especially Vanek, playing rather successfully for their AHL teams in Rochester and Hartford respectively) won’t be too excited to come across the Atlantic for an outing like that (they even seemed reluctant this year). Well, we’ll see. Maybe the Austrian team bounces right back into Group A, just as it did the last time it had been relegated in 1996. Which leads me to the three ironies I have to finish this article with: Irony 1: When Austria got relegated the last time, the World Championships were also held in the country itself. (So would I forgo another World Championship in my home country, so my country’s team can actually stay in Group A? Good question. I have to think about that.) Irony 2. By drawing with Germany, the Austrians took the Germans with them to ice hockey oblivion next year. (Okay, I admit that people not versed in soccer history might miss the irony here. All I can say is: Gijon 1982). Irony 3: My best friend from junior high school, Claus Dalpiaz, is a veteran goalkeeper for the Austrian team and was a member of every Austrian World Championships or Olympics squad since 1993. A couple of weeks before this year’s World Championships he got injured in a warm-up game against the Czech Republic and had to sit the tournament out on a groin injury (Bernd Brückler, a Wisconsin Badger, had to step in—rather unsuccessfully, as you would probably guess at this point). Claus not being the youngest anymore at 33, I was rather saddened by the news, given that it meant that he would miss out on what was probably his last chance to play in another World Championship in Austria itself. Now of course it looks like it was opportune that he got to hang at home with his family during the month of May rather than partaking in the Austrian hockey fiasco. Then again, with him between the posts things might have looked very different of course… In 2008 the Hockey World Championships will be hosted in North America for the first time in 46 years (Colorado Springs and Denver hosted the tournament in 1962): Halifax and Quebec are supposed to gather the world’s best. Will this change the North American’s perception of the event? Who knows? But I’m sure Give ‘Em The Lumberwill be there to tell you all about it!

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The Game by Ken Dryden In eights years, Ken Dryden won six Stanley Cups as the goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. The Game is Dryden’s memoir of his last weeks with the Canadiens. The Game gives the hockey fan insight on how long term success can break up a championship team like the Montreal Canadiens. The players become too big for the team and they become a group of individuals who feel that they are bigger than the game. Ownership loses respect for the coach and the coach is forced to move on. Dryden ponders the end of his hockey career as he looks forward to becoming an attorney and yuppie. He is a yuppie among the blue collar majority of the Canadiens. He doens’t go with the team to watch movies on the road, he goes to the theatre by himself. The Game has many quotable paragraphs that would make cool email signature files. An example of one: “The great satisfaction of playing goal comes from the challenge it presents. Simply stated, it is to give the team what it needs, when it need it, not when I feel well rested, injury free, warmed up, psyched up, healthy, happy and able to give iit, but then the team needs it.” Other than that, unless you are a hard core Canadiens fan, The Game is boring. To be frank, this is a bad read. I forced myself to read this book to write this short review.

Open Net by George Plimpton

The late George Plimpton made it a career of being “a fearless amateur braving the world of professional sports.” In Open Net, Plimpton expores the world of professional hockey. For a writing assignment, Plimpton comes a member of the Boston Bruins as a back up goalie, mainly because he could not skate. Plimpton attempts to learn how to skate at a local New York ice rink and succeeds in learning how to stand on ice skates. He then joins the Boston Bruins pre-season training camp armed with a old style hockey mask painted with a third eye. Plimpton is proud of this symbol and he quickly learns that the third eye makes a great target for the shooters and the Bruins goaltender core refuses to let him wear it on the ice for fear he might get killed. The book covers Plimpton’s initiation to the world of professional hockey; he trains as a hockey goalie in order to play the final five minutes of the first period of a pre-seaon game against the Philadelphia Flyers. His initiation is facinating as he gives the reader a light hearted look at the life of pro hockey players – a very fun read. This book does not give the reader a sense of what its like being a hockey goalie, but Plimpton’s retelling of his five minutes in net is hilarious and this makes the book well worth reading. Plimpton ends this book with a reflection on how his experiences with the Bruins made him a big fan of hockey while one of his girlfriends was only fasinated with the Zamboni machine as it cleaned the ice between periods.

—Tim Wong

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Jim Rourke will not be remembered as a cautious man. “Jimbo” was such a character, he was what my pal Dan from Appalachia would call a “formidable personage.” This stentorian baritone used to belt out all verses of “Oh Canada” on the bench—periodically banging his stick on the boards whenever someone scored a goal or Tim “the Body Beautiful” made a big save in net. He was what is known in the hockey vernacular as a “grinder”—not a particularly good stickhandler, shooter, or necessarily even a decent skater. Jim loved to mix it up right in front of the other team’s goalie, giving the team a boost out of sheer enthusiasm, grit, and humor. When his opposite wing Andy thought he’d lost his wedding ring Jimbo offered his “slightly used” model right on the spot (He’d been recently divorced after 20 years of marriage). He told us a story in the parking lot as we put down a few High Lifes out of the cooler in the back of his 1981 El Camino. He and his Rugby team used to take a shot of Jack Daniels immediately before each game so the other team would think they were drunk in the scrum. Jim led team Kwyjibo in penalty minutes but refereed for the kids and even had his time behind the bench as coach of his son’s club. One time as team captain I had to assess him a 24-pack penalty for demonstrating the roughing penalty on an opposing player in the face-off circle. “Hey #57! Nice crosscheck back there…”Jimbo:“That wasn’t a penalty…Now That’s a penalty!” We laughed about that incident for awhile although that night it got him in deep with his girlfriend Margo who was watching from the otherwise-deserted bleachers. The night of his death Jim was planning to stay in a hotel because he was scheduled to leave at 6:00 a.m. the next morning on a business trip. This minor setback was not going to stop him from doing what he loved second-most to playing hockey—bullshitting with the rest of the team in the parking lot. He was the only one that could get the damned gas grill to work and he always had a well-timed wisecrack to keep us from dwelling on our many embarrassing losses. I’m not sure if Kwyjibo will continue as a team without people like Jim. He was an exuberant character, a “role-player” who loved the game and its weird foreign culture. He was also a friend to every player on the team. May Jim be buried in his Fighting Irish sweatshirt—a uniform that fit him better than a business suit. We’ll miss you Jim! —“Scratch”

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