When you hear the word, perhaps, the first thing you think of is that organ beating inside your chest.
You also might think of that hard rocking, but IMO god-awful, girl band comprised of the sisters - Ann and Nancy Wilson. Sorry, not a big Barracude fan.
When I think of the word "heart," I immediately think of it in relation to organized sports. Not that an individual athlete can't have "heart" - just look at those who sail around the world alone or swim the English Channel or run grueling marathons. They all certainly have "it." But to me, having heart means more than possessing and harnessing personal courage. I think athletes with true heart are ones who put themselves and their own personal glory second to the benefit of the greater whole. I think about an individual who goes above and beyond what is asked of him and lays it all on the line for his team. To me that is the definition of the term.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching the Flyers rookies practice and scrimmage with JS, #23 and HB Canadians blogger, Eric Engels. Watching those guys throw themselves around during the scrimmage made me ask myself..."what is heart? and who has it?" When you relate the above definition to hockey - some names immediately come to my mind.
One is, of course, a Philadelphia Flyer. Though he is much maligned and hated by many GMs and fans alike throughout the hockey world, Bobby Clarke is someone who embodies the notion of having heart. Clarkie was someone who you would hate to play against and love to have on your team. He would do anything to win...anything - just ask Valeri Kharlamov who's ankle was viciously slashed during the famous 1972 Summit Series. Did Bobby Clarke bend the rules to the point of breaking? Yes and twice on Sunday. The three-time Hart Trophy winner gave it all for his team. Clarke twice led the league in assists, was a three-time 100 point scorer in an age where that was not an every day occurrence and was one of the all-time greatest leaders in hockey history. Beyond his scoring ability, he was a tenacious defender, fantastic in the faceoff circle and a great checker. He possessed an amazing will to win, a tireless work ethic and expected his Broadstreet Bully teammates to give complete and total effort at all times. They won two consecutive cups largely due to the team's outward manifestation of their toothless leader. Yes he won the Hart trophy three times, but won the Heart Trophy on a regular basis.
Another Heart Trophy winner has to be Dougie Gilmour. "Killer" was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 1982 in the 7th round at #134 and immediately showed his immense talent in 1983 where he scored 53 points in 80 games. In 1986-87, he scored 42g and 63a for 105 points for the Blues and led the league in post season scoring while the team did not make the Finals. He was one of only three players to do this in NHL history. Gilmour was a warrior, a prolific playmaker and a born leader. His tenure was cut short in St. Louis by the ugly babysitter scandal, which forced a seven player after the 1987-88 season, in which the Calgary Flames got the much better end of the lopsided deal. Gilmour moved on to Calgary where he scored 80 points or better in each of the three years he was there. Gilmour was unstoppable when he was on his game and he won the Stanley Cup as a Member of the Flames in 1989. During that Cup run, he scored 11 goals, had 11 assists, was a plus 12 and had 20 penalty minutes while scoring three times on the powerplay and netted three game winners. Oh, and one of those game winners also won the Cup for Calgary against the Montreal Canadians. Heart Trophy? You bet. "Killer" was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of a 10 player deal - the largest in NHL history at that time. Cliff Fletcher, the new GM of the Leafs and former GM of the Flames, added one of the best in the game at a time when he was playing his best hockey. Gilmour went on to score a Leafs record 127 points in the 1992-93 season. He was money in the playoffs, scoring 35 points second only to some kid named Gretzky. As a member of that Leaf team, he was runner up for the Hart and won the Selke as the best defensive forward in the NHL. Grit? Check. Timely playoff scoring? Check. Willing to do whatever it took to win? Check. Yes folks, Doug Gilmour has "heart" written all over him. Gilmour had 450 goals and 964 assists in 1474 games. He scored a staggering 188 poins (60g 128a) in 182 playoff games with 13 game winners. Hand the man his trophy.
Who currently has "it?"
I suggest that Chris Pronger (yes, I know a lightning rod if there ever was one) has "heart." He is Mr. Everything to any team he plays on.
The Blues? Norris Trophy 2000, Hart Trophy 2000, NHL All-Star 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004. You bet.
The Oil? 21 points, plus 10, 26 PIM in the 2005-06 playoffs. Yup.
The Ducks? Check his finger. Uh-huh...a ring.
Danny Heatley has "it." Drafted #2 in 2000, he immediately impacted the league scoring 21g and 46a for 67pts his first year with Atlanta in 2002. Last year he scored 103 points (50g and 53a), was plus 29 and had 83 penalty minutes. This guy can play every facet of the game, is not afraid to mix it up and tied with teammate Daniel Alfredsson (who also has "it" ) for most points in the playoffs last year at 22 and led the NHL in playoff assists with 15.
The conversation surrounding "who is the best goalie?" is one that can, and does, go on for hours among NHL fans. However, if there ever was one goalie about which there never was nor will ever be a debate about if he has "it?," is none other than Martin Brodeur. Marty Brodeur (or the anti-Christ as we Flyers fans like to refer to him) was drafted #20 in the 1990 entry draft - bet some teams would like to have a mulligan on that year. He proceeded to do nothing more than win the Calder in 1994, win or tie the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed as a team in 1997,1998, 2003 and 2004, win the Vezina in 2003, 2004 and 2007 and participate as an 9 time NHL All-Star. In 891 NHL games, he has won 494 and tied 105 with a career Goals Against Average of 2.20 and a career save percentage of .913. He is not human. If you think about that, he collected at least a point - if not two - in 67% of the games in which he played. He also won three of Lord Stanley's Cups and is the only goalie in NHL history with six 40-win seasons. Yeah...he gets a trophy too.
Who of the current young Turks have "it?"
One thing I do know, is that Sid "the Kid" Crosby sure as heck has it. #87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins led the league in scoring with 120 points and assists with 84 in his second year after putting up 102 in his initial season. Oh…by the way only two other players have accomplished that feat in their first two years...Mario Lemieux and Peter Stastny. Sid can do things on the ice that physics say are not possible. Much like they said about #99. Someone get this man some hardware.
Another who has "it" is AO. This Russian phenom left winger has done more, with less, in a shorter time than perhaps anyone in NHL history. Alexander Ovechkin is a one man wrecking crew who scored a goal against the Phoenix Coyotes that Bill Clement called "one of the greatest goals of all time."
Hmmm...where is that trophy?
Who are the future Heart Trophy winners?
There are others...many future players with talent, desire, grit and determination will one day don NHL sweaters in front of proud parents. Many play in Sweden, Finland, Russia and the U.S. - but all share that same "heart" no matter the language, league or nationality.
Special mention, however, must be made of the incredible job the Canadian program has done to field such a dominant team for the Summit Series. To go 7-0-1 is beyond anyone's wildest expectation. The Canadian team showcased a few of those who might be future Heart Trophy winners - one thing is certain, Brent Sutter sure has "it."
(The Devils just became a much scarier team with him behind the bench.)
Kyle Turris, Karl Alzner, Brandon Sutter, and - Tournament MVP - Sam Gagne all showed brilliant flashes of the kind of commitment, talent and desire that the greats of the game all possessed. The future is bright and so is the torch as it is passed from one generation to the next of Heart Trophy winners.
Thanks for reading...