I was checking out a baseball game the other night, and while I don’t have any particular interest in the Colorado Rockies, I was definitely pulling for Jamie Moyer, the 49 year-old left-handed pitcher trying to make a comeback with the National League team.
I well remember Moyer as a, well, middle of the road junk-ball (off-speed, at least) pitcher more than twenty years ago. To me, he was an OK pitcher, but kind of nondescript, in major-league terms—meaning, he was obviously good enough to play in the big leagues, but not a star by any means.
Here were are, in 2012, though, and this old guy, coming off Tommy John surgery of all things, has pitched some decent games and actually won a couple for the Rockies. I don’t think he has enough gas left to get to 300 wins in his career (he scuffled a bit in his last start, but I think he has close to 270 big-league victories). When all is said and done, he’s had a remarkable career—and now I find myself really pulling for him.
This got me thinking about the hockey world, since I spend a fair bit of time on that subject here at Vintage Leaf Memories. I started pulling my thoughts together about players I just flat out like—not necessarily Maple Leafs, just players that, for any number of reasons, I have a fondness for.
One that springs to mind is Ilya Kovalchuk. I say Kovalchuk, because he was my youngest son’s favorite player a decade ago when my son is getting into hockey and Kovi was drafted by and started playing with the expansion Atlanta Thrashers. He has always been a brilliant offensive performer. While I’ve often criticized Lou Lamoriello for making what I thought was a poor trade with Atlanta, and then re-signing Kovalchuk to an insanely lucrative contract thereafter, the guy is a flat-out exciting hockey player. And now, he’s showing something extra as the Devils try to survive an intense “final-four” encounter with the Rangers.
Zdeno Chara is another non-Leaf I’ve come to admire over the years. (Daniel Alfredsson, too, though I can’t honestly say I pull for Alfredsson…). I think Chara has a lot of heart and plays the game the right way. He’s a winner, a quiet leader, and a guy you can build a team around.
I’ve always liked Shane Doan, though I know that’s a trendy “pick” these days, for obvious reasons. I used to pull for Marian Gaborik when he was with Minnesota. I loved the fact that the guy could put up such good numbers despite playing with a stifling defense-first team in Minnesota, but I can’t conjure up much enthusiasm for his work with the Rangers. (Neither can Tortorella some nights, it seems.) I’m just not a Ranger guy, I guess. Never have been. Can’t imagine I ever will be.
In Edmonton, Jordan Eberle is a young player I think a lot of. He plays a well-rounded game, brings passion to his work and a ton of skill, too.
And hey, how do you not cheer for someone like Teemu Selanne?
Now, back in the "old days", while I hated a lot of Leaf rivals, I nonetheless developed a great respect for a number of “non-Leafs”, including Gordie Howe (seen above in early '60s action against Johnny Bower and the Leafs, in one of those wonderful Harold Barkley photos), Gilbert Perreault and Richard Martin in Buffalo, Rod Langway in Washington and more recently guys with big hearts like Kris Draper in Detroit.
There are a lot of players worth cheering for, for all minds of good reasons. So who are some of the players that you just have a natural rooting interest in—and why?
Send your thoughts along…