🔒Dear Red Wings: First thing that comes to mind ... (Part 2)

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Dave Ellett #2 and Teemu Selanne #13 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni skate off the ice after action against the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images) (Jason Halstead, 2016 Getty Images)

For the newcomers: The point of this game is to name and discuss the first thing that comes to mind on a given topic -- today that topic is NHL teams, naturally.

I’ll work my way through each team in the league, alphabetically by division. I started with the Atlantic Division earlier this week, and now it’s time for the Central Division.


Arizona Coyotes ...

... Auston Matthews. The Coyotes are in trouble (again) as they potentially have nowhere to play by the end of this season. They are facing a serious threat of having to move to another state/province. Yes, that has been the case for about 25 years since they arrived from Winnipeg, but this time around appears even more serious. They’re flirting with the idea of playing in an area that seats only 5,000 fans next season. Add the arena struggle to the testing violations and not-so-pleasant departure of GM John Chayka, and this is quite possibly the troubled franchise’s lowest point. But Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs star, is what comes to mind first for me. He grew up in Arizona and said it was the Coyotes who first inspired him to play the game. The NHL loves that story because it is proof that hockey in the desert worked, right? Uh, maybe. Matthews appears to be an anomaly, as someone with his talent would be in pretty much any state, any climate. My question now is will he still be able to go play for a team in his home state one day? In front of more than 5,000 fans?

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews is set to make his highly-anticipated Olympic debut as a member of Team USA this February.

Chicago Blackhawks ...

... Jeremy Roenick. “It’s not so much me as it is Roenick, he’s good.” -- that famous line from the movie “Swingers.” I simultaneously hated and loved Roenick in the 90s. Obviously he was on the Blackhawks, so I hated him, but he was the kind of player you couldn’t take your eyes off of, and he was the complete package. He was tough as nails, fast and had high-level skill. He is still the first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of the Blackhawks, which is a testament to how good he was. Second is Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour.

Colorado Avalanche ...

... the Brawl(s). The image of Brendan Shanahan jumping into Patrick Roy at center ice, and of course Darren McCarty pummeling Claude Lemieux. I think we all take this one for granted sometimes. We’ll never see anything like it again. Sure, we may see brawls, but we’ll never see that kind of buildup. I wrote about it earlier this year in “The history behind iconic Red Wings-Avalanche brawl of March 26, 1997.

Dallas Stars ...

... Mike Modano. As a fellow native of Livonia, Mich. (although Modano grew up mostly in Highland Township), Modano was someone we always paid attention to. His skating was unmatched. He was a true competitor who excelled at every level. The way his career ended with the Red Wings is a shame -- I wrote about the Babcock benching incident here.

Minnesota Wild ...

... Marian Gaborik flying over Dominik Hasek. There isn’t much else that comes to mind when I think of the Wild, other than what a downgrade their uniforms are compared to the North Stars. Gaborik flew so high. Honestly, that feels longer ago than 2007.

Nashville Predators ...

... silver shoulders and arms. When the Predators entered the league in 1998, we expected some new-look uniforms. But the silver shoulders/arms were simply stunning. I’m not saying it was stunning in a good way, just stunning. I played on a spring league team that year with those exact uniforms. I want to say those were the cheapest jerseys available at the time.

St. Louis Blues ...

... 1996. The Steve Yzerman Game 7 double overtime thriller against the red stripe-era St. Louis Blues. Wayne Gretzky, too. What a disaster that ended up being for the Blues. And, of course, we know the Red Wings were ousted in the next round by Colorado. But still, that goal is one of the greatest. Secondary to that amazing memory is the Hull and Oates line.

Winnipeg Jets ...

... Teemu Selanne, of course, as part of the first iteration of the Jets that ended up moving to Phoenix. He was one of my favorite players -- top five. The Finnish Flash with the Jofa helmet. His longevity made him a legend -- Selanne played well into his 40s before retiring. He’s also one heck of a guy to listen to in interviews -- so down to earth. And no one will ever break his rookie scoring record of 76 goals and 132 points. No one. Notice I don’t even think of the current Jets when the team is mentioned. Whoops. Maybe they should do something worth remembering.


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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.