100 games a season: Gare Joyce's puck blog

Just like being in the scouts' & press' lounge, without the bad coffee and day-old Timbits

Location: Toronto

I've written for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com the last five years. My work has made the "notable" list of the Best American Sports Writing seven times and won four Canadian National Magazine Awards. My most recent book is Future Greats and Heartbreaks: A Year Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts. I've written three other sports books: When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game; Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm; and The Only Ticket Off the Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Steve Downie: Canadian Hero (TM), 100 Games Zero

Count me among those who have no time for Steve Downie. Downie was the guy you couldn't take your eyes off at the world under-20s in Vancouver, the one who goaded crucial third-period penalties out of a US team at this year's global jr event in Sweden. Downie was the guy who basically willed the Windsor Spitfires out of a 0-3 hole vs the Soo and Jeff Carter.


The little-ball-of-hate thing evidently carries over off the ice as well--his contretemps with team-mate Akim Aliu preceded his selection to his first world jr team.


Downie was dealt to Peterborough but was more of a passenger than a driver on a team that went to the Memorial Cup last spring. He was essentially invisible in the tournament. He didn't impress me much in OHL play this fall, back before the world juniors. He was all act--histrionics, mouth, slamming sticks--and no impact. Poor Vince Mallette, his first head coaching job after years with Brian Kilrea in Ottawa and he had a truly uncoachable player as his first-line talent, a guy on his own program. Happiest day of the season for Vince would have been the day Downie was traded to Kitchener.

For the Rangers it might now be a case of buyer's remorse. Downie was hardly impressive when I saw him the other day vs London. Not that he'll have much of a chance to show his goods in the near future. From the Guelph Mercury's write-up of the Storm's ass-kick of the Rangers:

The Highway 7 rivalry just got its nasty back.
After a couple of years of pretty mellow competition between the Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers, things returned to their former glory Saturday night in a rough-and-tumble contest at the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre.
Three fights, a boisterous crowd more involved in a home game than it has been all year and a meltdown by the Rangers' Steve Downie were all part of the lively contest between two possible first-round playoff opponents.
Oh yeah, the Storm won 5-0.
"Starting to feel like it," said the Storm's Ryan Parent when asked if the game reminded him of the old days. "Be good if we meet them in the playoffs."
The highlight -- or lowlight -- of the night came at 15:39 of the second period after Guelph had gone up 4-0.
On the ensuing faceoff at centre ice, Downie jumped Storm forward Mike McLean and landed several punches as McLean covered up on the ice. On his way to the dressing room Downie proceeded to drop-kick his helmet into the boards and toss a container holding a bunch of water bottles onto the ice.
For his efforts Downie received the Meltdown Five Pack -- two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting, 10-minute misconduct, game misconduct and gross misconduct. A suspension from the league is also likely.

Say good-bye to Downie for five games or so. The Flyers took Downie in the first round and, God bless them, they need help. But I have no time for him. All the Canadian Hero stuff aside, Downie does not skate well enough to make an impact at the next level. The fact that he picks his spots--effort is for other guys--suggests that unless he finds religion (cash incentive) he won't work hard enough to re-invent his game (and himself) as necessary.