Friday 02 Dec 2016

Follow the Money
Bob Stark

“My feet hurt and my mind felt like a plumber's handkerchief”

Phillip Marlowe,
in “Murder My Sweet,”
by Raymond Chandler.

Might this quote describe Bryan Murray's journey this past week? As I write this piece, I'm listening to “Austin City Limits,” with Steve Miller singing “Go on take the money and run.”

Parallels and parallaxes: for reference, parallax, in physics, means "an apparent change in the position of an object resulting from a change in the position of the observer.”

Two years after Daniel Alfredsson aka Alfie was born in a land far away, Warren Beatty starred in an intriguing movie titled, “The Parallax View.” The Beatty character, an investigative reporter qua hero, goes deep into the darkness, infiltrating a right-wing nut bar organization called The Parallax Corporation. Its members may or may not hire assassins, who go out bumping off liberal-leaning politicians. Closing in on the smoking gun of another planned assassination, Beatty literally ends up with the smoking gun in his own hands. A subsequent Commission, similar to the real world Warren Commission on the killing of John Kennedy, concludes the Beatty character acted as a lone gunman.

Did Alfie jump? Did he get a push out of Ottawa? Who shot the Aflie? Did he pull the trigger? He certainly holds the smoking gun.

Well, determining who killed his career with the Ottawa Senators may in the end take a Royal Commission, but let me possibly save money better spent on a Royal Commission into the other Senators' Scandal. Let me relay a few historical parallels, in tandem with and beyond the parallax view noted above, to help sort through the mess.

To begin, one wonders what Alfie is thinking today. Trapped in the moment, did he lose perspective, in his desire to play in Detroit with Zetterbug and other Swedish friends? Did he have one too many Absolut Vodkas? Is he suffering a Free Agency day hockey hangover?

“I did what?”

In hindsight my friends, I feel that his 'want to win a Cup' mantra is a bit like my coffee this morning, weak. I get the sentiment. As a musician, wouldn't I love to have one last crack at Carnegie Hall or the Grand Ole Opry? Even Caesar's Palace is a short flight away and in the same time zone to boot!

Well Danny Boy, as the Little People of Ireland know, there are few guarantees in human life, especially without the help of the invisible hockey faeries.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that Detroit will even make the play-offs next season, let alone compete for the famous silver mug. Ray Bourque seems to be the role model here, but let's face it, more an exception to the rule re chasing Lord Stanley. It took Marian Hossa three years and three cracks at it in the finals with three different teams to reach the Promised Land. As someone said to me, if he was seeking the Holy Grail, why would Alfie have not signed with Ottawa and then waited to Trade Deadline next year when at least one has a better idea of who are the front runners going into the Spring dance. It’s a strange decision, indeed, Alfie. His rationale, dare I say tale, reminds me of 'Laugh-Ins' Edith Ann on her rocking chair saying "and that's the truth.” Yeah, maybe, it’s so.

Watching a two hour documentary last night on Apache warrior Geronimo, followed by one on Lafayette, one learns that History is a slippery eel and like Einstein opined in a parallax-ian way, how one sees the world depends a lot on where you stand in the universe.

Like Geronimo and Gilbert L, will Alfie be celebrated or cursed, or a bit of both, even by his own people?

Geronimo, a nineteenth century Indian chief, in a final act of rebellion against time and his inevitable demise, was not willing to hang ‘em up. He escaped from the clutches of the US army and went on the lam, with a small party of thirty Apaches, including women and children. An estimated 9,000 men, US Army, Mexican Army and mercenaries, tried to chase him down, but to no avail until one of his own, an Apache scout, led them to the Big G's mountain hideout and convinced the old rebel to give up the ghost.

Literally, Geronimo became the last man, the last native man, standing. Celebrated and regaled, by Americans, in the aftermath of his final capture, this roaming murderous rogue lived on to take part in Teddy Roosevelt's inauguration parade, as well as many Wild West shows to become. He remained a great American legend.

Many of his own people, including the granddaughter of Cochise, while respecting the old warrior's courage and defiance as well as much of what he had accomplished for them, lamented that he had also caused irreparable harm to their tribe; they never again to return to the Promised Land.

Do parallels exist between Geronimo and Alfie?

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Layfayette, a young, bold, aristocrat, from France, got the democratic revolutionary fever and headed for America to help the locals win the Cup from the British. He became palsy-walsy with Martha Washington's main squeeze, the tree-cutting lad who never told a lie, and "Geronimo." Damned if the colonists didn't hammer the Brits back into the sea and back to jolly ole England.

Lafayette was the general in charge of the American troops in Yorktown, where the final deal went down. This deal led to the home of the brave and the land of the free, except for the slaves of course, but that's another story. Well, in fact, good ole libertarian Lafayette had secured the release of James Armistead and made him a "free man" after JA had infiltrated Cornwallis's camp and spied on the enemy’s forces and plans, thus making JA the first-ever American spy, a black man.

In any case, Lafayette returned to his homeland after the war and thought he'd try a little democratic reform there. A year after the storming of the Bastille, the French, under Lafayette's influence, enacted many reforms. A year later the peasants revolted again; later, the Reign of Terror began and Lafayette went on the lam, captured by the Austrians, and imprisoned in Olmutz, in modern day Czech Republic.

Napoleon eventually secured his release and Lafayette became a member of the French government. A few years later, President James Madison invited the Yankee Doodle Dandy back to America. When Lafayette's ship arrived in New York City, 80,000 people showed up, estimated at two-thirds of the city's population, to give him, well, his Stanley Cup-like victory parade.

Parallels? Alfie goes to America; wins a Cup, returns to Ottawa, as either a player or in a management role, but despite some early success, never quite succeeds, is taken prisoner by the Leafs, but whenever he goes back to Detroit he is treated like a conquering hero.

Okay, that’s a stretch there but not entirely implausible.

Then again sticking to the American Revolution and outcomes and trying to predict winners before the battle begins, did I mention Benedict Arnold? He calculated that the Yanks didn't have a chance at bringing home the silver chalice, threw his teammates under the stagecoach and bolted to the British team. Alfie, obviously from his perspective, recognized the warning sign when the Sens were swept aside, blown-out really, by the Penguins and pretty much threw in the towel and his team under the bus on national television and bolts to the Red Coats.

Well, there’s a huge change in the landscape and the psyche of the city who praised him. I believe the Pope is looking for a couple of miracles in order to make him a saint.

Alfie's eventual legacy may depend a lot on his successors and how the Sens steer the ship. If all are healthy, all might be good and sparkling. If not, gulp, gulp, men overboard and another storming of the Bastille in Kanata.

In the end, the best strategy for Sens fans is one that incorporates the belief that one more year of Alfie the Great in Ottawa might not have done anything to move the goalposts forward towards a Cup.

In summary, it seems to be about status and the money, and maybe only slightly about having a better chance of winning a Cup. It also seems apparent that Melnyk, at first at least, was trying to keep his expenses well under the new Cap. His GM wasn't in any financial position to give Danny Boy two years at 'market' prices and add significant upgrades to the team. Caught between a rock, Alfie, and a hard place, Melnyk's budget, he got the rug pulled from underneath him in the early hours of Free Agency frenzy by the long-serving franchise soldier who felt he'd been insulted. So it has been written.

Alas, regardless of how the history unfolded, from my perspective, isn't that poor Bryan Murray,  stuck at the Forum aka Canadian Tire Centre (Yuck!) is going down to yet another in-house carving knife, just when it looked like Rome, always never built in a day, was ready to rock once again?

"Et Tu Brute?" Does anybody want to look up Dany Heatley's recent numbers? This self-described and self-admitted "selfish" act may turn out to be a blessing in disguise Sens fans.

Get out the Steve Miller CDs. "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future."

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

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