SUN Hockey Pool

Who's next after Hull?

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Brett Hull. Gone, not with a quip but with a tear, unable to play in the kind of league he always pined for.

Going. Chris Chelios, who once remarked that maybe Gary Bettman should worry about some ill-defined misfortune afflicting his family.

Chelios is 43 and pointless in what should be his last tour of duty in Detroit.

Another concussion, believed to be his 112th, knocked Jeremy Roenick out of the pre-season but did nothing to still his tongue. "They just love to complain about me because I'm an American who gets more press than their Canadian players," Roenick said of the Canadian media. No Jeremy, we complain about you because you're whacked. And we love you for it.

Alas, J.R. is 35, and a history of head injuries means he's a grenade with the pin already out.

The game is at the crossroads all right. There are plenty of articulate players capable of selling the sport to the public. Put Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby atop the list but save plenty of room for Calgary star Jarome Iginla and Carolina goalie Cam Ward as well as Montreal defenceman Sheldon Souray.

But the hitch is, all these guys suffer from the same strain of sanity. There's not a bobsledder among them.

Who will call out a coach or call his general manager cheap. Who will moan about rule changes and slander owners.

Where, in fact, will the next crop of talkers/loudmouths come from?

Let's start with a proviso. No racist crap. That would certainly remove Roenick's Los Angeles teammate Sean Avery from the mix. Even if Avery did not slur the Edmonton Oilers' Georges Laraque, his remark that Francophone players were cowardly visor-wearers disqualifies him from the list.

Can't say the same for Avalanche defenceman Ian Laperriere who said he was than willing to put Avery's theory to the test.

"If he's looking for a French guy who will back it up, I'm his guy," said the 31-year-old Laperriere. "Print it. I'll be more than happy to back it up."

Now, I'm no fan of fighting, but you have to admit, it got your attention.

Same with Calgary's 26-year-old Andrew Ference who memorably said of both sides in the NHL lockout, "I understand there's an art to negotiation but right now, they're pretty s----- artists."

A tip of the cap as well to Daniel Alfredsson who predicted a Stanley Cup for the Senators two years ago. Didn't happen, but he put himself on the line.

The title of best talker in the league has now been ceded to Martin Brodeur, the sweet-natured goalie from New Jersey who, when asked to comment a few years ago about his affair with his-sister-in-law, did. I think we can all agree, the league needs more Martys.

A ways behind, you will find Columbus star Rick Nash who is smart, quick with a quip and a phenomenal talent.

There is some charisma coming. Twenty-year-old rookie Mike Richards may be the second coming of Bobby Clarke in Philadelphia. Erik Cole, 26, is helping to fill notebooks in Carolina and 23-year-old Slovakian Peter Budaj has created a buzz in Denver with two strong starts in goal and an attitude that projects invulnerability.

Same thing for 26-year-old Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who wears his ambitions on his sleeve.

"I want people to compare me to the Marty Brodeurs and J.S. Gigueres of this game," he once said. "That's my goal ... to be the best goalie in the world."

None of these men, of course, could hold a candle to Brett Hull on a slow news day but there is no sense in mourning the past.

Let's just hope some of these kids go wrong; terribly, terribly wrong.

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MOUTHING OFF

- The high priest of hockey quotes has called it quits. Here, with affection, are some favourite Brett Hull moments:

ON BEING SMART:

"Do I catch flak because I'm so much smarter than everyone else? I don't know."

ON MONEY MATTERS:

"They've got a big payroll here, but I'd be more than happy to help with that."

ON MUSIC:

"I love Barry Manilow."

ON BEING BRETT:

"You know what? I don't care. I'm my own guy. I'm very secure with my sexuality. I can cry anytime I want."

ON HIS TALENTS:

"I'm good at everything."

ON HIS PUBLIC:

"I don't give a (deleted) about the fans anymore."


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