NHL headlines of 2006 we'd like to see

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Are you wondering what the 2006 hockey headlines will be? Here is a preview:

January: Seduced by tales of the Alpine lifestyle and tax shelters for their future NHL salaries, six members of the Team Canada defect to Switzerland after winning the world junior championship.

February: Injury fill-in Bryan McCabe makes a genius out of Pat Quinn, scoring the gold-medal winner in Turin on Canada's only power- play chance against the Czechs.

March: Two minutes before the NHL trade deadline, Flyers' general manager Bobby Clarke swings a deal with the Maple Leafs for Eric Lindros.

April: With a shootout win in Game 82 against Pittsburgh, the Leafs nose into the last playoff spot, then upset the conference champion Ottawa Senators in six games.

May: The longest playoff overtime game in NHL history ends at 3:27 a.m., when the Hurricanes and Lightning stop playing and agree to a shootout. It goes 16 rounds before Jay Feaster beats Jim Rutherford on a weak backhand.

June: Los Angeles defeats Montreal for its first Stanley Cup. But Jeremy Roenick sulks when he doesn't win the Conn Smythe Trophy and the victory parade gets separated by smog and bad L.A. freeway traffic. The Cup ends up at a roadhouse in Cucamonga.

July: The Leafs extend Ed Belfour's contract to 2009, and sign his son, Dayn.

August: Pleased at the improved flow of games, the NHL announces it will remove the blue lines for 2006-07, replace goalie pads with Canadian Tire catalogues and ban all body contact.

September: The Red Wings' goodwill training camp in Australia is a success, though two rookies from Grand Rapids are devoured by a croc lurking under the Zamboni.

October: A sheepish Trevor Kidd shows up at the ACC, claiming no one told him the lockout was over.

November: After playing their first 15 games on the road, the Hamilton Penguins move into their new home, Cros Coliseum.

December: Rather than be shamed by the coming 40th anniversary of the Leafs most recent championship, MLSEL cashes in. All season-ticket renewals get a 1967 retro Leafs sweater, a shaker snow globe of George Armstrong's Cup-winning goal and a 40th anniversary DVD of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

Walt Kyle is just happy to be alive, never mind the chance to coach the U.S. juniors to a medal at the world championships.

Kyle, 49, survived two bouts with cancer in his late 20s, and in a storybook ending, married Ann, the nurse who helped treat him during his second round of chemotherapy. The treatments made him sterile, but the couple adopted four children, including Walt Jr., who is African-American.

"Out of this thing, the worst day of my life, came the five most important things in my life," Kyle said. "I talk to a lot about people about this. I tell them that God has a plan and I'm proof of it. I was lucky, really lucky.

"(Cancer) is a life-changing thing. When you're young you think you're invincible. Then it happens and you think: 'This could be over and there are so many things I wanted to do.'

"I'm not going to tell you it makes you a better coach. But it makes you look at what goes on in other people's lives. I think it makes you care about those things which make your guys know you care about them. I think that makes you a better coach."

ICE CHIPS

The Mighty Ducks are rallying behind Sandis Ozolinsh, who has entered a substance abuse program. "I've spoken to his wife (Sandra) and made it clear that anything and everything they need from us is theirs for the asking," general manager Brian Burke said. "Essentially, this is a disease that requires three things for an individual to have a chance to successfully battle it, top medical support, second is peer and family and friends support. Third is determination and willpower of the individual."... A day after ripping goalie John Grahame in an expletive-filled tirade for allowing a soft 4-3 winning goal by the Habs, Lightning coach John Tortorella backed off the remarks and reaffirmed his faith in the Grahame-Sean Burke tandem. But Tampa still hopes to find cap room to get insurance ... Phoenix is attempting to sign former Nashville Predators forward Vladimir Orszagh, but the International Ice Hockey Federation is arguing that he is contractually bound to Lulea of the Swedish League until next season ... Red Wings goalie Manny Legace begins a conditioning stint this weekend in Grand Rapids ... After a half season of being the NHL's lowest scoring team, the Florida Panthers have an unlikely hot line: Chris Gratton, Olli Jokinen and Gary Roberts. In three games since Gratton came aboard, they have eight goals and nine assists ... Avalanche winger Milan Hejduk has recovered from minor knee surgery and worked his way back on to Joe Sakic's first line, with an unlikely third component, Andrew Brunette.


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