SUN Hockey Pool

Trash talkers

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

"Yakety Yak (don't talk back)."

-- The Coasters, 1958

The above quotation comes from a famous R&B group -- not forwards who didn't backcheck in the old, six-team NHL.

At the same time, yakety-yakkin' is, and always has been, as much the music of a hockey game as the national anthem or the organ or the stuff blaring from loudspeakers during a stop in play.

And the notion that it's just a big, dumb jock strapping on the blades? It isn't totally accurate (despite a suggestion of Islanders winger Arron Asham, who earlier this season played the goon card on Senator Brian McGrattan by asking him, "What's two plus two?") as many of them grew up spending much time on the outdoor rinks -- aka the always educational school of hard knocks.

Boys being boys, they still and will forever delight in taking shots at each other.

The wittier the better.

"There are a lot of guys in this league," says Carolina's Justin Williams, "with smart mouths."

For the most part, trash talking is done to throw opponents off their game. It can but doesn't always spell cleverness. Sometimes it's just plain vicious.

When the Los Angeles Kings visited Ottawa for a heated battle in December, all-star chirper Sean Avery was at the top of his game.

"I'm going to poke your eye out," witnesses heard him tell the much-larger Zdeno Chara between whistles.

Players were stunned at Avery's line-crossing. The threat was viewed far more serious than off-ice comments about French players that got Avery fined by the NHL earlier in the season

"What Avery told Zee, I would never go that far," says one.

Meanwhile, the king of trash talkers is widely recognized to be an Ottawa native -- Chicago Blackhawks winger Matthew Barnaby.

"At the beginning of my career I played with Ray Ferraro, who was pretty good," says New York Rangers veteran defenceman Darius Kasparaitis. "I also played with Barnaby. He's one of the best. He always has something to say. It doesn't matter if you played with him for five years then play against him, he's going to say the meanest things sometimes.

"If you know him you're not going to get mad, but some guys get upset because sometimes he goes over the line. I think he's one of the best guys who can get under your skin by talking."

Canadiens forward Steve Begin agrees.

"Barnaby has got to be the best," says Begin, "He's always talking, everywhere he goes. When he's got the puck, when he's on the bench, he's always yapping."

Daniel Alfredsson says talk, in general, has toned down considerably since he broke into the league.

"There was a lot of trash talk back then ... I'd get stuff like 'Chicken Swede' all the time," he remembers. "But it's pretty quiet out there these days."

In certain circles, perhaps.

But overall, it remains prevalent, and even Alfredsson got a kick out of

the give-and-take between his linemate, Dany Heatley, and Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro in New York during a game just before Christmas.

Prior to a faceoff in the New York end, it appeared as though DiPietro, the No. 1 pick in the 2000 NHL draft, said something to Heatley, who was selected second overall.

Moments later, Heatley scored on an energy-charged solo effort, celebrated briefly, then skated toward DiPietro, barking along the way.

After the game, while enjoying the last laugh from a 4-2 victory, Heatley coyly said he was merely extending season's greetings to a player he's known since each represented his country in the world junior tournament.

'LITTLE JARRING'

Later, Alfredsson admitted he heard the comments from both sides of the conversation but refused to divulge details.

"It was pretty cool," Alfredsson said with a smile. "It was nothing really, just a little jarring,"

Said DiPietro during his next visit to Ottawa: "We were kinda foolin' around and then, I wasn't really in the mood to do much fooling around. Worry about stopping the puck is enough to worry about during a game."

Heatley says chat he hears is usually casual and common.

"Trash talking goes on, sure, but half the time when you're talking it's not even trash talking ... you're just shooting the (crap) out there," says Heatley, who now concedes his exchange with DiPietro turned "uglier than normal."

"It's fun to hear guys yapping back and forth, for sure."

Asked about the great lines they've heard in a game, players draw blanks.

Kasparaitis, though, does reveal that the theme is often predictable.

"It's kind of X-rated," he says. "But most times guys make fun of the wives."

If there was a category for trash talking in the standings, meanwhile, he says his Rangers would struggle for points.

"We have Ville Nieminen, but nobody understands him because he has such a bad accent," says Kasparaitis. "He could be up there if he had English skills.

"Our team is more European. I don't think we do a lot of talking, but we still have guys who can say some funny things."

Chris Neil still laughs when he remembers teammate Vaclav Varada telling large Bruins defenceman Hal Gill to "Seet down" during one jaw session. Varada, by the way, is regarded as the Senators' best trash talker.

"Some guys are going to ignore you, you can't get on them, and some are going to react when you say your first couple of sentences," he says. "If I get slashed, I know he's thinking about what I said.

"But it's not just like you're just yelling anything out there. If you see somebody on the ice after (a teammate) finishes them with a good, clean bodycheck, you let the guy know there's going to be more hits coming and he should watch out. It can put him off his game."

Yes, it is the aim of trash talkers to get inside one's head -- just like a damn song that refuses to leave.

Take out the papers and the trash ...

Or you don't get no spendin' cash ...

If you don't scrub that kitchen floor ...

You ain't gonna rock and roll no more ...

Yakety yak (don't talk back) ....

DON.BRENNAN @OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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