SUN Hockey Pool

Zize Matters: Re-drawing the conferences

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Stuart (left) and centre Alexander Burmistrov sandwich Phoenix...

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Stuart (left) and centre Alexander Burmistrov sandwich Phoenix Coyotes' Martin Hanzal during their first-ever meeting Thursday in Winnipeg. (QMI Agency)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:05 PM ET

The late Jim Kelley would have seen the irony of it.

In what was a classy move by the city of Buffalo, the Hall of Fame hockey scribe was deservedly honoured by having a one-block section of Washington Street between First Niagara Center and The Buffalo News named after him on Tuesday. From here on in, the chunk of road that stretches from his former newspaper offices to the home of the Sabres is known as “Jim Kelley Way.”

If my long-time friend and mentor was still around, he’d probably react to that news this way.

“Zeis, I find it funny that they call it Jim Kelley Way because, a lot of the time, the Sabres thought I was getting in THEIR way,” he would have chuckled.

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Kelley’s succumbing to pancreatic cancer, an occasion that brought back memories for yours truly of his funeral on a frosty Dec. 4, 2010 day in snowy south Buffalo.

While the list of friends and dignitaries who came to say goodbye on that day included his Buffalo News’ buddies Jerry Sullivan and Bucky Gleason, former Toronto Sun sports editor Scott Morrison, ex-Sabre Michael Peca, Globe & Mail hockey columnist Dave Shoalts and Toronto Raptors analyst Jack Armstrong, one attendee still stands out.

Standing quietly at the back of the church was then-NHL director of central scouting E.J. McGuire who, just a month earlier, had started his own personal battle with cancer.

Most of us who attended Kelley’s service that day were unaware that the same disease was eating away at McGuire’s body. That’s the way E.J. wanted it. Cancer or no cancer, he wanted to be there to pay his respects. That’s how much he respected Jim Kelley.

About four months after Kelley’s death, McGuire also passed away.

And then, on Saturday afternoon, came shocking word that one of Kelley’s former colleagues at the Buffalo News, football writer and friend Allen Wilson, had passed away of leukemia at age 49. Today, with those three men no longer with us, we are all poorer for it.

Rest in peace, gentlemen. And thanks for showing us “The Way.”

ZIZE’S PRIZES

* To The Fine Folks of Winnipeg: A Well-Deserved Sweet Dose of Revenge.

What a scene it was in The Peg the other night. After more than a decade of bottling up their frustrations at having their beloved Jets bolt for Phoenix, an entire city collectively busted out with one giant boo as their former franchise — the Coyotes — came to town to take on their new team, the Jets. That these new Jets were able to shut out the old Jets 2-0 was icing on the cake. For Winnipegers, it could not have been sweeter.

* To Columbus general manager Scott Howson: A photo album.

What better place to put the incriminating snapshots of the GM that coach Scott Arniel has? He must be holding something over the head of Howson, don’t you think? Otherwise, why has Howson not shown his coach the pink slip yet? The Blues, Capitals and Ducks already have made coaching changes this season, yet the basement-dwelling Blue Jackets, as of Saturday afternoon, had not. In the end, neither of the Scotts should be confident of their job security.

* To Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau: A bottle of the same ulcer pills he needed in Washington.

Bofore being axed by the Caps, Boudreau was dealing with slumbering superstars and sloppy defensive play in Washington. Hired by the Ducks just days after being relieved of his duties by the Caps, Boudreau’s first game behind the Anaheim bench saw the Ducks belch up a 3-0 lead en route to a heart-wrenching 4-3 OT loss to the Flyers. The more things change, the more things stay the same. It’s enough to make a man’s hair fall out in clumps ... if he has any. Oops. Sorry Bruce. I feel your pain.

RE-DRAWING THE CONFERENCES

When the NHL board of governors convene in Pebble Beach on Monday, realignment will be front and centre on the agenda.

Here’s a look at two proposals that reportedly might be put on the table:

Option 1: The Obvious — The Red Wings simply would switch with the Jets, with Detroit moving to the east and Winnipeg to the west. There are claims that the league has promised the Wings a move to the east, or at least a format in which there are less trips to western Canada.

Option 2: The Overhaul — a switch from five divisions to four that could look something like this:

Eastern Conference

Division 1: New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers.

Division 2: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets.

Western Conference

Division 1: Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets, Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild.

Division 2: Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche.

 


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