The hockey world has been taught a couple of vitally important lessons this week.
From Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, who is suffering from terminal cancer, we've learned of the life-saving potential of colonoscopies. It's an uncomfortable thought, especially for men who tend to shrug off medical care for anything short of limb reattachment, but the preventative value of this simple procedure is enormous.
And then we learned that if you make your living in this game, you need to get yourself a good agent. It's advice that would have saved Jack Johnson from bankruptcy.
The story of the financial ruination of the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman that was told this morning by Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline is both shocking and heartbreaking. Johnson, currently playing the fourth season of a seven-year, $30 million deal, has less than $50,000 in assets and more than $10 million in debt, the result, Johnson says, of “picking the wrong people who led me down the wrong path.”
Those people, according to Portzline, were Johnson's own parents.
Earlier in his career Johnson had Pat Brisson, one of the best agents in the game, looking after his affairs. But the two parted ways in 2008 and Johnson signed a power of attorney that turned over full control of his finances to his mother, Tina Johnson.
In hindsight, the decision to put millions of dollars into inexperienced hands was incredibly naive. But these were his parents. The two people in the world he trusted the most. Put into the same situation, there are plenty of us who might have done the same thing.
Fortunately, most of us don't have parents like Johnson's. The picture of them that's painted by Portzline's research is beyond ugly. Instead of making safe, conventional investments that would protect the financial future of their son, the pair blew through past and future earnings via a complicated series of risky loans at high interest rates, defaults on which resulted in massive fees, higher interest rates and three lawsuits against Johnson.
There are also reports of lavish spending on houses and travel, leaving Johnson not just broke but essentially working for nothing as garnishments swallowed his massive bi-monthly paychecks.
“I’ve seen lots of instances of parents riding their kid’s coattails around,” a league source told Portzline. “I’ve never seen a case as ugly as this one, where the parents took such advantage of their kid.”
Johnson has since surrounded himself with competent attorneys and financial experts who actually have his best interests in mind. Assuming relief will be provided in bankruptcy, he has a chance to climb out of this hole, save his future and maybe put his focus back on playing hockey.
But his relationship with his parents? That's a tragic casualty of this mess. And one that no court can piece back together.
What to watch tonight
Lightning at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. EST; SUN, TSN4)
It's the league's second-highest scoring team against a club that just gave up nine goals to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, the night when the season seemed to go completely off the rails for the Maple Leafs.
Or maybe not.
The Leafs aren't as bad as they looked in their past two losses, nor are they as good as they appeared when they went on a 6-1-1 run earlier this season. They're something between those two extremes, and they'll be looking to climb back to that middle ground tonight. That might not be enough to knock off a Lightning squad led by Toronto's own Steven Stamkos (who has 13-13-26 totals in 21 games against his favorite childhood team, including a hat trick in his last appearance at the ACC), but it would calm the cries for mass firings and trades that followed the Leafs' 9-2 loss to the Preds. The Bolts meanwhile are looking to rebound from a lifeless 5-2 loss to the Islanders. They'll go with Ben Bishop in net despite his history of problems against the Leafs. Last year's Vezina Trophy finalist is just 3-4 with a 2.99 GAA in nine career starts versus Toronto.
Ducks at Canucks (10:30 p.m. EST; KCOP-13, SNV)
Ryan Kesler couldn't wait to get out of Vancouver. Tonight, he returns for the first time since having his wish granted via a trade to Anaheim—something that probably won't escape the notice of the Canucks faithful. He'll probably be warmly received—he did, after all, play a key role in leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011—but the polarizing winger is sure to hear more than a few boos. "Hopefully they appreciated the 11 years that I played here, and remember the good times," Kesler said at a press conference on Wednesday. "I'm hoping for a warm reception, but if not, it's part of the game.
"It's going to be an emotional night for me, but if they boo me, it'll probably jack me up even more. It's going to be fun. It's going to be an intense night, and I'm looking forward to it."
While Kesler's return is the key storyline, the Ducks are more concerned about securing two points.They're struggling to find their way out of a 1-1-5 slump that was extended when they blew a 2-0 third-period lead in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss at Calgary. The Canucks, though, might be the perfect remedy. Anaheim is 6-0-1 in its last seven games at Rogers Arena.
Rest of the schedule: Wild at Flyers (7 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, FS-N, CSN-PH); Blues at Canadiens (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-MW, RDS, CITYM); Predators at Senators (7:30 p.m. FS-TN, RDS2, TSN5); Red Wings at Jets (8 p.m. EST; FS-D, TSN3); Coyotes at Stars (8:30 p.m. EST; FS-A, FS-SW); Capitals at Avalanche (9 p.m. EST; SN360, CSN-DC; ALT); Blackhawks at Flames (9 p.m. EST; CSN-CH; SNF); Hurricanes at Kings (10:30 p.m. EST; FS-CR, FS-W); Panthers at Sharks (10:30 p.m. EST; FS-F, CSN-CA)
What you missed last night
• Highlights: The Canucks won a wild one against the Oilers.
• The Penguins got some bad news about winger Pascal Dupuis, who'll be out up to six months while being treated for a blood clot in his lung.
• Boston's battered blueline corps took another hit.
• Syracuse's Carrier Dome will host an AHL game on Saturday, the buildin't first time as a pro hockey arena.
• Running a half marathon is hard enough, but this guy took it to the next level by doing it in full hockey gear.
The numbers game
• The Rangers extended their home win streak against the Flyers to nine, their longest such run against any opponent since Jan. 1990 to Nov. 1992 when they beat Philadelphia in 11 straight at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts have outscored their Metro Division rivals 33-9 during their current streak.
• Canucks goalie Ryan Miller's career mark of 11-0-0 against the Oilers is the longest such win streak against any team by an active netminder and the third longest in NHL history.
• At 30 years 207 days, Steve Pinizzotto is now the third-oldest player in Oilers history to score his first NHL goal, behind Ilya Byakin (30 years 277 days) and Jaroslav Pouzar (30 years 255 days).
• Talking some hockey with Adrian Dater of The Denver Post: Randy Carlyle's fate, the Avs' and Stars' slow starts, fancy stats and more.
• Thinking of throwing your Maple Leafs sweater onto the ice the next time they break your heart? That fit of frustration could get you charged with trespassing and banned from the ACC for life.
• Uh ... I can't go on the road trip, coach. My dog ate my passport.
• Eric Lindros will be inducted tonight into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Is a call from the real HOF on the horizon?