NHL Happy Hour: Chasing Perfection in Hockey Players


What is the perfect drink? I have consumed alcohol in different forms and in different places for some time now. While I do prefer Vodka as my go-to alcohol I have yet to discover the perfect drink.

Sometimes a person will describe to you that perfect drink they had a few months ago at this awesome place, but when you end up finally ordering it the hype eventually leads to a let-down.

My goal to find the perfect drink is a long one and one can suspect that it might never end. The reason? Well, age is probably my worst enemy when it comes to searching for perfection. Age determines more than just your attitude towards life and your peers. Age changes your work ethic and your needs and wants. The way you smell things and the way you taste things.  This is probably the bane of my search. My flavor palate is changing and, unfortunately, so too is my wallet size. I like some drinks and I love others, but what is perfect?

We can draw a parallel between the perfect drink and the perfect hockey player. But while opinions vary and you undoubtedly have formed your own already, let us begin with a definition of what makes something, or in this case someone, perfect.

I guess the first component to consider is talent. We need raw, untarnished, undiluted, and unaltered talent. A good, solid base to be crafted into perfection is essential.  Some call it pedigree. Nothing is perfect when it is just born. You need time. Time destroys and it also creates and builds. A two-day homemade vodka is a disaster, while a 30-year-old scotch is ecstasy.  So to finally arrive at  perfection we obviously need some raw talent, good ingredients, a solid foundation, and a well-built frame. A shot of talent won’t do – we need a bit more than that. Size, after all, matters. Too small and too weak, while too big and too slow are important considerations. We need a perfect specimen here, the Adam before Eve.

What else would define our search for what is perfect?

Attitude and work ethic. These are the qualities that usually define the truly great players from the “just average”. Remember that talent and our raw ingredients are just half the battle. The real perfection is distilled through hard work and countless hours honing the skill. The player’s character must be honest, mature, adaptable, and dedicated. When you hear some scouts talk about players before the draft, you get a sense that raw talent is not the only thing they are looking for – just ask Ben Kerr as he deliberates on dozens of junior hockey players as he determines his final rankings. The adjectives used to describe each player seem to cut right past the raw numbers that they put up during their stay at the minor leagues. There is significant time that needs to be spent on working really hard because the path to becoming truly great is not always that easy and some take short-cuts. When you are talking about perfect – there can’t be any shortcuts.

So while some players rely heavily on their talent to just get by, we have some drinks that tend to rely too much on one or two ingredients as well, with bartenders forgetting to put that care into mixing a perfect drink. The ginger spice can add an extra layer of flavor that sometime can even mask the unpleasant taste of alcohol, yet if one is not careful, ginger can take over and destroy the taste palette. Perfection is the balancing act of extremes, extremes that push and tug each other into different directions creating a controlled storm of pure talent and excellent attitude that give us the perfection that we came to see.

Examples of perfection on the ice? Well there was Mario and Gretzky. While each one had his own identity about his game, no one can argue that these two were as perfect as you get. Gretzky was born at the perfect time and got to play in a league that was offensively friendlier than it is today, and got to put up numbers that we will never see again. Super Mario had incredible skill that was not seen in a player of his size before or since.

Today we have Crosby, Datsyuk, and Malkin as the three players people can argue as the perfect hockey players. Some may argue that Malkin lacks the defensive game and Crosby cries a bit too much, I would have to say that I will not disagree with this. Perfect after all is perfect, so if we have some faults we must call them out. Datsyuk on the other hand seems a bit the opposite from the other two, somehow. He never had the first-pick overall pedigree, nor the hype that comes with it. He did not start to play in NHL when he was 18 years old, nor did he get top minutes in his first year in NHL. He seemed to have had to prove he was worthy and only few saw his perfection to begin with. Even so, it took him many years to get the league-wide recognition that he does truly deserve.  But is perfect?

The fact is that perfect is subjective and will always be in the eye of the beholder. You define perfect within your own mind, and your mind is a filter. It filters things you value more than what others may. I tend to think that all three players are perfect at what they do and what they expect of themselves. Datsyuk prides himself in the two-way game and he is the best at this. Crosby and Malkin are offensive juggernauts that can display hockey sense and abilities for which the highlights reels salivate over.

So what is the answer to our question, “Is there such a thing as a perfect player?”  Well, it can’t be answered because all three have flaws. What we can all agree on, I hope, is that all three of these players at some point had perfect games, perfect moments, and those are the reasons they are being mentioned. Those games where nothing went wrong and these players just seem to take over, to transcend hockey. They dominated the game and carried their team on their backs. The headlines all read their names and the fans debate, to this day, how each player is the best player in the league. Perfection is a moment that sometimes lasts only a game. These guys give us reasons to watch because at any point in time we may get to see that perfect game and be wowed by it.

But what about a perfect drink?

There will probably never be a perfect drink as much as there will never be a perfect player. This is not a knock on anyone nor anyone’s ability to create a drink. So, why not? Because perfection is not something that you can consume over a long period of time. The delicious ice-cold drink with pineapple and with an umbrella is only perfect on a beach setting and there lies the issue – it lasts until the ice melts. Nothing is perfect forever and it lasts only the few moments that we get to enjoy it. This applies to everything in our life. A perfect drink is nothing but a perfect instance of good ingredients captured by a talented maker,  a good place with entertainment, a good state of mind and all of this mixed together performs an extreme balancing act with the result being “perfection”. Such is love, such is food, and such is a perfect hockey player. A star that shines more often than not is as close to perfect as we can get.

At least to me, vodka and Datsyuk are as perfect as you can get.

Feel free to check out my column, “NHL Happy Hour“, and follow me on Twitter – @LastWordOnNHL