Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ryan Clowe Gets Howe Hat Trick

When asked if I think Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player of all-time, I always say, "no, Gordie Howe was!"

How can I say that when I never saw the man play? Because no one else in the history of hockey had his level of grit, skill, and intimidation.

The man did it all: he checked, he passed, he scored, he even fought. Hence, the Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal, an assist, and a fight that in my mind must be won, because Gordie would have won it.

Now, I have never played organized hockey. On the pond, I was a very good skater, a big hitter, and needed to tussle more than a few times because either I didn't like someone else's hit or they didn't like mine. And I could pass.

But I could never score goals. I had two one game, and nearly got a third. But that was a fluke as I rarely scored one and never again scored two.

Because of my lack of goal-scoring ability, a regular hat trick would have been much more of an accomplishment for me than the Howe Trick. A fight victory was not that rare, and an assist commonplace.

I never got either hat trick, but despite the increased difficulty of the regular hat trick, the only one I ever wanted was the Gordie Howe. Show me a guy that can do all three phases of the game, and that's the guy I want to go to war with.

Ryan Clowe is that guy. Tuesday, in front of a non-sellout crowd as fans no doubt were watching the historic election that had a chance to have had the highest turnout in a century, Clowe got the first Gordie Howe hat trick I have witnessed by a Sharks player, and the tenth in franchise history.

With a 1-0 deficit and 2:39 left in the opening period, Clowe took a feed from new linemate Tomas Plihal and put a wrist shot off of Mike Grier for the assist. The score remained tied until the 3:11 of third period, when Jamie McGinn got his second NHL goal to give the Sharks the lead.

Then a mere 2:14 later, Clowe pounced on his own blocked shot attempt and wristed it past the exceptional Niklas Backstrom for the goal. Assists went to Grier and Brad Lukowich, who after failing to score in the Sharks' first 11 games has now scored in two in a row.

The last leg of the Howe trick came 3:55 later, when he fought the man who had blocked his initial shot on his goal, Erik Reitz. The fight was competitive, especially before Clowe got Reitz's visored helmet off, but in the end, Clowe was on top of Reitz who was on the ice. Clowe had the trifecta.

More impressive was the Sharks ability to turn it on in the third period, something lacking in their past few games. They outshot Minnesota 22-5 in the third and 49-24 for the game. Their 49 shots tied a franchise record on home ice and was one shot off the franchise record they tied in Florida this year.

Minnesota was without offensive superstar Marion Gaborik, defenceman Brent Burns, and former Shark Owen Nolan. The Sharks next game is Thursday, 7:30pm PST, at HP Pavilion against the St. Louis Blues.

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