Tuesday, January 21, 2014

42 reasons I'm wearing #21 for floorball

A few months ago I started playing floorball. It's basically like street hockey in a gym with shorter sticks and a dimpled wiffleball that really hurts if you take one to the face or crotch. Apparently it's got backing to possibly be an Olympic sport in 2020.

How I started playing is actually related to autographs tangentially. After Arron, David, and I got the boot from the Omni going for the Capitals, we went to the AAC early and before Craig Ludwig signed, they had a demo of floorball. I tried it, I liked it, and I started playing the next week. Then I got recruited to play on defense for the Fort Worth Venom.

Now that I'm a member of the team, I get to actually have a jersey. I debated long and hard about what number to wear. I wanted something I hadn't worn before. So that eliminated 1 (Baseball 1995), 3 (Baseball 1993-1994, Basketball 1996-97, Soccer 1997-1998, and Hockey 2008-09), 5 (Basketball 1996-97), 7 (Hockey 2007-08), 11 (Baseball 1992), 13 (Broomball 2008-09), 18 (Soccer 1994, and Broomball 2009-10), 23 (Hockey 2001-02), and 50 (Baseball 1996). I considered 73 because I assign that to myself in every sports video game (except Madden since QBs and WRs can't wear it; I wear 11 there), but I just haven't been feeling 73 lately.

And so, after giving it some thought, I picked 21. I was going to give 21 reasons why I'm wearing 21, but there were too many. So I doubled it to give you...


42 Trajan Langdon
Trajan Langdon was terrible. Dude could shoot like crazy but he was injury prone. If he farted too loudly, he might get whiplash. He had the defensive skills of a sea sponge, and was generally a liability on the court. He was also on the post-Price/Nance/Daugherty, pre-LeBron Cavs. On the plus side, he was smart enough to graduate from Duke with degrees in BOTH mathematics and history, and is now a scout for the Spurs. And his middle name is Shaka. That's awesome.

41 Nnamdi Asomugha
His name starts with a double consonant, which is awesome because no other names do that, except guys named Lloyd, and former major leaguer Kevin Mmahat. And I named my fantasy football team Asomugha To Mouth.

40 Paul O'Neill
My parents saw O'Neill play minor league ball in Cedar Rapids, IA before I was born. Lots of people said O'Neill was a massive jackass. Lots of people say I am too.

39 Cory Sarich
As a defenseman, it seems only appropriate that a d-man is the first hockey player to be listed here. The Hockey News says of Sarich "Usually plays a safe game from the back end. Owns thunderous body-checking acumen and defensive poise. Has the ability to put his stamp on a game physically. Plays through injuries and leads by example...  Isn't the fastest and most elegant skater out there." That sounds like me. Insert runner for skater, though.

38 Stan Mikita
Mikita and Bobby Hull (my dad's favorite hockey player) invented the curved stick, something that is now de rigeur in hockey and floorball.  Stan was a very edgy player early in his career with four seasons of 100+ PIM before changing his style and even winning two Lady Byng Trophies as the league's most gentlemanly player. The guy played 1958-80 with a single team. No one does that anymore.

37 Mark Osborne
You're probably all wondering who the hell he is. Osborne was one of the first players I remember for the old Cleveland Lumberjacks in the IHL, my home area's first hockey team of my lifetime. Effective checking forward with some scoring punch.

36 Tony Granato
One of the best American players ever. Sister Cammi also wore #21. Survived a crazy brain injury and even played five more seasons after it. Current assistant coach of my Penguins, former coach of my wife's Avalanche.

35 Doug Jarvis
Played in 964 consecutive NHL games. As someone who finds it hard to get up and go to an awesome job on back to back days and doesn't have to dodge flying bodies at it, this should serve as inspiration.

34 Kevin Edwards
One of my first experiences with anything related to school came in the late 1980's when my mom was in nursing school at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH. I'd usually end up at the daycare center there after my pre-kindergarten classes in the morning. Edwards played at Lakeland from 1984-86 before going on to DePaul University and a thirteen-year NBA career.

33 Brent Sutter
Eighteen years in the NHL, two Stanley Cups, 800 points (most between him and his five brothers), three 30-goal seasons, and 40 fights. Not too shabby.

32 Bob Lemon
Versatility was the key to Lemon's career.  He played 10 games as a third baseman, entered the Navy for World War II, then came back and won 207 games over 13 seasons as a pitcher. He placed Top-5 in the AL MVP voting three times and was a seven-time All-Star. He won a World Series as a player in 1948 and as a manager in 1978.

31 Jyrki Lumme
Lumme was my polar opposite: smooth skater, great puck handler, defensive liability, and soft as a turd. But he's Finnish and an awesome passer. I'll allow him to grace the list.

30 Espen Knutsen
Knutsen was one of the first good players for the perennially hapless Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately his name gets unfairly attached to Brittanie Cecil, the young fan killed when a shot by Knutsen was deflected into the stands, killing her two days later. His career never regained the potential it showed after the accident. Brittanie's family has never held him responsible for her death.

29 Iman Shumpert
He needs to bring the flat top back. He had distinctive hair. I have distinctive hair. I know nothing about him as a player, because basketball.

28 Randy Moller
Tough defenseman, and hilarious broadcaster.

27 Sheldon Brookbank
Tough defenseman, though not as tough as brother Wade. Team-first guy, good shot from the point, shitty skater. Career potential, per THN: Rugged depth defenseman. Sounds like me.

26 Greg Swindell
Fort Worth native. Two stints as a Cleveland Indian. Opening Day starter in 1989 and 1991. I've met him a couple times and he's a good guy. Has an autistic son. World Series winner with Arizona. Hoping to see him again in Frisco this year for the Reebok Heroes Celebrity game.

25 Steve Leach
When it comes to the world of hockey fights, Steve Leach was what one would call a punching bag. In 95 career NHL fights, I can think of maybe five that he won. But the fact is he always showed up. Ultimate balls-to-the-wall, team-first type of player. Very few of us can be a Mario Lemieux or Bob Probert in our day to day lives, being the star or the heavyweight champ. Steve Leach was far from being Probert and even farther from being Lemieux, but dammit he showed up and tried his ass off. That's all any of us can really do in life.

24 Craig Coxe
Joins Leach in the willing but not able category. Coxe wasn't much better with maybe 10 career wins, but while he often found himself getting outpunched, he was an all-offense fighter who went with everyone in some absolute slugfests. See his two fights with Bob Probert to get an idea.

23 Jason Smith
Former captain of the Flyers and Oilers, calling him rugged would be an understatement.

22 Cam Neely
I know, the Bruins fans are screaming about how Seabass wore #8. But before the best trade in Boston history, Neely was wearing #21 with the Canucks. Current Stars' head coach Lindy Ruff kicked his ass a month before I was born. Neely avenged it twice in the following four years. 50 goals in 44 games on gimpy knees is pretty good too.

21 Dominique Wilkins
Possibly the most underrated basketball player in my lifetime (please note my basketball knowledge is also bordering upon zero). That's what happens when you're stuck on an obscure and perpetually mediocre team like the Atlanta Hawks. Point out the irony of my view of him compared to how I feel about Lebron James and the Cavs and I'll snipe you in the balls.

20 Sean Taylor
Carpe diem, memento mori. Big hitter. In a big bit of irony, after starting to clean up his life following some brushes with the law early in his career, Taylor was killed in 2007 when his house was robbed.

19 Dan Kordic
There has been a long tradition of Flyers' tough guys wearing #21. Kordic was in the middle of this streak. Brother of my favorite fighter John Kordic, Dan was bigger, with the same willingness to get into toe-to-toe slugfests, but with more power behind what he was throwing. Was in refereeing school for a while, but haven't heard anything about that in ten years or so.

18 Jamal Mayers
Again to THN: "Was big, strong, tough and determined, and also a far better skater than the average banger. Could win face-offs, play all three forward positions and kill penalties... Didn't have much of an offensive arsenal. Would take a few bad penalties on occasion. Played out of control at times. Wasn't a great pugilist and rarely won fights... Defensive energy forward and role player."

17 Sean O'Donnell
O'Donnell was the prototypical defensive defenseman of the late 90's through 00's. In other words, you never notice him unless he screwed up, and fortunately he rarely did. Played until he was 40, won a Cup in Anaheim, and was a +94 for his career despite being on some truly mediocre teams. I fart harder than he shoots.

16 Mike Hargrove
The guiding force behind the great Indians teams of my adolescence that just couldn't quite get that final push to win it all. Took a young team from the tragedy of Steve Olin and Tim Crews' deaths and turned it into a pennant winner in a year and a half. Still the best Indians manager of my lifetime (of course, there is little competition for that title with only Francona being anywhere close).

15 Stephane Quintal
Mostly wore 5 for his career, but originally had 21 as a Bruin. Great leader, excellent positional defenseman, not afraid to throw down the gloves when needed for about 15 years.

14 Bob Baun
Getting hit by Baun was like running into a water tower. Scored a Stanley Cup winning goal on a broken leg. Guy obviously had balls the size of Nebraska.

13 Hector Marinaro
Greatest indoor soccer player ever. Seven-time league MVP, 1,222 goals, 701 assists in 685 games. Tallied the winning goal in Cleveland's first sports championship of my lifetime. Currently the head coach for John Carroll University's soccer team in University Heights, OH.

12 Dave Brown
The best left hand in the business. Here's a few of those Flyers #21 tough guys: Brown, Kordic, Smith, Jesse Boulerice, Frank Bathe, Mike Busniuk, Jim Cunningham, Darryl Edestrand, Bill Flett, Don Gillen, Tony Horacek, Sandy McCarthy, Gary Morrison, John Paddock, Al Secord, Mike Siklenka... It's crazy. I have a Flyers jersey. I may get 21 put on the back with a name of just "GLOVE DROPPER" or something.

11 Roberto Clemente
It's interesting that Clemente's jersey number was exactly half of Jackie Robinson's. Clemente deserves the same recognition but only seems to get half of what Robinson got even though he largely opened the door for Latin American players to be successful in MLB. Great humanitarian, would probably have gotten another 300-500 hits in his career if not for the plane crash that killed him. Topps insisted on calling him Bob on cards for years. He hated it. I would too.

10 Jerry Toppazzini
Toppazzini was an excellent shot-blocking defenseman. He also was the last NHL position player to play goalie in a regular season game, spending the final 30 seconds of a game between the pipes in 1960 after the Bruins' goalie was injured. Back then teams didn't dress a backup and rather than wait for the emergency goalie to come from the stands to get dressed, Topper suited up. In 1965, it was finally required for teams to dress two goalies. If that doesn't scream "team player," nothing does.

9 World B. Free
See #41: World B.'s given name was Lloyd. Cleveland Cavalier from 1982 through 1986. You can't not like a guy who changes his name to World B. Free. Julius Erving said Free was one of the best scorers he ever played with. Also, read the last question of this interview.

8 Randy McKay
The guy had 20-goal potential (and he did it twice) and would fight anyone. Threw down with Dave Brown, Link Gaetz, both Kordic brothers, Terry Carkner, Gord Donnelly, Stu Grimson, Basil McRae, Ken Daneyko, Jeff Beukeboom, Ken Baumgartner, Louie Debrusk twice in one night, Jim McKenzie, Brad May, Darren McCarty, Darren Langdon, Craig Berube, Donald Brashear, Paul Laus, Brendan Witt, Tie Domi... The list goes on. Two-time Cup winner. Graduate of Michigan Tech, my dad's alma mater.

7 George McPhee
McPhee was 5'9" 170. If they weighed his balls, he'd be over 250. For more, I go to a poster known as pockmarx at DropYourGloves.com: "George McPhee was a little guy who had this crabs-in-a-barrel playing style that included much throwing of hands with some goal scoring and effective play mixed in. I remember a fight he had with Rick Tocchet... One of these days I'm going to see some player get in a fight and his nose is going to explode spraying blood and cartilage all over my TV screen. This fight came as close to any fight I've seen where that could have actually happened."

6 Andrew Ference
THN Scouting Report: "Can also play a physical game, despite his lack of size." When I played high school hockey I was the guy that finally got ice when the game was safely out of reach. The one thing I could do was hit though, despite being only about 5'6" 160 at the time.

5 Borje Salming
Also nothing like me as a player, but he's a Sami, and there's a good chance that I have some Sami blood in me somewhere as a quarter of my family comes from northern Finland, part of the area they inhabit. Other famous Sami include Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, and Renee Zellweger.

4 Warren Spahn
Spahn was born 63 years to the day before me. He was my dad's favorite ballplayer. Won a World Series and a Cy Young Award. He probably would have won  more in his career, but the award wasn't created until 1956 and was a single MLB award until two years after Warren retired. When someone names the greatest pitchers of all-time, Maddux, Ryan, Koufax, Gibson, Mathewson, and Walter Johnson all come immediately to mind. But yet, a lefty who pitched until he was 44 with 363 wins, 2500 strikeouts, thirteen 20-win seasons, and a career ERA barely over 3-- all while missing three and a half seasons for World War II-- seems to slip through the cracks.

3 Eric Metcalf
This says enough on why I would pick him. My normally stoic father was reduced to a nine-year old jumping up and down with the real nine-year-old in the house (me) and pointing at the TV, shouting "LOOK AT HIM GO! LOOK AT HIM GO!" when Metcalf ran back the second one. Sure, you could breathe on him hard and he'd go down, but aside from Josh Cribbs, the Browns have never had a player this electrifying.

2 Peter Forsberg
While I'm not a huge fan of him, he's my wife's favorite player of all-time. If it hadn't been for him, she never would have been into hockey, and we never would have met. So he gets a pretty good spot on the list. Two-time Cup winner, Triple Gold winner, Hart Trophy winner, career +238 rating.

1 Antoine Roussel
Roussel is rapidly becoming my favorite player. He's a pest, and I've always been a pest in every sport I play. I deliver borderline hits, I take late whacks, I have been known to slightly embellish once in a great while, I celly in annoying ways, I run my mouth, but I'll back it up if challenged. And I can chip in some scoring and defensive skill. Roussel is the same way. He was the first player to come to mind when I thought about what number I should wear.

21 is also the target number of blackjack. Plus it's half of P.J. Stock's Bruins' sweater number of 42, and many people know that I am completely, unequivocally, 100% gay for P.J. Stock. And I was considering wearing 73, and 7x3=21. Also, 2+1=3, which-- as shown above-- I've worn in pretty much every other sport.

Also, I looked through some historical things: there have been 53 players in NHL history named Drew, Andrew, or Andy. I counted up what number each wore and for how many seasons. The leader was #21 with 32 player-seasons. The runners up were 25 (25 player-seasons), 9 and 35 (18 player-seasons each; Andy Moog wore all 18 of the seasons in #35), and 20 (17 player-seasons).

The 21st president was Chester A. Arthur, who succeeded James A. Garfield, who lived near my hometown. That's stretching it a bit, I know.

Anyways, it just seems right for me to wear.

Also, I'm having them put my family's original last name of Peltoperä on the back if we do names. I figure since so many Finns play floorball, I might as well try to bring some extra sisu to the squad and go by Antero Peltoperä. Why not, right?

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