- Damien Cox, NHL
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So, Mario didn't get what he wanted for Christmas.
Of course, $40 million under the tree is a lot to ask of elves and the bearded fellow on the sleigh.
Then again, this is the time of year to dream. One Christmas way back when, Bobby Orr surely asked for a new knee, or knees. Glenn Hall might've asked for a stronger stomach to keep him from hurling before every game. Steve Smith would have been within his rights to ask for a mulligan on that own-goal that cost the Oilers another Cup.
So, for Monsieur Lemieux, it might not have been too much to ask that the Yuletide season deliver a new owner for the Penguins and an appropriate winner in the Pennsylvania casino lottery. Getting his money out of this team -- finally -- seems fair.
For some NHLers and teams, Christmas came early. Columbus got a new head coach and a new attitude. Mats Sundin potted his 500th goal. Evgeni Malkin successfully got himself out of Russia, and Garth Snow got his dream job.
What else might appear under the tree, and for whom? Hockey suggestions for Santa:
• A hardier constitution for Peter Forsberg: The slick Swede is one tough hockey player, but from his feet to his head, there's always something aching.
• Shrinkage for the United Center: Life just hasn't been the same for the Blackhawks since they departed the tight, noisy confines of Chicago Stadium. Not only is the United Center far too big to create a great hockey atmosphere, but the fact it's half full on a regular basis makes it seem like the world biggest shinny tomb.
• A long, lingering smile for Brian Burke: You're winning. Life is good. Enjoy.
• A new team, a new line, a new defensive conscience for Kyle Calder: Nobody deserves to be minus-23, the NHL's worst number in that category. If memory serves, this guy was a pretty good player a year ago.
• An offer to be a rookie next season again for Anze Kopitar: Nobody's noticing how good this Kings freshman is because Malkin has already been handed the Calder in a private ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
• A one-time only chance for the Senators to choose between Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara, again: No intended slight against Redden, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy and the Sens sure miss him. Chara, meanwhile, is an even bigger force in Boston than he was in Ottawa.
• A franchise player for Wayne Gretzky: C'mon, every other team has one. Yet the Coyotes, despite being mostly unsuccessful since leaving Winnipeg, have somehow managed to avoid acquiring a star along the way. Of course, they did own Daniel Briere at one point.
• A world without hypocrisy for Rick Tocchet: So being a bookie, or an alleged bookie, is unforgivable. But cozying up to casinos and Internet betting sites is OK. Somebody 'splain the critical difference, please.
• Sellouts for the Avalanche: This was such a good story for the NHL for so long -- a long, unbroken string of full houses in the second time around for Denver. Having that end just makes real attendance problems elsewhere look bigger.
• A new group of future Hall of Famers for the Red Wings: For more than a decade, Detroit fans were spoiled with the glittering list of stars who played for the Wings. But so was the NHL. Now, there's no such team around, and it is missed.
• Sunlamps and vitamin D pills for all the North American kids at the World Junior Championships: Until you've seen days on end with only three or four hours of sun (as will be the case in Leksand and Mora, Sweden, this year), you can't imagine the weirdness of it. I mean, we're talking serious sensory deprivation.
• A real award named in honor of Mark Messier: Sorry, but the monthly leadership award? Just too lame, folks.
• An "I'm not crazy, I just sound that way sometimes" T-shirt for NHL vice president Colin Campbell: He's the fellow brave enough to tell the hockey world bigger nets might help the game without fear of getting slapped down by the "purists" in the game.
• A real All-Star season for Rory Fitzpatrick: As much fun as it is to watch the NHL's absurd All-Star fan vote get turned into a joke, poor Rory has to be uncomfortable being highlighted as the NHL's least deserving player.
• Wood sticks for everyone! I think we've all seen enough snappage for a lifetime.
• Imaginations for 29 teams other than Atlanta: When the Thrashers started wearing their helmets backward for the shootout to mimic baseball's rally caps, it was fun. Watching one team after another play copycat is weak.
• Skate weights for Dallas Drake: Stop jumping when you hit opponents! You've only had a decade to learn how to bodycheck correctly.
• A Mike Tyson-like facial tattoo for Henrik Sedin: Or would Daniel be a better choice? The hockey world just needs some identifying mark to tell these two apart.
And to all, a good night!
Damien Cox, a columnist for The Toronto Star, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
Some were lucky (Ken Hitchcock), some were not (Mario Lemieux). But Damien Cox knows what will be under the tree for other NHLers out there.