- Chris Stevenson
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It is so easy for the mind to wander during training camp.
A lot of people think training camp has outlived its usefulness and its reason for existing is as difficult to understand as a Dominik Hasek interview. Players show up in great shape now and the only jobs up for grabs are on the fourth line or for the guy who is going to wear a ballcap while watching Martin Brodeur play.
Training camp is useful, however. It gives us time between Labor Day and the start of the NHL season to unravel Truth, Lies and Hockey Tape ...
1. Waiting for Cujo: The most anticipated day of training camp is not the last one, but the day displaced goaltender Curtis Joseph, who's been nursing an ankle injury, shows up at the Detroit Red Wings camp. It's expected to happen soon. Hasek, who came out of retirement to take Joseph's job, said he wants to have a sitdown with Joseph to talk things over. Yup, that should make everything all right. Given Hasek's record of slow starts and Joseph's injury, don't bet on the Wings getting off to a flying start.
2. It's been a long year already: It's the truth about hockey in Montreal these days. Everybody sits in permanent cringe waiting for the next bit of bad news. If it's not the goalie getting dragged into an off-ice controversy, it's the captain getting hurt. Netminder Jose Theodore is shrugging off his family's alleged involvement in loan sharking. Captain Saku Koivu is trying to shake off a knee injury he suffered Saturday night that could force him to miss the start of the season. And Chad Kilger is recovering from a serious eye injury. What's next? The Bell Centre runs out of hot dogs?
3. The truth is always the first casualty: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Owen Nolan told a Toronto radio reporter he has a bulging disc in his back that could "explode" at any minute and only surgery could correct the problem. The next day, Nolan said he was joking and he's 100 percent healthy. Just goes to show you it might only be training camp, but they are in playoff form when it comes to discussing injuries.
4. Not-so-lucky Pierre: There is no avoiding it. There is no easy answer for the Dallas Stars when it comes to center Pierre Turgeon. Still on the hook for $20 million over the next three years, the Stars can't trade him and couldn't dump him on waivers. A lot of Dallas fans are going to see him as the reason the club couldn't hang onto defenseman Derian Hatcher, who bolted for Detroit. A Detroit-Dallas meeting in the playoffs could be interesting.
5. Gordie Howe would still hurt you: In an effort to cut down the impact of blows to the head, all NHL players will be wearing the same soft-capped elbow pads this season. There is some grumbling from some players as they adjust to the new gear during camp. Truth is, the grumbling will stop the first time they go into a corner with Hatcher.
1. Training camp is pretty much a waste of everybody's time: Unless your name is Peter Forsberg, missing training camp is not a good idea. Players who miss training camp usually never recover and go on to have seasons marred by either injury or poor performance. That doesn't bode well for people who have Mike Comrie, Marian Gaborik or Martin Havlat in their hockey pools. Hope you have a trade window.
2. Do the math: This training camp seems to be less about getting ready for the season and more about getting ready for a lockout a year from now. There is a lot of information being thrown out there in the lead up to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on Sept. 15, 2004. The NHL's teams apparently lost a combined $300 million last year. In a related story, the league's teams are rumored to have put together a $300-million war chest in preparation for next fall. Hmm.
3. Dan's The Man: After a couple of years of backing Dan Cloutier as their No. 1 goaltender, the Vancouver Canucks went out and got Johan Hedberg from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cloutier is still touted as the No. 1 in Vancouver. Don't believe it. Hedberg sparked the Pens in the playoffs a couple of years ago, and he'll be doing the same for the Canucks come spring.
4. Boys will be boys ... or not: The Toronto Maple Leafs are often the center of controversy -- on the ice. But off the ice? During training camp? In Sweden? After a team dinner, a headline in one Swedish daily the next day was "They Acted Like Pigs." Two players were alleged to have attempted to grope females. Both Leafs captain Mats Sundin and the club manager said it was just "an ordinary night at a nightclub." The report has prompted GM John Ferguson Jr. to consider legal action against the paper. "We're going to give this the consideration it deserves because of the reputation of the Toronto Maple Leafs and our players," he told the Globe & Mail.
5. Here come the Blueshirts: This is it, the year the New York Rangers finally turn it around. Those would be the same Rangers who lost Sunday night 9-1 to the Minnesota Wild, the same Wild who are missing their two top scorers from last season.
Chris Stevenson covers the NHL for the Ottawa Sun and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.