Kirk Muller had many wonderful memories of his days in the NHL, but he did not have the habit of holding on to many moments.
The exception, he said, is his gloves and puck from Game 5 of the 1993 Finals, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Kings of Los Angeles and raised the 24th Stanley Cup franchise.
“I didn’t collect too much when I played, but I made sure to collect it,” said Muller from his home in Kingston, Ontario. where he isolated since the pause paused in March.
Items stored in his home office are a reminder that dreams come true.
“I did what was my biggest dream – to win the cup and score the Stanley victory cup and score in Montreal at the old forum,” said Muller, who is now the team’s associate head coach.
“To score in front of my whole family, which was there, and the fans of Montreal, I mean that these days I can’t have a more memorable moment in my head.”
Muller, like many sports fans during a pandemic, enjoys watching reruns of classic games on television, including the 1993 Hubs series.
He said that he especially likes to compare and contrast different eras of hockey with his son-in-law Brad Malone, a player in the Edmonton Oilers organization, which is isolated with him.
“It was a fun combination to sit there, watch games with my family, and also watch with a player who plays a real hockey game, comparing the game from today to that time,” Muller said.
Regardless of era, the best skaters are the most dominant players
With sports and classic TV games cut off every night, the debate about how the superstars of the 70s, 80s, and 90s would go away in today’s NHL is raging hotter than ever.
Last week hockey columnist Mark Dumont pointed out that Andrei Markov had better statistics than any other Montreal Canadiens defender not named Robinson, which implies that he deserves consideration to be included in the team at all times.
The backlash included a flood of Doug Harvey supporters popping up on the Internet, and many harsh words exchanged between the two camps.
The discussion is far from exhausted, because comparing eras is an almost impossible task.
Over the past decades, the rules in the NHL have changed dramatically, the technologies used in equipment have improved, and the science of learning has evolved.
Muller, for his part, was playing in an era when slowing down an adversary with clutch or hold was normal.
“This is where you had to use all your energy – to fight through everything and everyone, to get from point A to point B. Today, players have the luxury of more free skating,” Muller said.
He believes that regardless of era – whether it be Bobby Orr in the 70s, Paul Coffey in the 80s, Mueller cohort in the 90s or Connor McDavid today – ice skating is the only skill that has always distinguished the best from the rest.
“These guys, who can skate faster than their peers, always have an edge,” Muller said.
“(Modern players) may not have to fight, fight, scratch and scratch to get from one zone to another, but the pace of the game is very fast right now. So the difference is how energy is used in the 90s, today’s game. “
Missing Hockey People
Mueller’s motivation for watching classic games goes beyond family time and weighs in debates about which era superstars were better.
Adapting to change is how he managed to stay in the top hockey league in the world for three decades, first as a player, and now as a coach.
“As trainers, you must develop along with new generations, otherwise you will lag behind,” Müller said.
“You (should) keep up to date and understand new generations and how to train them differently than us.”
Muller did not want to talk about what a return to the summer game for the NHL might look like or what problems might arise for teams and players, because now there is still no clear way to resume the season.
But he is looking forward to the day when the game returns – and he can transfer the conversation from the past back to the present and to the next game. Although he added that there will always be a place for nostalgia.
“This is who we are. We are hockey players. They are sitting and talking about hockey. This is the biggest thing you miss, ”Muller said.