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The Cornered Coach: Our Bobby Orr

East York Penguins coach Mike Toth and his 'franchise guy", speedy Kei Hagiwara. 

There's an old hockey joke I absolutely love.

Long-time Montreal Canadiens broadcaster Dick Irvin, is on "Hockey Night in Canada" with former Habs great Rocket Richard, who's there to select the game's three stars.

"Rocket," asks Irvin, "who did you like tonight?"

"Well, Dick," replied Rocket, "the great Jean Beliveau is star number three. My second star? You can't go wrong with my little brother, Henri. And for the first star I'm going with Serge Savard, who was fantastic again on the blue line."

"Ah, okay Rocket. Any honorable mentions?"

"Well, Dick, you've got to hand it to Bobby Orr. After all, he scored the six goals that beat us!"

Yes, when you're pro-Habs, you tend to overlook the Bobby Orrs of the world. Of course, I'm pro-Penguins, as in the East York Novice Penguins, and our Bobby Orr is a little guy named Kei Hagiwara.

Like Orr, Kei (pronounced KAY) can do things with the puck that are absolutely magical. And like Orr on that mythical Montreal Canadiens broadcast, Kei sometimes gets taken for granted.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, part of the Penguins program is to hand out a pack of hockey cards to the player showing the most hustle during each game. Every player has a different skill level, of course, and you take that into consideration when deciding on the award. However, our post-game conversation usually sounds something like this:

"Guys, great effort. We have lots of candidates for the hustle award. Jacob, great back checking. Justin, way to go to the front of the net. Cole, tremendous job on defence again today. But the hockey cards go to Quinn, who was all over the ice. And, oh yeah, we should also mention the six goals Kei scored that helped us win the game."

Another trait Kei shares with Bobby Orr?

He's very humble. Orr, in fact, would often hide out in the trainer's room after games hoping to avoid reporters and share the limelight with his teammates. Kei is also a great team player and, even though he scores a ton of goals, he also does a great job passing to the other guys so they can take their own shots on net.

Any coach will tell you that life is a lot easier when your best player is also one of the best kids in the dressing room, and Kei sets a perfect example for his teammates. He's also one of the top 8-year-old hockey players in Toronto, with a number of Triple A teams vying for his services next season.

The bad news?

Because of a scheduling mix-up, our "must-win" play-off game has been moved from March 8th to March 15th. Thinking we were free on the 15th, Kei's parents booked a Disney family ocean cruise, which means we'll be missing our franchise guy when we tangle with the high-powered Jets.

So while Kei constantly proves there's no 'I' in 'team', unfortunately there is an 'I' in 'Mickey Mouse'. 

But the best way to repay Kei for all his great work this season is for the rest of the Penguins to step-up on March 15th and play the game of their young lives.

That way, we'll get our very own Bobby Orr back for at least one more game.


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