ESPN The Magazine
Thin blue line
ESPN The Magazine, 2002

When Tolstoy wrote, "Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," he probably didn't have the annual tribe of NHL playoff exiles in mind. And yet, the Russian wordsmith pretty much captured the existential angst of hockey stars who sit by idly during the post-season.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

Personal struggle: Finding meaning in being the top regular-season scorer in a post-season world. "I had a great year, but not getting to the playoffs stinks."

Playing through the pain: "I'm moving into my new place in St. Alberta, Alta., so I've been setting up the cable, rigging the gas line for the barbecue and shopping for furniture. I guess that's productive. As soon as I can, I'll get away for a few weeks. It's cold here, so I feel like I should still be playing."

To watch or not to watch: "I don't make plans with friends, but when I'm at home I turn on parts of the games. I try not to make a big deal about it, but I admit that watching at home stings."

Scott Gomez, New Jersey Devils

Playing through the pain: Sitting home with a broken hand as teammates battle on. "I'm trying to stay sane. I talk to the guys on the phone, but I've been in a bad way."

Lost puppy: "I'd be hanging out with my girlfriend – if she can put with me in this state, that's a good sign. But she got a job, so now I watch SportsCenter six times a day. The Osbournes is a bright spot. I'm doing some cardio again so my parents aren't so worried about me going stir crazy."

To watch or not to watch: "Turner Stevenson is injured too, so we watched Game 1 at his house. The last few summers haven't been too long for me, so I'll use the extra time this year to go fishing."

Mike Comrie, Edmonton Oilers

Personal struggle: Rebuilding his ego to face life's next challenge. "Being out of the playoffs is the worst feeling, but I worked hard for the world championships."

In the dark: "After the championships, I'll take a month off. I'll probably head to someplace sunny like Florida or California. Or I may go to New York or Chicago with some friends."

To watch or not to watch: "Even though guys who are done for the season don't want to watch, we usually do. I've been following the Wings-Canucks series. A bunch of teammates and I watched a game in a restaurant. It was good to see them, but it's really tough to enjoy the game when you're not in it."

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Goalie girl
ESPN The Magazine, 2000

Patrick Roy has turned aside booming slap shots but has he ever had to deflect flirtatious advances in the crease? Has an opposing center ever tried to distract him by mentioning his lovely eyes?

Absurd? Not in the world of Charline Labonte, a second-string goalie for AcadieBathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, a circuit that has been a breeding ground for NHL goaltenders like Roy and Martin Brodeur.

The 11-year-old Labonte has been the focus of much attention since June, when she became the first female ever drafted into Canadian major junior hockey.

In the heat of battle, opponents pay special attention to her. "They flirt with me in front of the net," she says. "They say foolish things to try and rattle me."

Statistically, her numbers are about right for a backup goalie on a last-place team. In 22 games (through Feb. 11), she's 4-7-2 with a 4.58 goals-against average and a .855 save percentage.

"She has very good technique and she's very smart," says Titan coach Roger Dejoie. While he doubts Labonte has what it take to play in the NHL, he's certain that she has been an asset to his team. "The atmosphere around here has changed for the better," says Dejoie. "She has been like a breath of fresh air."

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