This is a picture of new Toronto Maple Leaf Mark Bell. Kinda looks like a mugshot. Ironic, in that Bell will be serving a six-month jail sentence for drunk driving and a hit and run at the end of the season.
Now, I've lost friends to drunk driving, and there are enough drunk driving horror stories in hockey alone (Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, Dany Heatley, even our own Saint Guy of Thurso) to know that this really shouldn't be a laughing matter. What is funny is how utterly stupid Mark Bell really is, and how utterly stupid John Ferguson Jr is for taking him in a trade.
Bell played his junior hockey in Ottawa with the 67's and legendary coach/hardass Brian Kilrea. Kilrea used to tear his hair out trying to screw Bell's head on straight. Bell should have destroyed the OHL but was little more than a point a game player who would periodically do something brilliant (witness the 67's 1998-99 Memorial Cup victory, when Bell made everyone think "God almighty, he's putting it together. He's going to be a star.") Kilrea probably added years to his life the minute Bell walked out the 67's door for the last time.
Bell was the 8th overall pick by the Blackhawks. Now, to be fair, being picked by THE WORST FRANCHISE IN PRO SPORTS didn't help young Mark's development or maturity. However, the 'Hawks didn't tell Bell to assault an Ottawa cab driver in 2000, or to float through entire games, or to antagonize his teammates and coaches, or to (ahem) allegedly make Jim Beam and Captain Morgan his linemates.
It's not a secret around the NHL that Bell is a headcase. Chicago gave him up to get Martin Havlat (good for them, by the way. I'd take an overpaid prissy goal-suck over someone too dumb not to drink and drive any day). San Jose threw him away after one year. John Ferguson Jr? He traded for Bell and his 83 goals in 410 career games, well aware that Bell was staring at jail time for rear-ending a pickup truck in the wee hours of the morning, then fleeing the scene. Well aware that Bell has, shall we say, "a history" with a little thing called "partying his ass off". Well aware that the jail time could cause Bell to miss the start of the 2008 season whether the Leafs make the playoffs or not.
Ferguson Jr is going to throw him into a dressing room with upstanding boys like Sideshow Tucker and hope he stays straight. He's going to hope Bell becomes the 6'4, 220 pound, goal scoring power forward everyone always wanted him to be instead of partying his way out of the league. Newsflash: You just brought Bell closer to his hometown of St. Paul's Ontario. Every drinking buddy he's ever had is only a short drive away. That's not good for you.
It is, however, comedy gold for the FHF. Two days after we give the Leafs the only props they will ever get on here, they totally redeem themselves. God bless em.