With the 2019-20 NHL season on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic (here’s the latest update on where things stand), we’ve started the NHL Viewers Club, highlighting the most rewatchable games from this season — such as when EBUG David Ayres beat the Maple Leafs — along with some cool hockey documentaries. So far, that has included “Big Shot” — covering the fraudulent purchase of the New York Islanders — as well as “Kings Ransom,” which explored the events leading to Wayne Gretzky‘s trade to the Los Angeles Kings.
Today, we’re turning back the clock to 1992, for an episode of “Full House” titled “Nice Guys Finish First,” which includes one of the most famous charity hockey events of that pivotal year.
Describe this episode in 10 words or fewer:
Emily Kaplan: Lori Loughlin briefly likable again as Aunt Becky, closet puckhead.
Greg Wyshynski: College sports failure leads to adult traumatization? Cut! It! Out!
Favorite piece of hockey nostalgia?
Kaplan: “Uncle Joey” (Dave Coulier) is a noted Detroit Red Wings fan. The actor wore a Steve Yzerman jersey during a skit on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in 2016. And in March, Coulier and Jeff Daniels were actually invited into the Red Wings’ locker room — one of the final games before the season paused — to announce the Red Wings’ lineup. Coulier uses any excuse in this series to sport Red Wings gear, including a T-shirt jersey at the family picnic in the opening-credits montage.
In this episode, I liked the oversized Detroit sweater and red sweatpants he wore during the family’s free skate session. I found this fun interview with Coulier from 2014 when he explained why he could pull this off, and it’s very ’90s: “When ‘Full House’ started, I just wanted to work that into the show,” Coulier said. “And back then, you didn’t have to pay all these royalty fees to the NHL or the owners, and you could just wear what you wanted. So, I just worked that in and I knew if I wore it in the opening titles it would run for every show if the show got picked up.”
According to Coulier, the Ilitches — owners of the Red Wings — have thanked him “many times” for the free publicity.
Wyshynski: First, let it be known that Iceoplex does in fact exist, although it’s been renamed Solar4America at Fremont and is an official practice rink for the San Jose Sharks.
But I’m going to go with the goaltending by the loathsome “Stonewall” Binkley, who admittedly has a dope mask.
Tomorrow, the ultimate showdown: Stonewall Binkley vs. Joey Gladstone on the NHL Pause Viewer’s Club. pic.twitter.com/1ZX5DJ0RR2
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 2, 2020
Look at his form on that penalty shot. This episode dropped in 1992, when the NHL save percentage was .888. Modern goaltending was still in its infancy when it came to form and technique. It was closer to the — let’s call it “generous” — netminding we saw in the 1980s.
While acknowledging this is a beer leaguer and not Patrick Roy, I have no idea what Binkley is doing on that penalty shot. The entire right side of the net was abandoned. The way the scene is cut — by Joel Zwick, who later directed “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” no less — you can’t tell if Joey deked him or just shot the puck as Binkley flailed to his right. But for a guy who talked so much trash, “Stonewall” crumbled. His mask should be an open window instead of a wall.
Worst hockey cliché?
Kaplan: It’s a running gag in the episode that Uncle Jesse is clueless about hockey. He’s supposed to be doing play-by-play for the charity game, but totally gets bailed out by his wife, Becky, who clearly is far more knowledgeable with lines like, “he’s stickhandling beautifully, making crisp passes, hard, clean checks.”
Jesse’s hockey naivete creates easy punch lines, but also oversimplifies the brutish nature of the sport. The two worst examples: When he describes the sport as “a bunch of toothless guys hitting a round thing into a net thing, piece of cake.” Later, while calling the game, Jesse says, “I wonder if fighting is allowed in hockey?” as he flips through his rule book.
Wyshynski: That hockey is better when it’s “nice.” Seriously, Michelle Tanner: Way to totally ruin what could have been the most intense charity hockey game in the history of Bay City! Gladstone was about to punch the opposing goalie in the face!
At least Joey comes to his senses about playing “nicely” later in the game, telling this little killjoy that he promised not to be a “meanie,” but he can’t play hockey like a “weenie,” so would Michelle mind if he was an “in-betweenie?” In the end, Joey takes a victory lap with Michelle on his shoulders rather than lifting her in the air like the Stanley Cup, which might be the biggest disappointment of the episode, if we’re being honest.
Favorite on-ice moment?
Kaplan: Aunt Becky’s call after Uncle Joey scores on the penalty shot — “Do you believe in miracles?” — kind of killed me.
Al Michaels had one of the best sports calls in history during the 1980 USA-USSR Olympic hockey game, but one of the reasons it’s so enduring is because the pop culture applications are endless.
Wyshynski: Since “on-ice moment” isn’t limited to hockey, that bit they did where Danny Tanner tells Uncle Jesse — who is doing splits in his jeans on the ice because he can’t really skate — that he might be “a little rusty.” They then cut to a stunt double doing a triple axel while Danny does a voiceover. So you have a legit laugh on a sight gag and a brief whiff of nostalgia for Bob Saget’s run on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” (Demerits, however, for not having Uncle Jesse take a skates-over-coif tumble over the boards in a later scene, but rather just have him run into the glass.)
Which T.G.I.F. lineup character do you wish could have been in this episode?
Kaplan: My older sister Leah and I loved “Full House,” but we equally adored “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (the Melissa Joan Hart version, though we were avid readers of Archie comic books as well). So give me Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda as ringers for one of the hockey teams. These ladies are witches who have lived over 600 years; that’s plenty of time to learn how to play hockey and school some of these mortal fools.
Wyshynski: Take every single scene with Uncle Jesse, replace him with Steve Urkel from “Family Matters,” and it’s possible you have the greatest hockey-centric episode in the history of “Full House,” if you don’t have it already.
Any lingering questions after watching?
Kaplan: If this episode had been filmed a few years later, could it have included a cameo by Valeri Bure (former NHL forward and brother of Pavel)? Valeri married Candace Cameron, the actress who plays D.J. Tanner, in 1996. The couple met — ironically? — at a charity hockey game in which Coulier was playing.
Here’s how Candace described it in a Huffington Post Live interview in 2014: “He invited me to the game, he invited the whole cast, and I went with Lori Loughlin and we sat there and were looking at these two really cute boys — two cute men, I guess — on the ice, and I was like, ‘I want to meet that one, the blond one,’ which was Val. And that was it.”
Wyshynski: I’ve got a few:
What college has a “state championship” for hockey?
Who were the other celebrities on the Bay Area team?
Greatest sitcom dog ever: Comet or Tiger from “The Brady Bunch?”
What kind of radio station in San Francisco dedicates an afternoon of programming to play-by-play of a charity hockey game?
Are there even weekend hosts on KFLH?
Did Upper Deck get the exposure they were looking for in sponsoring a celebrity charity hockey team in an arena of about 100 people?
Why did Joey, a die-hard Red Wings fan, wear No. 38? Were Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 19 spoken for? Only three Red Wings had worn No. 38 by 1992; was he a huge Murray Eaves Jeff Brubaker or Scott King fan?
Finally, was Weekly World News — where Michelle reads about the “goat boy” early in the episode — smart to stop publishing in 2007 before the steep decline of print journalism, or stupid to have left supermarket checkout lines before conspiracy theories became coin of the realm in American culture?