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Bryzgalov spurs look at simian space death

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov points skyward, presumably looking for spacecraft piloted by monkeys. Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

When speaking to the media after practice on Wednesday, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov treated reporters to a lengthy exchange on the American and Soviet/Russian space programs, eventually reaching the somber conclusion that too many monkeys have died in space. Typical wacky Bryz talk, but the man makes a good point.

Between the U.S. and Soviet/Russian space programs, more than 30 monkeynauts have been launched toward the stars, with a great many of them perishing in the process à la "Armageddon."

In the 1940s and early '50s, the U.S. sent six monkeys -- Alberts I through VI, respectively -- into space, with the first five all dying from either (A) busted parachutes, (B) fiery explosions or (C) suffocation due to breathing the space air like total morons. Albert VI survived his journey, but died two hours after returning to Earth from overheating beneath his monkey fur.

Bryz noted in the interview that the problem with most space monkeys is that, “they push the wrong buttons.”

Recognizing this very risk, by the 1960s the Americans started either rewarding the monkeys with banana treats or punishing them with electric jolts based on how well they operated the machinery. The monkeys had a much higher survival rate after this.

The U.S. quit sending monkeys into space by the mid-'80s, as it was considered passé. But the Soviets picked up the monkeynaut baton and launched many successful missions, and even gave one of the surviving monkeys to Fidel Castro as a present/bride. The Russians sent their last monkey to space in 1997. He died.

The lesson in all this is that Ilya Bryzgalov is awesome. Not always at stopping pucks, but definitely in the sense that he’s probably the only living athlete whose locker room banter can prompt one to scour the Internet for stupid information about stupid monkeys in stupid space. To Bryz!

RIP, monkeynauts. It’s all banana treats now.