Sunday, September 16, 2007

First impressions (off the ice)

Always interesting to watch how guys are away from the rink. I guess no differently than how it is at the office you work in, you see all kinds.

Friday night there was a parade down Main Street here in Moncton and all of the players graciously agreed to be part of it even though it was optional. It was fascinating to watch how the players interacted with the Moncton community when the parade was over.

As we've come to expect already from his first three months as an Islander, Bill Guerin had the body language of someone who would have stayed until curfew if it meant shaking every hand, answering every question, signing every autograph. Bruno Gervais was, well, Bruno Gervais. I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't come away from talking to the kid feeling like they've made a new friend. Chris Campoli was his usual self, chatting it up with everyone. Jeff Tambellini. Andy Sutton. Mike Sillinger. Richard Park. Miro.

And then there were a few guys who couldn't keep their legs moving fast enough back to the hotel. Make no mistake: they were respectful, stopped for every autograph request, were never rude. I want to be clear on that. It was just interesting to see the contrast between the guys who took the time to, as Ted Nolan said, get to know the people, and the others who were clearly anxious to move on to the next thing.

But when you think about it, that's natural. Not all of us in any walk of life are comfortable in groups. Imagine what it must feel like to be wearing a colorful hockey jersey in the middle of Main Street and have hundreds of people looking at you. Some guys are naturals. Some aren't. That doesn't make anyone better than the others.

I would think Billy Guerin might impart some wisdom on fan and community relations to some of his younger teammates as we get deeper into the season. He comes across as a man who has made friends (and future business associates) everywhere he's been. Heck, nevermind just the players. We could all learn from him.

OFF TO NORTH BAY: Tomorrow afternoon a group of players, coaches, scouts and staff charter to North Bay, Ontario for the Kraft Hockeyville game against the Thrashers. The team is bringing about 30 players for the games in North Bay and Tuesday's game against the Bruins in St. John's, Newfoundland. I'm not allowed to release the complete roster yet for Monday's game, but check the site tomorrow morning. I know Logan was poking around today to get a roster up on his Newsday blog tomorrow, too.

What I can divulge is that it will likely be a fairly young lineup Monday and Tuesday. My hunch is you won't see some of the big names like Guerin, Comrie, Witt and DiPietro until the team plays the Canadiens in Moncton on Wednesday.

I'll be in North Bay and look forward to seeing Olivier Labelle against guys not in his team's sweater. Labelle continued to show a lot of guts, spunk and snarl today. Frans Nielsen, who may play in both games, looks better and better. Also expect to see Aaron Johnson, who played all last season for Columbus, get a long look. A few veteran Islanders mentioned to me today that Johnson is really making a run at a job on the blueline.

Oh yeah, and don't forget: Ted has a no-fight rule in the scrimmages, but that goes away Monday night in North Bay.

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