Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The NHL's Everyman hits a grand

If you have tickets for the game at the old barn on Thursday night, I'd like to ask a personal favor: please do everything possible to be at your seats by 7:03.

That's when a very good man is going to be honored for reaching a major milestone.

Mike Sillinger plays his 1,000th NHL regular season game on Thursday when the Islanders host Tampa Bay. Mike will be joined by his wife Karla and sons Owen, Lukas and Cole for a brief and classy ceremony. There will be presentations by Garth Snow and Chris Dey, representing Islanders management, Billy Guerin on behalf of all of Sillinger's teammates and Jim Gregory for the NHL.

The biggest gift all of the Sillingers could ever receieve, of course, is a standing ovation.

What a career Silli has had. We all know about the many trades he's been a part of, but have you ever really taken a long look at his career stats? Do you realize that when he finishes the current regular season with the Islanders, Mike will have been with the Islanders for more games than any of the other franchises he's been with?

I'll be frank. There have been a few players in this league whose names are attached to the tag "much-travelled" and I can understand why. But Sillinger? Good guy, funny, sincere, selfless. Makes no sense at all.

I spoke with one of those big-time connected Canadian TV broadcasters tonight to make sure there wasn't something horrible about Sillinger I've missed. I was set straight.

"For Sillinger, all the trades have nothing to do with him being a bad guy or anything," my source said. "He's always had a good attitude about moving around - that other teams have simply wanted him - and he's right. The only thing he's been guilty of is being the perfect in-season acquisition: experienced, solid in both ends, brilliant on faceoffs. He can score some goals for you and he's a coach's dream."

Among the many things to love about Sillinger, he comes across like he grew up around the block from you, no matter where you are in North America. He gives it out and takes it with the best of them.

A few weeks ago I was with the team on a road trip. When we arrived at the rink for practice, I let everybody get off the bus before I got up. Sillinger, the last player to depart, walked by and asked me if everything was all right.

"Oh yeah, thanks Mike," I said. "I usually like to have the athletes get off the bus first, so now it's okay for you and me to leave." That got a laugh out of Guerin.

Mike Sillinger, the NHL's Everyman, plays his 1000th NHL game on Thursday. Do your part to give him the kind of night Mike, Karla and the kids deserve.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

So Ricky, what happened?

I figured at some point with this blog I'd clue readers in to what happens with the media in the locker room after a game. What better game to use as an illustration than last night's?

NHL rules dictate that your dressing room must be opened to the media within five minutes of the end of the game. Before the lockout the NHL rule was ten minutes. Now it's five. In the business it's called a "cooling period," as in the players have five minutes to cool off before the inquisition. They sometimes have a little more time because if the game is close, the writers take a little longer to compose their stories before making the pilgrimmage from the Coliseum press box to the locker room hallway.

Alas, that wasn't a problem last night.

Don't for a second think I'm trying to make this sound like brain surgery. It's not even Algebra, another thing I was never very good at. But here's how we make our players available to the media.

NHL rules say that all players must be accessible to the press post-game, but let's face it: on most games the reporters really want to hear from just 3-5 players plus the head coach. Rules also dictate that reporters have access anywhere in the locker room facility except for the trainer's room and the bathroom/shower area. Our preference is whenever possible to keep the interviews in the main area and not where the players have their post-game workouts. With all the treadmills, arcs and bikes and all the weights being thrown around, it can be dangerous in there.

So with about five minutes left in the game, Corey Witt jots the numbers of the players we expect will be requested by the media on the locker room board. The message my staff is sending is for those chosen players to do their best to stick around the main dressing room so can meet our media requirements. I'm happy to say we have a very cooperative group this season. Last night proves it.

On Saturday reporters got Rick DiPietro five minutes after the final horn sounded. (As I tell the players in my media talks, there's no business like it where five minutes after a tough day at the office, a dozen people with microphones and notebooks are asking you about it). Cynics can say it comes with the territory, but I still think the professionalism should be respected.

Rick answered each of the half-dozen questions with as much grace as you could probably expect. The goalie was followed by Mike Sillinger, whom the media has come to rely on as a good man for perspective in situations like this. Then came Bill Guerin, who knows facing the music is a big part of being the captain.

The press corps last night seemed satisfied with the trio of players, so Corey went to get Ted Nolan and the coach was in his post-game press conference room two minutes after Guerin. So last night if you were John Jeansonne, filling in for Greg Logan at Newsday, you had all the quotes you needed from three Islanders players and the head coach within 20 minutes of the end of the game.

I'm not sure how that compares to other leagues. Okay, actually I do, but there's no point going there. This is how it works in the NHL, and I thought you should know.

Here's hoping we're done in 20 minutes on Thursday, but this time it's after a win.

Friday, October 26, 2007

P.A.R.K. in the USA

One of the great things about this job is you never know where it will take you.

This morning I was with Richard Park at SUNY-Stony Brook. Richard was given the honor of being the keynote speaker when more than 100 people took the oath to become citizens of the United States of America.

Richard has quite a story to tell: Born in Seoul, South Korea, moved to the hockey hotbed known as California with his family when he was 3, excelled enough at the game that at age 13 he moved with his sister (then 19) to the suburbs of Toronto to chase his dream of playing in the NHL. He'll play his 500th game this season.

And that's just the short version.

Richard took on the assignment of speaking at this morning's Citizenship Celebration with the zeal he displays every time he steps on the ice. He made it look easy, despite it being the first time he's ever come close to giving a talk of this magnitude. Know this: he wrote the entire speech on his own and hit the podium without even a single sheet of paper. Think that's easy for a professional athlete with a game the next day?

The line most will take from Richard's address was how lucky he and his wife feel to be able to raise a family in America. When it was over, I think Richard was surprised by how many of the new citizens wanted to take their photo with him. He made that kind of impact.

At 10:30 this morning, a suit-and-tie clad Richard Park gave an inspired talk and presented certificates to 100 new citizens of the United States. At 12:15 pm he had on his Reebok Islanders practice jersey and hit the ice for practice at Nassau Coliseum, continuing the pursuit of his American dream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who's the bully now?

A feature by Michael Farber in Sports Illustrated on Chris Simon hits newstands and your mailboxes tomorrow. I received an advance look at it tonight. There's some good stuff in it, but sadly too many times when Farber writes like those guys who skate around and hit everybody from behind.

Many people - "journalists," the people at SI - will argue it's a fair piece. But I would hope even they would understand it's nearly impossible to see it that way when a friend, somebody on your own team, is under attack. Especially when that person did everything he could to apologize for his mistake and - seven months later - treated a reporter with a level of professionalism I doubt he'll feel has been returned.

I'd like it to be on the record that, based on my recommendation, Simon and the Islanders cooperated fully with Sports Illustrated for the article. My approach, for better and for worse, has almost always been to cooperate because it's your best chance to get a fair shake. When you're dealing with a major publication with the rep of SI, I believe strongly that's the way to go. I have no doubt this philosophy will be questioned over the next few days, and deservedly so.

Define cooperation? Okay.

*A one-hour shoot at Iceworks with Chris by an artsy Manhattan photographer who dazzled us with his work on Neil Young and Al Green (I bet those stories were puff pieces!).

*75 minutes of Simon with Farber soon after the team arrived in Buffalo for the season opener.

*Ted Nolan for 60 minutes with the reporter in Buffalo right after he spoke with Simon.

*Follow-up conversations after Simon's season debut a week later in Philadelphia.

Not a tremendous amount of time, no doubt, but from the beginning we made it clear Chris and the Islanders were here to candidly answer anything Michael wanted to throw at us.

(BTW, I continue to not comprehend the question of why the Islanders dressed Simon for the pre-season game against the Rangers. Among the many reasons why I think it's an idiotic issue, his inclusion in the lineup followed league rules. If it really bothers anyone so much, isn't it a question for the NHL?)

Anyway, our cooperation was textbook, the kind all PR gurus (and reporters!) will always say you should give. That's likely going to be a tougher sell for me for a while.

In the time I spent with Michael, as connected as any writer in the game, I asked him - almost challenged him - to track down one person affiliated with the NHL who doesn't have a high level of respect for Simon. The article, to be fair, has at least a half-dozen players, including some foes, standing up for him. No one has anything bad to say. One guy even has the nerve to say Simon was the best teammate he's ever had.

For all the cheap shots in the story, that's all Chris Simon and his family should take away from it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All for the best

To the best of my knowledge, any pursuit of Brent Sutter for a role in the Islanders organization did not go very far and ended quickly. Brent pretty much said the same thing to reporters this weekend.

It goes back to the day in January, 2006 when Steve Stirling was let go as coach and Mike Milbury announced he was stepping down as GM until a successor was named. We had a press conference that morning with Charles Wang taking the leading role. In a major coincidence, the Islanders had a game that night with Darryl Sutter's Calgary Flames, whose morning skate at the Coliseum ended around the same time as our press conference.

A few enterprising NY reporters had the idea to ask Darryl, one of Brent's older brothers, what were the chances of Brent being interested in coming back to Long Island. Darryl, boasting the same charm as a few of his siblings, replied, "I'd have to say none."

The Calgary GM/coach went on to say Brent's loyalties were only to Bill Torrey and Al Arbour (comments Brent reiterated in a New Jersey newspaper story on Saturday). I have as much respect for Brent as any player who's ever worn an Islanders uniform. I appreciate how much Bill and Al mean to him. My only wish for Brent is should he be asked again about his ties to Long Island, he might want to consider mentioning the ten of thousands of fans that supported him for the decade he wore the crest.

(Hey, it's no biggie. He's not the only person in our game who is so focused they forget the people spending their hard-earned money and make the National Hockey League, you know, possible).

Despite whatever may or may not have happened, the cool thing is everyone is where they should be. Brent and Lou Lamoriello appear to be simpatico and Ted Nolan has been a godsend for this franchise.

Last night's game was pretty great. Even for a guy who keeps things close to the vest like Brent Sutter, you'd have to believe a few memories flashed by when the Islanders and Devils were in overtime and every fan was out of their seat.

A FINAL WORD ON TORRE: Yankees brass wanted Joe Torre out, in part, because it drove them crazy how much credit the manager got. Now, by not fielding the ball cleanly, they've made him the biggest icon in New York since Rudy Giuliani.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stanny being Stanny

My friend Stan Fischler was at his Maven-ly best this evening.

Stan was on the pre-game show with Al Trautwig tonight going through the tripleheader of Islanders, Rangers and Devils games. The subject of Bill Guerin going goal-less for the first six games - oh no!!!! - came up. There were so many ways Stan could have gone.

Since I know he follows the Islanders very closely and even - dare I say it - loves the franchise - Stan could have pointed out that Guerin has played well considering a new team and new linemates. He could have mentioned how Guerin has a bunch of points and seemed only a good bounce away from getting on track in the goal scoring department. The Maven could have cited all the deserving praise Guerin has received for his impressive leadership since the day camp opened.

But no, this is Stan. So here's what he says, almost as a throw-away:

"Maybe the Islanders shouldn't have been in such a rush to name him the captain."

Vintage Stan Fischler.

Is there a fan who watched the pre-game show who suddenly didn't have a doubt Captain Bill was going to get his first goal tonight?

Of course, nobody could have predicted Guerin would get a hat trick.

Well, except Stan.

We kid because we love. We could have gone the obvious route and written a sonnet to Stan in honor of his winning the Lester Patrick Award this year for his service to U.S. hockey.

But that wouldn't have been very Fischleresque. Like the Maven, we dared to go in another direction.

Congratulations, Stan. Please, never change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Third Star

He's been with the NYI over a year now and I still don't know Brendan Witt very well. He's one of those old-time hockey players whose communication with team staffers is primarily a look of bewilderment. It's the look that says, "You REALLY do this for a living"?

This doesn't stop me from thinking he's an unbelieveable hockey player.

Witt has been named Third Star in two of the Islanders' six games so far. Both were losses: one for his work against Ovechkin on Kids Opening Day, the other in Philly on Saturday night. Is there any higher praise? Witt is a stay-at-home defenseman who does all of the dirty work and gets hardly any points, yet someone up there in the press box thought enough of him to call him out for a bow. That's saying something.

No one plays harder. When the Islanders are locked in a battle like they were against the Caps or in their 2-1 win over the Rangers 48 hours later, Witt gives more of himself than any player I have ever seen. He throws his body in front of opponents and pucks with such abandon, I can only assume he must like the pain. How else to explain it?

Of course, there is another side to Brendan. Many of you read last year's holiday article about how he and his wife Salima host children affected by cancer at every home game. The Witts do this completely on their own, which makes the gesture even lovelier.

And by all accounts, he's the ultimate team player. When I mentioned to Brendan last week that a major national magazine writer needed to speak to him about his friend Chris Simon, Witt told me it was an interview he didn't need any prep for. He was so gracious, so articulate, so effusive in his praise of Simon - his longtime teammate in Washington and now Long Island - chances are his quotes will never be used.

But I know what he said. And so does Chris Simon. For the latter, that's more than enough.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My game-day Corey impersonation

Usually Corey Witt keeps the fans up-to-date from the road on his NYI Media Blog, but I'm solo on this trip so here are a few notes.

Looks like Marc-Andre Bergeron will sit out tonight's game against the Flyers, along with AJ. What that means for the D pairings, I couldn't tell you. (I don't mean to come off like I know and am forbidden to tell you - I really don't know).

The man walking around the last 24 hours with an even bigger smile than usual is Darryl Bootland, who's back in the lineup tonight. When Bootland made the team out of camp with Chris Simon suspended the first five games, Bootland had a habit of telling Simon "I love you" whenever he walked by. Darryl told me: "Every day in the Show is a good day." Now the man they call Boots has a chance to carve his own niche here even with Simon back.

I guess the other on-ice storyline for tonight is Sean Bergenheim being moved up to play with Satan and Vasicek. Regardless of how the new line performs tonight, to me it's just as big a story that Ted Nolan has recognized Bergenheim's commitment and grit.

It's the Flyers' home opener, so they'll be jacked up. Great test for the guys from Long Island. Enjoy the game.

Simon meets Logan at the Spectrum

It was one of those little media moments that I live for in this job.

Greg Logan of Newsday got up early this morning to drive from Toronto to Buffalo, where he jumped on a commercial flight to JFK. Then he drove to 115 miles to the old Spectrum in time for Islanders practice, hoping he'd get five minutes with Chris Simon before the returning veteran disappeared for the day. For his efforts - let's face it, you could say it's his job, but that's a lot of hassle just to have one conversation - Logan got a lot more than that.

Simon didn't just agree to do an interview, which is sort of a player obligation anyway. Simon went out of his way to make Logan feel comfortable, inviting him to take a seat in the stall next to him. Then, because he has respected Logan's work ethic and fair reporting over the last year, Simon told the veteran Newsday scribe more than he's ever told anyone about the incident with Ryan Hollweg and his approach in what sometimes can be a very violent sport.

You can read the end result in Saturday's Newsday or on

I enjoyed witnessing the athlete-to-reporter respect today. While there's been a lot of excitement about blogging lately, days like this are a reminder that sometimes there's nothing better than a determined and professional beat writer for a major daily newspaper getting a story no one else got.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The day Al Arbour motivated the guy from "Shawshank"

With Al Arbour's one-night return to the Islanders bench just a few weeks away, the Radar stories were plentiful at today's morning skate in Toronto.

My favorite had to do with a celebrity hockey game Al was asked to coach in Los Angeles a few years ago. About midway through the game, Al's team was trailing and he started double-shifting one of his lines. One of his benched players, actor, director and Rangers fan Tim Robbins, finally became exasperated and challenged The Coach.

"Hey, when am I gonna get back out there,"? asked the star of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Bull Durham." "What's going on here"?

Arbour fired back: "Two things - WE'RE losing and YOU stink"!

After sitting him out a little longer, Arbour eventually sent out Robbins, who proceeded to play the game of his life.

So if you think Al's just showing up for a photo op on Nov. 3, think again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The decks are cleared, but is space in the newspapers?

Spent part of tonight trying to get the word out that tickets are still available for the Islanders-Rangers game at the Coliseum on Wednesday. That may come as a surprise to some of you, especially with the Islanders starting well and Drury and Gomez coming to the Coliseum as Rangers, but there are factors. Keep in mind Wednesday could have been Game 5 of Yankees - Indians. My hunch is a lot of fans were waiting to see if they'd be better off at home with the remote.

Michael Coleman at News 12 was kind enough to drop in a line tonight about seats being available; so was Greg Logan at the eleventh hour. I would expect most, if not all, of the remaining seats to be sold tomorrow. The team has also added a student discount for the game, so it's a great chance for kids to see an Islanders-Rangers game at a good price.

Just three weeks ago, what were the chances the Islanders would have had their home opener not conflict with a Yankees or Mets playoff game? Same for Wednesday. Who would have thought it? The Islanders and Rangers have the local game schedule to themselves tomorrow.

A lot of people tell me it's fantastic for the Islanders that the Yanks and Mets are out because my team should be able to get more press. I hope so - it's the silver lining for my friends and I to have to live with the pain of another Bronx Bombers playoff defeat - but I'm not so sure. I called a reporter this afternoon and guess where he was?

On George Steinbrenner Watch on the streets of Manhattan.

At least for a while, the Yankees will be a big story as the fates of Arod, Torre, Mariano and others are determined. That said, as the reporter pointed out, the editors no longer have to send 8 reporters each to the Bronx or Shea, so that could only help the NYI.

The Islanders are looking for a third sellout in a row Wednesday against the Rangers. There was a report on Monday's game about empty sections at the Coliseum that was categorically false and altogether unfortunate. There was one section (by the Zamboni corner) that went mostly lonely because a group was unable to attend. Other than that, some scattered empty seats are what you would expect for a Monday matinee when the stock market was open.

Maybe it's a bit too hopeful for these times, but I like what a friend said to me tonight: "It's too bad he didn't use that sentence to promote that the Islanders Inspire program provided tickets and bus transportation to 1,200 kids."

That's my job. I'll keep trying.

Fire Torre at your own risk

A quick note that's partially about the Yankees but just as much about media relations in New York. If the Yankees fire Joe Torre, they'd better replace him with someone who's as much a PR director as a baseball manager.

That was former GM Bob Watson's genius 12 years ago. While everyone else was saying "Joe Loser," Watson identified that he needed someone who could handle the press (and George Steinbrenner) as well as he could write out a batting order. When he wasn't managing bad baseball teams, Torre was a very poised broadcaster. He knew the game, but better still he knew how to talk it.

That's why he was a perfect fit for the Yankees. That job, more than any coaching job in New York, is about representing the team to the fans via the media. Torre is a genius at this. I've written it before: his weekly stints with "Mike & the Mad Dog" are a master's class at handling interviews. I prescribe them to Ted Nolan a couple of times a year.

Should the Yankees feel the need to replace Torre, they'd better learn from Watson's wisdom. A lot of fans and commentators - including Yankees TV play-by-play man Michael Kay, who you'd think would understand this - seem to believe they'll be better off without him. I agree that when it comes to strategy, Torre is average at best. I also understand Torre can't do this forever.

But the first time things get rocky and the new manager says the wrong thing in the post-game presser and all heck breaks loose, they'll realize what they had in Joe Torre.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

About that post-game salute

Back in June, our new Senior VP Chris Dey wasn't in the job for 24 hours when he got the ball rolling on a post-victory salute from the players to the fans. Garth and Ted quickly bought in and it made its debut last night.

The soldout crowd seemed to love it, if the roar as the Islanders raised their sticks in unison on the blue line is fair evidence. But I'm aware of a handful of critics on the fan message boards this morning, the biggest critique being the salute mimics what the Rangers have done the last two seasons. Let's clear the air on that, shall we?

The Rangers had a lot of good fan-related initiatives post-work stoppage, the salute included. Full marks to them. As a competitor off the ice, I hate when someone gets there before us.

But let's be clear: the New York Rangers did not invent the stick-raise. I guess the Islanders could have gone out of their way to do a variation - bang sticks on the ice, something like that - but this seemed the most effective, the most powerful.

And besides, in recent years the Islanders have been the innovators behind Islanders TV, the Blog Box, Rexcorp Islanders Inspire (close to 2,000 underprivileged children coming to Kids' Opening Day tomorrow as a result), NYI365, the Islanders Business Club, Loudville, inviting all of your season subscribers to a Mets game or Eisenhower Park to hang with the players. Oh yeah, and the Ice Girls. If we got beat on the post-game salute, so be it.

What's important is we're doing it because the fans deserve to be acknowledged. Seems it would be pretty stubborn and foolish to not do something because another team, even our rivals, also did it.

The salute is a work-in-progress. I spoke to Bill Guerin this morning and he was really happy with the fan response. We have encouraged the players to make it their own. If they have a variation they would like to try, we'll implement it.

(Oh yeah, one shot we took on the boards was from a passionate fan who said he saw me and the staff directing the players where to go - as if it wasn't genuine. Please understand that after a player gives his all for 60 minutes and is completely drained when the buzzer sounds, it's possible he could forget where to line up. After another win or two, we won't need traffic cops. And BTW, I wasn't anywhere near the ice. That was probably Tim Beach, and I'm insulted we were confused for one another).

In the end, what matters most is what Guerin said this morning: "That crowd was nuts last night, didn't you think"?

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's OK to have a man-crush on Marti

Radek Martinek must have known when we travelled to Buffalo yesterday that he was on the verge of signing a new deal that would guarantee NHL dough and his place on the Island for the next four years. But you would never have known it. Same thing when I saw him in the lobby on my way out to dinner last night. "Everything good, Marti"? "Yes, Chris. Thanks. Enjoy your night." Believe me, folks, if this happened to me, you wouldn't be able to wipe the dopey grin off my face.

I walk up to Radek after today's morning skate to offer my congratulations. As always, he's putting in extra time with the strength coach. Make no mistake, he was happy, perhaps even moreso relieved. "It's nice to get it done and know I'll be here for a while. I love this team and I love the Island."

Garth didn't tell me what the contract was for - we don't release that, though it's never hard for media and fans to find - so just to make conversation, I said something like, "I'm really happy you got taken care of, Marti. You deserve it." Martinek - his English a bit better each season - says, "Well, to be honest with you, I was already okay"!

Radek Martinek is the NHL's all-time most low-maintenance player. He's a terrific dman, the Island's own little secret, and he just shows up and plays his heart out. Not just games, mind you, but every day at practice, too. Ted Nolan had no idea a year ago who Martinek was. Now Radek is one of his favorites, for good reason.

I was thinking of suggesting to Garth late last night that we hold off on announcing Radek's new deal until the last week of June, 2008. If we kept it quiet until the week before unrestricted free agency next summer, everyone would have been calling for the Islanders to not even think of losing arguably their most reliable defenseman. Then we could have announced his signing at the 11th hour and it would be a time to rejoice. Logan could have gotten 600 words out of it in Newsday. Maybe this underrated defenseman would have finally received the kind of attention he is worthy of.

But when you think about it, a stunt like that would have been so un-Radek-like. When you think about it, today's announcement is perfect: happy but quiet, under the radar, not taking much attention from the team on a big night.

Nicely done, GM. Bravo, Radek.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ted would never pull an OK State, I hope

On the eve of the Islanders leaving for Buffalo, a few random notes and observations:

  • Chris Simon spent an hour before practice Wednesday morning taking part in a photo shoot with a major New York photographer for a major weekly magazine. Si and I spoke before the shoot about how the photog must have been given the assignment of making him look tough. Si did his best to sabotage those plans by grinning wider than Bruno Gervais for the first ten minutes of the shoot. I was laughing so hard, I had to leave the area. They also took some real nice shots of Si with his mentor, Ted Nolan. I hope they use those. They came out fantastic.

  • Fans can expect a reminder website story and Islanders Insider in the next day or so for Loudville, the team's new student discount program. For just 10 bills, you get into the game and all you have to do is try to be the loudest fans in the barn. From what I understand, the team has set aside Loudville tickets for Opening Night on Saturday even though the game will sell out. Tix go on sale at 6:00 pm, but students should get there early. $10 seats will also be available for the Kids Opening Day on Monday against Washington.

  • Everyone has their take on the Oklahoma State football coach going wacko on the reporter at a press conference ten days ago, so here's one from a team PR guy. At the beginning of each season, I present a 3-page document to our head coach of suggested media dos and don'ts. Near the top of my list of don'ts is calling out a reporter for a story you don't like in front of a group. My advice is to do it one-on-one. Now, of course, this is often met with a reaction from coaches and players of, "The writer embarrassed me in front of thousands of people in his paper," and I understand that. Still, I don't believe that is the way to go. And I would submit that if the OK State coach or any coach is so desperate to fire up his team that he has to put on a freak show at a press conference, he's looking the wrong way.

  • Tonight the Islanders had a staff-team event in Bayville to kick off the season. The families of every player and staffer were there. The setting was gorgeous. The game ops crew debuted a video by my colleague Suzi Schopp and the staff at Islanders TV that was inspiring, to say the least. The players all had fun introducing each other. And to end the night, there was a fireworks show. As Ted Nolan told the crowd of more than 200: "I've been around the game a long time, and no one puts together an event where we can all be a family like Charles does." Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and all the new guys no doubt agree.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Talk to ya tomorrow

There's fantasy hockey, and then there's the real-life version going on in the offices of Garth Snow and Ted Nolan today and tomorrow.

It's time for the Islanders to get down to 20-23 players. Remember how you felt when your junior high coach posted the names of the players making your school team after you gave your all in tryouts? Not a laughing matter, right? Neither is this.

More than any season I can remember in the last decade, the hockey staff has major decisions to make on who's getting on the plane to Buffalo on Thursday and who isn't. There are at least 10 defensemen worthy of consideration for six, maybe seven, maybe eight jobs. At forward, the competition was stiffer than perhaps even Ted thought it was going to be. Throw in Chris Simon out for five more games and Shawn Bates not ready for action, and it gets even more complicated.

Of course, everyone will tell you this is a good problem to have, but that doesn't make it any easier when Garth and his staff have to make decisions that will affect the careers and lives of so many men.

The final roster will likely be announced around mid-day Tuesday. You may see some guesswork in the media and in blogville tonight, but that's all it will be.

Tomorrow is really no different than a day when you make a trade. You want to do it the right way. So as much as one might want to get a story out, information will not be made public until it is certain the information has been disseminated to the players first.

When it is, Jason Lockhart from our website team will hopefully remember to bring his laptop to practice and post the information first. I'm sure Logan will be itching to fire up his blog. And, this being 2007 and all, there's sure to be at least one fan who'll text message what he sees in Syosset tomorrow and get it up on a message board. That's the fun part.

The serious stuff is still going on.