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.

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