With the New Year just one hour away and the latest Islanders victory just 30 minutes old, let me leave you with one last story for 2007.
A few minutes into the game Saturday (you may have seen this) Brendan Witt was directing traffic in front of the Islanders' goal when an opponent's slap shot got him somewhere on the hand.
Now, as Dubie noted last week, Witt is the guy who says he's okay with pain because - in Witt's words - pain lets you know you're alive. But the veteran dman doesn't usually let you see the pain on his face.
Or hear it. I was standing by beat writers row with Greg Logan and Pete Botte when the puck smashed into Witt's hand. Brendan let out a stream of audio-anguish easily heard upstairs. He even took his glove off in the middle of play to inspect the damage, before growling some more and skating to the bench to tell trainer Garrett Timms he was going directly to the trainer's table in the locker room.
It looked so bad, I immediately called my PR associate Corey Witt (no relation) and told him to go down to the room and wait for an intermission report from Garrett because I didn't think Brendan was going to return to the game.
Of course, Witt was back on the ice with five minutes left in the first period.
After the game, I sat with Brendan in the locker room. He was taking his time, soaking in the old-school victory in front of a Coli-shaking crowd and especially enjoying some rare and deserved media attention centered on fellow defenseman Andy Sutton, who had the Howe hat trick.
Witt was enjoying the show so much he didn't even seem to notice the blood-smeared part of his hand that took the blow. Folks, it was nasty, gross, a bit scary.
"A mere flesh wound," said Witt, subtly trying to see if I got the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" reference.
This guy is really something else. I always thought he was a good player with the Caps, but he's so much more than that. Turns out the "mere flesh wound" was a major inconvenience to him, but not because it affected his stickhandling.
"I couldn't get my legs going when I got back on the ice," he grumbled. Seems from the moment Witt left the game to the moment he returned to it, his rump was on the trainer's table as the doctors treated him. "I get back out there late in the first all charged up, and I've got nothing in my legs. Then it takes me all of the second period to get going. I was all right in the third."
He doesn't get on the stat sheet much, wasn't on the All-Star ballot, doesn't get a lot of pub, but Brendan Witt is never just all right.
Happy New Year to Brendan, Salima and their family. Happy New Year to all of the Islanders fans out there. 2008 is going to be fun.