Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nothing But Compliments

People in hockey often spend too much time moaning about what's wrong with the game. You just don't see that in other sports. I mean, there's plenty to rip on with MLB (endless at-bats, endless games), the NBA (all comes down to the last five minutes of the 4th quarter) and the NFL (love those commercial breaks). But people in those sports leave it alone. There is crying in hockey, and it's about time it stopped.

Tonight I come to praise NBC. Larry Brooks calls it the Nothing But Crosby network, but really now, can you blame the peacock? Sid deserves and warrants all the exposure he gets. He's also the best kid around. Have you seen those shots where the game is about to start, everyone on the ice is looking at him and he's by the bench being interviewed live by Pierre McGuire? I'd like to see that brat Jason Kidd do that (oh I forgot, his Mavericks are done).

I've watched a lot of the NBC weekend coverage of the playoffs. Their work has been outstanding. Mike Emrick remains one of the best play-by-play men in any sport. Ed Olczyk is really close to being a really good color commentator. By the time he gets there, the bet here is that Eddie will be back behind an NHL bench.

Pierre McGuire has made something good out of what could have just been a gimmick with his spot between the benches. He acts as a second analyst and provides a great feel for what's going on at ice level. Now if Pierre would stop saying "Edzo" every time he talks to Olczyk, we'd be happy.

If I were the NBC executive producer, I'd give McGuire off between periods and get a straight man to work with studio analyst/entertainer/stirrer-upper Mike Milbury. Give Mike credit: he didn't tip-toe into the TV gig, thinking about setting himself up for another hockey job. He's worked hard at it and has people talking. No wonder TSN has kidnapped Mike in Toronto for four days a week during the playoffs.

The camera angles, the direction, the sound, the storytelling, the graphics, everything has been sharp about the NBC broadcasts. When they've had a great game, as they did Sunday with Game 2 at the Igloo, they have captured it.

I still believe the NHL needs to find a way, any way, to get some games on ESPN. Still, NBC has announced that they have re-upped with the NHL, and that is very good news for hockey fans.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Rangers effect

While I try to get over how that poor Irish girl with the sick tattoo got booted off A.I. for singing my cherished "Jesus Christ Superstar," let's tackle another issue for the day.

The subject has come up in the last week: if the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, would that be good or bad for the New York Islanders?

Many people - several of them even really intelligent - have for generations promoted the theory that the Rangers winning the Cup would be good for hockey, the NHL, the United States of America and all of mankind.

Let me first say this about Larry Brooks of the New York Post. If the other 29 NHL teams each had reporter/columnists on their beat as dedicated to their craft and as wickedly entertaining as Larry, now THAT would be good for hockey.

But it's always been something I think Larry is way off on. Other than the theory being another glorious illustration of New York arrogance, I see nothing - TV ratings, print coverage, merchandise sales, growth of the game - to prove it.

Of course, we don't have historical evidence because the one time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in the last 68 years, our league - oh yeah, I remember now - had a marathon work stoppage.

That's just my opinion on the Rangers' effect on the league. As for the Rangers winning the Cup having any positive effect on the New York Islanders, let me tell you about my drive home from the Coliseum last night.

I had one errand to run: pick up a birthday present for my brother Nick, the Rangers fan. I was thinking maybe something tennis or golf-related, so I went to Modells.

I'm on Sunrise Highway in Freeport, Long Island. What do I see the moment I walk in Modells?

You got it: New York Rangers T-shirts - Avery, Lundqvist, Gomez (oh, that's just gotta kill Devils fans), Drury, Jagr, even Callahan! Then there's my favorite: all the "I'm a Ranger" stuff. (Geez, I wonder where they got that from?).

So I repeat: we're in just the second round. Modells in the heart of Long Island - and let me make clear here that I do not blame our good friends at Modells - has Rangers merchandise front and center.

The Rangers winning the Stanley Cup good for the Islanders? I don't think so.

For the record, Nick's getting some golf stuff - plus a Lundqvist T-shirt (don't tell Ricky).

On the plus side, while the Rangers and Penguins are battling Sunday afternoon, my brother won't be able to watch it. We'll be at the Milleridge Inn celebrating his birthday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who is Tyler Myers?

It's that dangerous time of the year, when people like me - who have not even seen Steven Stamkos take a single shift, live or on TV - think they know which prospect their team should take with their early first round pick.

I really thought I had it nailed, folks. I did my homework (actually, I read The Hockey News and caught some vid of Bob McKenzie). I started to add it all up - who LA would take, then Atlanta. To me, there was no doubt it was coming down to any one of three kids and the Islanders would be in great shape no matter how it turned out.

I became an expert on Luke Schenn. Not for any particular reason, mind you. I wouldn't know Luke Schenn if he ran me over in Roosevelt Field. I stay away from Ryan Jankowski and the scouts on the subject of the draft because I simply do not want to know. When it comes to the draft and PR people, knowledge is not power - it's death.

But Schenn intrigued me. Maybe it was because all we ever heard about was the big 2 Dmen - Pietrangelo and Doughty. Then it became the Big 3 when Zack Bogosian was added to the mix. Funny thing: TSN's McKenzie started talking up the kid they call "Bogo" and - BAM - now he's No. 2 on the Central Scouting list.

Schenn kinda slipped in. Doesn't have any offensive numbers, no highlight-reel clips on You Tube. All I knew about Schenn was that he had the same first name as one of my sons, was a shutdown defenseman, was physically and emotionally mature beyond his years and perhaps as ready as any draftee to play in the NHL immediately.

I started thinking Luke Schenn was the Kenny Jonsson of Kelowna, with some Brendan Witt-nasty to boot.

This morning, we learned that - yup - the Central Scouting Service doesn't even think Luke Schenn is the best draft-eligible defenseman on his own team!!!

This morning, draft experts like myself were introduced to Luke's teammate on the Rockets, the 6-foot-7 raw beast of a boy named Tyler Myers. The CSS has Stamkos 1, Bogo 2, Doughty 3, Myers 4, Schenn 5 and poor Pietrangelo - as if the mono wasn't enough! - slipped to 6.

Seems us draftniks have got some more work to do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chico loses it

On two different occasions, moments after the Rangers put away the Devils at The Rock last night, Glenn "Chico" Resch got upset, venting that so many Rangers fans celebrating at the Devils' home rink was tough to take.

Chico was frustrated, angry, bitter.

Man, it was beautiful stuff.

There was something so decent, so human about the way Chico just completely lost his composure. Is his performance going to win him an Emmy? Never. Were the purists tsk-tsking at him last night? You bet.

I don't care. I loved it.

What was even cooler was how you could sense Chico trying to stop himself mid-thought. It's also possible his producer was in his ear asking him to re-consider a potential meltdown.

Chico is part-Islander, part-Devil. Lou Lamoriello and that organization have been very good to him. Chico is so loyal, he never considered skipping a Devils broadcast two years ago so he could attend the celebration of the Islanders' 1980 Cup team. (He recorded a joyous opening video instead). When you consider all the Islanders and Devils blood in him, no wonder it boiled as Jagr saluted the Rangers fans as he headed off the ice last night.

Chic's freak was a bit reminiscent of Billy Jaffe's anguished cry of "No! Noooo..." when the Devils scored in the final seconds of regulation against the Islanders in the last regular season game of '06-07. Maybe not textbook, but memorable.

They teach you everywhere from Syracuse to Missouri to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting to the dearly departed Marty Glickman's legendary tutoring sessions to be a pro, not a cheerleader.

But every once in a while something happens that makes all the formal training go away. For a moment, you show you're a person with a heartbeat.

Come to think of it, Billy Jaffe just won the Emmy for his work on the Islanders last season.

Chico: even though it pains you to have renegade fans in the home team building, I'll still leave a pair for your family when the Devils play the NVMC.

Just promise me one thing: don't change.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is Sean Avery good for hockey?

Of course he is.

The clips of Avery's windshield-wiping have been shown everywhere countless times, even in places where they don't do much hockey - like CBS-2 in NY.

There were two days between Games 3 and 4 of the Rangers-Devils series. As it is, even with the Devils making it 2-1, the series is still not even close to being the talk of the town. (Oh goodie: the Yankees are playing the Red Sox...again). Because of Avery's antics, they were talking hockey the other day on the Michael Kay Show. And Michael Kay was hosting!

Consider the insane quantity and inane quality of coverage Terrell Owens gets. Now ask yourself again: is Sean Avery good for hockey?

Fact is, the NHL could use more of him.

The next question is, would you want Sean Avery on your team?

To that one, I don't think you can answer with an unequivocal yes.

Avery turned out to be a godsend for the Rangers, who needed an injection of something, anything when they got him from LA for a box of pucks. To be fair to Kings GM Dean Lombardi, that was Avery's value by then. Give credit to the Rangers for having the guts, and to Tom Renney for agreeing to take him on.

MSG was the perfect place for him. Avery's act probably wouldn't play in Columbus and he seems to need the bright lights to stay interested (besides the Garden press machine, Sean is known to have his own personal PR firm). In Brendan Shanahan, a teammate in Detroit, the Rangers had a respected veteran to glare at him when necessary.

It was a marriage made in hockey heaven. Whether it eventually turns out to be the equivalent of making a deal with the devil, we shall see. Even if it does, the Rangers made a heckuva deal.

The question will be posed to Garth Snow at tonight's Town Hall: do the Islanders have a need for an agitator, their Sean Avery?

It's a fair question, although Avery is one-of-a-kind. Face facts: Sean Avery is a big reason why the Rangers clinched a playoff berth in game 80. After an ineffective playoff last spring against Buffalo, he's been one of his team's MVPs so far in the Devils series.

And he's given the series some jam that the league, and New York, really needed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Islanders PR podcast, anyone? Anyone?

So I have what may turn out to be a lousy idea. I'm thinking of doing a podcast and asked my staff of tech-savvy youngsters to look into it.

Basic premise is the staff talking Islanders for the hardcore fan. It would not be slick. It couldn't be with me and this crew.

We'd preview the week, including the team's practice and travel schedule. We'd attempt to do an interview that wasn't run-of-the-mill ("Seriously Garth - who the heck are you taking with the fifth pick"?!) I'm sure there'd be some goofy stuff, too.

To clarify, this will be an audio podcast. To paraphrase Howie Rose, this face was made for audio podcasting.

While we try to figure it out on our end - like how to work in some music in the opening and not sound like idiots throughout - I welcome all feedback.

Please use the comments section for any ideas, suggestions, tips, offers to volunteer to be our engineer and producer (okay, I'll throw in some tickets). When you send your comments, let me know if you want to keep it confidential or if it's okay to publish.



Friday, April 11, 2008

Wednesday at center stage

I really hope those of you in the area can make it out to the Open House/Town Hall event on Wednesday at the Coliseum. Full details are on the team site, but doors open at 6:30 and around 7:45 we'll begin the "formal" presentation.

I'm part of the planning group for the presentation and I can tell you it will be the real deal. The scoreboard will be lowered to serve as a back-drop, like we've done in the past at some Budweiser (Entry) Draft parties. Steve Mears is going to host and a pair of stirring videos will be shown.

Senior VP Chris Dey will open up with a brief discussion of why the Islanders are wasting no time taking their message to the fans. Say what you will, but you can't say the organization is going into hibernation until the playoffs are over.

Looks like Garth Snow will speak after Chris. While it would be foolish for any GM to get completely specific about his plans - "hey, tell Columbus I'm taking ________ with the 5th pick" - a sneak peak Garth showed me of his outline revealed a ton of transparency.

If you love the Islanders, a free event where the locker room is wide open - but better still, so are the plans of the coach and GM - is a pretty good thing, don't you think? Maybe new Knicks Prez Donnie Walsh will do the same.

Ted will speak after Garth. Over the weekend I hope to catch up with the coach and see what he has planned for Wednesday. Ted usually speaks very off-the-cuff and never disappoints.

When Garth and Ted are done with their opening remarks, Mears will hit them with several of the questions sent by fans via newyorkislanders.com. I'm sure some fans think this will be a softball session, but they underestimate us. Garth might not be Obama at speech-giving, but if you've ever run into him you know he can be as direct and chirpy as the guys in "The Departed."

Steve from Clifton, NJ asks Ted: "As a coach known to favor a veteran lineup, do you see yourself more open to giving the younger guys bigger roles next season"?

Ryan from East Moriches wants to know how Garth "plans to address the lack of offense, which was a huge problem."

Others want to know if Garth wants to acquire "a legit heavyweight" and when is he going to sign Bergenheim long-term.

Honest, Garth: I didn't write those questions.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: It's Official!

We now have the check, so they can't ever take it away from us. Hummergate is over.

Just a few minutes ago, three very kind men from GMC/Hummer brought a check for $25,000 to the Coliseum, where it was heartily accepted by Chris Dey, Garth Snow and Chris Campoli on behalf of the New York Islanders Children's Foundation.

Because I know there were still plenty of doubters out there, here's a picture of the check. Don't know if you can make it out, but it says we got it for "Islanders winning the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge." Not the co-winners. Don't tell that to the Rangers.

We'll never understand how it got botched on Sunday afternoon, although I should make clear it wasn't good guy Sam Rosen's fault. Sam just said what somebody told him to.

All's well that ends well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Judgment Day

I'm not at will to release any official news of the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge.

In unrelated news, I'm told a pair of MSG execs and a representative from Hummer are coming to the Coliseum on Thursday morning. And they're bringing one of those over-sized checks with them.

I still haven't figured out how to cram one of those into the canister at the bank drive-thru.

Monday, April 7, 2008



Would have been nice. If the Islanders won the lottery tonight, we weren't going to finesse it. Bossy was going to make it clear Stamkos was our choice.

Only thing that stinks is that our conference really didn't need another potential superstar, did it?

On the other hand, I'll take the fifth. Statistically, there was a greater chance of the NYI moving back a slot to the sixth pick than winning the first selection. That would have been annoying.

I like Garth's view of the Okposo draft choice: "Hey, I played on that team. We worked hard for that draft pick"!

I believe the top 4 will look like this. Forgive me if I'm not breaking much of a scoop here:

1. Stamkos to Tampa Bay

2. Doughty or Filatov to LA [keep in mind, LA reached back for the young dman Hickey last summer and, like a lot of teams, could use a game-breaker]

3. Doughty (if not taken by LA) or Pietrangelo to Atlanta

4. Filatov (if not taken by LA), Pietrangelo (if not taken by Atl) or Bogosian to St. Louis [the Blues already have their franchise dman in Erik Johnson]

That would seem to leave one of Filatov, Pietrangelo or Bogosian (soaring up Bob McKenzie's chart in recent weeks), plus Luke Schenn, Colin Wilson, Cody Hodgson and plenty more.

In other words, I'd say we're going to be just fine.

Doing the Right Thing

The latest on the Hummer Metro Challenge appears to be that everyone has come to their senses. I'm optimistic there will be a fair resolution for all parties.

The way I see it, no one at the start of the season agreed to any tiebreakers - appropriate ones or absurd ones. The Islanders and Rangers tied. As a result, there is only one fair resolution. MSG Network has a playoff preview show tonight, so I would expect an announcement by then.

Prior to next season, the Islanders, Rangers and Devils can agree on tiebreaking procedures and all can be right with the world.

Thank you to the fans who brought this to the attention of the media, including WFAN and XM Radio. Thanks also to the countless number of fans who suggested ways to make up for the lost funds, some even offering to put up their own money. Beautiful stuff. Assuming the Hummer issue gets rectified, may I humbly suggest The Smile Train or Rexcorp Islanders Inspire?

This just in from Sam Rosen: Yes indeed, Dewey has defeated Truman.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Metro Ice Capades (or someone owes the Children's Foundation at least 25 grand)

If you're like me, you probably fell off the couch when Sam Rosen announced after the Rangers' loss today to the Devils that the Blueshirts had won the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge and would receive $50,000 for their charity.

The Islanders, by virtue of their shootout win in the Garden on Friday night, had a one-point lead in the Challenge going into today's game. When the Rangers only got a point in New Jersey today, I had assumed the Challenge was a tie and perhaps 25 K each would go to the Islanders' and Rangers' charities.

Then Sam made his most stunning announcement since the one last year when he said the NYI were eliminated from qualifying for the playoffs.

(This paragraph serves as my official statement that, of course, I would much rather be blogging about the Islanders going into the playoffs than this. But it is what it is. And what it is, I think, is a scam).

You would think there might be two logical tie-breakers - if there was a need to break the tie:

1. wins within the Challenge (Islanders win)
2. Islanders-Rangers head-to-head (Islanders win)

After Sam's stunner - I mean, there wasn't even an explanation! - I called Al Trautwig in the studio. Al was suitably sympathetic but didn't have an answer for me. He said, "Are you officially protesting"? My response was as profane as it was affirmative.

I called an "impeccable source" at the Garden next. He/she told me there was a rumor that it was decided recently that if the Rangers and Islanders ended the Challenge in a tie, the title would go to the Rangers because they had the better regular season record.

Now if you can tell me what Rangers victories against teams outside of the, uh, Metro area have to do with this, I'll give you $50,000.

This is about right and wrong. This is about not laying down. This is about $50,000, or at least $25,000, for the New York Islanders Children's Foundation.

This, my friends, is not over.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No pressure, Boss

The latest on Monday's Draft Lottery show is the general managers will not be in Toronto, but each franchise in the top 5 spots will be represented by a signature player. For example, expect to see someone like Al MacInnis repping the Blues, Luc Robitaille the LA Kings, Dave Andreychuk the Lightning.

As for the Islanders, if they get the 4 or 5 hole, looks like Mike Bossy will be asked to score one more big goal.

Bossy may be a silver fox now, but his youthful enthusiasm for the game and the Islanders remains. When asked to go for the NYI, he didn't even bother to check his schedule.

"I'm there," he said.

The Kraft Draft Lottery Super-Spectacular Variety Hour

I called home this afternoon to see if my family had any plans for next Monday. Turns out I may have to go to Toronto.

As announced today, the NHL is going to take its Draft Lottery show and make it a bigger deal with a slick TV presentation by TSN and also carried by VERSUS and the NHL Network. TSN is asking the GMs from each of the top (or is it bottom?) 5 seeds in the lottery to come to their Toronto studio for the show.

Time will tell if the Islanders "clinch" the 4th or 5th spot. They could also end up 6th before lottery time. The top 5 seeds have a chance at the number one selection in the draft in June.

(This could be the part where I get all PR-ish and say Steve Stamkos is not necessarily the prize, but rest assured any team that gets the No. 1 pick will take him. That said, the teams picking 2 to at least 7 are going to go home with wonderful young players).

For the Draft Lottery big-budget spectacular, I have a feeling the big guns at the League de National Hockey are going to make a push to "convince" the teams to cooperate and send their GMs to Toronto.

I understand the league's stance: this is a big night for the game. I can also see the LA Kings' stance: if Dean Lombardi flies all the way to Toronto, only to lose the top pick, boy would that stink.

On behalf of Garth, I have asked TSN for first-class airfare, a hotel suite, dinner at Harbor 60 and a written apology for any of the network's shots at our team.

That's not too much to ask for complete cooperation, eh?

As I told my wife Catherine, I should know our plans by Friday.