Sunday, January 27, 2008

He's a Star

Other than the tweak of the hip and the slip of the tongue, I'd say All-Star Weekend was an overwhelming success.

Rick DiPietro went about it the right way. He was accessible to every fan and reporter who needed him. His work with Islanders TV and Versus brought him even closer to the public. He performed extremely well in the Skills on Saturday and the game tonight. A bunch of writers walked up to me and said Rick had their vote for MVP because his puck-stopping and flair for, um, offense, was the spark for the East as they took a 5-1 lead after the first period.

What wasn't captured by the Islanders TV cameras was the neat private aspect of Charles Wang and the franchise making this the unforgettable weekend Rick deserved. First class all the way.

My congratulations to the league office, the Thrashers organization and the city of Atlanta for putting on one heckuva show. The entire weekend exceeded my expectations.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada

Over the last few years I've watched Elliotte Friedman move through the ranks of Canadian sports broadcasters to his current role on Hockey Night in Canada. Elliotte is one of those people you root for because he's one of the kindest gentlemen in any walk of life. I believe this comes through in his answers.

What's the No. 1 story for the Islanders right now if you were to do a "Headliner" segment for Hockey Night in Canada?

Chris, I don't know if anything can top the Al Arbour piece we did earlier this year, but there are a couple of things I'd like to do. One is Chris Simon. Simon is one of the league's better interviews. Very thoughtful. Very interesting. He's overcome a lot - battles with alcoholism, being labelled a goon early in his career - to become an effective NHL player and an inspiration to native children. There are many people who looked at the decline of the Calgary Flames after 2004 and said the loss of players like him changed them from a brutal team to play against into a soft one.

However, he clearly has some anger issues. Now that the Islanders have sought counselling for it, I'd like to ask him what he's learned, why he's got such incredibly different personalities on and off the ice and if he's worried he's going to lose the chance to play the game he loves.

The other is Rick DiPietro. I covered the draft where Mike Milbury took him first overall - I'll never forget Joe LaPointe of The New York Times asking Milbury if he was insane - and you could see how much the guy just oozes with personality. We did a piece with Mike Richards this year, in his apartment and around his neighborhood. Someday, we'll do the same with DiPietro. He's cocky, and sometimes it's obvious he can barely stand our existence, but he's great for the game.

Which of the two leagues you cover most - the NHL and the Canadian Football League - are better when it comes to media relations and accessibility?

The biggest similarity is that guys who play in the CFL and guys who play in the NHL are the friendliest, most easygoing, most accessible athletes in any of the major team sports. Some organizations are better than others, sure, but these leagues are generally better than others.

The biggest benefit about working for Hockey Night In Canada is that we get a little bit of extra access because we're a rightsholder. A perfect example was last year when Ryan Smyth was traded to the Islanders. That happened on a Tuesday, and we definitely had to cover it even though we weren't on-air until Saturday. We needed something different. A horde of Canadian media descended upon Long Island for his first game against St. Louis, but you guys allowed us into the room when he first arrived and for the game. The piece was outstanding. We got a ton of feedback about those first minutes when he arrived.

I'll give another example Islanders fans would like: Brendan Witt. Two years ago, everyone knew the Washington Capitals were going to trade him. We asked Witt if we could spend deadline day with him to see what it was like. He was incredible, such a gracious host. He put heating cream in one player's jock for our cameras. He sawed assistant coach Dean Evason's stick. He played cards with the trainers. You could see how tough it was for Olaf Kolzig to say goodbye. About 45 minutes before the deadline, reporters started calling him to tell him he'd been traded to Nashville. He didn't know anything. It wasn't for another hour that George McPhee finally could call because the deal hadn't been approved by the league.

You could see how much it hurt him that he found out that way. It was a powerful piece, one of the best I've been involved with.

I have a bit of a tradition: when an organization is really helpful, I buy a piece of their merchandise. (I should state that I don't do it with Canadian teams.) Last year, when I came for the Smyth piece, I saw a Islanders t-shirt with "WITT 32" on the back. I bought it (and actually got in trouble because I wore it while working out at a Montreal hotel on the day of a game between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, who were batting New York for a playoff berth at the time).

There are great stories to be told in this game. Sometimes I think that teams just want p.r., and are afraid of anything that might critique something. Two weeks ago, I did a story about the Red Wings and their attendance troubles. They were nervous, but we were fair. After it was over, they were happy they did it.

If this is going to work, teams have to be open. We have to be fair. Fans are smart. They want both the teams and the media to be honest with them.

After a setback post-lockout, where do you think the NHL stands now in popularity?

The NHL is lucky, because it has some of the most passionate fans anywhere in sports. I go into some of these buildings and see how much they care. I'll never forget watching the crowd in Carolina stand for the entire Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton. I've never seen that before, or since.

The problem is this: There aren't enough of them. In 2004, there more more than 20,000 people going bonkers in the building as Tampa won it all. I mentioned Carolina. Last year, Anaheim's building was so loud I couldn't hear the guy I was talking to at the bench. However, when you left those buildings after the clinching victories, you couldn't tell a major championship had just been won. There was no energy, no electricity.

I do think players - other than Sidney Crosby, who is very deserving - have to be marketed better. But the honest truth is that this is a 40-year-old problem. Maybe we just have to realize that hockey is not for everyone, and we should be proud of what we have. Because, for the most part, we're going in the right direction.

Would you change anything about All-Star weekend?

We've been talking about this on the HNIC crew. Everything should be done in one night. As I watched Rick DiPietro clearly look hurt in the skills competition last night, you couldn't help but notice that a whole bunch of players stood around a long time. You're just asking for an injury.

I'd open with the Young Stars game. The new format was very good. Then, you play the first period of the All-Star Game. In the first intermission, you have your hardest shot and accuracy competition. Then comes the second period. In the next intermission, you have the shootout challenge. Then, you finish the game.

But the players have to give a better show. The breakaway chellange last night was embarrassing. These guys knew for weeks that this was going to be the format. And, the only two who really showed anything creative were Marian Gaborik and Alex Ovechkin. That's not acceptable.

Who are the best hockey reporters in North America?

Tough one, because I read - and like - so many of them. The most connected is Pierre LeBrun, and I'm not just saying that because I've won enough in golf bets from him to pay for my future childrens' tuition.

It depends what you are looking for. Are you talking about guys who break stories or guys who tell stories? Guys who cover one team or the entire league? So, I'll be a big chicken and give you a list: LeBrun (Canadian Press), Damien Cox (Toronto Star), Jim Matheson (Edmonton Journal), Tim Wharnsby (Globe and Mail), Ken Campbell (Hockey News), Kevin Paul Dupont (Boston Globe), Bucky Gleason (Buffalo News), Terry Frei (Denver Post), Mike Heika (Dallas Morning News), George Richards (his Panthers blog is terrific), Mike Russo (Minneapolis Star-Tribune), Tim Panaccio (Philly Inquirer). I'm leaving people out, I know, but this is a sampling.

I was a huge fan of Alan Hahn's when he covered the Isles. And I really like Mike Milbury on television.

If you could do a report from anywhere in the world, where would it be?

You know what? It would be Afghanistan. Canadian troops are there now, leading the mission. I wear a green rubber bracelet (similar to the LiveStrong ones) in support of their safety. It's difficult to explain this because I don't want to glorify war or paint a romantic picture of what's happening. I have no illusions about how dangerous it is. It's just that there are so many opinions about what's happening in that part of the world. I want to see it first hand so I could draw my own conclusions.

Does Kelly Hrudey still talk about the Easter Epic?

Only when he's breathing.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Adam Proteau of The Hockey News

Adam Proteau has deservedly made a name for himself the last few years for his informed, engaging and thought-provoking columns in The Hockey News. I've also heard from fans who were impressed by Proteau's willingness to respond to emails.

He ranked the Tank one-year deal as the worst free-agent signing off the offseason. By the time I emailed him, he had already heard from half of the Country. Not surprisingly, his emailed answers to my questions yesterday are entertaining.

When you write something critical of the Islanders in The Hockey News, how much do you hear from Islanders Country compared relatively to other fans when you're critical of their team?

When it comes to sheer volume of email and passionate responses, Isles fans definitely are in my top three (along with Flyers supporters and Oilers enthusiasts).

For different reasons, I think all three groups detest me equally, although Oilers fans probably would win in a photo finish. I still don't think some of them are completely over The Hockey News being correct in predicting their nosedive season last year.

Actually, I know they're not.

Garth Snow as GM. Discuss.

I admit it, I was one of the media geniuses* who questioned Charles Wang's mental fitness in hiring Snow straight off the roster.

He's proven me wrong for the most part, although I have spoken to hockey insiders with intimate knowledge of some of Snow's attempts to re-sign his free agents last summer, and I do think there were some tactical errors there.

That said, you can't help but give Snow credit; to many in the hockey world, the Isles are a cobbled-together collection of ill-fitting parts, but they've got a good base of youth to work with, and most importantly, they don't lay down for anyone.

That's a credit to coach Ted Nolan, but it also says that their GM is doing something right, too.

(*caution: sarcasm at work)

Who is the most underrated Islander?

Ruslan Fedotenko! (Semi-inside joke.)

But seriously…I think Brendan Witt doesn't get nearly enough credit around the league. He's a minute-munching, shot-blocking, dressing room leader who, relatively speaking, is worth every penny he's paid.

Where do the Islanders, Rangers and Devils finish in the East this season?

Devils fourth, Rangers eighth, Islanders tenth. Sorry.

Any message to the Islander fans who email you every time you take a poke at us?

First and foremost, it's never personal.

I've written positive things about the Isles in the past - believe me, after all the nasty correspondence I've received, I can't believe it either sometimes - and I'm sure I'll do so again down the line. Just something to consider before emailing me with guesses as to my mom's marital status at the time of my birth.

Double-secret bleepin' confirmation

Rick is in tonight.

On his way to a private lunch in his honor, Rick told us he was feeling great by the end of last night and was counting the minutes until 6:00 pm.

One of the emails of concern I received last night was from the legendary Islanders fan Matt K - Mattyboy, Matt the Coliseum usher, the author of some of the most twisted message board posts in the young history of message boards. Matt wished to express his concern on behalf of all of Islanders Country that Rick needs to make sure his priority is the NYI and that he shouldn't play tonight if it means not playing Tuesday night when the game is for real.

I know Matty knows better than that. Just one of those emails you send at one in the morning. The reason I'm so confident of Rick's decision is because, when you think about it, the whole joy of being an All-Star was felt by him over the last two days. The red carpet. The private parties. Hanging with his fellow all-stars. The standout performance and comedy sideshow with Manny Legace at last night's Skills. The game tonight is merely icing on the cake. If he didn't think he should play tonight, he wouldn't.

You might have heard that one of George Carlin's seven words slipped from the mouth of Rick and over the VERSUS airwaves last night. No matter the circumstances - and there were plenty - it is not acceptable. That said, instead of pulling the plug on Rick's mic, we will huddle with a VERSUS executive before tonight's game and see if we can eliminate the chance of it ever happening again.

The easiest thing to do would be to tell the network to, uh, you know. But when you're talking about promoting our game and the Islanders' franchise player, it's too important to make a rash decison.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Pat Verbeek

In the oddball category of the players I most respected that wore the uniforms of the Devils and Rangers, Pat Verbeek - the Little Ball of Hate - would be near the top of the list. To some, he was the ultimate over-achiever. Now he's a regular in the Coliseum press box as a scout for the Red Wings and I wonder if he could ever find a player with half his heart. My respect for Pat is so deep, I will get over the fact that he listed Kirk Muller as one of his favorite teammates.

Who were your favorite linemates through the years?

Chris, I had a few favorites through the years. Here they are: Kirk Muller, Aaron Broten, Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Andrew Cassels, Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Joe Nieuwendyk.

You didn't get selected by the Devils until the 42nd overall pick, but went on to play more than 1,400 NHL regular season games and score 522 goals. Now you're a scout yourself for the Red Wings. Can you find the kind of intangibles you had as a player by scouting from the press box?

Scouting in today's game is a little different than in past years because of the rule changes. There is more of an emphasis on skating than in past years, but you still have to look at skill level, hockey sense and heart of a player. Is he willing to compete on a nightly basis? That you can scout from the press box.

Who was the toughest Islander you went up against as a player? I remember you and Rick Pilon having some good battles around the net.

In the early years of my career playing against the Islanders not only did they have a talented team but they had a tough team. Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom, Denis Potvin - the Islanders had someone on every shift you would have to deal with. It made hockey very interesting.

One thing about the Islanders playing them in their heyday was being able to watch Mike Bossy play the game. Watching him seven times a year score a lot of goals against us really helped me be able to score. I watched where he put the puck, where he went to score. It was quite a learning experience.

Islanders fans have very fond memories of Benoit Hogue from the early '90s. What do you remember about Benny as a teammate in Dallas in the late '90s?

First of all, Benny was an underrated player. Second, he was a tough son of a gun. I saw that first-hand when he played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 Game Six with no ACL. It showed me his willingness to compete and how much he cared about winning.


The Skills competition tonight wasn't over five minutes when the cell phone started ringing off the hook with inquiries into Rick's health. At the time I had no clue; I was on my way to the NHL party.

I jumped over a few barricades I wasn't supposed to and made my way to the East locker room. I found Rick and he told me he was "a bit sore." Then he told reporters he was "sore but it's nothing bad and I'll be playing Sunday."

As far as I could tell, he didn't spend any time on the trainer's table. About 45 minutes later I saw him at the NHL bash. He was in great spirits, posing for photographs for anyone who requested and meeting up with family and friends.

I got back to my room late tonight to a bunch of "heads-up" emails from bloggers, reporters and buddies about what Rick was heard saying on his live microphone on VERSUS. At 2:30 am, I can only report what he told me and reporters and what I saw with my own eyes.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Stan Fischler

A hot topic on Islanders message boards this season is the perceived negative treatment Stan Fischler and Al Trautwig give the Islanders at times, specifically Rick DiPietro. I went straight to the Maven for some answers.

Stan, some of us in Islanders Country think you and Al Trautwig tend to be tougher on The Rick than you are on The King. Your reaction?

That's a fascinating question which inspires a smile on my face, and for good reason. Just the other day, I phoned Steve Walkom, boss of the referees. I mentioned to him that John Dellapina of the Daily News suggested in his blog that the refs have been tougher on the Rangers than other teams. Of course, Walkom dismissed it out of hand.

What we all share in hockey is a hypersensitivity about who is rooting for whom and who's getting the short end of a composite stick. I love Rick DiPietro as a person and a goalie. So if it seems as if I'm tougher on him than Henny, it must be that I'm thinking of the song, "You Always Hurt The One You Love -- The One You Shouldn't Hurt At All." It's really a function of the fact that I project Ricky to be the NHL's best goalie in a year or two and I get impatient when I see him allow goals I believe he should stop. Actually, if you check my blog and have listened to the last few Hockey Night Live shows, I've been tough on Henny as well. Marty Brodeur would probably tell you the same thing about me and him. Bottom line: I always figure those who are the best can handle criticism.

Do you and Al talk during commercial breaks and come up with ways to tick off Islanders fans so you get more email?

Our aim is to treat all three teams equally. Thus, when we get more email from one sector and less from others, such as Long Island, we try to encourage more from the lesser group. Al and I don't sit around thinking of ways to nudge more letters from Islanders fans, but a little twitting here and there is roughly equivalent to Ted Nolan urging more hockey out of one of his slumping players.

Assuming you have Rick No. 1, who are the No. 2 and No. 3 most valuable Islanders on this year's team?

Bill Guerin and Mike Sillinger.

Your five favorite Islanders of all time.

1. Denis Potvin; 2. Bob Bourne; 3. Bill Smith; 4. Clark Gillies; 5. Bryan Trottier

Is Brent enjoying himself back in the NHL and in New Jersey? As much as he's with a rival, we still care a lot about him around here.

Although his always-intense look might make you think otherwise, Brent is having the time of his life as a head coach in the Bigs. The only time it is otherwise is when the buzzer sounds right after the Islanders have beaten his Devils -- yet again!!!

Where do the Islanders, Rangers and Devils finish in the East this season?

My preseason prediction was Rangers first, Devils seven, Islanders eight. Today, I have Rangers six, Devils seven, Islanders eight. This is based on the fact that I expect the talent-filled Blueshirts to wake up after the All Star Game. That's contingent on Henny re-finding his excellence in goal and Renney figuring out the formula so that we don't hear the "lack of chemistry" rationale in March. I'm cautious about the Devils because of their scoring problems -- the win in Philly was an aberration -- and how Brodeur handles the overwork-load in the stretch. I worry about the Isles without Chris Campoli, but I have consummate faith in Ted Nolan and one of my favorite all-time goalies, Ricky D., although I'd like to see more of Dubie, who is underplayed.

I know you enjoy your gig on the Devils, but don't you wish you were at the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike more often?

Hey, I grew up at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. I did the first Islanders telecast with Spencer Ross in March 1975. My two kids grew up there. I love the joint. I relish every moment that I'm there and I will relish any time I'm back there. But as my grandmother, Etel Friedman, used to say (this is translated), "You can't have your backside at three weddings at one time." Hopefully, you'll see me out there soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Ray Ferraro

For a few weeks in the magical Spring of 1993, Ray Ferraro performed as magnificently in clutch situations as anyone ever has in an Islanders sweater. Yes, that's saying a lot, but he was that good.

Like so many of his teammates from '92-93, Ray is still very much in the game. He is an analyst for Sportsnet in Western Canada and is never short of opinions. He has been critical of the Islanders at times, but I know he still feels a deep connection to this franchise.

What is your analysis from afar of the 2007-08 New York Islanders?

I've seen them live 3 times, and I thought they were an energetic, hard working group. DiPietro was fantastic in Colorado and Vancouver, and my opinion is that he needs to be like that until some of the younger guys can grow into more prominent roles.

15 years later, how special is it to recall what you and your teammates on Long Island accomplished?

Without a doubt, it was the best time of my career. I look back and always think, if Hogie or Turg scores on an overtime breakaway in Game 2 and 3, we probably would have played for the Cup.

In the Caps series in the first round, even in games we lost, I couldn't grab a pretzel without coming back and my colleague telling me you just scored again. You were a very good player, but what the heck was going on with you in the Spring of 93?

That was kinda surreal. The puck bounced for me (especially in the 4-goal game in Game 5), but I had great energy. Maybe it had a lot to do with the fact I missed 3 months with a broken leg prior to the playoffs. Also, my line with Flats and Bennie was as good as any line I have played on.

How’s Robert Nilsson doing?

He is growing for sure. He has fantastic skill, but it remains to be seen if he will develop the consistency to score on a regular basis. At his size, he has to be a top-6 forward to be an NHL regular.

Although Ryan decided to stay West as a UFA, can you understand the Islanders’ side of the Smyth trade?

Absolutely. With a lot of younger prospects, the team could afford to be aggressive with some assets. There certainly was risk to it, but it was one that Garth was comfortable with.

Which teams make it to the Western Conference Final?

As of now, I believe it will be Anaheim and Detroit. Everything is so close. A key injury or a hot player at the right time could alter this.

With relish

True to form, Rick is loving every minute of his first weekend as an NHL All-Star.

When he was met at his podium by Joe Micheletti of the NHL Network, Rick started mock-making out with him.

To his first question at the podium from the guys from Islanders TV: "Islanders TV! I didn't know you guys were here"!

To the young lady from MTV who suggested that if he's ever to score an NHL goal, he has to shoot more: "Aw man, that's what I'm doing wrong."

Rick has friends and family here and he's making sure he has time for everyone, including the media. You know he's determined to post a bagel in the first period tomorrow, but maybe Chris Osgood's advice is starting to sink in - "It's a game for the scorers, not the goaltenders. Whatever happens, forget about it as fast as you can."

The Hockey News has assigned a major feature on Rick to writer Ken Campbell because DP is going to be on the cover of THN's special Goaltenders issue. Yet another example of his rising star.

DP vs. Ozzy

The league made it official with this press release sent out just minutes ago. How perfect that it's Rick going up against Chris Osgood in the first period...

Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk of the All-Star host Atlanta Thrashers, goaltender Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, left wing Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings have been named to the starting lineups for Sunday's 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta (6 p.m., ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), the National Hockey League announced today. Kovalchuk will be making his second career All-Star start, having led the NHL in voting for the 2004 All-Star Game in Minnesota. DiPietro, Nash and Osgood will be making their first All-Star start.

Rick gets the start!

The announcement was not heralded with the distribution of a press release by the NHL this morning. In fact, it never was officially announced at all.

When Rick DiPietro met with dozens of reporters at his post-workout media scrum at Phillips Arena around noon, someone asked him if there was any word if he was starting.

"Yes," Rick said innocently. "The coaches just told me the first period was mine."

So Islanders fans, get to VERSUS right from the start on Sunday night.

Starting in goal for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team is Rick DiPietro of your New York Islanders.

VERSUS has plans to put a microphone on him, so it should be more entertaining than anything else on TV Sunday night.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q& A: Greg Logan of Newsday

Newsday did not send a reporter to Atlanta. Blame Tom Coughlin for that - not Greg Logan. Newsday has always had good beat writers on the NYI, but I don't think it's an insult to the other gentlemen or their talents to say there's never been one who fights for the true essense of what a "beat" is than Logan.

I could go on and on with anecdotes about Greg and his professionalism. However, it might say it all that I sent him a half-dozen questions yesterday and, like Richard Park, he refused to just mail it in. As you can tell, Logan took his time, provided thoughtful answers and opened a window to his world you don't often see from ink-stained wretches. He's such a decent guy that even when he rips the Islanders, Garth and I can't bring ourselves to carve him up. I hate that.

I know this is a very open-ended question, but you have been a beat reporter on several major league franchises over three decades. How does covering the Islanders compare?

This is a unique situation in my experience in that it's the first time I've ever been on a beat in which no competing publications travel with the team other than Newsday. There's less pressure in terms of worrying about what story a competitor might develop, but I still try to approach the coverage as I would on any team by writing the timely story and by trying to anticipate breaking news and working to get it to the readers before they find it at a different hockey site on the Internet. As the primary news reporting source on the Islanders, I feel an even stronger obligation to the fans to provide as much information as possible because I sense how much they are relying on Newsday for insight.

On a personal level, my experience on this beat has been one of the most enjoyable times of my career. As a group, hockey players probably are the most accommodating and least pretentious athletes at the professional level. They usually display great understanding of and respect for a reporter's job and how it connects them to the fans. Having come from a situation covering the Knicks that often was highly adversarial, covering the Islanders has come as a breath of fresh air.

To be perfectly honest, the NHL inhabits a smaller universe of interest than the NFL, NBA and MLB. But the Isles occupy a special place on Long Island, and the real fun for me has come in terms of the challenge of trying to rebuild interest in this beat. Over the past two seasons, the Islanders have kept it entertaining on and off the ice, which obviously helps tremendously, and I've taken great satisfaction in watching the readership numbers for the Islanders at Newsday rise dramatically in that time.

Have you ever covered a team where you heard so much from the fans like you do the Islanders diehards?

Nothing in my experience compares to the fan reaction to Islanders coverage. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that all sports reporting is becoming more interactive with the fans via blogs and e-mail. But from Day 1 on this beat, I recognized how much passion was out there waiting to be tapped. I checked the fan Web sites to get a sense of what issues concerned Islanders fans not only in relation to the team but to the coverage of the team as well. If you go back and check the first two blogs I ever wrote on Islanders Beat, I let everyone know my experience with the Islanders dynasty of the past to assure them of my appreciation for the history of this franchise, and then, I promised in the second blog to do what I could to expand coverage of the Islanders. I followed through by taking a different approach with the blog to supplement coverage in the paper with what amounted to full-length articles on a variety of subjects on the blog.

The feedback I've received from the fans has been overwhelmingly positive, and 90 percent of the criticism has been constructive. I consider my relationship with Islanders fans to be a vital part of the job. We're not always going to agree on the issues, but we're going to keep the conversation going and I believe the coverage has responded, in many cases, by attempting to answer the fans' most pressing questions.

Who is the most underrated quote on the Islanders?

This team is full of good quotes, starting from coach Ted Nolan and going to backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, whose self-deprecating sense of humor often produces the most lively quotes. There are a lot of players I go to for insight, but if "underrated" means a source of surprisingly good quotes, then I'd have to say Miroslav Satan. I don't go to him enough. Miro has a sly sense of humor, and the game excites him. I'll never forget how animated he was after scoring in the shootout at the end of last season against the Devils.

Marc-Andre Bergeron is another player whose honesty I've appreciated, and the same goes for Chris Campoli. The mainstays who speak for the team, captain Bill Guerin, alternate captains Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt and goaltender Rick DiPietro all have gone out of their way to help as the regular go-to guys, and Richard Park is another who belongs in that category.

Your five favorite athletes, for whatever reasons - talent, charisma, accessibility - that you have covered.

This always is a hard question to answer because I've spent the past 31 years on the East Coast and had the opportunity to meet and cover a lot of the greats in several sports, so I can't limit my list to five names. In terms of the elite athletes I most looked forward to watching, my list in the order I first covered them includes Mike Bossy, Julius Erving, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan. I've taken part in small group interviews or one-on-ones with all of them. I would include Tiger Woods on the list, but I've only been in large press conference settings with him.

Two of my most memorable interviews were the one I spent with Dr. J at his home in Philadelphia and the one-on-one I had with Ali at his Deer Lake, Pa. training camp when he was getting ready to fight heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who is another boxer I spent considerable time covering. Although I didn't cover the late tennis player Arthur Ashe during his playing career, I would have to say the two-hour interview I had with him after he underwent his first heart bypass surgery was one of the true highlights of my career. What a tremendous intellect and a great gentleman. He had my highest admiration.

On the beats I've covered for Newsday, my all-time favorite Jet was wide receiver Al Toon, who actually invited me to his retirement party in Wisconsin (I couldn't go to my regret). No one on the Rangers was better to me than John Vanbiesbrouck (I still attend the charity golf tournament he serves as the title celebrity) and Brian Leetch, who called me individually when I covered his retirement announcement last summer. Though they were wildly different personalities, my favorite Knicks to cover were Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. Both were very honest with me off the record, and both took the initiative to introduce themselves to my daughters once when I brought them to practice.

How does the Giants making the Super Bowl affect the Islanders' coverage in Newsday?

The same way it affects Newsday's coverage of everything else. Everything takes a backseat to the Giants. Space in the newspaper shrinks for every other beat unless there's a major story that must be accommodated. Because of the extra space for Super Bowl coverage in the two-week period before the game, the effects actually will result in less space for the sports section in general in succeeding weeks to meet budget demands. In a practical sense, all it really does is eliminate the notebook that often accompanies Islanders game stories.

It appears the paper is driving a lot of hockey coverage to the web, which is sort of good news/bad news. Can you explain the paper's vision?

As new Chicago Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell explained in a recent visit to Newsday, the key to the future of every newspaper in the chain lies in developing the best possible product for the Internet. So, it's not only hockey coverage that is being driven to the web. Soon, the circulation of the newspaper that lands in your driveway every morning won't matter as much as whether the product on the web is driving revenue. Having said that, in the short term, some hockey coverage is going to be online only.

Newspaper space isn't there for a weekly full-page Insider on the Islanders and Rangers comparable to what the Giants, Jets, Yankees and Mets receive. But it's no problem to put just over 1,700 words of content on the Internet, as I did in my Islanders Insider at the All-Star break. Readers just have to know where to look, and Newsday has to make sure it's easy to find on our web site. In the meantime, I can assure Islanders fans that I push for back-page display in the newspaper whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Killing Me Softly

On stage at Tabernacle - a former cathedral converted into a club - Usher told a packed house that Gary Bettman was a really cool guy.

Yup, it was that sort of night in ATL.

Ricky D was there, so was Jarome Iginla and a few of the other all-stars. The event was a fundraiser for Usher's foundation, the headliner was Wyclef Jean.

Wyclef took the stage to a divided response. Half the crowd was waving the flag of Haiti, the other half just kinda stood there and applauded politely, wondering if maybe Kenny Chesney might have been a better choice for NHL All-Star Weekend.

But after two songs - including one where Wyclef had moderate success getting everyone to rap, "President Bush, mind your own business," the singer said it was time to officially get the party started.

He grabbed a guitar and played the opening chord progression to "No Woman, No Cry." The NHL folk made the connection that this was the guy from the Fugees, everyone started dancing - including hundreds of people who just should not ever dance - and the roof almost came off the place.

I'm telling ya, it was memorable.

As for Rick and Jarome and the rest of the guys, the bus leaves their hotel at the unfortunate hour of 8:00 am for Saturday morning practice and team photos. The NHL turns the workout into a public spectacle called "Rockin' Skate" and the insanely popular boy band the Jonas Brothers are playing. When my kids find out, they'll be jealous.

But what they really missed out on was Wyclef Jean.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: Darren Dreger of TSN

To put it in U.S. perspective, Darren Dreger going from Sportsnet to TSN a few years ago would be like Peter King leaving NBC for CBS - and taking all his NFL sources with him.

When it comes to hockey, Dreger’s about as hard-working and connected as they come. He’s also opinionated. When Dreger, Bob McKenzie, Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury are all in the same TSN studio on Wednesday nights, sometimes you wish they’d skip the game and just do a three-hour show.

Now that Philly has signed Richards for 12 years and Washington signed Ovechkin for 13 years, is the deal the Islanders signed with Rick DiPietro viewed any differently just over a year later? Especially when you consider Rick’s importance to this team and the cap number.

Yes and no. Rick continues to prove he's a world class player and well worth the money he earns, regardless of term. Because of his play and the belief he'll continue to develop, Charles Wang will soon be able to boast a great bargain. However, the double-digit term is not something most teams or players think makes a lot of sense. When DiPietro is starring for the Islanders in 2014, making 4.5 million and Sidney Crosby has agreed to another 5 year extension at 12-15 million per year, this story may take a different spin.

How would you grade Garth Snow as a general manager in his second season?

B+. I'd give him an A-, but he yelled at me in public once. More importantly, I'll offer the opinion of Garth's peers, fellow managers who tell me he is a very hard worker who continues to study the craft of managing in a cap world by doing more listening then talking. Pulling off the Ryan Smyth trade proves Snow has the jam to not just make a deal while bound in a tough economic system, but he has the creativity which shows he and the Islanders may always be a threat in trade circles.

Aside from the Minnesota fracas, how does the rest of the league view Kyle Okposo as a prospect?

Too soon to tell. I did notice James Van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson for team USA at the World Juniors. Okposo didn't stand out, at least not to me.

Lately the talk has been that next month’s trade deadline will be quieter than in years past. Do you think so, and what are the reasons?

We’ll see a similar run to what transpired last year. A few of the big names will go in the days leading up to the deadline, players like Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell, potential unrestricted free agents looking for the summer payout. Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin will also continue to be a hot topic until he or Leafs management snuff out his availability. If that doesn't take place the Sundin sweepstakes will dominate all lead-up conversations right up to the deadline.

How are you, Heals, Milbury and McKenzie getting along on the TSN set? That’s quite a mix.

There's no shortage of opinion!!! We get along well because on most nights we have differing views which encourages debate. Once in a while it gets a tad out of hand, but there's a mutual respect that assures no hard feelings. Plus, Milbury still travels with the shoe he once beat a poor unsuspecting fan with, so I always approach Mike with caution.

Let's not make a deal

There used to be a time - not so long ago - when you could count on a good trade or two around All-Star Weekend. Way back in 1990, the Rangers acquired Bernie Nicholls for Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato. A deal like that appears unlikely in Atlanta.

Management types, the media and the all-stars themselves are just starting to roll into town. Soon after I arrived early this evening, I ran into a longtime friend who's an assistant GM for an Eastern Conference team. He immediately shook his head when I asked if he thought there could be at least a B-plus quality deal this weekend.

"No way," he said, "and the biggest reason isn't the salary cap. It's because there isn't a team in the league ready to say they're out of the playoff hunt. Tampa is last in the East but they're close (9 points out). With those stars there's no way they're giving up, and they shouldn't. L.A. is the furthest out (14 points), but I wouldn't be too sure they're ready to move anyone. If they are still out of it, they'll do it closer to the trade deadline."

So there you have it. Of course, some mega-deal will be announced tomorrow before the Skills.

Coming up next: a chat with TSN's Darren Dreger, who has some interesting comments on Garth Snow.

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: John Buccigross of ESPN

John Buccigross can be anchoring a special on the Mitchell Report and hockey fans will always see him as the hockey guy at ESPN. And for good reason. He may be a voice in the wilderness in Bristol, but John certainly fights the good fight for hockey.

In some followup emails, John said he hasn’t heard from Islanders fans this season as much as he had in the past. His theory is that it’s home-grown players like Rick DiPietro that “bring the buzz to energize a fan base” and that the Islanders “need to get a young, exciting, charismatic talent up front.” I told him Kyle Okposo could be the guy and he agreed. Then I told him after this Q & A runs, he could count on hearing from Islanders fans. Our email conversation follows.

Without getting you in trouble again, tell me this: am I imagining stuff, or has ESPN subtly stepped up its hockey coverage on Sportscenter and on the dotcom this season?

I think you are imagining things. I wouldn't know on the dotcom. I only read my column. Twice a day. But, on Sportscenter, it's the same drill. Melrose comes out of his cave on Wednesday, drives down from upstate New York and does hockey on Wednesday and Thursday and then goes back home to hunt small animals and eat them with his bare hands. If you timed the hockey coverage compared to last year and it was up, it would only be in seconds. I did a Sportscenter last Saturday and there wasn't one hockey highlight shown.

What do you think of the influx of all this incredible young talent and what it means for the game?

It means that more young people will get involved. The NHL is a healthy league and will always be a healthy league because it skews young. It also helps support 30 teams and could probably support another two. I mean, nobody is awful like 1970's awful. There are few if any sieves in the NHL. And the league will only get deeper because of the output of US-born players through USA hockey's developmental programs and the fitness level of the players enables them to play longer.

How was (Islanders VP of Communications and ITV honcho) Josh Bernstein as a producer when you were together at ESPN?

Josh was one of the more impressive people I have worked with at ESPN. He's a born leader with great instincts and feel. He also has excellent taste in music. He likes rabbits and cheese.

Rick DiPietro is to the Islanders as who is to who?

What Michael Hutchence was to INXS.

"This is the power
Since time began
Every single hour
That we have known
And from each moment
All that is left
Sleep of the innocent
Just one desire"

"Shine Like It Does" is one of the 16 greatest songs of the last 24 years.

What do the Islanders have to accomplish in the regular season for Ted Nolan to be one of the three nominees for the Adams?

They have to make the playoffs.

List your five favorite Islanders of all time.

1. Bob Nystrom - He played like a complete manic. Like his hair was on fire. He has the third hardest handshake in the world after Jim Schoenfeld and Ken Hodge. Watch old video of him and you swear he was playing on a one-day contract, every game.

2. Mike Bossy - We all wish we could be as talented in anything as Mike Bossy was shooting a puck.

3. Bob Bourne - I don't know why, but when I was a kid I was mesmerized by his skating. He was one of those guys you always wish you could skate like.

4. Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro - A great competitor and a great friend. 13 goals in 18 playoff games in the spring of 1993 and the pass that beat the Penguins in 7.

5. Steve Webb - The energy he brought to the 2002 playoffs was the kind of energy Jimmy Page brings to a Led Zeppelin concert.

DiPietro All-Star facts

Courtesy of our media relations assistant Adam Baruch, here are some facts and stats on Rick's first All-Star appearance:

Rick is...

...the youngest of the six goaltenders to appear in this year’s All-Star Game. He is five years and 77 days younger than Tomas Vokoun, the next youngest goalie in this year’s game. (The younger Roberto Luongo is skipping the game to be with his family).

...the sixth youngest player on the Eastern Conference roster behind: Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Richards, Jason Spezza and Eric Staal. one of six Eastern Conference players to make their first All-Star appearance and one of 13 total in the game (14 if you count Paul Stastny, who is injured).

...the 27th individual Islander to appear in the All-Star game. His appearance is the 55th by an Islander.

...the third goaltender to appear as an Islander in the All-Star game and first since Bill Smith in 1978 (Chico Resch appeared twice and Smith once).

The Islanders have had one MVP in an All-Star game and it was Smitty in 1978, the last time an Islanders goaltender appeared in the game.

And believe it or not, Rick (4) is not the assist leader among the goalies at the All-Star game. Tomas Vokoun has five for the Panthers.

Live From All-Star Weekend!!

Well, not yet. Leaving in a bit for my first All-Star Game in a long, long time.

Reason why I'm going? Ricky, of course. In the last day, the phone has rung off the hook with media requests for him. We'll do our best to take care of all of them, while also making sure Rick enjoys the weekend with his family and friends. I also wouldn't miss Rick's first All-Star game for anything.

While in Atlanta, I'll update this blog every time I get back to my hotel room. We'll keep you posted on what Rick is up to, we'll work the lobbies to see if there's any breaking news and I'll have some snappy interviews with some of the game's top reporters. My first will be with John Buccigross from ESPN.

Also, don't forget to check out Islanders TV all weekend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Comeau, Okposo, Tambellini, Nielsen, Walter...

Four wins in a row on the road. Four consecutive losses at home. Blake Comeau has the option of feathering a pass to Mike Comrie or Billy Guerin for a key insurance goal but decides the better option is to throw a back-pass to the gunslinging Brendan Witt. Of course Witt's shot goes in and the Islanders win. When I say I know no more about this game than when I started, this is what I'm talking about.

Haven't written in a week because it was non-stop around Islanders Country with all the games, the visit from General Powell and the Lighthouse Tournament. I have scribbled some notes over the last few days on this free stationery I got from the USGA, so here goes...

The System: Once in a while I'll see something about the Islanders' farm system being a bit dry, but that seems exaggerated. In Bridgeport right now is one bonafide stud (Okposo), a scoring machine who WILL get his chance (Tambellini) and two very steady two-way centers who could play on my team any time (Frans Nielsen and Ben Walter). Comeau, the 2004 second round pick who won't turn 22 for another month, is playing big minutes. One of the stories of tonight's game was not that Comeau had a goal and an assist in the final three minutes - it was that Ted Nolan had the faith to put him out there in the first place.

On defense, there is a very good future Islander (Dustin Kohn), who will join recent youngins Bruno, Campoli and Meyer. Scouts visiting the Coli press box tell me the 2006 and 2007 drafts were both very strong for the NYI. Of course, time will tell, but the Hockey News' next Future Watch issue will not be lacking.

The Dog: Disappointing when good guy Chris Russo loses his way. He was in Green Bay this weekend, enjoying the free ride to the NFC Championship, and the Dog couldn't resist bringing everything else down. "What do we got on the update, Rangers scores? Does anyone really care?" Of course they do, Chris. I love the NFL too, but there's room for other sports. Try not to forget where you came from.

The General: We've had our share of diginitaries and celebrities come through the Country over the years, but no one has left the indelible impression that General Colin Powell did with his visit on Martin Luther King Day. Leave it to Peter Botte of the Daily News to joke that, since the former Secretary of State was at the hockey rink, it might be okay to call him Colie.

The Giants: The remarkable renaissance of Tom Coughlin is, yes, as much a media story as a football story. He's always been a good football coach. When he took the time last summer to mend fences with reporters and his players - Neil Best of Newsday was invited to lunch before the NFL season by the Coach and wrote about it last week - he was on the road to one of the best comeback stories in recent New York sports. Did the repair of his relationship with the media directly lead to the Super Bowl? Of course not. But it didn't hurt. Bravo to my Giants PR colleague Pat Hanlon for his role, too.

And how about Eli Manning's turn-around? Or really, the reversal of everyone's perception of him? A month ago he was too laid-back. Now it's his nerves of steel that got the Giants to the Super Bowl.

I've always seen some parallels between the careers of Eli Manning and Rick DiPietro. First picks at the most important positions at their sport. Teams that moved a few mountains to bring them here. Downs and ups. Funny how Rick's perceived cockiness has turned to confidence, how the Excitable Boy is now lauded for his energy, passion and leadership.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tonight's 3 Stars, brought to you by the Senators' Booster Club

I can tell you from first-hand experience that sometimes the selection of the Three Stars can go a little haywire. For example, we blew it last season when Ryan Malone had a hat trick in a memorable one-goal Islanders win at the Coliseum and Ryan was mistakenly left off. After the game I went up to a Penguins staffer and did a mea culpa and assured him Malone's omission was not intentional. He made a good point: "You guys won. The stars are all yours."

When the Three Stars selection raises eyebrows on the odd night, it's usually because the game went to overtime or a shootout or was decided late in regulation. Sometimes the updated Stars don't get to the public address announcer in time or sometimes a name gets lost in translation while the goal horn is blaring ("Asham"? "No, Yashin"!!!! "Asham"?).

But what was the excuse tonight? The Islanders won, 3-1, taking that lead with MORE THAN THIRTEEN minutes left in the third period. No doubt, Daniel Alfredsson had a heckuva effort, darn near heroic, when you consider he played 26 minutes tonight after playing last night against Detroit.

But Alfredsson (one goal, 4 shots, 4 PIMs, minus-1) as First Star over Marc-Andre Bergeron with his two goals (including the game-winner) from his defense position? Daniel's contributions were more valuable than the 31 saves on 32 shots of Rick DiPietro, who didn't get a Star nod at all? I guess it goes back to the Arod-in-Texas argument: can you really be the Most Valuable Player when your team doesn't win?

Somebody, please send an email to my boy Don Brennan at the Ottawa Sun and ask for an investigation.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Congratulations, Richard

It's always cool to have one of our players in the All-Star Game. But with proper respect to Jason, Hammer, Adrian Aucoin and some of our other recent all-stars, let's face it: there's nothing better than having one of your home-grown players in the NHL showcase.

Rick deserved this nod for every reason. Knowing him, he will embrace All-Star Weekend in Atlanta with his family and friends unlike any other.

This is DiPietro's first All-Star Game, so of course it's a big deal to him. But I have a feeling it means even more to him than he'll ever show publicly.

Whatever period he plays on January 27, it will be must-see TV. I have no idea how many saves he's going to make, but I predict he gets two assists.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

15 years...12...13...

Rick DiPietro wanted to be an Islander for his entire career, put all his cards on the table and asked to do a deal that made sense for everyone. Charles Wang and Garth Snow did just that.

And now Islanders fans like my three young boys never have to worry about a day in early July when some other team raids the franchise of its leader and biggest star. Sixteen months later, the deal seems even more like a win-win-win.

The response from the traditionalists was - yawn - as inevitable as Rick being named an All-Star tomorrow.

But a funny thing happened. A few weeks ago the Philadelphia Flyers, as traditional as they come, locked up heart-and-soul forward Mike Richards for 12 years. Today, Ted Leonsis made a statement to fans of the Washington Capitals: your superstar Alexander Ovechkin is here forever.

Of course, if the initial column reactions and tonight's TSN panel are an indication, holes will be poked all over the Ovechkin deal.

Hmmm...Long Island, Philadelphia, Washington...

Guess we'll have to wait for a Canadian team to do a mega-deal before the practice is considered legit.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Two Sports Illustrated features in a half a season!

Michael Farber has a feature in the Sports Illustrated out on Wednesday comparing chatter of who's better - DiPietro, Lundqvist or Brodeur - to the Golden Age of Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

Farber opens the piece with some message board chat taken from the pages of none other than Islandermania. If you want a sneek peek at the full article, Islandermania has it on its site.

Some of the notable quotes from the piece include an Eastern Conference goaltending coach on Rick: "Ricky has so much confidence that there's no fear of failure. He's special."

Brodeur on DP: "I've had shutouts against them, and at the end of the game he's flipped the puck in my direction, which is cool."

The feature ends with Brodeur offering some constructive criticism of DiPietro, followed by a huge compliment. Check it out...on news stands and in mailboxes tomorrow! Michael Farber rules!


I've heard from plenty of Islanders fans about this and now I'm starting to wonder: is it possible my friends Al Trautwig and Stan Fischler are genuinely obsessing on every goal DiPietro allows while being far more forgiving towards the Garden's Incredible Hank? Or are they just trying to coax viewer email out of Islanders Country?

Speaking of the Al and Stan show, during the second intermission of Islanders-Canucks tonight, Deb and Co. threw it back to the MSG studio where we didn't get NYI analysis but rather clips from the Rangers and Devils games tonight. Same thing when the shootout ended and Al and Stan had the hot scoop of the All-Star starters. "Hockey Night LIVE," eh?

I was completely shocked the NHL didn't sit Mr. Downie for a few games for what he did to our boy Blakey. Even Paul Holmgren admitted his sucker punch was uncalled for. Combined with Downie having a track record, that really was surprising...

At least two hockey writers from major New York papers will be in Bridgeport on Thursday when Kyle Okposo has his first practice as a Sound Tiger. For the record, the two writers - and there will be more - made their plans without a pitch from me or anyone on my staff. So I don't want to hear anything about how the Islanders have the hype machine out for K.O. I think there's just something special about Kyle that draws the attention...

Has there ever been a head coach in New York who picked a better time (Arod, Santana, Mitchell, Knicks) to have a step-back season than Eric Mangini?

A little birdie told me Okposo was probably going to play on a line with Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen. Now I'm trying to remember if I heard it from an Islanders hockey ops person or just dreamed it...

Have you seen those camouflage jerseys the Sound Tigers are wearing Sunday for their Armed Forces Appreciation game? My kids want those so much more than Hannah Montana tickets. What do you say, Mr. Saffan?

Finally, two out of three games on this road trip DiPietro has been named the No. 1 star. The rest of the Eastern Conference all-stars will be announced Friday. I don't even want to think about DiPietro not being on the list.

Friday, January 4, 2008

DPad-gate ends; on Ryan Smyth

Got the call from Garth tonight around 7:30 that confirmed what TSN's Dreger posted about an hour earlier. When the Islanders landed in Denver, the GM spoke with Colin Campbell and learned Rick DiPietro's pads had been inspected, were approved and were being sent to Denver. Whether the pads make it to Colorado for the game Saturday night, we do not know. Whether Rick wears the new pads even if they arrive on time, we do not know. All we know is Rick is going to start Saturday and is probably going to play a lot of games this month. (That's the kind of great scoop you only get on NYI Point Blank!)

Radek Martinek could get in a game by the end of the trip. I sense this not by the condition of Radek's leg but by the smile on his face today. Marti's miserable when he's not playing hockey. He looked today at Iceworks like a man who knows he's coming back soon.

Sorry to hear about Ryan Smyth's injury that will keep him out almost two months. Regardless of anyone's view of him, this is a better league when he's playing in it.

My scouting report-style take on Ryan: good hockey player...great leader...was a future UFA when we got him, owed the Islanders nothing except his complete focus and best effort for the home stretch...delivered while making no lame promises or leaking messages to the press of his intentions...really liked Long Island, Ted, Garth, Charles, the team, the fans...seriously looked at staying but decided being back in the West was best for him and his family.

Less than an hour after the news broke that Ryan agreed to a deal with the Avalanche, his agent Don Meehan called me and said Ryan loved being an Islander and it was an excruciating decision for him. Don, who I know going back to Pat LaFontaine and Travis Green, volunteered to make that clear with anyone in the media who may have wanted to think otherwise.

I had never before received a call like that from the agent of a departing player. I'll leave the interpretation to you.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kenneth returns

Tonight in the Coliseum press box, a play-by-plan man will be taking notes, asking questions and monitoring Ted's line combinations, all in preparation for calling the Islanders' five-game road trip that starts Saturday in Smyth-less Colorado.

Welcome back, Jiggs McDonald.

Howie Rose is taking a quick breather, understandable considering he calls more than 250 games in a calendar year. When you can bring in a Hall of Famer out of the bullpen, that's some serious depth in the broadcast booth.

Now that game tapes can be found just about anywhere, you can look it up: the Islanders were one of the best teams in NHL history, that much everyone knows. But watch, listen, learn...Jiggs McDonald's work from the second Stanley Cup in 1981 through Volek's OT goal in 1993 is a unmatched run of sports play-by-play brilliance.

He's our Foster Hewitt. It's like Al coming back for five games.

Enjoy these five broadcasts. Better still, record them and save them for your children's children.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

SJU student says he started chant, explains its importance

In the Comments section, a student from St. John's - many of you know him as the beloved fan accompanied by his equally beloved friend, Beaker - wrote to say he started the chant I've suggested fans stop. I tried to explain my respectful reasoning in the two posts below, if you just joined us.

Unfortunately, I had to delete the Beak's response because for one brief moment it got indisputably profane.

I find Beaker's explanation to be fascinating, at times a bit disturbing, but just as often brilliant. Seriously. He even includes an email address for all to see. His defense certainly demands your attention as much as my attempt to articulate my position. One thing, folks: let's not make too big a deal of me "trying to tell fans what to do." It's a blog! You think we'd be up to Baumbach-on-Arbour sized responses if I tried to break down the Panthers' penalty killing?

I'm an Islanders fan. I know better, or at least I should have!

For the record, I was asked today by my close friend and colleague Tim Beach if I had an opinion on what the Islanders should do with "Rock and Roll, Part II," the traditional goal song. My input was to keep the song, let the fans have their say and let everything play itself out. It's a free Islanders Country, right?

Anyway, Beaker: here's your Equal Time, minus about four words. It retains its power. Next time, please leave Jagr and profanity out if it. I'll stop by Section 329 tomorrow night. Let me know if I need security detail.

At this rate, this blog might not make it to Thursday night's faceoff.


enytnallab989 said...

Throughout the season I have found your blog insightful, expressing your opinion with as little bias as possible. I did not always agree with what you said but still found it to be well-written and informative.

However, I am very upset with this post of yours. I would first like to let you know that Loudville should not be blamed for this chant. I have been a season ticket holder in section 329 for the past two seasons and started it once I had season tickets. While it did not catch on completely right away, it finally has now, and a few fans seem livid. I started this chant and therefore I would like all the hatred people have for me to be emailed to

These people have been calling me classless, spoiled, and immature on several message boards and the comments left here today. Thank You, fellow fans. Now granted this is not anywhere near the best chant that has come out of section 329, but it is a little thing that we started that was able to catch on. This is also a typical sports chant- short, simple and catchy. This is not England where we create full blown songs and get 16,234 to sing along in unison(but it would be nice, I have some ideas). It has been hard enough getting 8,000 fans to chant “Lets go Islanders” in unison.

Secondly, if this chant really has as much hatred as people say, then why has it been so loud lately? It is great to hear a packed house chanting in unison. I am proud to here the coliseum rocking again. In the ‘80s players knew it would be a rough game at the old barn. Fans were dedicated. Fans Cared about there teams, made the place loud, had a good time, and did not worry the other teams or fans feelings after chanting you suck.

Let me tell you more about myself. Everyone who dislikes what I do in 329 seem to enjoy describing me as an immature kid who’s parents spoil him with season tickets and knows nothing about hockey; the kid who just gets drunk to scream throughout the game and the kid with the 5 foot beaker Muppet. Well, my name is John (I think I will withhold my late name just in case anyone attempts to kill me) and I attend St. John's University full time. I work 35-40 hours each week just to be able to purchase my own season tickets and not much else.

Yes, I’ll enjoy one or two before the game, but there has on maximum been 3 occasions where someone in my section had been out of hand. And here’s the best part. We have a high school teacher that sits in our section and warns us when we go too rowdy with the chants.

As I have said, we know that the You Suck during the goal song chant isn’t the best or most original but it does the trick ans helps add a little oomph to the celebration. It gets the place loud and the other team looking around. While it is already loud for the most part when a goal is scored, the crowd’s adrenaline rush because of the goal is a great time to put a little dig into not only the opposing goalie but the whole team. No matter how professional you are, it will still be intimidating having a packed house chant at you. Not only opposing players will be intimidated but opposing fans as well. It happens too often that Islander fans have been out cheered by fans of the Rangers, Canadians, Maple Leafs, and Sabres in our own arena. Hopefully chants like these make us more unified in our own home. People dislike that these game are having too much of a college atmosphere, however most of those seated around us (not students) believe this is more of a good thing.

If you have ever been to a college game rooting for the visiting team, im sure you were somewhat intimidated and fully felt a home- court advantage. Our crowd is much less vulgar than college crowds and has very strict security (SMG) that insures it stays this way.There have been a number of chants more classless than You Suck, yet there was no outrage about them (Crackhead Theo, If you know the Rangers Suck, Green SUCKS - referring to Travis Green). Classless is also throwing bottles on the ice because of a referee's call, not chanting you suck.

If you really are against this chant then by all means stop chanting it, but the only way I will stop this chant is if the Islanders bring me on the road trip out west this week. I am a passionate fan who went to 45 islander games last year, and hopes to make it to 50 this season. There is no better feeling in life than celebrating a goal with people in my section that I have grown to know as family while singing our goal song followed by a shot of You Suck at the other team while they line up for the face off and look up, intimidated at the crowd.


Beaker and the members of Section 329

January 2, 2008 5:57 PM

27 "Hey" song responses and counting

I want to thank everyone who has responded in just the first 12 hours since I suggested the nasty addition to the "Hey" song should go away.

Even the people just absolutely killing me have done it without profanity or name-calling, and I very much appreciate that. It's the only way we'll be able to have frank, constructive conversation on the blog.

Only thing that's surprised me so far is people ripping on the notion of the "Hey" song itself going away. I believe I made very clear that I don't think that's the solution, so chill. The song will be in its usual spot Thursday night.

I should also make clear that my main problem with the chant is not that it's vulgar. I believe it is simply pointless and my concern is what it is going to lead to. That's all.

Anyway, I'm told the point of any blog is to begin a discussion and it looks like it has succeeded.

I will never say I have all the answers. Geez, I actually thought the ovation for Blakey would be more positive, so it's obvious I'm not writing the gospel here, folks.

Again, thank you for keeping it clean and mostly classy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

For your consideration...

I'm going to go against one of my principles and tell fans what to do. Or in this case, tell them what they shouldn't be doing.

Over the last few home games, after the Islanders score a goal, the traditional "Hey"! chant has been followed by a roar of "YOU (----)"!

With each home game, it has gotten louder and louder.

I think it should end.

Islanders fans are known for their passion, the way they shake the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike in the big games, and - yes - for their loyalty during some, um, trying times in the pre-Wang era.

Please understand this: if this goal-celebration chant continues to grow, this is what our extraordinary fan base will become known for.

They will be known for yelling something vulgar at the legendary Martin Brodeur, like a minority of 16,234 fans did on Saturday. Same for all-star and humanitarian Olaf Kolzig the Saturday before that.

Of course, it shouldn't be directed at anyone.

Despite the New Year's holiday, I've received more than a dozen emails from embarrassed fans, most of them parents. They've asked me to plead with our Events staff to stop playing the "Hey" song. I'm not sure that's the way to go. Getting rid of the song, viewed by many fans as a tradition, to temporarily silence some others doesn't seem right.

A poll currently on the message board Islandermania has 53% of fans saying they think the chant "is stupid," and 34% saying they "don't mind it."

My hunch is when broadcasters and writers across the NHL label Islanders fans simply as the ones who chant "YOU ----" every time their team scores a goal, they'll mind it.

Before it gets even more stupid, what do you say we lose it?


OKAY, BRING IT ON: A fan walked up to me at Champions in the Marriott after the game Saturday and told me it was time to open this baby up for comments. I guess if I'm going to ask fans to consider not doing something (chant "YOU ----"!), it's only fair I give you the opportunity to respond.

Please be respectful, not of me but of others who may read this blog. Unlike Greg Logan, I do not have the patience or know-how to spend time blocking posters. Let's see if we can make this work together. Thanks...CB