Sitting here at Madison Square Garden after a 2.5 hour snow-shoveling marathon and an ensuing uneventful drive into Manhattan---well, other than having to back up the length of 26th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues through the snow due to a stalled truck near tenth---I realized that I have yet to wish you all a Happy Holiday!
My bad....but, hey...Happy Holidays!
If you are on the east coast, hopefully you survived the wild snowstorm with at least you sense of humor still intact.
As for me, snowstorm or not, I did what I had planned all along to do last night...kick back and watch Team USA on The NHL Network play it's first game at the World Junior Championships up in Buffalo.
Sitting there watching hockey as the snow pounded greater New York outside my window I thought back to a pair of snow-related hockey travel stories from my past. One was after the Islanders team plane landed at a small Long Island airport following a wicked storm and all of us in our suits and dress shoes trudging through the deep snow to find our cars just absolutely buried underneath the white stuff.
Now, I'm not a complainer at all, but it's enough of a pain in the butt to clean ten inches of snow off the car when you do it in the middle of the day, but it really sucks when you do it at 2:00 in the morning following a full work day, game, and travel!
All the players were helping clean each other's cars when John Vanbiesbrouck came over to me and, without asking if I needed any help, quickly and efficently helped clean off my car and dig it out of the snowdrift it was parked in. It was a reminder that I didn't need to be a teammate to still be part of the "family", and it's part of the reason why I have so enjoyed my time working for both the Rangers and Islanders during my career.
We all---players, coaches, trainers, equipment men, staff (like me)---spend so much time together, traveling and living together on the road throughout the long season. And hockey players are so down to earth...though they are clearly the stars of the operation, and the most important people within the family...they see and understand and respect the other members, people like me. The Beezer snow story is just one of many examples I could give to prove this point.
The other story I thought back to last night also occurred when I was with the Islanders, serving as the team's radio play-by-play broadcaster. We were bussing from Calgary to Edmonton and the heating system in the bus did not work! So here we are, just absolutely freezing in the middle of an Alberta winter, million-dollar athletes and much-lesser paid "family" members alike. And though no one enjoyed the predicament at all, the laughs we had on that bus ride were priceless memories. I will never forget how everyone huddled inside their own long winter coats and shot one-liners back and forth the entire bus ride.
Welcome to the National Hockey League one and all! Indeed....
Good times and good memories were stirred during last night's storm.
As for Team USA's debut at the World Juniors....well, they did find a way to earn a 3-2 win over Finland on Nick Bjugstad's overtime goal, but they are going to have to be much better moving forward. Finland was the better team much of this game and was able to dictate the style of play.
But it was only the first game---butterflies and all that---so I'll give the US squad a pass and we'll see how they look moving forward in the tourny. But, again, the bottom line is that they won the game even when not at their best. And it's never a bad thing in a short tournament like this when your goalie---in this case Jack Campbell, the number one pick of the Dallas Stars this past summer---is your best player. And he was.
Next up for Team USA: Slovakia tomorrow night...and they may have to play without winger Jeremy Morin who suffered a fairly serious shoulder injury in last night's win. The loss would be significant as Morin is a veteran on the US squad, and I thought that he was one of the better and more effective players for United States last night.
Stay tuned....and in the meantime take something for that sore back you have from all that shoveling today...
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