Thursday, September 22, 2011

Media Day with the Isles Part 1

The mood was jovial today at Islanders training camp. I didn’t see group A on the ice and only spoke with a few of them in the dressing room after their Jack Capuano torture drills. I did manage to get to media day in time for lunch.

It was wonderful to be at the rink and spend a little time with my fellow blog boxers Christian Arnold and Chris Hessel along with Timo Seppa and a friendly face from Brad Kurtzberg had to leave early due to his 1:30 - 2:30 sports show on That’s what he gets for doing a daily show.

To my surprise, fellow Isles Tweep Gotroot801 was there. He is working with a new gamer site called (Check it out, it’s not a betting site but that video game type site.) I didn’t recognize him without his jersey on. Sorry about that Don.

The local newspapers was there in force, but that was because it was announced that Charles Wang would make a statement at 2:15 pm. It was clear that some had no interest in the business of hockey, but in the business of Charles Wang.

I went back to the media room to check work emails before the others were done with lunch. My timing was perfect. By the time I headed back to Doolins (that now has tables, chairs and barstools (real-live-barstools!) to grab a cup of coffee, group B was heading out onto the ice and was piled up in the tunnel.

There they were, like kids waiting to hear the bell for recess, joking and laughing and pushing each other around. I could do nothing but smile -- and try to snap photos with my less-than-professional camera since my good camera’s lens is lost somewhere in that building.

Mark Streit looked good. Real good. He was talking with Nino Niederreiter who seemed to be hanging on his every word. At that moment I knew. This was the next Captain of the New York Islanders. There was no doubt.

This was also the first time I had caught a glimpse of Evgeni Nabokov. He was not what I expected. He looks younger than his years, but that may have something to do with the haircut. Once on the ice, making himself at home in the crease, he became a wall. I watched shot after shot get gobbled up by the veteran. They came in rapid fire. I watched Mark Streit take a shot on him just a few strides over the blue line. You could hear it echo off Nabby’s pads as he made the stop. I’m surprised it didn’t go through him.

Mark Streit seems to have regained his shot. I hope they have invested in more plexi-glass. I believe they will need it.

As Nabokov stopped everything that came near him, I did watch one puck manage to get by. It was one shot by Matt Moulson’s brother-in-law, Sean Backman. I watched as the next time the youngster skated in and parked himself in front of the crease, Evgeni hooked the rookie’s feet out from under him. I searched the ice surface to see if Moulson was going to come in for protection. But no way. This is training camp where the men are separated from the boys.

I sought out Backman after the skate to ask about what happened. He was in the visitor’s dressing room with the others who “don’t have contracts.” I did it again and made the mistake of asking David Hochman which one Sean was. “He’s right over there Dee. Under the plaque with his name on it.”

What David doesn’t realize is that when I walk into a room of young men getting undressed, the last thing I want to do is have to spend time gazing around the room. (Yes, I’m still uncomfortable with this five years later.)

I’ll admit, I had said that Backman looked very small out on the ice. But standing face to face with him, I take back the tweet that he is “Gerbe small.” He’s not. When I asked him why Nabokov hooked him, he chuckled. “I guess I deserved it. I came in a little close and sprayed snow on him. It was all in good fun. He was laughing about it with me.”

I told him he was the first one to get the puck behind the vet. “Really? Yeah than maybe that had something to do with it.”

Back in the Isles dressing room, Nabokov was holding court with the press from his stall. Chris Hessel was amazed that he answered questions almost before they were asked. He is a pro at this. I didn’t speak with him.

But I did speak with Rick. More on that later.

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