Rangers Still Reap Benefits From Gomez Trade


Written on 9/30/2010 by Jim Cerny

By placing Wade Redden on waivers last week, and eventually removing his $6.5 million hit from the salary cap by assigning the veteran defenseman to Hartford, Rangers GM Glen Sather at least partially erased a big mistake from the Rangers' recent past.

Of course, it is a costly mistake as the Blueshirts are still on the hook to pay Redden, not only this year, but for three more seasons aftewards.

Stll Sather removed a mistake from the roster. And that, along with what I have seen so far in Rangers training camp, has made me think of what a great job Sather did in erasing another mistake: the pricey signing of free agent center Scott Gomez four summers ago.

After a solid 70-point first year with the Rangers in 2007-08, Gomez not only was limited to 58 points the following season, but his fit in the locker room was not a good one. Plus his cap hit, along with those of Redden and Chris Drury, was suffocating the team.

So Sather engineered a masterful trade with Montreal, one that I would argue is the type which could set up a franchise in a positive way for years to come.

Please follow my logic:

The Rangers unloaded Gomez and his big salary....
...which freed them up financially to sign the superstar sniper they desired in Marian Gaborik. That alone would make this a winning trade for the Blueshirts. Trading Gomez, a decent second-line center at his best, for an elite goal-scoring machine is a slam dunk win for the Rangers. Yes, I understand that Gaborik is a risk because of his past medical history. But after one healthy 42-goal season on Broadway, the Rangers have to love this swap.

The Rangers received Christopher Higgins in the trade...
....and though the Long Island native did not pan out with the Rangers, Sather shuffled him off to Calgary in the Olli Jokinen trade. Included in that deal was winger Brandon Prust, a rugged third-liner who helped spark the Rangers down the stretch last season and who is a terrific locker-room presence. So, in essence, Prust, not Higgins, was part of this deal since Prust is still playing for the Rangers. Another plus.

The Rangers received Ryan McDonagh in the trade...
....and after leading the University of Wisconsin to the NCAA Championship Game last season, the 21 year-old defenseman turned pro this past summer. McDonagh, a former first round pick of the Canadiens, has looked rock solid and very mature in his first pro camp with the Rangers, and he is on the verge of earning a spot on the opening night roster. He is projected to be a top-four defenseman for years to come.

The Rangers received Pavel Valentenko in the trade...
...and though Valentenko flew under the radar since the deal went down he has emerged as the biggest surprise in this year's training camp for the Rangers. Valentenko is a bruising, fearless, hard-hitting defenseman who told me last night that rocking someone's world "is my favorite". Love it. He also has a cannon of a slap shot, and is not afraid to fire it. Valentenko may start the season in Hartford for more seasoning, but the 22 year-old has an NHL future without question. If he finds his way on to the Rangers roster at some point, that would be four solid NHL players in the lineup in exchange for one regular.

The Rangers traded away little else other than Gomez....
...not to demean center Tom Pyatt, who is a gritty fourth-liner, but the Rangers did not surrender a top prospect to Montreal when they sent Gomez up north. And not to demean Gomez either. He put up only 59 points in Montreal last year, but he did play very well at times in the playoffs, notching 14 points in 19 games as the Canadiens reached the Eastern Conference Finals. But especially with the emergence of McDonagh and Valentenko, this trade keeps getting better by the day for the Rangers.

Monday Musings


Written on 9/27/2010 by Jim Cerny

Here's a quick analysis of the top stories from this past weekend in the NHL:

Streit Headed Straight to IR
It can't be easy being an Islanders fan. Or being Garth Snow or Scott Gordon, for that matter. The team holds an open scrimmage for their fans to get excited about its young up-and-coming team, and what happens? The Islanders top defenseman, Mark Streit, suffers a major shoulder injury when checked by teammate Matt Moulson. Word is that Streit will miss 6 months of action due to damage in the labrum and rotator cuff. Other than an injury to John Tavares, could you think of a more important player to go down for the luckless Islanders? I sure can't. Streit is invaluable to this team. It's No. 1 defenseman. It's power play quarterback. A legit 50-60 point player from the back end. A 25-minute per-night ice hog. Respected locker room, and on ice, leader. Barring a trade, and reports say the Isles have no interest in Edmonton's Sheldon Souray, look to James Wisniewski, Jack Hillen, and Andrew McDonald as defensemen asked to step up up offensively. Yikes! What a comedown from Streit, in my opinion one of the most underrated blueliners in the game. Perhaps 19 year-old Calvin de Haan will get a longer look now, though he, too, is coming off shoulder surgery from last season. Plus several scouts have expressed their doubts about de Haan to me, though most reports have him pegged as a solid offensive defenseman. Bottom line, though, Streit's long-term departure is a crippling blow to the Islanders, one that only could be surpassed by a similar injury to Tavares.

Redden Waives Goodbye to Broadway
The news that defenseman Wade Redden was placed on waivers by the Rangers on Saturday was expected. The veteran's play has been in a steep decline for years and his $6.5 million salary cap hit has been an albatross for GM Glen Sather for three seasons. But anytime a team is willing to pay a player that much money not to play---or at least to do so in some minor league outpost like Hartford---is still somewhat of a surprise. I have not spoken yet with Redden, but you would think he and his agent Don Meehan have been preparing for this moment all summer and have thought out all of their options. To keep collecting his mega-salary, Redden must report to the Rangers AHL affiliate. But he and Meehan could try and broker a deal in Europe, similar to what Blackhawks unwanted goalie Christobal Huet has done this season. Either way, Redden is finished on Broadway. And while it is the right move for the team to make, it shouldn't be lost in all of this that Redden is a decent, well-intentioned person. Redden was All-Class all the time. He is not the monster Rangers fans would have you believe. In fact, he is the exact opposite. And I wish Wade and his wife Danica, who just gave birth to the couple's first child last Wednesday, the best moving forward.

Calling Jose Theodore! Calling Jose Theodore!
Josh Harding's gruesome knee injury in which he suffered not only a torn MCL, but a shredded ACL, as well, has Minnesota on the lookout for a No. 2 goalie to play behind Niklas Backstrom this season. While 20 year-old Matt Hackett is viewed as the Wild's goalie of the future, he needs more seasoning and would not benefit playing 20-odd games behind Backstrom. And minor league backstop Anton Khudobin, while being talked up by GM Chuck Fletcher, doesn't fit the bill either. But at the right price, a veteran like 34 year-old Jose Theodore (30 wins, .911 save percentage, 2.81 goals against in Washington last year) or Vesa Toskala (not so pretty in Toronto and Calgary) would be a nice addition. And why wouldn't the price be right? Better to be the Wild's No. 2 than sitting out, staying in shape, and waiting for the phone to ring during the season, all while NOT being paid a cent. Minnesota will head to Finland to begin the season shortly, so Fletcher needs to make a decision soon. If I'm Theodore, I'd make sure my passport is ready to go.

Burke Says Kadri Not Such a Sure Thing
Ok, I'll admit it. When thinking about who the top rookies would be in the NHL this season, I always, and I mean every single time, had Toronto's Nazem Kadri near the top of my list. Not so fast, according to Toronto GM Brian Burke who came down hard on the 19 year-old center this weekend. Burke flat out said that, though, Kadri survived a round of cuts, the kid hasn't shown anything in the pre-season that leads the Maple Leafs to believe he can contribute at the NHL level this season. OUCH! Kadri was a 35-goal, 93 point player in London last year, and his arrival in Toronto has been eagerly anticipated by Leafs fans ever since he was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft. That wait now may just be a bit longer. Burke is a straight shooter. While his words had to have some motivational meaning behind them, I really believe that Burke right now is leaning towards farming the kid out. Kadri's got this week to pick up his play. Let's see how he reacts to a taste of adversity.

Youngsters Shine in Edmonton
19 year-old wing Magnus Paajarvi netted a Hat Trick late last week. 20 year-old Jordan Eberle makes the highlights with two pretty goals and an assist last night. 18 year-old first-overall pick Taylor Hall has a goal and two assists in his first two games. And 23 year-old Linus Omark thrills with his goal-scoring prowess. I know it's only the pre-season, but the Oilers look like they have a lot to be excited about---not just this season, but thinking long-term---with the play of these four exciting rookies. Edmonton coach Tom Renney was loathe to play the kids when he coached the Rangers in the all-consuming win-now atmosphere. But is he now willing to take on this many kids and let them grow together, knowing the inevitable bumps in the road which will come on a regular basis, perhaps more often than victories, to start? I hope so. The potential for the Oilers to be one of the more intriguing and exciting teams to watch this season is growing by the day. Let the Kids Play, Tom!

Sid and Ovie Go 24/7 on HBO


Written on 9/23/2010 by Jim Cerny

For you cynics out there who claim that the NHL is already all about Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin 24/7, well now the league has justified your stance, lietrally making the two megastars a 24/7 attraction today.

The league announced that HBO will take its Emmy Award-winning "24/7" reality series and focus on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals as the two clubs prepare for this season's Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

There will be four episodes beginning on December 15 and running through the Wednesday following the game itself. HBO cameras will have full behind the scenes access to both clubs, not dissimilar to its popular "Hard Knocks" program that features a different NFL club during training camp each season.

However don't expect this reality show to completely mimic this summer's smash "Hard Knocks" featuring the New York Jets. First, hockey players, in general, are different from football players. Reserved being the word that comes to mind. Certainly not as flashy. Second, neither Dan Bylsma nor Bruce Boudreau is quite the scene-stealing head coach that Rex Ryan is. And finally there will be no Darrelle Revis holdout issue at play here, nothing even close to it.

But that doesn't mean the Penguins-Caps program won't be entertaining theater. I have long believed that individual teams and players, as well as the league as a whole, could benefit greatly by behind-the-scenes programming. NFL Films has helped raise the popularity of football over the past few decades with its complete access and must-see programming. Micing coaches and players. Cameras in meeting rooms, locker rooms, and more. Every grunt, smash, and pow recorded from multiple angles.

Do that with hockey, even for only four episodes, and you've got something that will appeal even beyond just the hard-core hockey fan. These players, and the game itself, shown from every angle with intimate access can extend beyond the hockey faithful. I very much believe that.

Of course there are going to be those hard-core fanatics that will be upset Sid and Ovie will be the featured stars, and will think this feeds into their conspiracy that Gary Bettman and those in the league office only care about pushing a Crosby-Ovechkin agenda.

To that I say these are the two most marketable and recognizeable names and faces in the game. HBO needs that name recognition, certainly for this first foray into a hockey reality series. Maybe down the road the league could push for other teams, other stars, other personalities to be fetaured.

Now is not that time.

Like it or not the league needs Sid and Ovie to come up big in these four episodes. And in the process, viewers will also get a peak into intriguing personalities like Max Talbot, or quiet stars like Nicklas Backstrom. Crosby and Ovechkin are driving the bus, but viewers will get to know the other fascinating passengers, too. Sounds like a winner to me.

Let's hope this is just the start to more and more access for you, the fan. I am fortunate enough to have that access, and I know you will love getting to know these hockey players and this great game even more.

Roll 'em!

Follow me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Decisions, Headaches, and Bad Breaks


Written on 9/21/2010 by Jim Cerny

The first nine pre-season games get underway today---including Vancouver hosting Calgary and Calgary hosting Vancouver in "split-squad" contests---so let's recap and update the biggest stories so far from training camps around the NHL.

All About Kovie
Ilya Kovalchuk's contract saga and battle with the league over term, amount, and structure of said contract with New Jersey was the biggest story of the off-season. Now his mere presence in Devils camp is the biggest story, so far, early in the pre-season. Choose your angle, because either is a major story. First, carrying Kovie's cap-heavy pact is going to force the Devils to unload some salary, meaning that someone (or more likely, more than one player) sweating alongside Kovalchuk while skating suicides in camp will be gone by time New Jersey drops the puck for real on October 8. Makes for a bit of an uncomfotable situation, wouldn't you say? Kovie's presence clearly makes New Jersey a better team. But they will lose valuable depth if a Bryce Salvador and/or Dainius Zubrus is purged to make room for that hefty cap hit. The second big story is Kovie switching to right wing at coach John Maclean's behest to skate on an imposing top line with Zach Parise on left wing and Travis Zajac at center. What Maclean is doing here is creating options. If Kovie is comfortable on the right side, this threesome could form the most explosive line in the NHL, whether they stay together every shift, only play that way on the power play, or are used together as an option late in close games. Good aggressive thinking by the new bench boss in Jersey.

Savard's Concussion Rocks Bruins
There was much talk all summer about Marc Savard, most of it centering on his big contract, whether it could be voided a-la Ilya Kovalchuk, or whether the Bruins might be seeking to trade the veteran to create some salary cap space. Not much of the news involved speculation as to whether or not Savard had fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last March when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke viciously elbowed him in the head. Yet Savard showed up at B's camp unable to play, complaining of concussion-like symptoms, leaving a gaping hole atop the depth chart at center. You could argue that the Bruins were preparing for playing without Savard anyway if they were considering dealing him during the summer. But a deal involving Savard would have come with a plan---receiving another center in return, make another trade, sign a free agent. There was no back-up plan for Savard arrving at camp unable to play. 18 year-old Tyler Seguin one day might be a star NHL player, but he is not going to be a top-line, or second-line, center for a Cup-contending team, as Boston is, this season. It's easier to fill that role on a rebuilding team, like the situation top pick Taylor Hall finds himself in with the Edmonton Oilers. So can David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron carry the load as the top two centers? That's somewhat of a leap of faith, especially because Bergeron has never approached his back-to-back 70+ point seasons in '05-'06 and '06-'07 after being injured the following season. Not to be crass, but the one positive, from a business point of view, is that Savard's salary will not count against the cap if he lands on Injured Reserve. Small consolation.

Rangers captain Chris Drury broke his left index finger; Senators defenseman Filip Kuba broke his right leg; Blue Jackets defenseman Kris Russel sprained his right knee. And those are just the most major injuries to the bigger names so far in training camp. Of the three, Kuba's injury is the most severe, and he will miss 5-6 weeks of action, leaving a fairly sizeable hole on the Sens blueline in the process. Of course Ottawa learned to play a bit without Kuba in the lineup last year, too. But his is a big loss to start the season considering that he eats up 23 minutes of ice-time a night. Depending upon how long he is out the lineup, Russel's injury could increase the number of Sheldon Souray-to-Columbus trade rumors that have been flying about of late. His loss is frustrating because the Blue Jackets were very eager to get an early look to see if the 23 year-old was going to break-out a bit offensively in this, his fourth NHL season. As for Drury, his broken finger should sideline him 3-4 weeks. Since the Rangers have a very light schedule to open up the season, he may miss only a game or two or three. "Knowing him, I bet he'll be back by the start of the season," said teammate Tim Kennedy. I wouldn't bet against that either. Remember how he played with that broken hand against the Caps in the playoffs two years ago? Drury will do whatever it takes to be on the ice opening night in Buffalo. And his absence in the pre-season will afford several players who are battling for roster spots the opportunity to play a bit more in scrimmages and games, giving the coaches more of a look. "It's not like I have to go away for three weeks and stay out of the building," said Drury. "I'll be here every day and certainly won't miss a beat. It is what it is and I'll do whatever I can to get back."

Pre-season games start this evening, and new stories will develop by the day.

Stay tuned....

Follow me on Twitter at: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Things I've Learned, So Far


Written on 9/18/2010 by Jim Cerny

It's been only two days---and keep in mind that not one puck has even been tossed onto the ice yet as the team has focused on conditioning tests instead of actual hockey---but here are a few random observations from the start of Rangers training camp:

Torts is Intrigued with Derek Stepan:
The 20 year-old center was "the best player I saw" at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament last week, according to Rangers coach John Tortorella. And the former University of Wisconsin star has done nothing but impress, so far, in his first NHL training camp, excelling during the conditioning tests and striking an extremely confident---yet not cocky nor arrogant---demeanor. Now Torts has tabbed Stepan to center star wings Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov during the camp's first scrimmage on Sunday. Clearly a case of "Let's see what the kid's got". It will make for some interesting decision making for the Rangers if Stepan shows over the next two weeks that he is capable of skipping the minors and heading straight to Broadway. "I only focus on what I can control, play my game. It's great to hear those things (from Tortorella), but in the end you have to still compete to the best of your abilities every day," Stepan told me. His maturity is way ahead of his years. Keep an eye on this kid.

Boyle and Gilroy Got the Message
Center Brian Boyle and defenseman Matt Gilroy had to know that Tortorella was less than thrilled with their play by the conclusion of the 2009-10 season. Boyle, an effective penalty killer, had become of less and less use to the head coach as his four-goal, six-point season was not where Tortorella envisioned his numbers to be. But at least Boyle remained in the lineup as the fourth-line center, except when sidelined by a late-season back injury. Gilroy, the rookie former Hobey Baker Award winner, lost his coach's trust and was a healthy scratch the final eight games of a season in which he tallied 4 goals and 15 points, and struggled in his own end. "I learned that I never want to be in that position again, sitting and watching," said Gilroy. It's obvious that both Boyle and Gilroy worked extremely hard this summer to improve their lot and standing with Tortorella. Boyle has worked extensively with Barbara Underhill, the noted power-skating coach and former Canadian Olympian, and the difference in his skating---and confidence---is quite evident. He looked terrific during the testing, and really stood out in the informal scrimmages the players put together prior to the start of camp. Gilroy also is in terrific shape and his skating---the strength of his game---has been noticeably better than most in camp. These two clearly understand that their jobs are on the line. And, so far, they have answered the bell. Now let's see how they stack up when the scrimmages and pre-season games start up.

Redden's Clean Slate
Tortorella sent the players a letter this summer stating that everyone has a "clean slate" entering this season, no matter their prior track record. If any player needs to wipe the slate clean with Torts it's veteran defenseman Wade Redden. With his sub-par play and salary cap-killing contract, it has been widely speculated that Redden may be sent to Hartford so that his salary comes off the cap. To his credit, Redden---an extremely decent and respectful person caught in an unenviable situation---was a regular at the pre-camp workouts and his conditioning looks solid. Now will he really receive a fair shake during camp? "That's another challenge trying to leave (his posisble demotion) to the side," explained Redden on Friday. "There's nothing that can be done about that. It doesn't help to dwell on those things. They're going to make the best decision they feel is right for the team, and I want it to be with me in the first lineup of the year."

Biron Is Still Talking
No matter when you read this entry, there's a good chance that Marty Biron is still talking. To someone. Anyone. Somewhere. Anywhere. One of the most personable players in the entire NHL, Biron just loves to talk, and laugh, and tell stories. "He almost couldn't breathe he was so out of breath, but yet he was still talking, telling us stories," laughed Chad Johnson, the Rangers No. 3 goalie on the depth chart behind Henrik Lundqvist and Biron, recounting how Marty chatted up his fellow goalies after their brutal 3-lap sprint test Friday afternoon. "He is such a great guy." His locker will be a destination for me all season long, no question about that. Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record said the other day that the annual Good Guy Award should be handed to Biron already. There's no reason to seek out other candidates throughout the season. Amen!

Dylan McIlrath is a Man-Child
The Rangers top pick in the 2010 draft did not look like such a great skater during the club's mini camp for prospects back in July. Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director of Player Personnel, explained that McIlrath had been off skates for weeks, so cut him some slack. Gordie was right. McIlrath has shown a much more fluid skating style so far in this training camp, and he is clearly in outstanding physical condition. He crushed Saturday's sprint tests. As others around him gasped for breath or dropped to their knees from fatigue, it appeared that McIlrath's chest was barely heaving. "Piece of cake," said McIlrath. Ahhh, to be 18 years old! Now let's see how he looks with Gaborik skating full speed at him!! As an aside, prospects Ethan Werek and Tomas Kundratek also absolutely crushed the conditioning tests. Werek was a beast with his intense approach. "I don't know how to pace myself," explained Werek. Sounds like Torts' kind of guy.

Time now for drills, practices, scrimmages, and pre-season games. And some big-time decisions for the coaching staff.

"Now it's time to do what we came here for," said defenseman Marc Staal (photo above).

Follow Me on Twitter at: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Gone Camping!


Written on 9/17/2010 by Jim Cerny

So often throughout the course of the year you hear fans---or media---or players---or even coaches---complain about how long the National Hockey League season drags on.

Funny then how everyone connected to hockey seems to be so over-the-top excited that training camps FINALLY opened up today!

I mean REALLY over-the-top excited.

My e-mail and Twitter messages have absolutely blown up the past week or so in anticipation of today. And then today, the actual official start to the long grind as it so often referred to, hockey folk have been scrounging for every morsel they can find on the 'net or through any and every social media outlet in creation.

And you know what? I think it's awesome. Because I am as fired up as you.

It doesn't matter how many training camps I have covered, it just doesn't get old for me. Doesn't matter that I spent about five hours today watching 60 New York Rangers take part in coach John Tortorella's exhausting conditioning drills without ever once seeing a puck on the ice. In fact, no pucks until Sunday! But bring it on, hockey is back!

Rangers center Brian Boyle really summed up what so many NHL players and prospects feel heading into camp when he told me today, "The worst part of training camp is the night before because you are so anxious. I just love being out here with the guys, even when we're doing these tough tests. That's better than the waiting. The night before is just so tough."

Similar sentimants have been shared through Twitter-land the past 24 hours. Blues defenseman Erik Johnson (@ErikJohnson6) Tweeted last night about sharing a spaghetti dinner with a few of his 'mates and how excited they were for the start of camp. Matt Moulson of the Islanders (@mmoulson) shared similar feelings of being excited to get camp started last night. And today the likes of Atlanta's Evander Kane (@EKaneAtl9) and Bobby Ryan of Anaheim (@b_ryan9) Tweeted stories from the first day of training camp, including Ryan's joy that his stationary bike broke down just in time to wipe out his conidtioning test for the day!

My Inbox and Twitter messages overflowed today because the fans are just as hungry---if not more so---as the players for the NHL season to get underway. My fellow writers on the Rangers beat, like Steve Zipay of Newsday and Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record and Jesse Spector of The NY Daily News, worked their fingers numb Tweeting, blogging, and writing the latest news today.

And did I mention already that no hockey actually took place? Just physicals, conditioning tests, and speaking with the media (see Sidney Crosby photo). That's all. And you out there still clamored for every hint of information.

I think that's pretty cool.

Here's to a great grind of a season!

Follow me on Twitter at: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Not in the NHL?


Written on 9/15/2010 by Jim Cerny

For the past few days there has been much talk of the boorish behavior several New York Jets players, and coaches, reportedly displayed in the presence of Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz.

And there has also been much debate over whether Ms. Sainz' attire (see photo) was appropriate for a reporter to wear when covering a sporting event or practice.

Unfortunately we've been down this road before. The "boys will be boys" locker-room mentality. The "she asked for it" mindset. The "locker room is no place for women" stance. And the angry equal rights responses and defense in return.

Funny how these stories are so much more prevelant in sports other than hockey. Football, baseball, basketball, yes.But not hockey.

I have covered professional sports for more than 20 years, and I have been regularly in locker rooms of all four major sports, and I can not remember a single similar incident of complete disrespect directed at a female journalist ever. And keep in mind I have been in the NHL for most of my career as a play-by-play broadcaster, beat writer, and talk show host.

That doesn't mean there hasn't been something inappropriate said or done to a female reporter in a hockey locker room, only that in my extensive career, I have never ever witnessed any or heard of any. By contrast, far fewer times have I been in MLB, NFL, or NBA locker rooms, and I have witnessed offensive comments or acts in all three.

Yes, Sean Avery's inappropriate comments about his ex-girlfriend and then-Calgary Flame defenseman Dion Phaneuf shed a horrible light on the NHL and its players a couple of years ago. But his teammates, and opponents immediately reacted in a universally negative way to what Avery said. Who can forget teammates Mike Modano, Marty Turco, et al basically running Avery out of Dallas after that ugly diatribe?

In contrast, several NFL players, including Redskins rubbing back Clinton Portis and Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett, have gone out of their way the past two days to further inflame the Jets-Sainz situation with misguided comments.

Interestingly, I have never seen Avery act disrespectful to a female reporter in the locker room, which is central to what is at issue here.

Back on track, the very first MLB game I ever covered as a reporter for WCBS Radio in New York, right out of college, was a big Mets-Pirates late-season game at Shea Stadium. Afterwards in the locker room of the losing team, a well-known star player---who had failed in the clutch in the 8th inning, the key moment of the contest---was asked by a female reporter if he believed his failure was indeed that key moment.

The player's response was swift and vicious. The reporter was called every vile name in the book as a group of male reporters and players just stood by.

The end result? The female reporter was removed from the locker room at the star player's request.

Granted, if that happened today, the player and team would be subject to an investigation and possible fines, just as is happening with the Jets. But that was my introduction to covering a professional sports locker room, and how women reporters could be treated.

Hockey players are certainly not choirboys. And when I discuss their overall respectful manner in the locker room, it is just that. I am not talking about what may go on off the ice. That's their personal business. I am only discussing what is professional.

And on the professional front, hockey players, on the whole, are the most respectful and polite athletes in regards to how they treat the media---both male and female---and their fans.

Why is that? Perhaps it is because---at least in the States---they are the least famous or least scrutinized of all pro athletes. Perhaps it is because they make, on average, less money than their counterparts in MLB, NFL, and NBA.

Or more likely that respectful mindset comes with waking up at 5:00 AM as a kid in order to be able to get ice time to play the sport you love. And lugging your own equipment. And not having your every whim catered to from pre-teen years on. Perhaps the amount of Europeans in hockey adds to a more accepting respectful atmosphere.

No matter the exact answer, my experience---as well as those of many respected sports journalists I spoke to before writing this piece---says that hockey players are the class of all professional athletes.

Follow me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

Back in the Saddle


Written on 9/15/2010 by Jim Cerny

As Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has sung for years: "I'm Baaaaack! I'm back in the saddle again!"

For several reasons---some in, some out, of my control---Rink Rap was on a distinct hiatus these past several months. But now, well, yeah, sing it Steve....I'm Back!

Of course I wasn't completely away from hockey. In fact, I wasn't away at all. Been covering the Rangers throughout the summer at my day job with the team's official web site and official Twitter.

In fact one of the hockey highlights this summer was my week-long stint in California covering the Rangers' every move leading up to, and the days of, the NHL Entry Draft. The live video chats with Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark and his assistant Jeff Gorton (see photo of me on left and Jeff on right) stood out for me, as did rollerblading along the beach and unwinding at the best dive beach spot in Santa Monica, Big Dean's (that's an official Shout Out!).

Covering free agency, prospects mini-camps, and now pre-training camp workouts the past few weeks have kept me hopping. And hopefully you have hopped right along with my every word on the Rangers site and Twitter.

But the start of NHL camps is now three days away, and I have much ground to cover around the league.

So today I warm up the keyboard with a little chat. And moving forward I've got the Coolest Game on Ice (remember that one?!) blanketed for you.

I'm Baaaaaaack! Back in the saddle again!

Follow me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers