As I was on my way to cover my first training camp this morning, I tried to think about how the day would go and what I should expect. Watch some hockey, take some notes, get some quotes. Well, all three were true, but a little differently than I thought.
First of all, when the first non media person I see and say hello to is Garth Snow, I knew I was in different territory. After I managed not to screw that up, I figured my day was off to the right start. After talking to 4 players, the head coach, being introduced to the General Manager, and was even referred to as brother by birthday boy Rick DiPietro, I have officially been christened into the Islanders Blog Box. It was not all smooth, (as I asked my first dumb question…though it wasn’t the end of the world), I think I’ll be able to handle this gig and give a fresh perspective and a different look inside the New York Islanders.
Now….off to my notes…
Group 2 lead off this morning as goaltending coach Sudsie Maharaj had Mikko Koskinen and Dwayne Roloson on the ice early warming up. Doug Weight was the first player on the ice and Jon Sim worked his way to the bench and was chirping at Roloson from the bench.
I’ll say it again, Koskinen is huge. You really can’t appreciate his size until he drops to his knees and his shoulders are almost cross bar height.
The rest of the group comes out and begins stretching. Some players in group are Kyle Okposo, Rob Schremp, Matt Moulson (who are on a line together), Calvin deHaan, Radek Martinek, Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen, Doug Weight and Jeremy Yablonski.
Milan Jurcina is tremendous…(and I mean wide and tall….)
The player I was most surprised by was Doug Weight. I shouldn’t have been, but after the player I saw on the ice last season, I didn’t expect to see the player I saw this morning. Weight was flying and still has his trademark soft hands. It would be foolish of any fan to discount his effect on this team. Weight will be a player on this team.
Calvin deHaan, is not small. Also, he oozes confidence, he doesn’t look out of place at all.
limps walks by, says foot is getting better.
Defense breaks away with Coach Dean Chenoweth as Scott Gordon takes the forwards by the benches.
The Schremp/Moulson/Okposo is a very intriguing line. They look like they are clicking so far.
Yablonski is also a big dude.
Rookie Kirill Kabanov is here (on time apparently) and says good morning to Garth Snow (who was sitting to my right about 5 rows up). I get a smile.
Martinek shows his moves to rookie David Ullstrom, completely shut him down on a one on one drill.
On a side note, the coaching staff is wearing these royal blue track suits (similar to the ones from the early 80’s) love em.
As this is a sore point with me, to all of the “media”, you know, the ones who aren’t here covering the team, that say owner Charles Wang has distanced himself from this team….well he’s here this morning (at 10 am) with his son. He immediately takes a seat next to Garth Snow and makes small talk.
Rick DiPietro (who is in the next group) emerges from the locker room with a goal stick for a fan who I later learned won a signed jersey from his last season and was invited to camp today. He tells her grab the guys as they walk by and have them sign the stick. He then poses for a picture with her and notices Charles and says…”Hi Dad!”….he greets the owner with a hug as Charles wishes him a happy birthday. Boy, this owner really sounds like he’s “distanced” himself eh? (Last time I promise).
The first group goes off the ice and we make our way to the locker room for a few quotes…Rob Schremp and Doug Weight are our targets. (If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I was joined today by the one and only Gary Harding from www.eyesonisles.com, Chris Hessel from www.nyifyi.com and Christian from www.islandershockeyblog.com. You should definitely check out their coverage from today as well.
As we walk into the locker room, it’s loud and just a tad intimidating, but we make our way through and we find Rob Schremp chirping away. As we walk up it starts out very informal, how was your summer, how’s the knee feel both of which we responded as “awesome”. “ We’ve added some great additions to our team”. He hopes to “build off the strong play” he ended last season with and hopes to continue that. When I asked about his new twitter account he responded “it’s pretty cool, I really like it. I get lots of feedback, both good and negative, but it’s all good”
Can the Islanders make the playoffs?
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction” “I expect this year is going to be much more than a hump year for this team.”
On him re-signing with the Islanders…
“This team wanted me back as a player, I enjoy the other responsibilities of my job, but I am a hockey player…they (the Islanders) showed faith in me”
After our talk with Doug Weight, we go to leave the locker room, but we’re blocked by none other than Rick DiPietro (who is three of me in size with his pads on). As we are walking past him, he makes a comment how we’re the unlucky ones who’ll freeze (I won’t use actual verbage but it was pretty funny). As I get to pass him I wish him a happy birthday, (I actually remember his birthday since it’s the day after my brother’s), and he gives me a pound and says “thanks brother…appreciate it”. As someone who doesn’t even have to look at a couple of guys he doesn’t know walking out of the locker room, he made a point to talk to us.
Ok….after a short Zamboni break, our second group (actually group 1), hits the ice. John Tavares, Nino Niederreiter, Josh Bailey, Trevor Gillies, Blake Comeau, Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic, Frans Nielsen and the aforementioned Rick DiPietro.
Some of this group’s line combos are…
Travis Hamonic is paired with Mark Streit today.
The Tavares line has been electric so far. Comeau has been in the slot pounding one timers on DiPietro. Tavares mostly with the setup passes.
Speaking of Tavares, the power skating lessons he’s been taking are definitely paying off, he looks much quicker on his skates and as usual his hands are second to none. He roofs a shot on Kevin Poulin right after Poulin robs Blake Comeau.
Niederreiter is a bull on skates. He’s has a huge frame, and he is a very good skater. He could definitely fill a big role on this team.
Hamonic, much like deHaan, looks like he belongs. He hasn’t added the physical part of his game, though that won’t be the case next Saturday.
As the second group wraps up…we head into the locker room for quotes round 2.
On his shoulder, which he hurt at the WJC last year…
“My body feels great” “I feel as strong as I’ve ever been”
On Long Island
“ Was very impressed and shocked” “ Long Island is much more than the bright lights of the big city”.
Overall, it was a fun day and I learned a lot about what this gig is all about (it’s not an honorary title I can guarantee you that). I’ll have more later this week and I’ll be at the Coliseum next Saturday.
Filed Under: NHL
About the Author: The New York Islanders have been a huge part of my life since I was 7 years old, and during the past 27 years I have experience many ups and downs with this team. The back end of 4 straight Stanley Cups, the Drive for 5, the Easter Epic, trading of my heroes John Tonelli, and Kelly Hrudey. Mike Bossy's early retirement, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hunter, David Volek, Ron Hextall, Al Arbour's retirement, Bill Torrey to Florida, Mike Milbury, John Spano, The Milstein's, Hoistgate, the sale to Charles Wang, Draft Day 2000, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, Milbury's "reassignement", 40 days of Neil Smith, Ted Nolan, The Lighthouse Project, Kate Murray, Scott Gordon, going from 5 to 7 to 9, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin deHaan, El Nino, the 2 Kirill's and hopefully.....much, much more. I have been an Islanders blogger for the past 3 years, starting on Myspace, then for IslesNation.com and currently for HockeyIndependent.com, and I have been selected to the 2010-2011 New York Islanders Blog Box. I am an IT Manager for a quite large facility working for a government agency. I am married for 7 years to an incredibly patient woman and am the proud father of a beautiful 1 year old daughter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile