The BL blOG
September 19, 5 pm
FAREWELL TO YARMOUTH...HELLO LONG ISLAND!
We leave the wonderful town of Yarmouth in a couple of hours. As you know from reading my blog, it has been one heckuva week. We came here with a purpose and succeeded. I hope the good people of Nova Scotia got something out of our stay here, too.
Coach Stirling ran a fast-paced practice today, drill after drill and lots of skating. I'm sure he wants us ready for our Coliseum debut tomorrow night. We will be.
The early word is that I'm paired with AZ for the Rangers, as are Sopes and Janne. My guess is the third pair will come from some of the younger guys like Campoli, Gervais, Pettinen, Caldwell and maybe even Dustin Kohn, who can skate like the wind and has shown an incredible amount of poise for a kid in his first NHL camp. I wish I was that good in '94 with the Islanders.
I came here knowing everything about our present -- the big 4 vets who came before me, the holdovers like Ricky and Garth, Yash and Parry and Janne -- but I'd be lying if I told you I knew much about the prospects in the Islanders' system. After a week of watching these kids, I can report that you fans have nothing to worry about.
Robert Nilsson -- oh my, the kid has tools. Bergenheim and Nokelainen -- relentless, talented. O'Marra -- he's 18 and plays like he's 24. You already know what I think about Campoli and Kohn. Bruno will be a regular someday soon, maybe real soon. And there's so many more. I'm talking skilled kids with great attitudes. Getting to meet them was one of the best things about the week.
This will be the final entry of my blog...at least for now. We have a lot of games this week, most on the road, and my focus needs to be 100% on hockey. Besides, my prose probably has Mark Twain turning in his grave. I mentioned to the some of the other guys around the team that I've set the bar for blogs and I challenged them to blow me away. I hear one of our assistant coaches might do something as we head into the regular season. I think that would be a good window into the coaches' office for you fans.
I had a blast doing this. The feedback from home and from the people all around Yarmouth has been good. I hope I gave you a little peak into how special this week in Nova Scotia was. Thanks for reading. I'll see you at the Coliseum tomorrow and down the road for what's going to be a great season for the Islanders and our fans.
September 18, 6:15 pm
I swear: if I had to kill just one more penalty today, I would have puked.
On the positive side, I believe the defenseman are learning how to take advantage of the new rules on the offensive side. We saw a lot of great, long passes from the D and the goalies. On defense, it's another story but we're continuing to work on it.
I appreciate the job the refs did this weekend. They didn't just blow the whistle and send you to the box. If you had a question or a beef, they took the time to explain their call. One time, the ref admitted he may have blown one. We respect that because it's preseason for them, too.
You could tell how we really came together this week. When the game was over today, everyone -- and I mean every guy here -- wanted to shower quick so we could go watch the NFL games somewhere and hang as a team. The people of Yarmouth are throwing a lobster dinner for us between games, which is real nice.
It's been a memorable week. This was absolutely the way to go, having the first week of camp outside of New York. I understand we're coming out of a work stoppage and need to be out where the fans can have access to us on Long Island, and I assure you that you'll see plenty of us in the community. But I totally agree with Mike Milbury and Steve Stirling's decision to have camp in Yarmouth.
I've been a part of camps in Dallas and Tampa Bay where we stayed home. What happens is, the veterans leave the rink and go home. The prospects go back to the team hotel. Nobody gets to know each other. If we stayed on the Island this week, there's no way Chris Campoli and I forge the relationship we now have. Alexei Yashin is now a friend to everyone on the team -- not just the veterans but the 2005 draft picks as well. I know the kids appreciate it a lot.
September 17, 4:40 pm
ON SYSTEMS AND LEADERSHIP
Lost track of the days at the bottom of my post yesterday. I know you guys watch your NFL on Sundays. When you're away from home and on the ice every day, you never know what day of the week it is.
Lots of systems work today. Lots of power play and PK. Coach Stirling was out sick today, but the assistants did a great job installing the plan. I really like the staff Steve put together -- Brad Shaw, Dan Bylsma and Jack Capuano. Plenty of energy, plenty of forward thinking.
Biggest pain today was our off-ice session. Hard biking for 60 minutes straight. I don't think they're trying to tell us something, because the guys arrived in great shape. Maybe they wanted to push us hard between Intrasquad games. Whatever it was, it was a workout.
I brought my Stanley Cup ring I earned with the Lighting to Yarmouth for the week. I figured I would bring it to inspire the guys, and I know plenty of people would want to see it. The great thing is that the players love the ring, no doubt, but their questions aren't about the ring itself, but what it took to win it.
The playoffs are a long, long haul. You have to play through everything -- injuries, slumps, tough times -- to survive the two months and be there at the end.
I believe we can be there at the end this season. If I didn't, I wouldn't have signed here. Everyone knows how much I loved the Islanders as a kid, was proud of being drafted by them more than a decade ago and wanted to come back and wear the sweater. But just as important, like I was talking to Zhitnik about this a few days ago and I know he felt the same way, I came here because I think this team will contend for a Stanley Cup.
I had options. My agent and I heard from a bunch of teams, some we discounted right away because it sounded like they were just filling roster spots instead of putting together a genuine team. Mike Milbury came after me, made me feel wanted. I saw what they did the first week in August -- adding AZ, Sopes, York and Satan. I know we lost some good players, but I really thought Mike did a masterful job crafting a team around the new rules. He didn't go after a bunch of clutch-and-grabbers.
I'm here for a reason, and I'm going to make the most of it. I had the privilege of walking into the Dallas dressing room when I was still in my early 20s and learning from Carbonneau, Skrudland, Hatcher, Modano. Someone in Dallas said we once had 15 players on that team that were captains in junior, the minors and the NHL. It was an amazing experience. I'm not putting myself in their category, but I know I can be a part of something special here.
For now, it's on to dinner at Rudder's (great seafood) and then bowling at 7:00. As we wind up our stay here, I want to thank the people of Yarmouth for taking such great care of us and making us feel at home. Included in that group is Robert at Defining Bodies Gym, who has welcomed the players, coaches, staff and media into his club and never asks for anything in return. That's the way it's been all week.
September 16, 11:30 pm
SPECIAL TEAMS GET A MAJOR WORKOUT
Okay, now I get it. I understand what the refs are going to call everything! I get it! No, really...
I'm mostly kidding. The referees did a good job tonight preparing us for what to expect. My guy Campoli was christened with the first call, 37 seconds into the game. Welcome to the big leagues, Camps. I could see as the game went on that the guys were starting to get it. I felt better as the game went on.
The rink was packed tonight. They even applauded the refs when they were introduced. It was a great atmosphere. It felt nice bringing NHL hockey to a part of my country that doesn't get much of a taste of it. We're really thankful for them making us feel at home.
As for the game, I thought the pace was good. It was feisty. At the end of the first period, it got so intense Jason Blake and Oleg Kvasha almost got into it. Ollie's so big, I'm not sure Blakie could have reached his mug even if he tried.
Our goalies, Rick and Garth, showed why we have one of the best tandems in the NHL. Both stood on their heads. I love having both those guys on our team for what they bring as goalies and leaders.
We saw the difference in taking the red line out. Ricky threw a few tape-to-tapers to set up breakaways. Our D, especially the movers like AZ, Janne and Sopes, really took advantage. I saw a quote from Janne today in Newsday where he said Radek is our secret weapon. I agree with Janne. Didn't know much about Marty, but that guy can flat-out play. Speaking of Newsday, we appreciate them coming all this way and covering us. Same for the NY Post, News 12 Long Island and MSG Network. We've had a fun week with them.
Word has it we get down to smaller numbers for tomorrow's practice, with Steve putting most of the NHLers in one 20-man group. I know from experience that those groups can change, so a player who has a good scrimmage on Sunday can work his way up to the A group, while someone could be moved to B. Sunday's scrimmage is going to be big, as will Tuesday at the Coliseum against the Rangers. I really hope you fans come out and back us on Tuesday. I know it's an exhibition game, but it's our first game at the Coli in a while and it's the Rangers!
Man, it's nice to be back again. I spoke to my wife Cara this morning and told her how much fun I was having. She said the last time I said that, I was holding the Cup over my head.
Enjoy the Jets and the rest of the NFL tomorrow. I'll check in after practice with the big boys.
September 15, 10:45 pm
THE LINEUP IS OUT
Coach Stirling just handed out the lineups for Friday night's scrimmage. I'm in.
For the first time in a decade, I get the privilege of wearing the Islanders uniform again. It will not be easy getting to sleep tonight.
Campoli and I will be out there together. Good news for him, good news for me. Seems like Coach has most of the veterans going Friday. It's a great opportunity for him, just as big a night for me.
Don't have much else to add, so here are three unjustly maligned movies I like:
CONSTANTINE, with Canadian Keanu Reeves
STRANGE BREW, with the Canadian McKenzie brothers
SUPER TROOPERS, with nobody I know
September 15, 9:10 pm
THAT SCRIMMAGE STUNK
Forgot to mention the scam Joel Bouchard pulled off beautifully on The Cat high- speed ferry yesterday. In his deep French accent, Bouche had about a dozen of the guys convinced that mid-way through the ferry ride, five expert water skiers would emerge at the back of the ship and do a series of tricks and jumps. For an hour, he had the boys asking when the show would start!
If it seems like I've been avoiding hockey talk in today's updates, that's because I am. My team lost the scrimmage today and I'm not happy about it. We didn't play well as a team and it wasn't my best effort.
It was frustrating. Campoli and I re-grouped after the game and talked about what we need to do better. There's a Intrasquad Game Friday night with real NHL refs and a packed arena. If I'm in the game -- I'll find out in about an hour -- I have to do better.
September 15, 3:15 pm
COLLITON (AND MIKE?) DOMINATE KARAOKE, ASHAM AT THE POOL TABLE
Not-so-lucky Luch Aquino sang "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" last night in front of 50 teammates. Oh, to be a rookie again.
It was Karaoke Night at our hotel so we decided to stop by. And while we were there, we figured we'd have the rooks give us a kind of "Islanders Idol" show. As I've mentioned, I manage some bands. None of my teammates will get a contract from me, although I would give the Best Islanders Vocalist award to Jeremy Colliton, who did a nice job on a few country tunes.
The buzz around the rink this morning is that Mike Milbury and the coaches, staff and media did some karaoke after the players left and that our GM stole the show with a rendition of "Pretty Woman." One guy at the bar said it was Roy Orbison meets the deep growl of Leon Redbone, with the stage movements of Mick Jagger. Reports have surfaced that there's videotape evidence. I need to get my hands on that tape, so if the person who shot it reads this, please find me.
Deb Kaufman from Fox TV and our equipment manager, Scott Moon, were also seen obliterating "We've Got Tonight." Hey, the love duet gave Mooner a chance to dream -- if only for three minutes.
After karaoke, I went out with a bunch of the boys for a walk down Main St. We were approached by some guys who said the local radio station was claiming that the Islanders were going to play pool at a place called Dooley's. Not wanting to let the locals down, we rounded up about 20 guys and went down to Dooley's. The place got jammed about five minutes after we arrived. We signed autographs and played pool until curfew.
Yarmouth claimed to have this legendary pool shark who would beat any of our guys. Then the Yarmouth shark met my boy Arron Asham, who shamed him at the pool table until he cried uncle.
It was an unforgettabe night of fun and team-building.
Catch you tonight.
Sept. 14, 6:30 pm
TAKING THE WHEEL OF A HIGH-SPEED FERRY
That high-speed ferry, The Cat, was a blast. The players were taken to the bridge to meet the crew. I even took the wheel for a while, which may explain why everyone got temporarily seasick. The boat is so smooth despite being huge, it doesn't feel like you're going 55 mph. Then they take you down to the engine room where you're right on top of the water, and it's amazing.
Dinner tonight with Asham, Godard and Brigley. Ash and Godsy have told me a little bit about the Islanders-Rangers rivalry. Sounds fun. I knew Lightning- Panthers. Dallas-Colorado was super intense, but the Islanders and Rangers are 30 miles away. Can't wait.
Mike Milbury was kind enough to host all the players a little later back at the team hotel. Maybe we should have the rookies do karaoke.
Found out today that NHL refs are coming in before our Blue-White scrimmage on Friday night. I'm hoping we'll get the chance to speak with them and get a better feel for what I can and cannot get away with. We've looked at a lot of video from our practices and scrimmages this week, but it's not the same as a game with NHL refs.
By the way, both Blue-White scrimmages sold out as soon as they put the tix on sale in Yarmouth. It's Islandermania up here!
Earlier, I mentioned how 3-on-2s are really hard on the dmen. On the ferry today there was some talk about how the forwards can help out. Sounds like a good idea, guys!
I leave you this list of 5 of my favorite bands. I hesitate to do this because I know some of my friends in bands I leave out might get ticked. But deal with it, guys. I'll make it up to you. Also, as a disclaimer, I actually manage a few bands. Anyway, here it is:
3 Days Grace
September 14, 1:50 pm
PLAYING A 3-ON-2 WITH YOUR HANDS TIED AIN'T A PICNIC
Finally, a scrimmage. A chance to see what it's like to play under the new rules. I gotta tell you, it's not easy trying to stop a 3-on-2 when you can barely lay a finger on the guy. Campoli and I have to get together and figure that one out.
Kvasha dominated the scrimmage. Geez, The guy's good. And a monster. Oleg played with Matty Weinhandl and Mike York. It wasn't fun for me and the other guys to play against them.
This may sound weird coming from a player, but I actually wish the refs at our scrimmages would call more so we get used to it. The refs here are local guys doing a great job, but they may feel a little intimidated calling penalties on the vets every 30 seconds (I know what's going to happen. One of them is going to read this and call me for an obstruction every shift!).
Anyway, I've got more for you today, but I'll be back in a few hours. The locals are taking us on a high-speed ferry called The Cat that goes to Maine. We're not going all the way to Maine, but they want to show us how this baby goes to 55 mph, the fastest in the world. Should be cool.
Catch you around dinner time.
September 13, 2:25 pm
BLUE LINE BRAINSTORMING
Now that was a lot of fun. After all this time, getting out on the ice and breaking a sweat and hitting people. It was great to be out there.
As I mentioned last night, the coaches paired me with Chris Campoli. He's even better than I heard he was. Excellent skater, knows how to move the puck. After the first five minutes, it was like we had played together for a half a season.
It's really been an interesting 24 hours. All of the veteran defensemen have spent a lot of time together and with Coach Stirling and Coach Shaw discussing how we're going to play as a unit. There's been a lot of brainstorming. Alexei Zhitnik, Radek Martinek and Janne Niinimaa bring a ton of experience from both Europe and the NHL. Brent Sopel played a pretty open game in Vancouver. I've been able to discuss how we were effective in Tampa Bay and how it could relate to our guys.
As I could see from the first scrimmage today, the red line coming out is going to make a difference, believe me. I know there's some people who believe coaches will devise a different kind of trap. That may be, but there's going to be a lot more speed in the game, a lot more forechecking. Even as a defenseman who is going to have to watch how I defend under the new rules, the game is changing for the better.
My first scrimmage is at 9:00 am tomorrow. I'll be back with Campoli again. I wish the game was 9:00 tonight.
September 12, 10:20 pm
RUMOR HAS IT, PARRY'S ON HIS WAY
After a brief delay getting out of Farmingdale, we touched down in Yarmouth and much to our surprise, there were about 100 hockey fans at the airport. Everyone here made us feel very welcome, and it was very much appreciated.
There was a dinner at the team hotel tonight. The mayor and a few other community leaders gave speeches and Mike Milbury thanked the people of Yarmouth on behalf of everyone with the team.
But let's face it: what you really want to know about is Mark Parrish. Let this be the first exclusive scoop of my blog. Word has it that Mark is arriving in Yarmouth late tonight and will join us on the ice tomorrow morning for the first day of camp. Having played against Mark for years, I'm just as happy as the fans and everyone else around Islanders Country about the news.
Tuesday I'm in Group C and my defense partner will be my roommate on the trip, Chris Campoli. I think we're a good mix. Chris is a great guy who plays with a lot of energy and likes to have fun like me, and he can really move the puck. I'm happy to stay back, so we should be okay.
We're in the last group tomorrow. Groups A and B have the first scrimmage of camp at 10:00 am Yarmouth time (we're an hour ahead of you). It's time to get started.
September 12, 4:25 pm
It really hit home this morning -- we're back playing hockey in the NHL. I was just speaking with my wife, trying to decide when she should come back to Long Island permanently after I get back from Yarmouth. I said, "Well, the day we get back, we play the Rangers at the Coliseum." I thought about that for a moment and I was like, how great is that? I'm an Islander and we play the Rangers in a week!
Thank God, lockout and CBA talk is no more. It's back to playing this amazing game, which I'm confident is only going to be more exciting with the red line out and some of the other rule changes.
We're loving Long Island already. We settled on the first place we checked out, a nice home in Williston Park. I've been here for a week, skating with the guys at Islanders Iceworks and getting to know everybody and where everything is. I didn't really know any of my new teammates, except for just being around the league a while and from PA meetings. But I think we have an excellent mix here of guys from all sorts of backgrounds with different things each of us do well.
This is going to be a great week in Yarmouth. To be honest with you, I don't know much about Yarmouth other than a few people have told me it's beautiful. As a matter of fact, I was calling it Yarz Mouth for a while until someone corrected me. Another one of the guys on the team told me we were having camp at Dartmouth College.
I know Nova Scotia will be nice and I hear the people in Yarmouth are pumped to have us there, but the most important thing is that we have a week to come together as a team. When I was with the Dallas Stars, we would go to Vail, Colorado for a week and it was a great way to bond. I know the team has lots of stuff planned for us, so it will be fun.
I'm sure only the biggest of the diehard Islander fans know that this is actually not my first camp. I was in Kitchener, Ontario in 1995 after the Islanders took me in the fourth round of the 1994 draft. Amazing that I'm now an Islander today. I'm so psyched about it.
I got a good taste of what Islander fans are like this weekend. During the week at Islanders Iceworks I had no trouble getting a parking spot. But when I was there this weekend, the place was just jammed. Incredible. The Islanders had two Prospect Camp sessions opened to the public. It was so cool to see how badly the fans missed hockey. It made me feel great to be back in the NHL, and it felt great to be an Islander.
See you in Yarmouth.