The above is good news for pretty much everyone other than my wife, seeing how it means my gear will soon be emerging from the basement, bringing with it the unfortunate smell of shin guards (true story: when we were first married and lived in a fourth-floor walk-up, I kept my hockey equipment in the back of my Nissan Sentra for the entire season. The car was never the same. We literally had to give it away).
But I digress. Of greater importance is that today marked my first unofficial visit to the rink of the season, with emphasis on “unofficial.” Since training camp doesn’t open until Thursday (although we have a meeting with Tom Renney tomorrow) players were engaging only in informal workouts and the Rangers P.R. staff that said that while I could watch the skate, there wouldn’t be any availability. I suppose I could have persisted, but seeing how the alternative would have been being locked out of practice altogether, I agreed.
Anyway, some quick observations:
First, a rundown of the players I saw on the ice: Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, Martin Straka, Henrik Lundqvist Ryan Callahan, Marek Malik, Nigel Dawes, Dan Girardi, Colton Orr, Blair Betts, Ryan Hollweg, Tommy Pock, Paul Mara, Mitch Fritz, Marcel Hossa, Petr Prucha, Fedor Tyutin, Jason Strudwick, Chris Holt, and Michal Rozsival.
Just getting into the rink took some time so I didn’t see everyone, but I was told Chris Drury was on the ice before I got there. I’m assuming one of the anonymous defensemen I saw was the newly acquired Andrew Hutchinson, although I can’t say for sure, and the same goes for whether Stephen Valiquette and Al Montoya were on the ice as well. Like I said, it was a quick visit. Neither Sean Avery nor Jaromir Jagr were around, although in Avery’s case, he has been skating already. We probably won’t see Jagr until Thursday.
Meanwhile, one player I don’t think I saw in the scrimmage but I greeted afterward was Darius Kasparaitis. The reports are true: the defenseman looks great, and not only because he’s cut his gold locks. Kasparaitis looked quickersprinting the length of the ice, and at one point after finessing the puck around for a few minutes, he looked over at me as if to see if I was impressed. I nodded yes. I was being honest.
Who else was I impressed by? The answer: It’s too early to tell. But a couple of highlights: seeing Callahan beat Holt on a breakaway; and seeing the 38-year-old Shanahan outrace Girardi to a free puck in the offensive zone. Lastly, there was the 6-foot-8 Fritz, who was acquired quietly in exchange for Bryce Lampman from Tampa Bay in July, and is likely designated for Hartford. That said, Fritz is an impressive specimen, and at one point he roofed a shot past Holt (meanwhile, maybe this is more of a reflection on Holt than it is Fritz).
Is there at all a chance Fritz challenges Orr for a job this year? I don’t know.
But that’s what makes this time of year so interesting….