I’m just confirming this now, but word is that the team the Rangers are playing tonight, the Vancouver Canucks, are in fact members of the National Hockey League.
Go figure. I never got the memo.
Like it or not, the impact of the new NHL schedule is already being felt, and will be felt even more next month when the Rangers set out on their three-game swing through California.
Is the new schedule better? Worse? I haven’t yet decided. The question may be best answered on a night like tonight. On one hand, the visit by the Canucks is rife with storylines: Markus Naslund facing his old team, a match-up of the two best goalies in the NHL, a rare chance to see “the singular chemistry between the Sedin twins”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/sports/hockey/19sedin.html?_r=1.
But will the Garden tonight have a greater buzz tonight than if it was another game against the Islanders or Devils (or even Flyers or Penguins)? Probably not. And while the metropolitan teams are in a unique position because of their proximity to one another, familiarity will always breed greater contempt. In a hockey context, that’s usually a good thing.
Of course, I personally like seeing more of these Western Conference teams for the simple reason that when it’s time to vote on the end-of-the-season awards, I’m not completely talking out of my backside.
As much as you try to avoid a regional bias, there is still a tendency to favor the players you see often as opposed to the ones you see maybe once a year, or sometimes just by way of the TV (a couple of years ago, after consulting with a number of people I trusted, I was proud of myself for voting for Samuel Pahlsson for the Selke Trophy. Which was great, except at the time I wouldn’t have recognized Pahlsson if he hit me over the head with a Koho).
Now at least the new schedule makes the league smaller.
My story in today’s paper deals with none of these above issues, but instead “looks at the relationship between Chris Drury and Travis Roy”:http://www.lohud.com/article/20081119/SPORTS01/811190381/-1/SPORTS, his former BU teammate who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his college career.
It has become such a cliche to say stories like Roy’s help put sports in their proper perspective. But it’s a cliche because it’s true. Here’s a guy who had the same aspirations as Drury when he showed up at BU, and yet he never made it past his first shift.
In our conversation yesterday, Roy acknowledged that watching hockey these days is always a bittersweet experience, and how could it not be? But he still made clear how much enjoys following Drury, a teammate whose determination on the ice is exceeded only his grace off of it.
“Chris has a pretty good perspective on things,” Roy said. “If you can get him to talk, he can give you a depth other people can’t. He’s incredibly caring, and that was the thing with Chris: He asked questions right after my accident about how things were and what was hard. People were so afraid to ask those questions. But he wants to hear what you have to say.”
I wrote the story for today because Roy is in town to speak at Rye High School (my alma mater). For those of you who want to DVR the Rangers game, the session tonight is free of charge and open to the public.
Update, 11:12 a.m.: Great story in the comments section from reader Irawine:
The Travis Roy Foundation is one of very few organizations in this country that provide grants for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries and who need special equipment to assist them in their lives. I recently attended the 39th reunion of my high school soccer team, which included a guy who has been a quadriplegic for the last 11 years. When we found out about the Travis Roy Foundation we helped our friend submit a grant request for a special lift that would make his daily life more bearable. He received the lift and it was installed in his house several months ago. It has made a tremendous difference to him and his family. That Chris Drury has maintained his support for Travis Roy over the years speaks volumes to his character.
Optional skate today for the Rangers. The one important question is whether Scott Gomez will attempt to skate at all. Unless he does, I would say his chances of returning in time for Saturday’s game against Ottawa are doubtful.
Update, 10:42 a.m.: Gomez will not skate again today, so it’s looking more and more likely that he can return no sooner than Monday against Phoenix, if even then.