|Dallas Stars goalie Jack Campbell returns to Traverse City
Someday soon fans are going to be able to buy Nike shoes endorsed by Alex Ovechkin -- but he spent part of his time in Manhattan for the NHL Player Media Tour making a pair of his own.
Ovechkin might have met some famous people and attended a swanky party or two, but he was clearly most excited about his trip to the Niketown store on Thursday.
"It was so sick, so sick," Ovechkin said. "I was so excited to be there. I made my shoes. It is sick. I just order, like you can build your shoe. They are just going to be mine."
He "built" a pair of shoes through the custom NikeID program. They are black and red and say "AO GR8" on the backs.
"Like my license plate," said Ovechkin, referencing the plate on his Mercedes SL 65 Black series.
Ovechkin spent part of Wednesday night at a party at the Versace Boutique. He spent some time there mingling with other players and various celebrities, and a picture of him posing with Kevin Connolly of "Entourage" fame and a well-known hockey (and in particular New York Islanders) fan.
"I know him but I don't watch 'Entourage.' It was nice to meet famous people, new guys," Ovechkin said. "I spent like 30 minutes there. It was nice to see all the players and the guys. It was nice."
What Ovechkin wears to events like the Versace party always seems to make for interesting fodder in the blogosphere. While other players were in more traditional apparel for that setting, Ovechkin showed up in a Nike T-shirt and jeans.
He was also sporting a nice watch, which the blog Capital Games at nbcwashington.com reported to be a Hublot watch that costs $238,000. Ovechkin said he's gotten use to people writing about and caring about what he wears.
"It is me. I don't care," Ovechkin said. "I have my watch, I have my jeans, my cell phone. I have underwear. I think it is good. I like to have good stuff on me. It is not a secret."
After Ovechkin was done meeting with members of the media in midtown Manhattan, he planned on an excursion to Queens to take in a match at the U.S. Open before heading back to Washington.
Several other NHL players who were here for the two days went to Flushing to watch some tennis Thursday night, and you can count Ovechkin among the many NHL players who are tennis fans.
"Yeah, of course," Ovechkin said. "Tennis is very popular [in Russia]. Of course [I like Roger] Federer but I think we're going to see [Rafael] Nadal. I'm pretty excited to see his play, and maybe I'm going to have a chance to meet him after."
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of only two teams that haven't made the playoffs since the 2004-05 work stoppage. After a late-season run brought them close last spring, captain Dion Phaneuf is eager to get started and end the drought.
"That's why we play the game. You don't just play the game to be done in April. Everyone plays to win, to give yourself a chance to win, and you don't have a chance to win if you're not in the playoffs," he told NHL.com during the annual Player Media Tour. "That's where we want to get, and that's where we have to get. We were close last year; we weren't eliminated until there were two games left in the season. We had a good run. We played hard, but we couldn't make up the ground we lost at the start of the season."
With a revamped roster that includes former Calgary teammate Matthew Lombardi, Phaneuf says the Leafs need to get off to a good start -- but adds that they can't let up."
"Getting off to a good start is important," he said. "But you can't just get off to a good start and then fall off. You've got to keep it going -- you have to be consistent. You can't have these extreme highs and extreme lows -- win three and lose four. You've got to be consistent. That's what we've got to do this year to make the playoffs."
One good thing for Phaneuf is that he's completely recovered from the midseason leg injury that cost him 16 games and slowed him even after he returned.
"It was awful," he said of the first major injury of his NHL career. "It was something that I'd never experienced. I've been hurt at the end of years and had the summer to rehab and get ready for the next year. But having a major injury is something that was not a lot of fun to go through. It was a very serious injury, one that took a lot more out of me than I expected. I probably tried to come back too early. It was a major injury that took a lot of time to heal."
Brian Campbell knows the task of helping turn the Florida Panthers into a contender is a challenging one. However, it's one he gracefully accepted back in June when he waived his no-trade clause to once again work with former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon.
"It wasn't a case that I really wanted to leave Chicago," Campbell told NHL.com Friday morning during the 2011 Player Media Tour. "I enjoyed my time there and I liked everybody. I liked my lifestyle living in Chicago, and I still am. It was tough, but knowing and talking to Dale Tallon, I knew I could trust him from his days being in Chicago. He's a man of his word. Looking at all the scenarios, I felt it was the best thing for me personally, and that's what I had to look at. I was happy to make the move to South Florida."
Campbell, who helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2010, is joining an organization that hasn't made the playoffs for an NHL-record 10 consecutive seasons. But Tallon was awfully busy this summer signing talent that he hopes will end that dubious stretch. Campbell will be joined by newcomers such as Tomas Kopecky, Ed Jovanovski, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim when the puck drops on Oct. 8 against the New York Islanders.
"I do know some of the guys and I've played with some of them before, so it makes it a lot more comfortable walking into the dressing room," Campbell said. "All the guys that Dale brought in are character guys that have fun coming to the rink. They all want to compete every night. That's going to give us a chance to win.
"I feel like we're going to have success a lot quicker than people think. For us, as long as we think that in the locker room and know that it's playoffs or everything else is a failure and not acceptable, it's a good place to start. I think that's the mindset that we all need to have going into the season."
A shortened whirlwind of a summer has all but come to a close for Tim Thomas.
The Boston Bruins goaltender is finished celebrating a season that saw him win a Vezina Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup. With training camp just a week away, Thomas is one of dozens of players participating in the Player Media Tour. On Friday morning, the 37-year-old sat down with NHL.com and was asked to reflect on what has to be an unforgettable summer.
"There were a couple of times where I was able to appreciate it for a short period," Thomas said. "One was just watching the DVD. It reminded me of everything that happened. I think that's what made it kind of hard to appreciate to a certain extent. So many great things happened for us to win the Cup that even if I had the time, it's hard to wrap your mind around everything that had to go right -- the overtime goals, the save by Ryder, coming back in Montreal in the third period with Chris Kelly and Ryder scoring that overtime goal -- the list just goes on and on and on. It's part of what makes it great, but it's also part of what makes it hard to totally soak in and say, 'Wow.' "
Thomas appeared in 57 regular-season games in 2010-11 and went 35-11-9 with a 2.00 goals-against average and an NHL-record .938 save percentage. He followed up with one of more remarkable postseasons in recent memory as he posted a 1.98 GAA, .940 save percentage and four shutouts in 25 games. One might recall that Thomas was Boston's backup goalie during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and shortly thereafter underwent major hip surgery.
"It was not even knowing for sure whether you'd be able to get to anywhere near the level that I was the first time I won the Vezina (in 2009)," Thomas said. "I don't think it was retirement-serious at any point, but I didn't know if I was looking at spending the rest of my career as a highly-paid backup that was taking all the heat in the media and from the fans constantly."