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Props for Parise; Is Colorado-Detroit dead?

Friday, 02.15.2008 / 12:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

One Ice Age reader wrote in to praise Devils' forward Zach Parise for taking the time to sign autographs and take pictures with fans after a recent game.
Devils vs. Senators game highlights 
Many subjects are open for debate in the mailbag this week. Let’s start off with a note that just further cements the notion that NHL players are the best in the business.

***

Hey Phil,

I wrote in to you a lot last season, but haven't gotten around to it much this year. Well, I'm writing now to talk up one of my favorite players, Zach Parise.

I went to the Devils-Ducks game Friday night. Before the game, I was at the mall and finally added a non-Brodeur jersey to my collection. I had to get a Parise as I love watching him play and I went to college for one year with him and we lived in the same dorm.

So after the game, I waited outside where the players came out because I wanted Parise to sign my new jersey. He came walking out and I held up the jersey and screamed at him. After signing some autographs for other fans I got a picture with him and then he signed the back of my jersey. It looks phenomenal and I'm going to find a frame to put it in. We talked for a while about how the Sioux hockey team is this year (where he and I went to college). He's so nice and down to Earth. It made my night. As he was about to leave, I figured I have nothing to lose so I asked him if I could get a stick sometime. He said definitely then asked if I'd be at the game the next night (which was Saturday night's game vs. the Hurricanes) and I said yeah I'll be there. So he said wait in this spot again and I'll bring you one out. If I forget remind me and I'll go back in and get one.

So Saturday night came and the game couldn't end fast enough. I was extremely happy we beat the ‘Canes 6-1 and I was at a Devils game in which we scored four goals in the first period, but I was just praying I could get that stick. So I went back to the same spot and waited outside in the cold and rain for about an hour after the game until he finally came out. He was with his woman and didn't have a stick in his hand, so I thought it didn't look good, but as he got closer I yelled at him to come over and he must've recognized me because he motioned toward his car and walked off. A couple minutes later, I saw him driving down to leave the parking garage and I instantly ran over to the exit. He rolled down his window down and pulls out a game-used, signed stick (Easton) that he uses every night and hands it to me. My jaw just dropped and I said; ‘Wow! I can't believe you remembered.’ He laughs and says; ‘Of course I did!’ So we talked for a minute before he had to leave. One of the best nights of my life (right up there with meeting Brodeur a couple times and getting him to autograph my Brodeur jerseys). Parise is all class. He was always my favorite player (next to Brodeur because I've been following him for so long), but will be #1 no doubt once Marty hangs ‘em up.

It's too bad all athletes couldn't be like Zach. Most of them don't realize how big of a deal it is to stop and sign a few autographs or even give a lucky fan a stick. People never forget things like that. Thanks for everything Zach! GO DEVILS!

-- Garrett Cochran

Hey Garrett. Great story. You’re absolutely right that a fan like yourself will never forget what you just described. Parise really went above and beyond the call there. That’s a great collectible for you, for sure.

But even if an encounter with a player doesn’t result in a stick, a couple kind words really can have a huge impact on folks. Thankfully, NHL players always seem to be accommodating to fans whenever possible.

Just keep in mind, that as good as these guys are to deal with, they have private lives too that need to be respected, so, if you come across a player in a restaurant or the like, be respectful and polite.

***

Mr. Coffey,

The following comment appeared in your mailbag on Friday.

Since we are all mentioning sites for the next outdoor game, I would recommend Colorado. I would fly out to Colorado to see them play Detroit outdoors. I know there are a lot of big rivalries in hockey, but Colorado vs. Detroit is at worst one of the best rivalries the sport has seen. Realistically though, any place with a good fan base would work.

-- Matt Cortese, Clementon, NJ

I think enough is enough. The Colorado-Detroit rivalry is done for two very important reasons. First, Detroit and Colorado have not met in the playoffs since Detroit won the Cup in 2002. Secondly, and more importantly, the only player remaining from Colorado's ‘95-96 team (the year (Claude) Lemieux cheap-shotted (Kris) Draper) is Joe Sakic. Additionally, the only remaining Red Wings from that season are (Nick) Lidstrom, Draper, (Kirk) Maltby and (Chris) Osgood. You have to remember that this was a grudge match, and there is nobody left to hold a grudge against. The networks (and fans apparently) really need to let this go.

-- Derek Chavez, Detroit

Ah, come on Derek, the next thing you’re gonna tell me there’s no Santa Claus!

***

Recently Ty conklin was eligible to be included in official statistics because he now meets the "minimum games played standard." He has had a rocket of success lately with Pittsburgh. Now I assume the minimum games standard increases as the season goes on.

Does this mean if (Marc-Andre) Fleury returns and Conklin doesn't play as much, he could potentially not be included in the leader categorize because he may not meet the "minimum games played standard."

Basically how is the minimum games played calculated. Is it different for different statistics. If I start three games and earn three shutouts would I be excluded from the league leaders because I only played three games?

-- J-man

Hi J-man. In terms of goaltending stats, 25 games is the magic number when it comes to goaltending. That is the mark goalies need to qualify for consideration for both the William Jennings Trophy and the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award. In terms of shutouts, a goalie who appears in fewer than 25 games, but still leads the League in shutouts would be recognized as the shutout leader. The 25-game mark is used for goaltending stats that are averaged over the course of a season, not concrete achievements like shutouts and wins.

***

Hi Phil!

The life-threatening injury suffered by the Panthers' Richard Zednik last Sunday caused one reader to
bring up the subject of players wearing neck guards.

I am Ludovic, the French fan who interviewed you a while ago. I'd like to react to the (Richard) Zednik incident. Being a devoted NHL fan since 1993, I've always cared for the players’ protection. Fortunately, such incidents seldom happen as the last occurrence of a skate blade cutting a player's throat was back in 1989 as I read on the Web Site. By and large, there are few serious incidents in hockey but when they happen it's always frightening. Don't you think it's about time the NHL make full-face helmets compulsory for all players? I'd like them to get the players to wear a device to protect their neck because the current helmet, which covers the face from the nose up, is not safe enough and only a few players actually use it. I recently read a 1990 Wayne Gretzky autobiography in which he said that playing without a helmet helped the audience identify with the players, but with all due respect for "The Great One" I disagree. I am an advocate of full-face protection helmets.

I don't want to be a killjoy, but I'd like to express my dismay at any fight happening during NHL games. I'd like the NHL to consider banning fights and suspend players involving in it. There's far enough entertainment provided by the quality of the game to cheer players trading blows. I was so sorry to see a recent NHL game ending in a bloodbath. That's not the hockey I like. Hockey is not boxing so protect the players and let them play instead of fight.

-- Ludovic Dujardin

Hi Ludovic. At this point, wearing a full shield is a case of personal preference for the players. I believe that the issue is something that would have to be negotiated with the Players’ Association, so the League cannot unilaterally impose such a mandate.

I think it’s important to protect the players as much as humanly possible, but I think we all have to agree that the Richard Zednik situation falls into the category of a freak accident, thank God.

***

I have been a hockey fan all my life. My earliest memories of hockey are of watching the Rangers play the Bruins in the 1972 Stanley Cup Final. I was only 5 and didn't understand the significance at the time, but I remember everyone around me being excited. I was hooked on the Rangers and hockey from that moment on.

Growing up in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, N.Y., hockey was the winter sport of choice. The neighborhood was mostly Irish, Italian and Norwegian at the time and hockey fit their tough ethnic traditions. Basketball was an also-ran sport.

Hockey remained a dominant sport in the New York City area into the late ‘90s. The Daily News and New York Post devoted much ink to the three metro area teams. Now the story is very different, very little coverage.

I moved to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in 1990 (yes I still commute to NYC everyday). The area is inhabited by many transplants from N.Y., N.J. and Philadelphia. At first, hockey traditions came in with the new residents. Now, hockey interest is waning. We have a hockey club based around our school district boundaries. In spite of early successes (including a Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League Varsity Championship), membership is falling. It seems like hockey in the Mid-Atlantic region is on the decline in general. Yes, there are many minor league hockey teams in Pennsylvania (including my local Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins), but hockey seems more a niche sport than ever.

My daughter (who played on our boys’ JV team) now plays women's hockey at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Many people we speak with in our area of eastern PA are unaware that ice hockey is played on the youth level and that there are collegiate women's hockey programs.

I believe there are two reasons hockey has waned from its seemingly peak popularity in the 1990s.

1) No more ESPN hockey games.

2) Increased popularity of the NBA and inner-city tastes.

3) A poor job by USA Hockey of increasing hockey's penetration.

The one area which can be addressed now is hockey's penetration. Reliance on independent youth hockey clubs with their cliques and politics (not to mention expense) is a hindrance to the growth of hockey. USA Hockey should be working to make hockey available as a scholastic sport in more areas of the country. If you want to develop hockey fans, you have to get them young.

-- Tom Byrne

Hi Tom. USA Hockey works tirelessly, in my humble opinion, to grow the game. I don’t think it is feasible for USA Hockey to become involved in scholastic hockey, since there are different circumstances there, like school budgets and the like.

As for doing a poor job with increasing hockey’s penetration, the facts don’t agree with you. USA Hockey membership has increased from fewer than 200,000 in 1990 to 600,000 today. USA Hockey has 12 districts, 34 affiliated associations and 3,000 local member programs.. Today, there are 179 junior teams in the United States in 14 leagues. USA Hockey’s adult membership also is up, surpassing 100,000 for the first time in 2006-07.

Here is what Mike Modano recently said about the growth of hockey in the United States: “Just comparing since I’ve been around I think the growth, the expansion, with teams in cities that we never thought in a million years that we’d have hockey in, they have kind of flourished and have made a big impact in the game. The development of kids in Florida, Texas, Phoenix, and California, I think you never would have mentioned those cities or those states within the sport. So it’s been great, it’s been nice being in Texas and having a little bit of an impact on the development of hockey down there, and the growth of it. It’s been great to see.

***

The Winter Classic was great to show off the game, just like the Heritage Classic. The key thing being though is they are a spectacle and something that isn't seen regularly. The NHL needs to sit back and wait at least another two years before doing something like this again, otherwise the novelty of the idea wears off pretty fast. Especially for the fans who are freezing outside and can barely see the play.

-- Ian Keery, Vancouver BC

Funny, the folks who attended the Winter Classic in Buffalo have written hundreds of notes to Ice Age and they didn’t seem the least put off by the experience.

***

It’s quite simple, the heated rivalry of the New York Islanders vs. the New York Rangers at Shea Stadium as sort of a bon voyage. It would be amazing. Hockey needs a big boost to get the recognition it once had and there is no other place that has the power to do so like New York City.

-- Justin

You know Justin, I think an outdoor game in any of the venues around New York City would be a success, but I would be a little concerned about the goofy weather here. As I write back to you on Feb. 12, it’s snowing here in NYC. Last week, we had a day in the 70s, so God only knows if it would be cold enough to have an outdoor game.

***

One Ice Age reader suggests a future outdoor game featuring an original six U.S.A. vs. Canada matchup.

Good morning All from Bangkok,

I too would like to submit some ideas for the next Winter Classic. I think the next Winter Classic should be between two of the Original 6 teams. Being that I was born in Montreal, I would choose Montreal first, then Toronto and next New York. Detroit would be my fourth and Boston or Chicago round up my last choices.

We (NHL fans) have had an all Canadian and now all-American classics. It would be really cool to have a cross-border game between one Canadian based team and one American-based team of the Original 6 play in the next classic.

Just some food for thought.

One of your greatest fans in Bangkok,

-- Thomas Doucet

Hey Thomas. Can’t disagree with you. I think any combination of an Original 6 matchup would be great to see.

***

I would like to first off say the Winter Classic was a success! I watched the first outdoor game between Edmonton and Montreal and now Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Now I think this should be perhaps not an annual event, but more of an every-other-year festival celebrating the origins of the game.

Now how's this for Montreal's Centennial in 2009:

* Have the All-Star game outdoors

* Celebrate the birth date of the franchise with an outdoor game on Dec. 4 the opponent: Toronto

* Have an old-timers game between the Montreal retired players and the retired players of all the Original 6 teams; A Montreal vs. the “Original 5” game

* Organize some sort of 100 years of hockey by having local teams in the Montreal area come out to play a tournament.

This should be like a two week extravaganza during the Christmas break and New Year’s Break.

Other matchups on this every two-year event:

1. Toronto vs. Montreal (two of the most fiercest rivalry)

2. Boston vs. New York Rangers (Original 6 rivals)

3. Detroit vs. Toronto (Original 6 rivals)

4. Montreal vs. Detroit (Original 6 rivals)

5. Colorado vs. Montreal (the old Nordiques team which had a hospitable rivalry)

6. New Jersey vs. New York Rangers (Very large state and Atlantic Division Rivals)

Other teams to include: Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Minnesota, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Ottawa.

Could also host in non NHL cities like Winnipeg, Regina, Salt LakeCity, Rochester.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES NO TEAMS FROM SOUTHEAST OR PACIFIC DIVISION: Reason no climate for outdoor game, no roots of any kind to the game on the frozen pond.

-- Michael, Toronto (the hockey capital of the world), Ontario, Canada

Man, I was with you until the Southeast and Pacific thing. Not feeling the love now, but I like a lot of your suggestions.

***

Phil,

I was disappointed not to get the broadcast of the Winter Classic here in Australia, but I am grateful that we do get a couple NHL games a week. I think the ideal way to revive the NHL All-Star Game would be to have an outdoor game in Ottawa at Frank Claire Stadium (football stadium on bnks of Rideau Canal). The skills competition could be a made for TV event on the canal outside the stadium on the Saturday night, you would lose the ability to draw a large crowd, but I am certain that several thousand could be accommodated through temporary stands. The main game would then be staged in the football stadium which would accommodate 30,000 plus any end zone seating that could be erected.

I think the notion of the stars of the game skating on the frozen canal would have major TV appeal.

-- Jack and Lisa McCarthy, Western Australia

Hi guys. I’m not sure if anything on the canal is logistically possible, but you’re right when you say it would be quite an image.

***

Everyone agrees that the Winter Classic was hockey at its best, back to its roots, and simply exciting! Although the venue is important, let's think a little bigger. How about a Winter Classic weekend, 2 games on 2 days? How about a tripleheader with the Original 6 teams? Let's face it, no matter where the game is played and it is over, we are all still sitting riveted at the edge of our seats, and we all want to see another game! Hockey is the fastest, the most physical, and simply the greatest game on Earth, what better showcase to sell the game and its athletes?

-- Alex - Massachusetts, USA

Hi Alex. Not sure how feasible multiple games would be from both a weather standpoint and wear-and-tear on the ice. A lot of TLC goes into building an outdoor rink for an NHL game and the ice takes a real pounding from NHL skaters, so more than one game might be pushing things.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.



 

Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp