Yes, NHL training camps are still the better part of a week away, but hockey season started Tuesday here in midtown Manhattan.
Sixteen NHL stars finished their Labor Day Weekend by arriving in the Big Apple Monday night to kick off two days of media availability promoting what promises to be an eventful 2009-10 season, including the 2009 NHL Compuware Premiere series in Stockholm and Helsinki, the Bridgestone Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins at Boston's Fenway Park on New Year's Day and the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver.
Boston's Zdeno Chara will join that group for Wednesday's activities, bringing the final number to 17 players.
"Every year you come to this and it's like going to Chicago right after," said Patrick Kane
, who was at last year's Player Media Tour, as well as an event here two years ago in celebration of Mike Modano's assault on the goal-scoring record by an American player. "It's a reminder that the season is about to start and this is an unbelievable event."
Most of the players who reported to work Tuesday for the start of the Player Media Tour already have been training hard for several weeks. But the task of facing several media outlets, as well as doing some promotional work for the League's various national television partners, drove home the point that a new season is just around the corner.
"Summer was shorter and busier," said Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, whose day at the Player Media Tour was being filmed by NHL Studios for a vignette to air Tuesday on NHL.com. "You just have to start working and motivate yourself for the next season, so I guess I have been focused on the next season already."
Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf only plays in New York once every couple years because of the NHL schedule's emphasis on conference play, so he relished an opportunity to visit the Big Apple and be under that national media's microscope.
"It's nice to do some of the media and stuff," Getzlaf said as he happily leafed through the New York Post. "Being out west, we don't get to do that too often."
Plus, Getzlaf got the added bonus of going to Yankee Stadium Monday night to see the Yankees take the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Tampa Rays. In all, six NHL players took advantage of that opportunity, enjoying the sights and sounds of Yankee Stadium on the unofficial last night of the summer season.
"It was unbelievable," Kane said. "I'm a big A-Rod (Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez) guy, but he didn't play last night. But it was still sweet. The building is huge and we were in a nice suite. I can't believe how beautiful the stadium was."
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor