-- 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."
Like all the players here, Thomas had a full day Tuesday. Things will get easier Wednesday, but not by much.
Thomas had to make stops at 13 different stations throughout the hotel. Along the route, he posed for portraits, was videotaped for promotional commercials, asked his opinion on all things hockey for a variety of NHL platforms, including NHL.com, and was interviewed by several other media entities, as well.
He capped his day by making an in-store appearance at the NHL Powered by Reebook Store here in midtown. He and Philadelphia's Chris Pronger
appeared at the store for a Q&A session moderated by ESPN the Magazine's E.J. Hradek.
Tomorrow, Alex Ovechkin
takes center stage at the NHL Powered by Reebook Store, making a 4 p.m. appearance to promote the upcoming release of NHL 2K10. Ovechkin will take a Zamboni ride up Sixth Avenue to the store, a sight that should not be missed.
But before Wednesday's fun ride begins for Ovechkin, he had to put in some serious work. Tuesday involved a three-hour shoot with Men's Journal, as well as shorter stints with TSN, NBC, CBC and Versus.
While the two days here in New York can be taxing at times, the players understand that it helps the game and are up to the task.
"It's important for our game," said Scott Gomez
, one of Montreal's newest additions in a busy summer. "It's something we have to do, to give back. The NHL, the (Players' Association), the people working here, they're all great.
"We're all here to promote the game. It is something that's a must, that we have to do, and I'm proud to be a part of it. The NHL takes care of us and our families tremendously. To put on events like this, you might complain about it, but once you get here it's definitely worth it and it's something that you have to do."
Some even enjoy it.
"We're all here to promote the game. It is something that's a must, that we have to do, and I'm proud to be a part of it. The NHL takes care of us and our families tremendously. To put on events like this, you might complain about it, but once you get here it's definitely worth it and it's something that you have to do." -- Scott Gomez
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."