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Only the best draw invites to NHL Player Media Tour

by Dan Rosen /
NEW YORK -- For Henrik Lundqvist, the commute was a breeze.

"I can see my balcony," Lundqvist told Tuesday morning from the penthouse floor inside the swanky Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street. "So it's easy for me to get here."

Physically speaking, yes, it was easy for the New York Rangers goalie to get to the host hotel for the 2010 NHL Player Media Tour, but in reality making it to the unofficial kickoff event to the NHL season requires years of hard work and good fortune.

You have to be good -- really good -- to be invited to the NHL Player Media Tour. Only 20 players, including Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, as well as young stars Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, John Tavares and Matt Duchene, arrived in midtown Manhattan on Monday to be put through two days of interviews, commercial shoots, promotional advertisements, and so much more.

The craziness ends Wednesday, when the players return home for any last minute preparations before camps open this weekend.

Lundqvist came from his apartment on the west side of Manhattan, but Ovechkin flew in from Moscow while others came from their NHL cities. They are here to represent the NHL and give their time to the League's various media outlets and broadcast partners, plus selected external publications.

The idea is for these 20 star players to knock out as much press and publicity as they can to help the League in its marketing and promotion before the start of the season. It's the third straight year the NHL has been hosting players in Manhattan prior to the opening of training camps.

"I think it's huge (to have this event)," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, attending his first Player Media Tour, told "It's very important and it's good for the League to get exposure, to be shown and for people to hear about it. It's a good thing and a smart thing to do. I think the NHL is doing a good job by having this right now."

Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf came to the first Player Media Tour in 2008, then as a member of the Calgary Flames. He returned this year, and before the clock even struck 12:30 p.m. ET Tuesday he realized how much good he was doing by being back in New York in September.

"The one that I came to a couple years ago was the first one that the League put on, but it was run very well and you got a lot done," Phaneuf told "I guess coming to it for a second time, you know what you need to do, you know a little bit more what to expect. Everything's been run well today -- quick, well-organized, and it takes a lot of the workload off during the season. That's what it's about, getting all this stuff done now so during the year you have more time to focus on the game."

The players have two days to knock out a slew of responsibilities.

Those promotional ads you see on the NHL Network? They're shot right here, right now. is interviewing all the players here for stories now and in the future. The NHLPA also is here doing stuff for its Web site.

Versus, NBC, CBC, TSN and ESPN America (the League's European broadcast partner) are here doing interviews, promo shots, commercials, etc.

Crosby and Ovechkin did a photo shoot for Vanity Fair on Tuesday. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, an amateur photographer in his spare time, is taking Stamkos, Lundqvist, Doughty, Bergeron and Mike Cammalleri out Wednesday for his own photo shoot for Vanity Fair.

On Wednesday, several players will be in studio at Sirius/XM headquarters, and Lundqvist is scheduled to appear at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in midtown Manhattan.

"I think it's fun," Lundqvist said. "It's fun to meet people, fun to do stuff. I definitely don't mind going out and meeting fans. We have a few events during the year with the Rangers, like casino nights, and I always enjoy that."

While the players are here on business, you're not going to have 20 professional athletes -- 17 of whom are under 25 years old -- ignore the spectacle that is New York City. This week, Fashion Week in the Big Apple, has some especially entertaining and spicy dishes from which to choose, and the players are getting their tastes.

Several went to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Monday night for the Eminem/Jay-Z concert, while others went across the river to East Rutherford, N.J., to watch the Jets lose, 10-9, to the Baltimore Ravens at the new Meadowlands stadium. Lundqvist and Evgeni Malkin went to the U.S. Open Final in Queens, but Lundqvist said he left when it started raining and went right to Yankee Stadium to catch the concert.

Eric Staal chose to have a sophisticated evening on Broadway and took in the popular show "Rock of Ages."

"It's very important and it's good for the League to get exposure, to be shown and for people to hear about it. It's a good thing and a smart thing to do. I think the NHL is doing a good job by having this right now."
-- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron

"Unbelievable perk," Bergeron said of going to the concert at Yankee Stadium. "That stadium is real nice. Playing in Boston, I've been to Fenway Park, but being at Yankee Stadium was something special as well."

"They put on quite the show," Phaneuf said. "It was the first concert at Yankee Stadium, first time I had ever been to Yankee Stadium. It was something to be a part of. I brought my dad down and we enjoyed the night. It's not his style of music, but they put on such a show that he really enjoyed it."

All of the players are invited to a cocktail party Tuesday night hosted by Vanity Fair editor and known New York City socialite Graydon Carter, a Toronto native.

"I have so much respect for all the players in the League, but definitely for all these players here now," Bergeron said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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