There was one player who was late showing up for the San Jose Sharks Rookie Camp and for good reason. Defenseman Ty Wishart had a strong excuse for not being in San Jose as he was participating in an event that provided him with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Wishart represented a Canadian All-Star junior team against their counterparts from Russia. The games were set up to honor the 1972 Summit Series in which the best Canadian NHLers bested Russia’s top players in a fiercely fought eight-game series, with Canada’s Paul Henderson becoming a national hero when he scored the series clincher.
That win is Canada’s equivalent to America’s Miracle on Ice from the 1980 Winter Olympics. Players like Wishart weren’t even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when the monumental victory occurred, but that it still means so much in the country to young and old is a testament to its importance.
“We wanted to honor the ‘72 team,” said Wishart about playing in the Super Series. “I wasn’t old enough (to watch it live), but everyone has seen the tape and heard all about it. It was great to honor those guys. We met a couple of them. We expected it to be a tight series and we went in and got the job done.”
Canada was the favorite heading into the eight-game set and they dominated the Russians, proving victorious in seven games and tying one.
The series began with four contests in Russia before returning to Canada. During that time, Wishart was exposed to a completely different world and found a few things he missed from home.
“It’s definitely different,” said Wishart. “Moscow is really nice. Mostly apartments instead of houses. It was a good experience. They took us to Red Square and it was interesting to see the buildings. The food was decent, but there is nothing like good North American food.”
Wishart now has memories that will last a lifetime.
“All the arenas were loud and the support was great,” said Wishart. “I wasn’t on the ice, but there was a big line brawl at the end of the last game that was pretty exciting. I wish I was out there. There were three different fights and the fans loved it.”
Now Wishart is looking to play in his first NHL exhibition contest for the Sharks this week in Southern California.
“I was part of camp last year, but only practiced,” said Wishart. “I can’t wait to get in and see what I’ve got.”
Newly appointed Sharks scout Bryan Marchment, a long-time NHL blueliner, now has some first-hand knowledge of the 2006 first rounder and likes what he has seen.
“For a big guy, he is skating well,” said Marchment. “He has good hands and pays attention to details. He soaks things up like a sponge.”
Wishart knows the competition will be a notch higher than he saw in the Russia battles and during intrasquad scrimmages.
“So far, the different level of the scrimmages has been unbelievable,” said Wishart.
Now that will have to translate to NHL rinks.
“Typically you like to see things you work on in summer camps or training camp make their way into the game,” said Marchment. “It’s a long learning process for a young defenseman. I don’t think a defenseman is ever in a position to stop learning.”
The man who makes the final roster decisions, Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson, will have his first look at several players in similar situations to Wishart.
“The best way to evaluate them is to get them in exhibitions where the intensity rises,” said Wilson. “We’ve got some physical guys who need to play another team to show what they can do to make the team.”
The same goes for Dimitri Patzold and Thomas Greiss
as they battle for the open netminder roster spot.
“We know what Greiss and Patzold can do and it is up to them what they do in the exhibition games,” said Wilson.
Greiss and Patzold are in much the same position of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala last year – friends competing for the same opportunity. Fortunately, the two have the similar demeanors and mental make-ups for their own competition.
“It’s not like we’re fighting,” laughed Patzold.
“We’re two people who are both trying hard to do their best,” said Greiss. “We’re not mad if the other one does well. If he does, we tell him good job.”
The two are very complimentary of each other’s games.
“He (Patzold) is very patient, flexible and a good skater,” said Greiss.
“He (Greiss) reads the game and he skates very well,” said Patzold. “He has very strong legs and can get everywhere. He has good anticipation.”
Neither player logged a full NHL exhibition game last year due to the Nabokov-Toskala netminding duel and they are looking forward to the opportunity beginning tonight in Los Angeles.
“It will be much more fun playing different teams,” said Greiss.
The Sharks will play Los Angeles at Staples Center tonight at 7:30 p.m.