Sunday, March 2, 2008

Catching Up with the Core

(New content below including note about comments.) Let's go right to the good stuff, shall we? In between today's Walk of Champions and on-ice Core of the Four ceremony, members of the Core were available to the media in the locker room area of the Coliseum. I was able to get a few minutes with Bryan Trottier (after Mike Francesa and Mark Herrman were done with him) and Ken Morrow (right, during the Walk). Here's some of what they had to say:

Bryan Trottier
On the depth of leadership of the Cup teams...

"Oh, it was a great group of guys. They were really special like that. Everybody was a leader in their own right, and we all loved it. Everybody had leadership qualities. Somebody would say something and everybody would listen. It was great respect. Yeah, different guys had different roles, different ice times, and that kind of thing, but everybody had a role on the leadership. It didn't seem to matter who got called upon, what the situation was, we knew that depth was our biggest asset--in intensity and in coming up with big plays and in leadership, character. And we used to say to ourselves, 'Man, I wouldn't want to play against this team.'"

On whether he and Mike Bossy have a more active role in bringing the alumni back together for these types of events now that they are back with the organization...
"We would like to be more involved but really the responsibility is still Garth and Ted to that degree. Mike is really concentrating on sales and marketing, and I'm really working with the player development at the AHL level. So, whenever we can have input at this level we enjoy it and have had to date, and we'll continue and embrace it because we love to see this place sort of rockin' and rollin'--whatever we can do to help. I mean, that's why we're here."

On whether he's concerned about celebrations of his era having run their course and being phased out...
"No, we just enjoy today. We don't think about tomorrow. Not yet. Today we' to me next week, I don't know, today I'm on a high--I don't know!"
You can watch video of this interview with additional questions from my Blog Box colleagues Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track and Ken Dick of Okposo Net right here, courtesy of Tom (yes, that's the actual Stanley Cup in the background, just beyond Deb Kaufman):

Ken Morrow

On being part of two of the greatest championship teams in hockey history...
"Well, yeah, two great hockey moments anyway. Wow, and you know, two of them happened in the same year. I had to pinch myself, you know, it was a career year by any standard. You know, I go through the Olympics and I thought nothing would ever top that, and then three months later I'm skating around with the Stanley Cup. So, I just consider myself real fortunate."

On having two groups of celebrated teammates to look forward to getting back together with...
"I'm like the king of reunions here, you know, because the Olympic team, if anything, it seems to be growing in stature. We've had more of these reunions and celebrations, and then the Islanders the last few years--just a lot of fun for us. I just hope the people don't get tired of seeing us!"

Video of the Morrow interview, also courtesy of Tom (look for Bob Bourne, Duane Sutter, Bill Torrey, John Tonelli, and Al Arbour in the background):

To me, the most noteworthy aspect of the Core of the Four celebration was the manner in which the on-ice introductions were performed. Normally in these situations, the players are introduced in ascending order of stature. On this occasion, the ceremony began with Jiggs McDonald introducing the five players in attendance whose numbers have been retired. Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Trottier, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Nystrom then introduced the rest of their Core teammates. It was a nice touch to see the star players recognize the role players.

In the interest of getting this content up as quickly as possible, I'm going to post it now. However, we are not done yet! Please keep checking back for more tonight and/or tomorrow, including photos, more details about the Core of the Four celebration, and, unfortunately, notes from the game itself.

Mike Francesa interviews Bryan Trottier
At this point, I don't know why the Comments option isn't always showing up on the blog's home page in Internet Explorer. However, if you click the title of the post, you will be able to access the comments from the individual post page. Alternatively, it seems to be working fine in Firefox.

As you could tell from the Ken Morrow video, the players assembled in and around the tunnel area before the ceremony began. There was a bit of a scramble as the 1980 replica home white jerseys were pulled out of duffel bags one or two at a time and staff members tried to track down the necessary players. I enjoyed a humorous moment with Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey as a very young staffer, perhaps an intern or volunteer, was asked if he knew what Denis Potvin looked like and the young man had no choice but to admit that he didn't. However, despite the generation gap and the fact that some players were still lingering in the hallway outside the locker room, all members of the Core were accounted for and properly sweatered.

About those sweaters. As I saw one being pulled out of a black duffel bag, I immediately recognized the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics patch that adorned the sleeves of the Islanders 28 years ago. Nice job by whomever was responsible for taking care of such details. And didn't the sweaters look terrific? Simple and classic, they were a sight for eyes sore from looking at too many patches of alternating color and unnecessary piping. Seeing the current Islanders on the ice in the same jerseys convinced me even more (as though I needed more convincing) that that's how the Islanders are supposed to look.

It was both bizarre and great to see the names Morrow, Nystrom, Potvin, Bossy, etc., buzzing around the ice during pre-game warmups. Bill Guerin looked solid wearing Denny Potvin's name, number and captain's C. Trent Hunter was scheduled to be one of two players emulating Mike Bossy along with Miro Satan, but with Aaron Johnson scratched, Hunter snatched up his own number and played the part of Stefan Persson. For the game itself, the Islanders took the ice wearing their current white jerseys as a tribute, which led me to wonder why they didn't just have a set of 1980 replicas made up for the game.

It's almost a shame to mix in notes from the game with this event, but I have a few more pictures to post so maybe that will keep the mood lighter. I'll limit the coverage of the 1-0 loss to Florida to a few observations. Wade Dubielewicz looked calm and steady from the opening faceoff and never really faltered. He may have blamed himself for allowing that rebound to get to Booth in the first place, but Booth fired a wicked shot by Dubie. Even though it was only 1-0 with five minutes left in the first period, it was easy to note that the Isles' sense of
urgency was not as high as I expected it to be. In fact, the sense I got from the crowd was that many fans felt like they were watching the season die before their eyes. A play with just under 3:00 left in the first typified the effort. A faceoff was pulled back to Hunter, who drew his stick back and waited for the puck to arrive so he could shoot. While he was waiting, a Panther got to it before it got to him.

With about 16:30 left in the second period, Mike Comrie had an opportunity very similar to the one on which Florida scored. Comrie hit the post with his wrister. The Isles continued to generate scoring chances consistently, and certainly looked like they could break the game open. The passing of the 6:00 mark saw a great shift by Sean Bergenheim at both ends of the ice. You know all about how the Isles were peppering Craig Anderson with shots without getting one by him. In the meantime, Jeremy Colliton and Blake Comeau were effectively throwing their weight around. With just under five minutes remaining in the second, the Kid Line generated a flurry of scoring opportunities, but Anderson flopped, spread, and stifled every one of them. With 2:17 remaining, I noted that I had never seen anything quite like this. As the shot total hit a team-record 29 for the period, I asked myself, "What's the record for most shots in a game without a goal?" We now know that Islanders set that record in this game going back to 1955 when the stat became official.

It was more of the same in the third. You can easily summarize the period, and the game, by saying
that the intensity was there, but the lack of playmaking and finishing was fatal. After the game, Ted Nolan mentioned that the team had "25-30 good opportunities," "played well enough to win," and "battled and created a lot of opportunities." But the statement "We gave what we had to give" does not bode well, for what they had to give was not nearly enough.

Talking to the media, Mike Comrie looked more upset, shellshocked really, than I have seen a player look this year. His demeanor and facial expressions would have been appropriate for a player who just lost the Stanley Cup Finals after leading three games to none. Dubielewicz observed that the team played safe in the first period and desperate in the second. He, Comrie, and Guerin suggested that the lack of desperation in the first was inexcusable.

The Islanders have one more opportunity to get on a roll before they find themselves having to win twelve straight or something like that in order to stay alive. This post was so much more fun when it was only about the Core of the Four.

Ah, one more thing. I had intended to take pictures of the brand new Islanders Hall of Fame plaques. However, having experienced the difficulty of doing that well at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and knowing that Mike Schuerlein has already done it well, please visit his gallery for a great look at the hardware.


islesblogger said...

Great job Ken!

I totally wish I would have gotten off my butt and left my house earlier than I did. I really missed a great opportunity today.

Good stuff!

Tom Liodice said...

Ken, I had to re-up the Trots footage! My bad! Replace it with what I have up now...great job today!!

Islanders Outsider said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Tom. You did a great job springing to action with the camera! It's really nice to have the footage along with the quotes.

Mike, now that I think about it, the funny thing is that we ended up talking to two of the guys that are around most of the time anyway.