PRO HOCKEY NOTES
Punches may land at Tsongas Arena
Byers aims to have `Gladiators' square off in Lowell
It didn't play in Minneapolis, because renovations at the Target Center proved to be too big of a neutral zone trap. The Winnipeg Arena was willing, but city fathers grew squeamish over the legal ramifications of hockey being packaged solely as a fighting event.
But the dream of Hockey Gladiators lives, and according to ex-Bruin Lyndon Byers, the mother of all hockey punchups could land at Lowell's Tsongas Arena Jan. 15.
"What, you thought I was going to let this opportunity slip by?" Byers said late last week, following his morning gig on WAAF radio. "The details still have to be worked out, but everyone's hopeful that it will be here at the Tsongas -- in New England, here in the mecca of hockey fighting."
The two-day, 32-man event was originally scheduled for late August. With Byers active behind the scenes, it's now on target for Lowell as a one-day showdown, with Byers and 15 other pugilists knocking heads over a $135,000 pot. The winner walks away (if still able) with $100,000.
"Why didn't it happen in Winnipeg?" said Byers. "Because the way it was playing out with [lawmakers], we all would have been arrested. But my feeling was, hey, all the more reason to have it. We would have fought the first night, everyone would have been arrested, and then after making bail we could have returned to fight the next night and been arrested again. What a spectacle. It would have been great."
As of yesterday, Byers and his boxing buddies were still awaiting final word from Tsongas Arena administrators and the Massachusetts Boxing Commission.
Wrentham's Garth Snow, now tending net for St. Petersburg (Russia) with Andrei Mezin, last week to the Toronto Star: "I don't walk around with the US flag on my chest. When I'm walking home, I just put a big frown on and I don't look up." The former US Olympian figures low profile is the best way to go, given worldwide turmoil, including the two suicide bombers who recently downed commercial jets in Russia. Much is being made of Snow, an NHL netminder (most recently with the Islanders), suiting up in the former CCCP. But there is a precedent. Ex-Bruin backstop Vincent Riendeau, last seen in the Hub of Hockey in 1994-95 (his last NHL action), played 16 games with Lada Togliatti (600 miles west of Moscow) across two seasons (1998-2000). Riendeau on Russian life: "I'd say there are a lot less crazy people. With communism, everyone's the same. A lot of crimes in North America are because of TV and not having as much as the neighbor." Times change, no? Riendeau finished up his pro career the following season, appearing in 21 games for the Anchorage Aces . . . One former NHL general manager on what he would do as a GM on duty during the lockout: "I'd be busy putting together the best scouting staff possible. These guys are so critical to your operation, and there are quite a few right now who don't have jobs. I'd be tying them up for the long haul." . . . Ex-Bostonian Anson Carter has signed on as one of the "World Stars" who will tour Europe, under the IMG flag, for a three-week barnstorming gig beginning Dec. 1. Tour stops thus far include Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Quick hits in Norway, England, and Austria also are under consideration . . . Slightly more than a month to go before Messrs. Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, and Cliff Fletcher trot up to Toronto for their Nov. 8 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. For Hub of Hockey Baby Boomers making the trek, the Bobby Orr museum (formal name: The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame) in Parry Sound, Ontario, is two hours outside Toronto . . . ESPN.com's hockey page includes an up-to-the-second ticker on the lockout's duration. This morning, we're at 17 days, with eternity on the horizon.
As of midweek, no fewer than 178 NHLers were under playing contracts with European hockey teams, with the Czech Republic (49) and Sweden (40) leading the way. The numbers change almost by the hour. Bruins short-timer Michael Nylander (to wear a Ranger Blueshirt upon the end of the lockout) hooked on last week with Karpat Oulu, the Finnish club that ex-Bruins netminder Tim Thomas played for in 2001-02 prior to getting his four NHL games with the Bruins in 2002-03. Thomas, now 30 years old, is playing with Jokerit, in Helsinki . . . If the NHL and the Players Association ever come to an agreement, the league's plan is to allow a full month before the start of the season. Two reasons: 1. to allow time for training camps and, 2. to make absolutely certain the deal agreed upon is the same deal that gets written up and signed. That explains the league's position to cancel games a month at a time on an ongoing, or rolling, basis. As of tonight, consider games through Nov. 3 erased from the schedule. Total games lost: 139 and counting. The Bruins were slated to play the Blueshirts Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden . . . Bruins broadcasts will have a new look on NESN once the the Coolest Game on Ice emerges from its deep freeze. Host Tom Caron and his various sidekicks no longer will be anchored in Legends. A new studio is being constructed adjacent to the Banners restaurant, allowing for more backdrop shots of the arena . . . Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson, loving life as a high-paid consultant to the Devils, figures to take over the New Jersey bench if the game gets going before Pat Burns is feeling fit enough to resume duties. Burns, diagnosed with colon cancer in April, is still undergoing treatment in New Hampshire. Robinson, to the New York Post: "I'm pretty sure Pat is not feeling well enough to [coach soon]." Robinson would have taken over the job on an interim basis in the spring had the Devils made it out of Round 1 of the playoffs. The Devils have their Albany (AHL) club tuning up in New Jersey, under the eye of coach Robbie Ftorek . . . Leafs forward, and fading sniper, Alexander Mogilny will collect his $5.5 million salary from Toronto until his left hip is deemed well enough for him to return to action (of which there is none right now). Mogilny missed half of last season after surgery, and he was back in Pittsburgh last week for a follow-up arthroscopy . . . Jeremy Roenick could be making a similar case for 2004-05 payments from the Flyers. Following the World Cup, in which he didn't play because of lingering concussion issues, J.R., due $7.5 million in 2004-05, openly wondered whether he could continue his career. "I don't think I can play anymore," he said. "I really don't -- and it's absolutely scary to me." . . . It was encouraging to read in the Lowell Sun last Sunday that Red Sox owners are considering wedging in an outdoor rink (like the one at New York's Rockefeller Center) at Fenway Park in the offseason -- possibly dropped in the outfield. During their pre-Garden years in the 1920s, the Bruins played at Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena, home of the Northeastern Huskies). History shows that George Herman Ruth, by then a Yankee outfielder of some note, took in at least one Bruins game at the Arena . . . Investors in West Seneca, N.Y., just outside of Buffalo, say they've secured the rights to an East Coast Hockey League franchise and hope to build a five-sheet facility that will include a 5,000-seat arena as well as an indoor golf range. Amazing the dreams that a little bit of land will spawn . . . Faithful reader Chris Casilli, from Burlington and beyond, has prepared an endless loop of hockey flicks to get him through the barren wasteland of Son of Lockout. Casilli's menu of hockey verite: Sunday: "The Mighty Ducks"; Monday: "Happy Gilmore"/"The Waterboy" (an Adam Sandler twin bill); Tuesday: Don Cherry's "Rock'em, Sock'em Hockey"; Wednesday: "Youngblood"; Thursday: "Mystery, Alaska"; Friday: "Miracle"; Saturday: "Slap Shot." If you see a guy in slippers, walking aimlessly along an aisle at Blockbuster Video, say hello to Chris, will ya? . . . If you're absolutely aching to see something in Black 'n' Gold skate by the boards, you can take in Providence Bruins practices tomorrow (9:50 a.m.-11:50 a.m.) and Tuesday (10:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.) at the Rhode Island Sports Center, Route 146, in North Smithfield, R.I. The Baby B's open their exhibition schedule Wednesday, opposing Portland at the University of Rhode Island rink . . . Jay Henderson, shipped to the Rangers in the Krzysztof Oliwa deal, is back with Providence, where he began his pro career some six years ago. Henderson now has Calder Cup titles with Providence, Houston, and Milwaukee. He was the last pick in the NHL's '97 entry draft, the year Boston also made the first pick (Joe Thornton, of the Davos, Switzerland, Thorntons) . . . Martin Samuelsson, chosen No. 27 overall in the 2000 draft by Boston, also is back for a third pro season with the Baby B's.
Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis kept up the union mantra with his words to the Newark Star-Ledger: "We know one thing: we won't accept a cap." He was backing up his Ranger teammate, Bobby Holik, who felt New Jersey center John Madden was out of line when Madden said he could accept a cap --words that Madden softened considerably within 24 hours. Holik: "We have an agenda. Who better to articulate that agenda than one spokesperson?" That point man is Canucks forward Trevor Linden, the NHLPA president. Without question, Linden is a smart, articulate guy. But the union would be prudent to get an American player on the talk circuit, too. At last count, 24 of the Original 30 franchises were working south of the border . . . With no labor agreement in sight, the Leafs are considering having coach Pat Quinn help preside over a fantasy camp, mixing double-runnered wannabes with ex-Leafs. The Leafs once did something similar, having beer leaguers pony up $5,000 each to work out with the alums for four days, culminating with a scrimmage at the Air Canada Centre . . . The Islanders unveiled a plan to spruce up their aging Nassau Coliseum, all part of a master initiative that team co-owner Charles Wang would like to see include a 60-story tower -- with 10,000-square-foot observation deck -- aptly named "The Great Lighthouse." The rink would be "The Coliseum at the Lighthouse" and the tower would include a luxury hotel, with a lobby on the 40th floor, that would be "The Grand Hotel at the Lighthouse." Sounds divine. They may have to get input from the Krafts, who built that Lighthouse in the Forest on Route 1 . . . OK, the Garden is long gone, and there isn't a whole lot of hockey happening right now at Vault. But it's worth a trip to Causeway Street these days just to experience the sense of liberation now that the overhead trolley tracks have been torn down. Not only are the light and openness overwhelming, but even amid the hubbub of city life, there is a certain serenity there without the screeching of trolley wheels making the North Station turn.
Kevin Paul Dupont's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.
AND ANOTHER THING . . .
A perfect 10?
Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox recently offered the 10 things he would most like to hear the NHL and the Players Association say in the midst of Lockout Redux:
From the NHL side:
1. "OK, maybe expanding by nine teams in nine years was a bit nuts."
2. "Upon further review, our game [stinks] right now."
3. "Alexei Yashin's contract with the Islanders was just the tip of the iceberg. Our general managers are often dumber than hammers."
4. "If the league, as a whole, is losing money, it's our fault -- nobody else's."
5. "Telling the truth, historically, has not been one of our strengths."
From the NHLPA side:
1. "You know, the owners have actually been pretty good to us over the last decade."
2. "The league is trying, but here are a few ideas we have to make the game more entertaining for our fans."
3. "Visors prevent eye injuries. They should be mandatory for all our players."
4. "We now believe abolishing the instigator penalty would make our league look like it's run by cavemen."
5. "We vow that every boy and girl registered to play hockey in Canada will have the opportunity to meet and talk to an NHL player over the next year."
Byers suits up for Baby B's
That's not Lyndon, but his nephew, Cole Byers. The 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pounder, who can play defense and forward, played Tier 2 junior hockey last season in Vernon, British Columbia. Now here's the biggest surprise: ol' Cole, age 21, led Vernon with 235 penalty minutes.
Compiled by Kevin Paul Dupont
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.