P.J. Stock found himself in a very different training camp last week, one familiar only because it, too, had its share of red lights. These red lights didn't trigger when a puck crossed a goal line, but rather when a producer-director called for a change in camera angle.
''And the thing is, I've got double vision these days -- so I was seeing red lights everywhere," said Stock, who was not long ago a bit of a Bruins cult figure, embraced by fans for his rock 'em, sock 'em spirit.
Stock, 30, was forced to retire over the summer, after eye surgery earlier in the year failed to correct his vision problems. While playing with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2003-04 -- while technically on loan from the Bruins -- Stock was struck in the right eye with a stick.
''Now, it's time for me to get on with the seriousness of life," said the scrappy, pint-sized pugilist. ''I miss the game already, and I knew I would, but I can't say I'm sad or mad about what happened. Hey, it happened, and I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason."
So there was Stock last week, sitting beside longtime analyst Bill Clement (formerly of ESPN), auditioning to be a studio sidekick for OLN's upcoming NHL broadcasts. Stock said he enjoyed the experience -- all those dizzying red lights aside -- and he figures he'll pursue media opportunities.
For now, he and his wife, Jean Marie, are living in Montreal, with son Tyson Dean (age 3) and daughter Peyton Olivia (18 months), wondering where the next chapter in their lives will lead.
Stock played for the Rangers, Canadiens, Flyers, and Bruins over the course of eight seasons (235 NHL games) and enjoyed his stay in the Hub of Hockey above all.
''Oh, no question, hands down," said Stock, one of a select few NHLers to receive full pay last season, his compensation based on the fact that he was injured when the 2003-04 season came to an end. ''It's unfortunate it came to an end there, but after I signed a two-year extension [prior to 2003-04], I got moved out pretty quick. I was upset when it ended, but I've got a lot of friends still there. Just a great place -- the fans have such a passion for hockey, and that makes it a great place."
Stock was injured on a faceoff in a game against the Springfield Falcons. As he remembered it, he was engaged in a fairly routine struggle for the puck.
''The puck bounced, and the two of us started canoeing for it -- you know, rolling the arms and shoulders," he recalled. ''The other guy -- I don't know who it was -- got me in the right eye. I don't know if it was his glove, with the knuckles, or the stick -- but that's what did it."
If media work doesn't materialize, Stock figures he might try coaching. Youth would be on his side, for energy and exuberance, but he figures it also could be a hindrance.
''I know I want to be involved in the game somehow, because it's all I've done since the age of 5," he said. ''An office job wouldn't work, something 9 to 5, I know that; either I'd shoot someone, or someone would shoot me.
''I'd love to coach, but we've got two kids, too, and it's hard to move them around, for one thing, and 30 is young for the NHL. You'd be coaching guys who are older, and that can be kind of weird. Even in the ECHL, there are a lot of kids, but even some of those guys are 32 and up. Junior hockey could be an option, I don't know. I just know I want to be around the game somehow.
''We'll be OK. Like I say, my approach is, I got to play in the NHL, and a lot of guys never get that chance. In the back of my mind, I was playing not just for me, but for my friends and family, too. The experience I had, seeing people in the stands with my jersey on, that was great -- and I'm more than thankful.
''I always thought that way, whether it was going to be for one game, or a lot more -- just be thankful that I got the chance."
Lazaro is ousted by Katrina
A knock on the door of his temporary digs in Waltham did not find Jeff Lazaro at home last week. A
According to a report in the Waltham Daily News Tribune, the ex-Bruins forward and his wife jumped in their Ford pickup and headed north, leaving everything behind -- perhaps for good.
''We know that our home is under water," Lazaro told the paper.
Included in the possessions left behind, said Lazaro, were ''my first puck for the Bruins, my first puck for the Olympics -- all that's under water. We left all that behind, thinking we were coming back in two days."
Lazaro, 37, played for Waltham High School and the University of New Hampshire before his brief stint with the Bruins (76 games in two seasons, 1990-92).
In New Orleans, he ran a health insurance business and also owned three rental properties.
Friends of Jeff and Sarah Lazaro will hold a fund-raiser for the couple Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Waltham Sons of Italy Hall, 99 Cedar Street. For more information, phone 508-726-7077 or 617-799-4085.
The benefit will include an auction of sports memorabilia, with some of the items donated by two of his ex-Bruins teammates, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, and ex-NFLer Fred Smerlas.
Competition Committee puts opponents on same side
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the intoxicating news July 22, the day the new labor deal was ratified by league owners, was the formal announcement of the formation of an NHL Competition Committee. The league now has what amounts to a quality control board, one with teeth, that in future years should prevent a killer weed such as the neutral zone trap from choking the entertainment out of the game.
''For years there has been a Competition Committee in the NFL," said Predators general manager David Poile, one of the committee's members. ''And that seems to be a very well-respected committee. They've made important decisions over the years that have changed their game a fair bit."
The NHL's committee will keep a critical eye trained on how the ''zero tolerance" policy toward obstruction and interference plays out this season. Thus far, exhibition games have been bogged down by as many as 20 and 25 power plays, but that was anticipated -- perhaps a necessary part of the evolution to a ''flow" game.
''There's a learning curve here, but I think you'll see the players change very quickly," said Poile, who is joined on the committee by GMs Bob Gainey (Montreal), Kevin Lowe (Edmonton), and Don Waddell (Atlanta). ''I've seen teams already who had 12 penalties their first game, then half that in their second game.
''We had a game the other night, and we had only four called against us. It can be done. Even in a game that, when played well, can be as reckless as ours, it can be done."
The players on the committee are Rob Blake (Colorado), Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Trevor Linden (Vancouver), and Brendan Shanahan (Detroit). The Flyers' Ed Snider represents the owners, and the even-keeled Mike Gartner, a voice of sensibility on the workers' side during the lockout, holds down a spot for the Players Association. NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell is the supervisor.
''The perception has been sort of an 'us-against-them' mentality in the NHL for a long period of time," said Poile. ''I think this addresses that perception, and builds the idea of a partnership."
Are the Russians coming?
Bruins center Alexei Zhamnov owns three medals -- one gold, one silver, one bronze -- from his various Russian tours to Olympus. At the moment, no one knows whether the Russians will be in Turin for 2006, in part because the country's ice hockey federation hasn't signed off on the universal transfer agreement the NHL has attempted to forge with the countries recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation. ''I'm probably not going," said the 34-year-old pivot, who was joined by fellow Bruin Sergei Samsonov on the Russian squad that played at Salt Lake City in '02. ''The generations are changing." Besides, added Zhamnov, ''I have a tough time with the Russian Federation." Asked if he cared to elaborate, he politely declined. Samsonov, hindered by a wrenched back in training camp, would be among the prime candidates for the ex-CCCP to bring to the Italian Alps.
Predators catch prey
Nashville general manager David Poile pulled off one of the upsets of the free agent season when he landed Paul Kariya with a two-year contract worth $4.5 million per annum. Kariya became the first high-profile free agent signing in the history of the franchise. Upon contacting Kariya's agent, Don Baizley, Poile quickly found out he had to go into heavy-sell mode. ''I've known Don for years, and I won't say he gave me the brush-off, but it was like, 'OK, David, we'll get back to you,' " recalled Poile. ''It was like we were being added to the list. He wasn't being rude, but . . . I said, 'No, no, we're serious. I need to talk to Paul Kariya!' " Poile felt the Predators needed a marquee name to reconnect with the fan base. ''We're in Nashville, Tenn., a non-traditional hockey market, and facing an unbalanced schedule this season where we're not going to see every team, and every star," said Poile. ''In that sense, hockey was maybe lying under the radar here a little bit. We went after Paul Kariya, yes, but in the end, he chose us. He could have gone to other cities, where the money was comparable, but he chose us. It gives us that added credibility."
Not business as usual
General managing positions in the NHL aren't the jobs-for-life they once were, and the upcoming season could bring a front-office shakeout that has never been seen in the Original 30. By some estimates, upwards of half of the league's GMs are working under contracts that expire at the end of 2005-06. ''Some of these guys have spent money the last few weeks as if they're still operating in the old pre-cap system," said a longtime hockey executive, who asked to remain anonymous. ''Some others will have trouble coping with the cap on an ongoing, season business. Some just don't have the aptitude for it. I think you're going to see a lot of movement when the smoke begins to clear."
The weighty Tkachuk matter
Former BU Terrier Keith Tkachuk remained out of work headed into the weekend, after failing his physical at the start of Blues camp. Bob Murray, Tkachuk's Boston-based agent, confirmed that the Blues said his client, officially listed as 6 feet 2 inches, 225 pounds in recent years, was overweight. Murray would not reveal just how high the 33-year-old Tkachuk tipped the scales, but most reports out of St. Louis had him in the 255-260 range. ''We are attempting to find a resolution with the team," said Murray, who added that a grievance has been filed with the Players Association. ''Keith played in the World Cup last August and September, and he had added some muscle weight prior to that, and played slightly higher there than his prior weight. Since then, he has continued to get bigger and stronger. Most important, from Keith's perspective, he is in shape and he can play." Tkachuk, due $7.6 million from the Blues, has yet to lose a dollar, because teams don't pay until the regular season starts. The veteran power forward also holds an option, worth another $7.6 milllion, for next season. Murray said he doubted that the Blues were attempting to shake their responsibility to pay Tkachuk for the season. ''I don't think so," said Murray. ''If they wanted to get rid of him, they could have done that during the buyout period in the days after the CBA was finished." Instead, for major payroll relief, the Blues opted to wheel high-priced defenseman Chris Pronger to the Oilers.
The brothers Eaves, Ben and Patrick, both former BC Eagles, as of late last week were still in the mix with their NHL clubs. Ben is attempting to crack the Penguins lineup for the first time, but he's stacked behind some high-profile talent. Patrick, who late in the summer decided not to return to The Heights for his senior year, is still a candidate for third- or fourth-line duty with the Senators.
Moonlighting as telemarketer
Ex-Bruin Bill Guerin is a career winger, but he made a huge save for the Stars. According to Jason Rademan, the club's manager of media and team services, Guerin recently picked up the phone and persuaded a customer not to cancel a set of four season tickets behind the Stars bench. ''Two of our broadcasters, Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, were making calls for us after the lockout ended, asking season ticket-holders to hang in with us," said Rademan. ''But these people with the four behind the bench were adamant. They said they loved Bill Guerin, but they were done. Well, Ralph told Billy, and asked if he'd call them. Sure enough, he got on the phone, called them, and that was it, they were sold."
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.