Special Night in Gothenburg
There are times as a reporter where you are a part of a very magical moment and you realize right in that moment just how very fortunate you are.
For me, working both Game Sevens in 1994 as a young reporter---the double OT Matteau Matteau thriller vs. the Devils, and the Cup clincher against the Canucks---witnessing Mike Richter's almost-indescribeable penalty shot save on Pavel Bure out in Vancouver during the '94 Cup, and covering the various jersey retirement ceremonies at The Garden, rank on that list.
And now so, too, does last night.
Friday evening at The Scandinavium in Gothenburg there was a true outpuring of love for returning hero Henrik Lundqvist. And what made the night so special was the genuine heartfelt emotion that flowed freely all around---from Frolunda Indians fans, to former teammates in Sweden, to his current Rangers teammates---to honor not only the player, but the quality person.
I stood in the arena and soaked in the roaring prolonged standing ovation for Lundqvist and the "Hen-Ke! Hen-Ke!" chants. I greatly respected John Tortorella's decision to have Lundqvist wear an alternate captain's A for his return home. I watched the scoreboard video of Hank throwing his equipment in the air after leading Frolunda to the Swedish Elite League championship.
And in the end, I had to agree with Brian Boyle.
"It gave me goosebumps," Boyle said after the game.
This was one of THOSE moments where I completely understood how fortunate enough I was to be in the building, and just as fortunate later to be with Lundqvist as he tried to explain all of his emotions.
"I have been thinking about this day almost every hour the past few days, and I wasn't sure how I'd react to it," said Lundqvist. "It was very emotional. I didn't cry, but I was close. I started following (Frolunda) since I was five when my dad took me to my first game ever here. It's been my dream to play here, and then I did from when I was 16. Then (tonight) I realize I am playing my twin brother, against Frolunda, with the New York Rangers, and then I get (the tribute and great fan reaction) before the game. It was just a lot to take in all at once. I am so thankful for it."
Many of the Rangers' players I spoke with following the game had the same assessment as I do as to why Hank is so beloved, both in Gothenburg and New York.
It is one thing to be a great player, and a champion, on the ice. It is another to be all that as well as a decent, generous, just genuinely good person. Henrik Lundqvist is all of that.
Cheers Hank on your special night. Well deserved.
Quite happy to have been a part of it.
Saturday Cut-Down Day
The Rangers trimmed their roster to 25 players Saturday afternoon, sending Tim Erixon, Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury, Blake Parlett, and Dale Weise to the Connecticut Whale, while shippoing Dylan McIlrath back to Moose Jaw of the WHL.
None of the cuts come as a big surprise as Erixon, Bourque, and Hagelin are all rookie pros who need more seasoning. And though Mitchell, Newbury (goal and assist vs. Frolunda Friday), and Weise all played well in the pre-season, there was little room at the forward position what with 14 NHLers ahead of them on the depth chart.
"(Erixon) had a good camp and he improved each day, but he still needs to go through the process," explained head coach John Tortorella. "It's a very difficult thing to step into a National Hockey League team as a defenseman and play. We felt the most important thing was get him playing immediately, get him more used to the North American style. I know (Erixon) was disappointed, as were all the guys that got cut, but this is the best thing for him and it will be the best thing for the organization as he goes through the process."
Just last night Erixon told me that he was feeling more comfortable by the day and thought his game was improving. He will now continue that in the AHL, but you can count on him being in the NHL in the future, for sure.
Tortorella also said today that he would like to start the season with 13 forwards, and that Sean Avery and Erik Christensen will be battling it out for that final spot right up until opening night next Friday.
Avery is in tremendous physical condition, and played a very strong game in Philadelphia on Monday. However he has had to leave each of his last two pre-season outings due to injury---a sore foot Monday and a cut mouth last night against Frolunda.
Christensen recorded his first point of the pre-season by scoring during last night's contest.
The biggest surprise likely is Stu Bickel's inclusion on the 25-man roster. The rugged 24-year old from Minnesota (bottom photo) played effectively in each of the last three pre-season games, and drew praise from Tortorella for jumping to Andre Deveaux's defense in Philly.
"This kid Bickel has stood in there for us," Tortorella said. "He's a guy that is involved and has had a very good camp. We've been pretty impressed with how Bickel has stood in there because I knew nothing about him when he came in here. He's a big guy who gets in the way. He's beginning to learn how to use his stick. He has improved daily and that's why he is here."
Bickel may only be here until Marc Staal and/or Michael Sauer return from their health-ralted woes, but the 6'4", 220 pounder should be pleased for a job well done so far.
Here is the current 25-man roster for the Rangers:
Goalies (3): Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Stajcer
Defensemen (8): Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal
Forwards (14): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Prust, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Derek Stepan, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello
Jim Cerny-October 1, 2011