Inspired by my latest holiday.
It’s late July and I’m enjoying a nice cruise on the Baltic Sea. As usual, my mind begins to wander, but my thoughts never stray too far from hockey.
I started thinking about how different the trip might have been if I was there as a hockey reporter/writer as opposed to just being a tourist.
First stop – St. Petersburg, Russia. A full day seeing the sights is great, but deep down I really wanted to fly to Yaroslavl to speak with Alexei Yashin. I would like to ask him if he knew that Yaroslavl was over 250 km north of Moscow or that in January the average temperature is minus 11 degrees Celsius!? He’ll likely be welcomed back to Russia as a hero while playing in the 9,000 seat Lokomotiv Arena. At least it will feel like he’s playing in Long Island (third lowest average home attendance last year, 12,886 fans).
One would think that Yashin would be motivated to prove his many detractors wrong and sign an incentive laden NHL contract. He definitely would have enjoyed playing the game again if he was centering Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta. At least now he’s got Randy “I’m not Luc” Robitaille to pass to. Apparently Yashin and his super-agent Gandler were “insulted” by the low-ball NHL offers they received. A good agent should have been able to work with a lower base salary but negotiate significant performance incentives. Certainly with the hefty $17.4 million buyout that the Islanders gave Big Al, money shouldn’t be an issue. Although in this case it sure seems that it WAS all about the money. I wonder if he consulted with Ms. Alt before signing that contract?
Helsinki was next up on the tour. While there I tried talking to some fine Finnish folks to find out if Teemu Selanne was going to come back for another NHL season. The closest source I could find was a lady who knew Saku Koivu’s mother and for what it’s worth she thought he would play another year in the NHL.
Had I ran into Teemu Selanne on the streets, I was prepared. The following is a fictitious account of my unreal interview with The Finnish Flash:
Comish: Hi Teemu, long time no see.
Flash: Good to see you again Russ.
Comish: Congratulations on winning the Stanley Cup. How’d you spend your day with the trophy?
Flash: Don’t tell anyone, but I managed to lose those two guys who are supposed to watch over the Cup. Then I strapped old Stanley into the passenger seat of my Rally Car and we went racing. I thought it would bring me good luck.
Comish: Did you win the race?
Flash: No, it was hard for my co-pilot to read the map with the Stanley Cup in his lap. Oh well, at least I didn’t crash, Bettman would have killed me if I had dented the Cup.
Comish: Everyone wants to know Teemu, are you going to play next year in Anaheim?
Flash: I still have to let Brian know, so don’t say anything until I can ask Kevin Lowe for Burke’s cell phone number (Teemu flashes a mischievous grin). I would like to play one more season in the NHL. It would be great to end it with back to back Stanley Cups.
Comish: I wish you luck with that. Have you spoken with Scott Niedermayer regarding his status for next season?
Flash: Yeah, funny story there. Scotty told me that he never intended to retire next season and that he was quote just messing with Burkey’s head unquote. But after Brian went out and quickly signed both Schneider and Bertuzzi, Scott’s