2005-11-18 / Sports

NY Hockey Report - For Love of the Game

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


New Jersey Devils’ Scott Gomez (23) is chased up the ice by Washington Capitals’ Brian Willsie (24) during the second period of their game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2005 in Washington. The Devils won 4-3. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)New Jersey Devils’ Scott Gomez (23) is chased up the ice by Washington Capitals’ Brian Willsie (24) during the second period of their game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2005 in Washington. The Devils won 4-3. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - If you ask them, many professional athletes would say they’ll play of free, since they love their sport so much. Yet you never see any of them turning down any paychecks and usually they take the highest dollar.

But the Devils’ Scott Gomez proved his fondness for hockey as he played for his hometown Alaska Aces of the East Coast Hockey League during the lockout last year. He did get paid the small stipend all the players receive, but because of league rules, Gomez had to pay his own insurance and the high premium wiped out any money earned.

“It was a chance to give back to the fans back home in my hometown and it was an awesome feeling,” the Anchorage, AK native explained. “Everywhere we went, people were gracious. It was a good experience.” His 73 assists and 86 points in 61 games lead the AA circuit and Gomez did get reimbursed for any extra cash outlay from the Players Association and other players around the NHL.

New York Rangers’ Dominic Moore, left, celebrates with teammate Steve Rucchin (20) after scoring against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender John Grahame, right, during the third period of the Rangers’ 5-2 win Thursday night Nov. 10, 2005, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)New York Rangers’ Dominic Moore, left, celebrates with teammate Steve Rucchin (20) after scoring against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender John Grahame, right, during the third period of the Rangers’ 5-2 win Thursday night Nov. 10, 2005, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) Now that the lockout is over, the tough two-way center returns to a different Devils team. Gone are mainstays Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, so Gomez is expected to take a greater leadership role on the team in his sixth season.

“I kind of got groomed,” Gomez laughed. “Look around the room there was a [Bobby] Holik, a Stevens and a Niedermayer. Now I look around the room, we see [the younger guys]. With everything that went on, we are getting used to it.”

Another adjustment are the new NHL rules, which were designed to eliminate New Jersey’s famous defensive trap. The team got out to a slow start and it seemed like the Devils needed some time to adjust.

“It’s kind of new to everyone and we are trying to get our feet wet with it,” Gomez said. “We always were a big and physical team - well not me - but other guys. Everyone is getting used to it, including the refs.” One other problem was the loss of Martin Brodeur to a knee injury. The goalie missed six games and the team looked lifeless during that time, suffering from a four game losing streak. His replacement Scott Clemmensen played well, but there was just something missing.

So it made sense when Brodeur returned last Friday, the Devils proceeded to sweep a home and home against the Washington Capitals. Gomez said: “‘Clemmer’ did a great job, but Marty is Marty and anytime you get back your best player it’s a boost of confidence. It’s nice to have No. 30 back there.”

And they will need Brodeur if the Devils expect to compete in the more competitive Atlantic Division.

“They have all different teams now and everyone is on an even keel,” Gomez thought. “If you look at our division, I think it’s one of the better ones and people in the area are loving it.”

Much like the way his hometown fans in Anchorage felt last year.

***

The Rangers’ marketing department did a great job this season with their promotional ads. The humorous bits with the fictional Bobby Granger are some of the better bits out there in team promotion.

The best one: Poking fun at Harvard graduate Dominic Moore and his Ontario accent. The rookie center has been away from Canada for a few years and told the NY Hockey Report, he needed to embellish the ‘faugettabootit.’

“The asked me to do it and they did a good job at it. It came out well,” Moore said.

If Moore keeps coming up with key goals, like he had last week, New Yorkers may change the way they say ‘faugettaboutit.’

***

It’s what the shootout was made for Monday’s Islander game in Pittsburgh saw the tie breaking contest go nine innings to eventually see the Isles come away with the win on a Jason Blake goal.

It may not be popular with purists, but the shootout does make for compelling drama.

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