Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Andrei Nazarov Needs A Story He Can Sell

What we taught the world is that you can suck and still rule
Andrei Nazarov (Sport Express photo)

When Andrei Nazarov announced his retirement a few weeks ago, I gave him somewhat of a gentle tribute as a send-off, saying that I hoped to hear more from him soon.

Not even two days later, though, Nazarov gave an interview in Sport Express, in which he claimed that "99% of all NHL enforcers" used steroids. I gave the story only a small mention, because the whole thing seemed trashy to me. Little did I know that it would become such a huge story in the North American media. The wolves were turned loose, and Nazarov and his accusations took a pounding (so to speak).

Nazarov is in Sport Express again today, defending his original story for the second or third time, and presenting new arguments to back up his original claims.

Nazarov's claim that the NHL players were given advance notice of the "random" tests during this past season was scoffed at by the NHL's Bill Daly, who suggested that Nazarov didn't know what he was talking about because he wasn't in the NHL last season. Nazarov did start the '05-'06 season in the NHL with Minnesota, however, and he says that the team doctors talked to the players about drug testing "in one of the first few days after we arrived at training camp, in September. We attended a special meeting, where two official League doctors gave us detailed information about the different methods used to detect doping, how long it took to flush out of your system, and so on." Nazarov goes on to say, "Even in September, the doctors had recorded the possible dates for the drug tests-- one set of dates for Olympians, another set for non-Olympians. As a result, we knew the plan was for the non-Olympians to be tested in January."

Nazarov then brought up the oft-cited rampant abuse of Sudafed by NHL players ("Six Sudafed tablets, and then you can run the entire game without stopping"), mentioned marijuana use as being common among players, and pointed to Jose Theodore's testing positive for Propecia as an example of players using hair-restoration products to mask the steriods in their blood stream. I'm pretty sure that the speculation about Theodore was debunked almost as soon as it began, if only for the fact that Theodore's a pretty slender guy.

The only observation that I feel like adding at this time is to point out how much Nazarov is beginning to look like Paul Westerberg:

I think Bob Dylan sucks. Bob Dylan never wrote a good song

Well, there is actually one other positive thing I can take from this story, stemming from when I was doing my usual small amount of research while putting this post together (I'll admit it-- I had to look up the right way to spell "Propecia"). I got lucky enough to stumble onto this caricature of Jose Theodore, from Le Cornichon:

Willie Nelson sucks. You know what he said? He said when he heard the music of Matchbox 20 it renewed his faith in song writing. Fuck that guy!

Stop it, please! I'm dyin' over here!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yashin to begin pre-season in Russia

No, really, my socks match. They're the same thickness
Yashin (79, next to Jaromir Jagr, 68) with Yaroslavl in '04-'05

Four Russian NHL players-- Alexei Yashin of the New York Islanders, Dimitri Afanasenkov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Aleksander Suglobov of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vitaly Vishnevski of the Anaheim Ducks-- will begin preparing for the upcoming season by joining Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's pre-season training camp this week.

According to a report in Sport Express, Vishnevski is already training in Yaroslavl, while Yashin is due to arrive on Monday. A number of other NHL players, including the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr, have also said that they plan to begin their training with teams in the Russian Super League, where the season starts on September 7th, a month earlier than the NHL season.

We had really great seats. You could almost see the Angel of Death right behind Keith Richards
Vitaly Vishnevski (#5) of Khimik watches Alexei Kalyuzhny (#71) score for Omsk

Vishnevski, the hard-hitting defenseman and Russian Olympian who began his Russian pro career with Yaroslavl in '98-'99, was recently awarded a $1.55 million contract through arbitration, an award that the Ducks are said to be willing to walk away from.

UPDATE 7/31/06 - The Ducks and Vitaly Vishnevski agreed to terms on a one-year deal.

How Do You Explain Sweden?

I will try to be more tolerant of lactose
If I only had a brain...

All of these photos are from the Swedish Elitserien, taken from the photo gallery on the Timrå IK web site.

The title of this post refers to a quote from that great Canadian, Don Cherry, who said, "When the Martians finally land here from outer space, how are we going to explain Sweden to them?" (Actually, I just made that up.)

I go to Subway, and I leave Subway card at home, every time! All I want is a free sandwich!
The windup...

Helping others is what John Stamos is all about
...and here's the pitch!

Do you guys sell Elmer's Glue and thumbtacks? We're trying to put together a Tilt-A-Whirl
Coach said if we give up one more powerplay goal this year, he's gonna trade us all to the Islanders

Dammit! I haven't been to the Olive Garden in, like, forever!
Whoops-- sorry about that

That is a good question, scary androgenous white guy, and I would like to reply by taking my shirt off

Aren't you a little out of place here? And everywhere else on Earth?
Does this read "Kick Me" in Swedish?

To your right, a flattened squirrel. Straight ahead, the future!
Miikka Kiprusoff: "Which way is Calgary?"

Careful with that nail gun, Jesus Christo
A stick under the visor-- now, who could be responsible?...

Your secret army of cloned historical figures is maturing according to schedule
...aha! The villain!*

Unacceptable?! Did you see the pool? They FLIPPED the bitch!
Man, your skates reek!

The answer was C, you fuckwad
Let me guess-- either you got hit in the nuts with a puck, or that's your resume for being the Islanders' GM?

 I stopped to wipe out a village of farmers
Anyone for Twister?

Today I've made a decision based on very poor information: I'm going to be a trucker
In Sweden, they seem to be really big on huge signs.

They're big believers in the concept of voluntary simplicity
I mean REEEALLLY big on huge signs.

Here you were, perfectly capable of alienating people on personality alone

Darn. And it came so close to turning out semi-decent

If you could be really, really quiet, that would be great

*Note: That's not actually Forsberg's stick blade underneath the guy's visor. Also note that Sidearm Delivery doesn't subscribe to the theory that all Swedes are evil, and that Peter Forsberg is the Devil. However, we do subscribe to the theory that anyone who plays for the Flyers is a complete doofus.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Old Fart Told To Stay The F*ck Outta Moscow

I know I shouldn't eat these, but they're available for a limited time only

In a fit of good taste that has restored my faith in totalitarian government, the Kremlin has forced Eric Clapton, the guitarist who has done more to ruin modern music than possibly any other man alive, to cancel an upcoming concert in Red Square.

The Russian promoter of the concert, Evgeny Safronov, had received the necessary permit on Thursday but-- in a change of heart-- officials withdrew the permit yesterday. Chances are good that in the meantime they had listened to one of Clapton's albums, and realized just how excrutiatingly bad he is.

Clapton's crimes against music include, but are not limited to, A) The 60's hippie band Cream, whose pretentious fake "musicianship" popularized the endless 10-minute "jam" song, complete with frivolous guitar wankery; B) His cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sherrif", which brought reggae to AM radio, thereby ruining it forever; C) His latter-day solo work, which incorporated any number of watered-down, tepid musical styles and brought legitimacy to lameness and commercialism, spawning the re-birth of left-for-dead losers like Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, and (God forbid) maybe even the Eagles, among others.

It involves typing with your thumbs, which I just don't approve of

The cancellation will mean refunds to ticket-buyers of up to $370 per ticket, which should be plenty to provide a needed boost to the Russian economy and may even be enough to buy a car (or rent Zenon Konopka's for a month or two), who knows. All those who are upset by the sudden cancellation are advised to buy a Teengenerate or Lightning Bolt CD, for chrissakes, and get over it.

My Mom Threw Mine Away

You know, we could all be reading a book right now
"Heavy Metal Design"

I think Ingmar Bergman Shoots...And Scores has hit a home run with this, his own versions of various hockey cards designs (all of them featuring "Sideshow" Mike Commodore):

What do Hockey Cards look like today? Check out this Beckett search for "Jaromir Jagr" + "2005" and you'll either: a) Think they look alright, b) Think they look like crap, or c) Don't give a crap since you stopped collecting cards when you were thirteen.

I chose alternative B and decided to make a few hockey card designs of my own.

As he contemplated spending the remainder of his natural life in prison, Grandad never stopped to realize that he had gotten the respect he so deperately wanted
"Funky Early-Nineties Design"

File sharing is a crime and I'm not going to be anally raped just so you can listen to Usher
"Ingmar Bergman Design"

English, motherfucker!! Do you speak it??
"Commodore 64 Design"

To check out the rest of the designs in all their full-sized glory, as well as read some comments from people who didn't catch the irony, click here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

NHL deadline may mean Malkin stays in Russia

Everybody else can just hang up right now because I'm not interested
Evgeni Malkin

The IIHF said earlier this week that they'd give Russia until August 15th to sign the NHL player transfer agreement. But now, the NHL is saying they want it signed sooner, possibly as early as Monday.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, July 28:

Getting Evgeni Malkin to North America and with the Penguins this year may require more creativity than originally planned, if the Russian Ice Hockey Federation doesn't sign a transfer deal by a Monday deadline set by the NHL.

"We have informed the International Ice Hockey Federation that, to the extent we do not have an agreement signed by the Russian national association on the terms previously offered and communicated to them by (Monday), we will proceed without a deal for the coming year," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday.

But the Russian federation can't sign the deal without the approval of its member clubs, and RHF president Vladislav Tretiak has faced an enormous amount of pressure from a handful of teams, including Malkin's, not to sign.

Malkin, who was his team's leading scorer and most valuable player last year, doesn't have an "out clause" that would free him of his contractual obligations without a transfer agreement.

A story by the Reuters news agency in early May quoted Metallurg general manager Gennady Velichkin as saying he might sue the Penguins, forcing them to buy out Malkin's contract for what would likely be millions of dollars.

That isn't going to happen, primarily because it's believed the NHL would never allow it.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that Malkin won't be able to join the Penguins as anticipated.

"Whether there are other ways of getting him out or not is open to interpretation and something that we have been investigating the last little while," said Craig Oster of Newport Sports Management, Malkin's agency. "Our hope remains that Russia does come to a deal, because that makes it better for everybody."

Oster declined to discuss what those options might be, stating that the agency's position, for now, is to wait and see what the Russians decide.

"Everybody would like to see this unfold the right way," Oster said.

But Oster and Daly confirmed there's still a possibility Malkin could legally exit his contact, even if the Russians don't enter the agreement. One option may be a rule under Russian labor law that allows an employee to quit a job after giving two weeks written notice, whether he is under contract or not.

The Penguins and general manager Ray Shero declined to discuss the situation yesterday, but Shero said earlier this week that he hasn't looked at acquiring a center this summer because he's counting on having Malkin.

"We're not the only NHL team in this situation," Shero said. "Other teams have Russian players they drafted, and they want to sign them and get them over here. So, we have to be patient. I think it'll be worth the wait, though."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hugh Jessiman Vows To Get Physical

I got a job. Professional driveway skulker
Wolf Pack forward Hugh Jessiman (photo credits: Chris Rutsch)

Being the New York Rangers' #1 draft pick three years ago has brought a lot of expectations upon Hugh Jessiman, expectations that he's yet to live up to. In his first full season as a pro last year, Jessiman was often too soft for his size (6'-6", 225), without enough scoring punch to make up the difference (7g, 12a in 46 games with the Pack). Sent down to ECHL Charlotte in November, Jessiman did well (23 points in 25 games), and upon his return to Hartford, showed a willingness to be more agressive on the ice.

The good news is, Jessiman is taking last year's learning experience, combined with some pointed advice from the Rangers coaching staff, and vowing to step up the physical side of his game.

From a June 26th article in the Darien (Ct.) Times (thanks to Pack Attack for the pointer):

Since being drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers in the NHL Entry Draft three years ago, Hugh Jessiman, 22 of Darien, has spent his summers working out at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y.

This summer, the Hartford Wolf Pack winger and serious Rangers roster contender put in a hard-workout-times-100 at the club’s annual Prospects Camp, earlier this month. He’s done that three years running as well.

But he’s added a new push to his drive to prepare for the fall. Deciding to set his sights on making the top team in September, by shooting higher this summer still. Jessiman is continuing to hone his competitive edge in the Top Gun Hockey League at Hingham Rink in Massachusetts.

"Guys like myself (play in it)," Jessiman said. "Young pros. There are a couple of older pros that are there too. Since they (Rangers) know I am doing well (with conditioning), they leave me to do that (the Top Gun League) this summer. So it works out well."

Rangers Prospects Camp came up right on time this summer, getting him solidly on track following his rookie season, when he followed a common wavy adjustment curve moving up to the pro game. Jessiman began the 2005-06 season with Hartford, then did a spell with the Rangers’ ECHL club in Charlotte before being brought back up to the Pack in January, where he stayed the rest of the season.

At Prospects Camp, Rangers head coach Tom Renney told the 6-6, 225-pound Jessiman that his most productive road would be to follow the example of 38-year old star Brendan Shanahan. They want him to become a strong two-way presence; they want him to go to the net. Renney’s comments, made prior to the Rangers going out and signing Shanahan off of the Detroit roster, showed Shanahan’s spirit preceded the man himself.

"It’s pretty cool, that is why I was pretty pumped-up when they signed him," Jessiman, brightening, said. "It was really interesting, because I thought it was pretty cool the way they signed him about a week later. It’s a good message to me. Because that’s the guy they want there, and maybe I can sort of emulate what he is doing."

Wow, you're always so Desmond Tutu-y. This is refreshing

With more than a little elbow room on the Rangers shifting roster, Jessiman is determined to make that next step. A lot of that will have to do with, scoring, yes— he’s got the hands, that’s half the reason he was drafted in the first place. But it will have just as much to do this September, more than ever, with how much bother he gives opponents looking to put numbers up on the board as well.

As Wolf Pack GM and coach Jim Schoenfeld said at the start of last season: "You take his skill, his offensive instincts, and then you add the physicality to his game, and it makes him a tough guy to play against."

"When I was at Dartmouth (2002-05) I used my hands," Jessiman said. "In order to be that power forward, you have to use your body. Protect the puck, and do all that."

Jessiman gave up his senior year at Dartmouth to go pro last summer. And he’s glad he did.

"There are some guys, like Zach Parise (of the Devils, picked 17th in the 2003 draft) for example, who plays that role (as goal scorer) and continues to play that role," Jessiman said. "But even he had to change up his game a little bit (as a pro), in order to play in the NHL. And I think if (I) scored 50 goals, whatever, at Dartmouth, I would still have so much learning to do. The adjustment period, I think, will be easier this year because of the fact that I played pro last year. It's been really valuable."

Baseball Players Are Funny Packers

Pick this crap up before I slap the shine off your head!
Todd Jones and his only pair of underwear

From the Associated Press and CBS Sportsline, July 27:

Shawn Green brings his own soap on every road trip. Mike Cameron never forgets his lavender linen spray and orange-scented spray for the room. Ichiro Suzuki depends on an electric massager that takes up nearly half his suitcase.

And then there's Detroit closer Todd Jones, who wears only one pair of underwear when the Tigers leave town.

"I don't pack any underwear," he said. "I wear it into the park, it gets washed every day and I wear it out of the park. I guess that's weird. I'm not proud of it, but I'm cutting down on space."

Green, Arizona's right fielder, has brought his own soap and dish on the road for several years.

"These guys are filthy. I don't want to share soap with them," he said. "I don't like germs. I've got germ issues."

San Francisco's Todd Greene purchased camouflage jock straps for his teammates during spring training, and says he wears his every day.

"I bought 20 of them. I like fatigues," Greene said with a grin. "I also take a fan everywhere I go for the noise. It helps me sleep. I don't like going to sleep in silence. And I bring a pillow."

The Giants' medical staff packs a half-dozen trunks full of everything the team might need - from weights and wine corks used for applying eye black, super glue, shoelaces and Velcro to sunscreen, safety pins, and the cooking spray Moises Alou uses to clean mud off his cleats between innings.

"We can open our own nail salon," said strength and conditioning coach Ben Potenziano.

The Giants' Mark Sweeney has seen some strange stuff over the years. His friend, Robert Fick of the Nationals, brings his own blanket.

"He refuses to sleep on their blankets," Sweeney said. "I'm not quirky with that stuff. I'm just quirky on the field."

Suzuki has a special pillow from his native Japan made from buckwheat, and his self-massage machine. He has been bringing along his own pillow for 15 years, since his early days as a pro back home.

"My pillow is very important," he said through an interpreter. "Depending on the person, the size of the pillow is different for health reasons. In Japan, they checked my size."

He also relies on a five-knob hand-held massager to rub down the bottoms of his feet before and after games - a longtime ritual for Seattle's star leadoff hitter.

"The bottom of your feet are very important," Suzuki said. "There's a saying in Japan that the bottom of your feet are like your heart."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vorobiev, Konopka sign with Russian teams

Good intentions and no physical exertion whatsoever is what the game of golf was built on
Zenon Konopka with the Portland Pirates last season (photo credit: Ron Morin)

With the number of star Russian players about to sign with NHL teams a seeming dam ready to burst once the transfer agreement is signed (the new IIHF-imposed deadline: August 15th), the amount of even moderate-profile signings going back the other way has been few and far between. The list sort of began and ended with Denis Grebeshkov, up until Monday's well-publicized signing of renowned bust Fedor Fedorov-- which was a joke of an inevitability, anyway.

Earlier today, though, a couple of players who were standouts in the AHL and seemed poised to break through at the NHL level jumped ship to Russian teams. Ontario-born Zenon Konopka, who killed the Hartford Wolf Pack (and every other team that Portland faced) in the AHL playoffs this past spring, left the Anaheim Ducks to sign with Lada Togliatti, as reported in Sport Express. The 25-year-old Konopka scored 7 points (4g, 3a) and racked up 48 penalty minutes in 23 games with Anaheim last season, averaging only a handful of minutes per game, but he tore through the AHL with a vengeance. In 34 regular-season games with the Portland Pirates, Konopka tallied 44 points (18g, 26a) and was +22, and went on to be the leading scorer for Portland in the playoffs with 29 points in 19 games (11g, 18a).

Konopka had already stated his case for playing in Russia next season a couple of days before he actually signed, in an article in the Portland Press-Herald. The Press-Herald's online version doesn't list any Pirates stories, unfortunately, but the text of the article has been posted elsewhere, on message boards and the like.

From the July 25th Press-Herald article:

Konopka said his agent is negotiating with five teams from the Russian Super League, commonly considered the world’s top professional league after the National Hockey League.

Konopka is considering the move because he believes it will be difficult for him to earn a permanent spot on an NHL roster without upgrading his skating ability. Playing on the larger ice surfaces in the elite Russian league should help him improve in that area, he explained.

"It’s something my agent feels is the best thing for me to do to improve my skating," Konopka said. "It’s a bigger ice surface, and it’s a high calibre of play."

A restricted free agent, Konopka, 25, turned down a qualifying offer from the Anaheim Ducks earlier this month that would have increased his NHL base salary of $450,000 by five percent for the 2006-07 season. He earned about one-fifth of his NHL base salary while playing for the Pirates.

"If everything works out, I’d be making more (money) playing in Russia than I would in Anaheim or in Portland," he said.

If Konopka does go to Russia, Anaheim would retain his playing rights when he returns to North America.

"The problem with him leaving is that time away will allow others to pass him on the depth chart," said Bob Murray, Anaheim’s senior VP of hockey operations. "He was our first recall at center, and that position will have to be filled by someone else."

I will curse you constantly and in several languages

Also signing with a Russian team is the Chicago Blackhawks' Pavel Vorobiev, who signed with Khimik, as reported in Sport Express and confirmed on the Blackhawks' web site. Vorobiev, 24, scored 21 points (9g, 12a) in 39 games for Chicago last season, including 6 goals in his first 13 games. Vorobiev flew to Moscow on Tuesday, and was already scheduled to play for Khimik in a scrimmage game against Spartak earlier today. As with Konopka, Vorobiev's rights remain with his NHL team (in this case, with the Blackhawks for three more years), so it's very possible that both players could be back in the NHL the following season.

As for the August 15th deadline imposed on Russia for signing the NHL - IIHF transfer agreement, that was mentioned in a Sport Express article earlier today. The IIHF General Secretary, Jan-Ake Edvinsson, made a tour of the Moscow-area hockey arenas that will be used to host next year's IIHF World Championships. At a press conference afterwards, Edvinsson mentioned the deadline, adding, "It seems me, Russia has the sense to enter the agreement. It is better to have 50% of something, than 100% of nothing."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fedor Fedorov: "If I were Czech, I'd still be in New York"

I don't know how many French people you've met over the years, but most of them are insufferable
Fedor Fedorov (Chris Rutsch photo)

How much Fedor Fedorov news in one week is too much? If you're talking about a Fedor Fedorov interview in Sport Express, which SE had promised while announcing Fedor's signing with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl a day earlier, that's a golden nugget just too good to pass up.

And so, here's the interview, which took place only hours before Fedor was to leave Detroit for Moscow...

Fedor, why Lokomotiv, exactly?
After talking it over with my agent, we decided that Yaroslavl's offer was the best one, both for the length of the contract-- one year-- and the dollar amount. It was also important that Lokomotiv has an authoritative head coach, in Vladimir Yurzinov. Plus, this team isn't very far from Moscow, and has the best arena in Russia, possibly in Europe.

How many offers from other Russian Super League teams were there?
This isn't a question for me, but for my agent. Though, I heard that Lokomotiv's offer wasn't the only one.

Is it an insurance contract, or guaranteed?
I'm not good with these details. I will say that I will spend the entire upcoming season with Lokomotiv.

Are you hoping to play for the National Team at the World Championships in Moscow?
That's definite! I very much want to return to the National Team.

Let's talk about what happened overseas. Which organization would you have preferred to remain with-- the Rangers, or Columbus, who at the tail end of last season acquired your rights?
Consider me as part of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization. As far as the NHL is concerned, my contract with the Rangers had run out. So now, I am a free agent overseas.

So, you have closed the book on the NHL?
As far as this upcoming season, yes.

Your father, Victor Fedorov, said that you had no lack of offers from the NHL...
Yes. By accounts, there were offers from Columbus, if I am not mistaken, from Montreal, from a number of other teams... but none were agreeable. I then turned my priorities towards playing in Russia.

As you think back, what prevented you from succeeding with the Rangers?
A little bit of everything! Confidence from the coaches, playing time, and other.

Did you somehow underachieve?
I don't see it that way. In general, I don't understand why the Rangers even took me. They never gave me a serious chance there.

It's no secret that the Rangers rely a lot on Jaromir Jagr. If you were Czech, do you believe that right now you would be preparing for training camp with New York?
Most definitely. Basically, I'm a player, not a politician. This is likely one of my problems.

Are behind-the-scenes politics, and you put it, more prevalent in the NHL than in the Russian Super League?
It's pretty much the same everwhere. But, I'll agree, in the NHL it's especially so.

Sorry, I guess my pod's defective
Fedor Fedorov (#81, middle) on the same Metallurg team with Evgeni Malkin (#71, left) in 2005

It's been said that your opportunity with the Rangers was ruined by the incident in Tampa, where after a game you and some other Rangers got into a fight in a night club. You became the center of a widespread press scandal.
That's possible. The tabloid press made a mountain out of a molehill. I was not the guilty party in that incident; in fact, I was the victim. This you can confirm with any of my former team-mates. However, the next day the entire matter was relayed to the GM of the Rangers, and it went on from there..

Does a return to the NHL-- not necessarily this season, but in the ones that follow-- remain in your plans?
Yes. But now, the main thing is for me to forget about last season, and to work hard.

Between the AHL and NHL, did you gain anything from last season?
I don't know. It's difficult to make progress in the AHL. You have a lot of coaches there, whose purpose is to try to tear down your style of play. I consider Vladimir Yursinov to be an expert in this sense, because he doesn't tear you down, but tries to teach, to help you progress further.

It's been said that the coaches overseas communicate better with their players. Would you agree?
I won't generalize. Coaches are different.

Was it ever the case overseas where the coach neglected to tell you that you were a scratch until after you had suited up and taken warm-ups, only to tell you then that you were being scratched?
Yes, that did happen with me.

In the NHL, or in the minors?
Both-- above, and below.

It's been said that this also happened to you with Team Russia...
I don't recall. Usually, I'll erase such bad things from my memory. That's why I am leaving for Yaroslavl, in order to start a new page in my career.

Hanging On The Telephone

With the long list of recent troubles for Danbury Trashers, ending with team owner James Galante's arrest on federal charges and the team having to suspend operations (if you missed any of it, start by reading here and working backwards), one of the last things of importance on that list would seem to be Galante's assault charge for punching a UHL official, charges that were dropped over a year ago.

Galante had been charged with hitting linesman Jim Harper after a Trashers game that got out of control, back on Dec. 1, 2004. As a result of that game, Trashers defenseman Rumun Ndur was suspended for 20 games for "physical abuse of officials", yet Galante, despite being charged by Danbury police, was given only a fine and a written warning for "being in a prohibited area" (the penalty box, which is where one of the fights broke out). Ridiculously enough, it was the linesman that got punched, Harper, who the UHL gave a suspension to, for five games.

With the assault charges against Galante dropped, the incident was swept under the rug, and the real story never became public. Unfortunately for the UHL and the League's president, Richard Brosal, though, Galante's phone conversations were being wire-tapped by the FBI, as part of their racketeering investigation against Galante and his trash-hauling company.

The Danbury News-Times posted some of the taped conversations on their web site a couple of weeks ago, and two of the conversations seem to show Brosal coercing Harper to change his story, at the behest of Galante.

To listen to the wire taps yourself, click on the Trashers' logo below, and you'll be taken to the Danbury News-Times web page where the sound files are posted.

Galante wire-tap sound files

Scroll down to the last two on the list, and you can listen to the conversations, which have crystal-clear recording quality. One of the phone calls sounds like Galante telling an associate, Ciro Viento, to call Brosal and tell him to get the linesman to drop the charges. The other phone call has Viento passing along the instructions to Brosal, who seems to agree to do what is asked.

To make things easier, I've transcribed the crucial parts of each conversation.

First conversation: James Galante calls Ciro Viento

James Galante: I need you to call Richard... I want you to tell Richard, "Jimmy asked me to call you, but didn't ask me to call you"-- do you follow me?

Tell him that it is f***ing imperative that we get that letter that Harper's gonna write for Brosal, saying 'I called the Connecticut prosecutor, and I told him that I wanted to drop the case... I was just as much at fault, and now that my head's clear, I realize that when the incident took place, there was pushing and shoving in the penalty box, and I can't be sure now whether Mr. Galante hit me or didn't hit me, or if it was somebody else... Because I couldn't stand here and say that the man actually punched me in the mouth.' Okay?

What that does for him (Harper), because he's a cop, that's what they call 'establishing doubt'. They can't say that the guy just made it up and lied to have me arrested-- now, the guy cooled off, and he doesn't remember! He doesn't know!

Politically and business-wise, this is f****ing me up. You gotta explain to him that, in all the cases that the government's come after me for, there's never been any violence (involved) in my case. Although, they were looking for it-- now they have it. That's more important to me than all this other happy horse-s**t.

Second conversation: Ciro Viento calls Richard Brosal

Viento: I was asked to give you a call, but not give you a call, so that you would never be put in a predicament where somebody said that you were called. You know how that goes, right?

Brosal: I got you. Go ahead.

Viento: He wanted me to impress upon you how important it is to get that letter from Mr. Harper for Monday.

Brosal: It'll be there Monday. It'll be faxed over to Jimmy's attorney first thing Monday morning, and it will say what we need it to say.

Viento: Awesome.

Brosal: Brad Jones (Vice President of Hockey Operations for the UHL) and I have spoken to the linesman (Harper), and have told him exactly what to put in there.

Viento: He wanted me to tell you, which I'm sure you already know, that 'In the confusion, we don't know who punched who or whatever, it could've been anyone.'

Brosal: Well, yeah. We have the opening statement that, 'I, Jim Harper, solemly swear that I have been coerced into dropping the charges.'

Viento: Ha-ha-ha-ha! (both laugh) Oh, man!

Brosal: No, he knows everything that needs to be put. We went into detail what needs to be done... Okay, so I'm glad that you made this call, but you didn't make this call, and I didn't speak to you?

Viento: Exactly.

Brosal (standing) and Galante

A follow-up article in the Danbury News-Times (this used to be the link to it, but it's since been shuffled off into their archives or something) quotes Brosal as saying that the two recordings are "misleading."

"If you listen to them together, I could see where the perception is that there was something going on here. What's very upsetting is, if you listen to that and you're a layman and nobody knows what really went on there, it really paints an ugly picture of my office and myself completely, when this is something that did not take place," Brosal is quoted as saying in the article. The article also says that the letter was never actually sent.

Jim Harper, who officiated in the AHL last year but never officiated in the UHL again, is a deputy sheriff in Oneida County, New York. He says that he was never going to write the letter.

"I gave Danbury police a statement that I got punched. I know I got punched and I'm not going to write a letter saying, 'No, it didn't happen.' Why would I do that?", the News-Times quotes Harper as saying, adding that Harper is looking into bringing a civil suit against Galante.

Brosal is quoted as saying that some of the League's team owners have heard about the tapes, and have still given him their "100% support."

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Further Plans Of Fedor Fedorov

Fedor Fedorov

After reporting last Friday that Fedor Fedorov was in negotiations with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, but lacking specific information, Sport Express decided to ask Victor Fedorov (father to Sergei and Fedor) what was up with everyone's favorite ex-New York Ranger forward.

Said Victor:

"Though I'm not happy that news of the negotiations leaked to the press, I can say there is, at a minimum, three clubs in the Russian Super League that are interested in Fedor Fedorov. The clubs are all from the Moscow region, and Yaroslavl is one. So far, though, no contract has been signed, and there is nothing concrete. I expect that in several days, we will know more.

"I don't doubt that many fans won't take seriously the possibility of Fedor playing for one of these teams, thinking that he will only sign an insurance contract in order to leverage himself a better deal in the NHL. With all responsibility, I will say that there is no talk of an insurance contract. If Fedor signs a contract with a Super League club, he will definitely stay for the entire season. He is now 25 years old, and it is time at that age to find stability.

"To all of the players who are leaving the Super League in 2006 (Grabovsky, Lisin, Svitov, Khomitsky, and so forth), I wish success to all of them. But if you look at it objectively, almost all of them await teams in the AHL."

UPDATE 7/24/06 1:52pm -

Fedor Fedorov Signs With Yaroslavl

According to a report that just popped up on the home page of the Lokomotiv web site, as well as in Sport Express, Fedor Fedorov has now signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tretiak, Fetisov at odds over NHL agreement

NHL Hall of Famer Vyacheslav Fetisov

According to a report issued today by the RIA (Russian News and Information Agency), demands are being made of Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak to improve the negotiations with the NHL and IIHF over the player transfer agreement, in order to better address the interests of the Russian hockey clubs.

The report says that Slava Fetisov, the head of Russia's Federal Agency on Physical Culture and Sport, will have face-to-face meeting with the Russian Hockey Federation president regarding the ongoing negotiations with the NHL.

In the meeting, which was requested by Tretiak, Fetisov will present his personal position on the NHL - IIHF transfer agreement, saying, "Tretiak was selected and assigned to his post in the RHF in order to make decisions and to answer for them." Fetisov made further note (through an aide) that, "It would be too complicated for me to comment on this matter, since I have on hand not even one document of the negotiating motions."

Tretiak has also requested input on the negotiations from the leaders of the Russian sporting agency, Rossport, and from the Russian hockey clubs.

According to the RIA report, the following are among the issues that are blocking the ratification by Russia of the NHL - IIHF transfer agreement:

"In spite of the resolutions, accepted on June 9, 2006 and on June 16, 2006, by a committee of the Presidents the Russian hockey clubs and by the Russian Federation Council on Hockey, approving the inclusion of the Russian Hockey Federation witin the agreement between the NHL and IIHF regarding the transfer of players, questions still remain open.

"First of all, the Russian Hockey Federation has not obtained from its foreign partners the final version of the document for approval, the signing of which will indicate the inclusion of the Russian Hockey Federation in the agreement. Without this document, the agreement cannot be joined.

"Furthermore, the Russian side, in the form of the President of the Russian Hockey Federation, has yet to obtain the explainations from the IIHF and the NHL regarding the formulation of a contract for next season between the Phoenix Coyotes and a player from Ak Bars Kazan, Enver Lisin. It became known at the beginning of June that a contract existed between the NHL club and Lisin, even though the player at that time was under contract with Kazan."

Vladislav Tretiak (don't mess with him)

To reiterate, the transfer agreement involves players who are currently under contract with a European team, who then break that contract to sign with an NHL club. The agreement sets the compensation to the original team for the player that they lost. This agreement affects the status of a player like Evgeni Malkin, who is still under contract to his Russian club, but not a player like Alexander Ovechkin, who was able to prove in court that he was a free agent.

When Russian didn't ratify the transfer agreement last year, Gary Bettman gave an order to the NHL teams not to sign any Russian players who were under contract.

In the case of Enver Lisin, he was still under contract to Ak Bars when he signed with Phoenix, which is a no-no that has apparently come to rankle the Russians.

You can check out Lisin's player profile and news archive on Russian Prospects, which includes these quotes (from Lisin's agent, and from his former coach in Russia) from when Phoenix first signed him:

Agent: "Lisin signed a three year contract with Phoenix, but it is unclear when he will travel across the ocean. The issue is that an agreement between the NHL and Russia is yet to be signed and Enver has an existing contract with Ak Bars. This means that the club’s management may ask a price for his transfer that Phoenix may find unreasonable."

Coach: "Enver told me about his potential departure to the NHL even before the end of the season. I am glad that this young player will get a chance to prove himself at a new level, and in a strong league. Lisin has one year left on his deal with our club, but I have no doubt that Ak Bars and Phoenix will find a common language regarding the subject of compensation. It will be reasonable. Our club has no intentions to hurt the player’s career and try to keep him by force."

However, according to an article that just appeared today in Sport Express, the vice-president of Ak Bars is now furious, claiming that Phoenix has welshed on their end of the bargain:

"Though we did not want to lose a talented young player such as Lisin, Ak Bars placed no obstacles in the way of his negotiations with Phoenix. Now, the club from overseas has broken the compensation agreement early, and we have at the moment obtained no money from the American club. The conclusions make themselves."

So, if any Pittsburgh fans are upset about the Penguins not yet being able to sign Malkin, they have the Phoenix Coyotes partially to blame.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fedor Fedorov Looks Toward Lokomotiv

Fedor Fedorov (Spartak, #81) skating against Ilya Kovalchuk (Ak Bars, #71)

Former Hartford Wolf Pack/New York Rangers forward Fedor Fedorov, an NHL unrestricted free agent, is in contract negotiations with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League, according to a report that just popped up on the Sport Express web site. The report states only that "Sport Express correspondent Igor Larinu has learned that Lokomotiv is conducting negotiations with Fedor Fedorov." No other information was given.

In 50 games in the AHL last season, split between the Wolf Pack and the Syracuse Crunch, Fedorov tallied 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists) and 102 penalty minutes. Fedorov also appeared in three games for the Rangers, collecting no points to go with six penalty minutes and a highly celebrated broken nose.

It would not be a suprise if Fedorov did make a return to the RSL this season, considering that his less-than-indifferent play in recent years has pretty much insured that there's no spot waiting for him in North America. Lokomotiv has already lost at least three forwards from last year's team (Alexei Mikhnov, Andrei Taratukhin and Petr Schastlivy), indicating that the 25-year-old Fedorov could be a good fit.

Nikolai Zherdev, Blue Jackets Still Far Apart

Nikolai Zherdev

Earlier this month, I had posted a link to one of several Russian reports saying that Nikolai Zherdev had signed an insurance contract with Khimik of the Russian Super League, and was planning to begin the season in Russia if his contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets didn't work out:

As the Columbus Blue Jackets work to resign their 21-year old restricted free agent right winger, Nikolai Zherdev, reports started coming from Russia two weeks ago that Zherdev, a 27-goal-scorer for the Blue Jackets last season, had signed an "insurance" contract with Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian Super League.

This is the same thing that Ilya Kovalchuk did last season, signing with Khimik and playing in Russia for the first month of the season-- even leading the RSL in goals (8) before leaving for the NHL once he signed with Atlanta in early October.

Today, the ever-busy Columbus Dispatch ran a story indicating that Zherdev's negotiations with the Blue Jackets could drag on for some time. With the Russian Super League season starting on Sept. 7th, this could mean that Zherdev could start the season in Russia if the Blue Jackets don't sign him soon...

If the Columbus Blue Jackets have trouble getting left winger Nikolai Zherdev out of Russia this fall, it won't be the Russian Hockey Federation's fault this time.

Zherdev is a restricted free agent, and it seems his agent, Rolland Hedges, and the Blue Jackets are bracing for negotiations that could take most of the summer and may stretch into training camp in September.

Hedges confirmed yesterday that Zherdev has signed a contract with Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian Superleague. He's playing with the club in a tournament in Finland.

"Nikolai's first objective is to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets," Hedges said. "If he's not able to do that because of a contract or budget situation, this way he has a place to play."

Zherdev will spend the entire season in Russia if he doesn't sign with the Blue Jackets by Oct. 5.

"I'm not worried about it," Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean said. "We'll attempt to sign him, but if we don't, we move on and he goes back to Russia for a year. There's no doubt we'd like to get him signed, though. We'll see."

The Jackets have offered Zherdev a one-year, $994,000 contract, his qualifying offer, as well as a two-year contract worth "substantially more money," MacLean said. The Zherdev camp is looking for a long-term deal for at least three years, preferably four.

Why are the Blue Jackets reluctant to sign Zherdev to a long-term contract?

"He has lots to prove yet," MacLean said, "both on and off the ice. We're not prepared to pay a premium to put him on a long-term deal."

The Blue Jackets were not pleased with Zherdev's conditioning in the early part of last season. Nor have they been pleased with his efforts to learn English, which would help him better communicate in the dressing room and on the ice.

MacLean and Hedges stressed that talks have been amiable. Zherdev's signing with a Russian club is not that unusual. Last year, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk signed with Khimik Voskresensk before striking a last-minute deal with the Thrashers.

Zherdev, 21, was second on the Blue Jackets last season with 27 goals and 54 points, and third with 10 power-play goals.

Zherdev with CSKA (Central Army)

Three years ago, Zherdev touched off an international hockey incident when he left Russia without permission from his club, CSKA Moscow, to play with the Blue Jackets. The Russian Federation tried to force Zherdev's return, but an international arbitrator ruled in favor of the Blue Jackets and Zherdev.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rumor spreads of Pavel Bure's return

Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?
Pavel Bure

A report is said to have aired over Vancouver, B.C., radio station CKNW (980 AM) claiming that Pavel Bure is considering a return to the NHL, according to an item posted earlier today on the Sport Express web site. The item in Sport Express, which labels the radio report as being "extremely doubtful information", describes only a "source from Moscow" reporting to CKNW that Bure is in "active physical training" and is thinking about returning to the ice so that he can play for the Washington Capitals on the same line as Alexander Ovechkin.

In reaction to the rumor, Sport Express quotes Ovechkin as saying, "I've been told about a Canadian radio station and this fantasy, but there's a limit to everything! Personally, this is the first I've heard of any plans for Bure to play for the Capitals, and I strongly doubt them."

Ovechkin went on to say that he has never played in a game with Bure, and has only watched him as a spectator. The 35-year-old Bure, who has had numerous surgeries and hasn't played in two years, retired after the lockout and has since become the GM of the Russian Olympic hockey team.

UPDATE 7/24/06 - I just stumbled across this curious item, cached on a web site called It's dated 7/15/06 and attributed to, but I did a site search of and found no mention of it:

Reports out of Moscow, Russia says that 35 year old Pavel Bure has had successful knee surgery and is feeling healthy enough to make a comeback to the NHL. Bure has been working with a conditioning coach for the past 6 months and the timetable for his return could be as early as December. There are several confirmed reports that a number of NHL clubs have shown interest in the Russian Rocket. Among the teams vying to allure Bure include the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Contract negotiations are in the works, and reports are saying that the deal is worth approximately $3.6 million over 2 years. Capitals' superstar Alexander Ovechkin has reportedly said that it would be an honour to play alongside the best Russian to ever hit the ice. Pavel Bure last laced up the skates in the 2002-2003 NHL campaign where he compiled 19 goals and 30 points in 39 games.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The rest of what Ilya Bryzgalov said

When it rains, it pours. When it snows, it's cold
Ilya Bryzgalov ( photo)

By now, more than a few people have read the quote by Ilya Bryzgalov of the Anaheim Ducks, from an interview that ran in Soviet Sport last Friday. The quote-- to the effect of, "I got a call from the club and they told me that they see me as their number one goaltender. They also want to trade Giguere but no one wants him"-- was almost immediately picked up by Reuters, TSN, and just about everywhere else. I myself had transcribed Bryzgalov's words a bit more gently, to read: "They very much want to trade Giguere, but as of yet have found no takers"; not that it matters, I guess, and by the time I got around to the story anyway, the shitstorm had already started.

Bryzgalov has been in Moscow all week, where he has been running a training school for beginning goaltenders at the Central Army team's arena, and so he had the time to give more than one interview to Soviet Sport (including an earlier one, from the previous Tuesday). Once again, Bryzgalov spent a good amount of time talking about the ancient philosophers (Socrates, Aristotle, Plato) that he enjoys studying, as well as a wide variety of other topics:

On leaving to play in North America early in his career: "I left for the States when I was 20, and I don't regret it. For example, Semem Varlamov (the first Russian picked in this year's draft)-- if he stays in Russia, he will learn nothing. It's necessary for a goaltender to play in North America in order to learn his craft. If Varlamov wants to develop, and not stay in one place, he will have to leave."

About soccer football and the World Cup: "There's too much writhing about. As soon as they catch their feet, they start to howl enough for the whole stadium to hear, and then fall into a dead faint. But then they jump up and start running again, as if nothing is wrong. It's disgusting."

On which country raises the best goaltenders: "The Finns are very strong. It's evident that they train them very well. It's necessary to work, and work some more! Why does Canada have so many first-class goaltenders? How come their back-up goaltenders from the minors come over to Russia and excel against us? Because they're at a higher level than our best. This is reality! In Canada, they practice until it becomes habit, how to deflect as well as catch the puck. This doesn't happen in Russia."

On the difference in economics between the NHL and Russia: "Hockey in Russian is an unprofitable sport. To pay out excessive salaries, while taking in very little at the box office, is nonsense. The clubs survive because of their sponsors. It's not possible to sell tickets for $50, like they do in the NHL; the stadiums would be half empty."

About a comment that he made earlier in his career about Americans being "two-faced": "I will not back down from those words. In a similar way, they smile as they look you in the eye, while behind your back they talk filth." (In fairness, Bryzgalov also said recently that not all Americans are alike, just as not all Russians are alike.)

On what he liked most about the Olympics: "Бесплатный Макдоналдс (Free McDonald's)."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Stanley Cup Holds 14 Beers

I thought I got rid of you, you fish fumbling fruitcake
Glen Wesley with the Cup at Camp Lejeune

From the Jacksonville (N.C.) Daily News, June 14:

The most important question of the day came minutes after Glen Wesley of the Carolina Hurricanes hoisted the legendary silver cup of Lord Stanley over his head before a crowd of Marines Thursday at Camp Lejeune.

"How much beer does that thing hold?" asked Sgt. Jack Durgala.

It’s an easy answer, because many hockey players over the years have used the venerated National Hockey League’s championship trophy as a beer mug.

"Actually, it holds 14 cans," replied Mike Bolt, the keeper of the Cup, who only touches it when he’s wearing a pair of white gloves. Fingerprints on the silver surface are for champions only.

The Cup itself is 114 years old, but the tradition of allowing members of the championship team to spend some quality time with it began in 1995. Even though it’s been going on for little more than a decade, the Cup has journeyed to strange and faraway places.

It’s been to every state (except Hawaii) and numerous foreign countries. It’s sailed the seven seas and climbed mountains and seen the Arctic Circle. It’s been to the movies, on snowmobile adventures and late-night benders. And, of course, it’s been fine china for a number of dishes.

"It makes a great ice-cream sundae," Bolt said.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Why Malkin's signing is taking so long

Evgeni Malkin: still waiting ( photo)

When Evgeni Malkin's signing with Pittsburgh was announced as all but done by several Russian sources about a month ago, then quickly retracted by most of those same sources a few days later, I presumed that it would only be a matter of days before the actual signing would be officially announced. Just as the Russians keep dragging their feet about ratifying the IIHF - NHL transfer agreement (announced as a done deal a while ago, yet still not quite completed), the official act of getting Malkin's name on a piece of paper finds itself getting delayed, also.

Dave Molinari, a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, addressed the Malkin issue in a question-and-answer session from today's edition of the Post-Gazette:

Q: Are you started to get a little worried that Russia has not signed off on the transfer agreement? A story out of Russia says that Evgeni Malkin's team is the only one not willing to sign.

MOLINARI: When owners of teams in Russia's Super League endorsed the NHL's transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation -- a deal that establishes the price and procedures for NHL clubs that want to bring players who are under contract to European teams to North America -- June 9, the deal was supposed to be formalized a week later.

That didn't happen, and the Stanley Cup Final, which still wasn't over, was the apparent culprit. After that, it was the NHL draft. Well, that was over weeks ago, and the transfer agreement still hasn't been signed, which is why the Penguins still have Malkin's name on their 2006-07 roster in pencil, not ink.

At this point, though, there is nothing to indicate that the parties won't get the deal finalized this summer. While Malkin's team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, has made no secret of its displeasure with the terms of the transfer agreement -- mostly because it will cost the team the services of Malkin, the Super League's best player -- it's hard to see how that will be a significant factor in how this situation plays out. Or, more important, how it could prevent Malkin from coming to the Penguins once Russia actually signs the transfer agreement.

This simple truth is, if the Russian Federation takes the steps needed to make deal official, an individual club such as Magnitogorsk can't opt out of participating just because it doesn't like it. That would be like Pennsylvania refusing to recognize Bush as President just because Kerry won the state during the 2004 election.

The person asking the question, as well as Molinari's answer, is right on the money. Within a week after Russian Hockey Federation president Vadislav Tretiak's announcement in early June that an agreement had been reached in principle among the Russian teams for ratifying the transfer agreement, the most hard-line of the dissenting clubs, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, sent an open letter to Tretiak protesting the arrangement. Not suprisingly, being the team with the most to lose at this point (the transfer fee for Malkin being a mere $300,000 to $900,000, depending upon which report you read), Metallurg Mg remains bitterly opposed to the transfer agreement, as well as opposing the other reforms within Russian hockey in general that Tretiak has managed to push through in the short time since taking his post as head of the RHF.

The rhetoric was ratcheted up a notch earlier this week when Pavel Krasheninnikov, the VP of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, finally conceded in a Sport Express article that the transfer agreement ratification will eventually go through. Krasheninnikov didn't stop there, though, calling Gary Bettman and the NHL "blackmailers" for threatening to withhold Russian NHL players from joining the Russian National Team if the transfer agreement wasn't ratified.

Krasheninnikov's comments in the article were, "This agreement contradicts the interests of Russian hockey. At the same time, we understand that, next spring, Russia will host the World Championships. If we do not ratify the transfer agreement, the threat of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to forbid our players from participating is very real. In my view, the NHL is simply blackmailing Russia. We have been pushed up against a wall, and are being forced to go in the NHL's direction. However, the current transfer agreement is good for only one more year. When the time comes for a new agreement, we will negotiate from a completely different position."

Sounds like a good news/bad news scenario to me.