Last night the New York Rangers held their annual season subscriber forum in the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center. In attendance to answer questions from emcees Sam Rosen and Joe Michelletti — and from fans themselves — were Marc Staal, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Enver Lisin and Henrik Lundqvist. With apologies for the raw format — I’d hoped to be able to write something a little more formal about the evening but I’m just not going to have the time — here are some of the highlights:
- As a kid playing on the infamous Staal backyard rink, Marc used to pretend he was Scott Niedermayer or Rob Blake. It was always him and Jordan vs. Eric and Jared and according to Marc, he and Jordan always won.
- Boyle comes from a family of 13 kids, and he has 13 nieces and nephews, all under the age of 11. He was a Bruins fan growing up, and remains a Red Sox and Patriots fan now. The former Los Angeles King shared the story of how he got his first call-up to the NHL while the Kings were playing in New Jersey, and got to watch the Patriots play the Giants in the Superbowl from his hotel. As if the disappointment of seeing the Pats lose wasn’t enough, he got to look out his window and watch Giants fans celebrating.
- Lisin quote #1: “I realize day after day how lucky I was to be traded.”
- Lisin didn’t have have any hockey idols growing up because he never expected to be a professional hockey player “cause, like, it’s so hard!”
- Lundqvist was asked to talk about the Swedish Olympic team in 2006 and this year’s team. He started by pointing out that they’ll be missing a couple key players like Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg [ed. note: maybe?], at which point Staal interrupted with “already with the excuses!”
- Staal described his day off on Tuesday by saying he slept until 12:30pm, ate breakfast, hung around on the sofa, took a nap, and came to the subscriber event. Boyle explained that he couldn’t sleep the day away like Staal did because “I have a child at home that I have to look after. His name is Michael. He’s new here.” [He and 19-year old rookie Michael Del Zotto share an apartment.]
- Lisin was unanimously voted by the players in attendance as the guy with the best sense of humor on the team.
- One common theme from all the players is that it’s an extremely close group with very good camaraderie. Lisin said he’s “never been on a team like this.”
- Lisin and fellow Russian Artem Anisimov are inseparable, and its become a bit of a joke on the team. Boyle started listing off the things they do together: they come to the rink together, they eat together after practice, they get dressed together… at which point Sam interjected “Whoa! I’m not sure where this is going” to a chorus of laughs. Many of Lisin’s answers included the phrase “me and Arty…” which garnered a laugh from the crowd each time. In fact, most things Lisin said drew a laugh from the crowd, even if only because he usually dissolved into giggles himself.
- Callahan said the decision to take the Canadian junior route over the college route was easy because “no one came knocking on my door with a college scholarship.” Boyle said he chose college because he has a really close family and going to Boston College allowed him to stay close to home.
- Lisin quote #2: “I just wake up in the morning and love my life.”
- Boyle was moved to defense by his college coach in the playoffs during his final year at Boston College. The Kings liked the idea so much they did the same when he started his pro career the following year. He said that while he thinks the experience ultimately helped his game as a center, it was extremely frustrating to be a rookie not only trying to learn the professional game, but a new position at the same time.
- Hardest players for Staal to play against: Alex Ovechkin, Joe Thornton.
- The players were asked what their favorite cities were to visit: Lundqvist said the team is spoiled by New York, and when they’re on the road they can’t wait to get back. He named Chicago and Los Angeles as places he liked to visit. Lisin’s favorite city is Moscow. Callahan’s favorite is Montreal, but he likes hitting the beaches in Florida as well. Boyle likes Boston. And Staal likes Florida too “even though I don’t tan very well.”
- Sean Avery’s been bugging Lundqvist to help him out with his clothing line, but Lundqvist’s decided to “lay low” for now. Lundqvist also shared that when they played Dallas last season, Avery came over to him while he was stretching during warmups and started talking trash about his private life and girlfriend. He was “just being Sean,” Lundqvist explained.
- Asked who’s the most superstitious player on the team, Staal suggested it was Lundqvist. Boyle said it was Del Zotto. Then he shared that he once touched Anisimov’s stick two and a half hours before a game and Anisimov freaked out and started yelling at him in combination of English and Russian. He added that he sits between Anisimov and Del Zotto in the locker room on game days, and so has to be very careful not to touch anything on either side of him.
- A fan asked how the decision was made whether the team responded to a dirty hit — for example the hit in Calgary on captain Chris Drury. Staal said that most of the players hadn’t seen what happened to Drury and that’s why there was no response. He said Glencross isn’t the kind of player you’d expect something dirty from. He added “it’s a long season” as if to suggest they’d get him next time. [ed. note: I think he needs to check the schedule.]
- Asked to compare the atmosphere in the team this year and last, Callahan said the atmosphere was good last year, but that this season the guys are closer and hang out more off the ice.
- Asked if he’d like the trapezoid to be removed so he’d have more freedom to play the puck, Lundqvist answered quickly “No, I’d rather stay in the net,” receiving a round of laughs from a crowd that’s well acquainted with his poor puck handling skills. He admitted that handling the puck is an aspect of the game he knows he needs to work on.
- On the subject of headshots, Boyle believes that if you hit someone with an obvious high elbow and he misses six weeks, you should miss six weeks too.
- Asked if he’d rather win another gold medal, or a Stanley Cup, Lundqvist replied “Pretty easy — you always want what you don’t have,” much to the delight of the crowd.
- Lisin quote #3: “Gaborik is better than Crosby.”
- In response to a fan’s urging that he watch some Billy Smith tapes and learn to be meaner on the ice, Lundqvist admitted his sister, who watches all the games from her home in California, has been telling him the same thing (about getting meaner) for the past couple of weeks.
- Staal is in favor of no touch icing. He pointed out that maybe once every five games or so an opposing forward beats the defenseman to the puck, and that it’s just not worth the risk of injury that can occur when players race in after it together.
- If they weren’t playing hockey, they’d be… Callahan: “Well, as you guys know I didn’t go to college…” (laughs all around) He said he’d like to be a teacher like his mom or someone who helps kids somehow. Boyle: country music singer — “I’m really, really good!” [he refused to provide a demonstration of his talents when asked.]
- The player Lundqvist would least like to face in a shootout is his twin brother. He admitted that he was really, really nervous when he faced him for the first time two years ago because they’d spent their entire lives playing on the same team and had never played against one another before.
- On the topic of favorite and least favorite arenas to play in… Staal said Montreal is his favorite, while the Nassau Coliseum is his least favorite (“that rink’s terrible!”) Boyle’s favorite: Montreal; least favorite: Calgary. Callahan’s favorite: Chicago; least favorite: Long Island. Lisin’s favorite: Vancouver; least favorite: Long Island. Lundqvist’s favorite: Chicago. He said the Nassau Coliseum is “a terrible building”, but he likes the atmosphere when they play there. His least favorite place to play is Pittsburgh — “I just hate playing there.”
- According to Lundqvist, the most difficult player on the team to stop in a shootout is Vinny Prospal.
- Lisin doesn’t like soccer. Or soccer players. Both he and Lundqvist said soccer was more popular than hockey in their home countries.
- Lundqvist’s favorite player on the Rangers: Gaborik. Lisin’s favorite player on the team: “Winny” Prospal (more laughs). Callahan’s: Lisin. Boyle: “Lisin is my favorite person on the team.” Staal said he was going to say Lisin, but everyone stole his thunder, so he chose Prospal.
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