Saturday, August 06, 2005


Weekend Rumors and a Berger Fix

I've been told today will be a little slow, but I don't fully buy it.

I think we will see Lindros and the Leafs (in the long prophesized, harmonic convergence of the hockey gods) finally united today.

I am hearing Selanne is all but signed in St. Louis.

And Palffy...where oh where will the the mini-me of Jagr go? I am still hearing many teams, with the Rangers leading the race. However, Atlanta is also a possibility, as is Calgary...I also heard Buffalo this morning...I will stay on that one..

Hamrlik to Carolina is still being discussed, but Boston is also in on this one...

I heard the first Washington Capitals rumors last night...they have been having a terrible time getting people to come there so far...possibly Bondra returning..he has really been the forgotten free agent. Bondra has a ton of talent left in him. San Jose is also interested.

And how about Mogilny joining Ovechkin in DC? That is a strong possibility according to a source.

I will be swamped this weekend with "other endeavors" that will keep me on the run......not sure how much wifi access I will be able to find, but I will jump in the chatroom when i can...I will be checking email and updating the blog from my sidekick as things break. So insiders, scattered email updates are likely. Keep checking the blog instead

Here is the latest from Howard Berger, and enjoy your weekend.


The Fan-590 Radio, Toronto

On the surface, and beneath it, Tie Domi sure sounds more relieved than happy to be staying with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And anyone who knows the veteran sparkplug can easily understand why.

In spite of his bellicose nature as a player, Domi is a proud and sensitive man. He’s also practical, which makes him a smart businessperson. Let’s look at the on-ice Domi…

When a hockey player spends his career fighting and defending his teammates, he gains an aura about him that translates into popularity among the fans of his club. Even more so, if the guy has a bit of a swagger to go with it, as Domi does. But, do not think for a moment that NHL enforcers enjoy what they do. Riding shot-gun for skilled teammates might be the dirtiest and most thankless job in all of professional sport. The longer one performs the role, the more it’s expected of him, and it’s impossible for an athlete of this ilk not to wear himself out.

Think about it: All players theoretically have to prepare themselves emotionally for a hockey game. Goalies, in particular, envision the shooters they’ll be facing on a given night, and they encounter the most individual pressure of anyone on the ice. But, a hockey enforcer – particularly a veteran like Domi – must constantly be ready to face the opposition’s hired hands, and in no way can this be a pleasurable anticipation. The young whippersnappers, new to the league, believe they can make a name for themselves by challenging the established enforcers, often in situations that have little strategic bearing on the game. And, there is no backing away from this challenge for a veteran pugilist… once the bed is made, you sleep in it for your entire career.

As such, it’s doubly important for a hockey enforcer to feel “important”. The top skilled players at any position are automatically accorded that privilege by the media, fans and management. They can face pointed criticism when their performances wane, but, generally, they are handsomely paid and frequently coddled. Players who perform Domi’s role often make as much money as highly skilled tradesmen in the business world, but they are generally taken for granted by their bosses because most general managers believe they are interchangeable. What the GMs don’t understand – or refuse to acknowledge – is just how meaningful these athletes are to the fan base.

That’s why Domi – a sensitive person with the same insecurities we all have – voiced disappointment when he felt the Maple Leafs were dragging their feet in contract negotiations with his agent, Pat Morris. Unlike most professional athletes in this era of free agency, Domi had absolutely no reason or desire to re-locate, and was looking for the same kind of loyalty from management. He believed that loyalty should have involved wrapping up his services before last Monday (Aug. 1) when the market opened. It didn’t happen that way, and Domi reluctantly prepared himself and his family for a move to Pittsburgh.

Only when John Ferguson pulled him aside and communicated just how much he means to the Leafs, did Domi commit to staying. It was really a simple gesture by the Leaf GM – irrespective of compensation – and it prompted Domi to turn down a more lucrative submission by the Penguins.

Where Domi erred, in my opinion, was taking the podium at the Air Canada Centre and lashing out at the fans and media who have criticized the Leafs for their ineptitude in the free agency wars. It was only a few days ago that Domi was publicly expressing opinions on the team’s handling of his contract situation. Freedom of speech is a two-way street, and Tie should have realized it. Instead, he came off as a hypocrite.

What Domi DIDN’T say, however, is even more significant. He knows as well as anyone that the Leafs – as we speak – have positioned themselves for a fall in the Eastern Conference standings this season, and you can be sure it’s gnawing at him to no end. Especially after turning down the chance to play for a Pittsburgh team that should be much improved with the additions of Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar and a healthy (to start) Mario Lemieux. Tie has often spoken genuinely about the excitement of winning a Stanley Cup in Toronto, and helping to end the Maple Leafs’ interminable championship drought. He now knows, barring a miracle, that he has virtually no chance of realizing that dream in the remaining years of his career.

That clearly adds a measure of reluctance to the commitment he made this week.

And, before we go, let’s give some credit to Ferguson for facing the cameras alongside Domi at the ACC. While many will suggest it’s the responsibility of a GM to avail himself to the media, a lesser man might have found a way to avoid the spotlight in what has been a terribly unflattering week (spiked a bit by the signing of Jason Allison). Kudos to Ferguson – a very decent man – for not going that route.

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