Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Coliseum at 3 PM on Tuesday and was told by my fellow Blog Box Buddy, OkposoNet Ken that it was just announced that the New York Islanders traded Chris Simon to the Minnesota Wilds.
At first, I thought they were just messing with me because I couldn’t manage to get out of work and get to the barn at 11:30 AM the time I usually did.
“What? Stop screwing with me,” I yelled as I was trying to unpack my 30 lbs of equipment onto the table. Then I heard the voice of reason that I’ve come to know so well these last few months. “No. Dee! No joke. They traded him. We’re serious.”
Tiger Track Tom Liodice and I have that unique Scorpio cosmic link since our birthdays are so close, with the exception of about 20 odd years. I spent the next five minutes stuttering and shaking my head trying to comprehend. Was I that upset about them trading Chris Simon? Was he my favorite player? Did I have some sort of affinity to him that I harbored deep in my soul? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!!
What bothered me most in the entire situation was that I personally had towed the company line for months. Basically, I drank the Kool-aide—it was Cherry—and if I mixed it with Vodka, it was fine by me. I’m learning the hard way; it’s easy to be used in this business.
The fans got what they wanted. The overwhelming response from the fan base was they didn’t want him back on their ice and in their uniform. Having had the pleasure of meeting the man behind the mess, I wasn’t as adamant about it. Surely I had my opinion, but I went with the softer approach of “give the man another chance.” Especially knowing how head coach Ted Nolan felt about him, I had to believe there was hope for him.
Ted is someone that I have the utmost respect and admiration for. As a person, there is no one nobler that I can think of and yet, no one more vulnerable and genuine. He doesn’t yell in public, the media only sees an occasional glimpse of the emotion he feels. But once out of the spotlight, his smile is wide, his eyes sparkle and his body relaxes. And he can giggle like a little kid. I found that out when I caught him sitting by my car having a smoke outside of Iceworks when I first met him.
“BUSTED!“ I yelled as he tried to hide his face. “Did you NOT notice my license plate?” It was as if I caught a high school kid smoking in the bathroom.
Once I had composed my thoughts, on Tuesday I immediately asked “Where’s Ted? Has anyone seen him?” The boys shook their heads collectively. “No, no. He’s not here.” I didn’t have time to worry, as we were immediately summoned into the press room for Garth’s announcements of the day's events.
I brought nothing into the press room except my cell phone and my woman’s intuition. We waited for 30 minutes before Garth Snow, looking a little tired, came in to address the media that were waiting to pounce on him.
The company line was repeated over and over. Not that I am positive it was scripted, but it may as well have been. Garth’s tone is strong, but quiet. He is thoughtful and imposing as he stood a full head taller than everyone else that circled him. In my opinion, Bergeron, although soon to be a great player, was a no-brainer. He didn’t fit the game plan on the Island. (I should have told him about the vodka in the Kool-aide idea, maybe he’d still be here.)
The answer to the Chris Simon question was the one everyone wanted to know, and I was surprised at how many times Garth explained it was to give the likes of Comeau and Tambellini a place in the lineup. They wished him well, said some very nice things about him, but kept coming back to needing the youth in the lineup. When Garth DOESN’T want to answer something, he will smile, and look into the reporters eyes and wait. The reporter may ask it again with another twist, and Garth will still wait. Usually someone else will jump in to break the silence with another question on a separate subject. It’s certainly interesting to watch.
The press conference went on for over a half hour, but still no Ted.
At 5 PM, he was there holding court in the corridor to a throng of media and microphones. The question of the afternoon, of course, was Simon. He too answered almost the same way as Snow did—they must have left the script for him in his office. But when the cameras were turned off, and the throng walked away, I walked with him for a moment to his office and that smile quickly swept back over his face.
“Ted, are YOU okay?” the concerned mother in me is never far away. “I’m good, I’m good,” he assured me, and his eyes didn’t lie.
So while he did the best he could for the boy he coached into manhood, he also did the best he could with keeping Simon on track. Nolan was there to get Simon the help he needed. He kept him around the team during Simon’s suspension to keep him connected to those who liked him. Nolan put him on the ice for two games to help him face the fans and the media. He did everything he possibly could to help Simon regain normalcy in his life. But the Islanders did what THEY needed to do for the fans and their franchise. It was like walking a tightrope. Miraculously, no one hit the net.
Good luck in St. Paul Chris. Oh look, is that Grape this time? Pass the vodka, please.