Cut to the Chase
If you were at Sunday’s preseason game between the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils here in Hershey, Pa., you had to feel sorry for the public address announcer. The poor guy was charged with reading the game’s “scratches” just before the 5 p.m. puck drop, and it turned out to be quite the arduous endeavor.
The Caps made life easy on him. After starting training camp with 48 players, Washington had virtually halved that total down to 29 by the start of the Devils game. (Washington has since pared down by another pair, leaving the list at 27.) But New Jersey’s list of scratches seemed to be never-ending. As the roll call went on (and on and on), I wondered: Just how many players did the Devils have in camp this year? And have they cut any of them yet?
The answers, as best as I can tell, are “65” and “no.”
According to the Devils’ training camp media guide, 65 players were invited to camp. This includes unsigned RFA players Brian Gionta, Paul Martin and David Hale. But five games into the preseason schedule, only 35 skaters and three goaltenders have sweatered up and played for New Jersey. So 27 players have been “scratches” for all five tilts to date.
Now it’s possible (maybe even probable) that many of these fine young men have been quietly reassigned to other ports of call around the North American hockey world without any mention of said reassignments making their way into the agate of the newspapers around the North American hockey world. I poked around a bit after I got back to my room last night, and I could not find any note of Devils cuts in any of the usual places. But it sure seems like feather-bedding to keep 27 guys around to drive the bus, refuel the Zamboni, put pucks in a bucket and other mundane chores of the daily hockey routine. I’m sure they’ve lopped off a couple dozen guys by now, it’s just that there’s no note of any transactions (other than the Devils’ purchase of the Trenton ECHL team) from New Jersey in the last 10 days.
I say if you’ve got ’em, play ’em. New Jersey inserted defenseman Olli Malmivaara into the lineup for the first time on Sunday, and it turned out to be a hell of a move. Malmivaara scored a shorthanded goal that proved to be the game-winner in New Jersey’s 3-1 win over Washington. He also gave a solid night’s effort on defense and was designated the game’s No. 1 star for his efforts. Nice hunch by first-year Devils coach Claude Julien.
I spent Saturday at the Virgin Festival (it was an all-day concert, I swear) in Baltimore, a day-long music festival held on the grounds of the Pimlico Racetrack. Tickets were $97.50, prompting one of my show-attending pals to sagely note, “This is one of the best days I’ve ever had at the track. I’m only down a hundred.”
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 people were in attendance. Since it was my first day away from the hockey world in a week or so, I decided to spend the day looking for reminders of the existence of hockey there on the Pimlico grounds. During my 12 hours at the festival, I noted exactly six. Some were more obvious that others.
I saw a guy with a Washington Capitals warmup jacket tied around his waist.
I saw a guy with a Montreal Canadiens hat.
I saw a guy with a Toronto Maple Leafs hat.
I saw an empty half-pint of Canadian Club lying on the ground.
I learned that one of the Hanson brothers is moonlighting as the bass player for The Raconteurs. (If I were as tech-savvy as some of you seem to think I am, I’d put a picture of Jack Lawrence right here so you could see what I mean. But I’m not tech-savvy. To reiterate, I really don’t know why you can’t listen to preseason games on http://www.washingtoncaps.com. I’m merely a writer who occasionally moonlights as a hack color analyst for aforementioned preseason games. I’m keeping the day job.)
Finally, I saw a guy wearing a vintage Harvey’s Wallbangers-era Milwaukee Brewers hat. Which of course made me think of former Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears goaltender Kirk Daubenspeck, a Wisconsin native who could often be seen sporting a well-worn Brewers hat from those days.
It was great to see some evidence of Our Great Game in the insular world of Pimlico on Saturday. I was particularly pleased that I did not see any evidence of Washington’s former Patrick Division foes at Virgin. It made for a thoroughly enjoyable day and evening.