Sep 01 2022

This Broadway Blue Often Is Black And Blue

Our local hockey teams will begin respective training camps within a few days and the fan bases of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils hope that their players have recovered from black and blues, pulls, off-season surgeries and anything else that afflicted them in the waning weeks of last season.

The local player who has earned the award for most body blows is Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren. He is known as the blackest-and-bluest Ranger, yet he keeps popping up, as one journalist wrote, in “Whac-A-Mole no matter how hard and often he would be conked by the mallet.”

Rarely does Ryan play at 100 percent of health, but he plays each game with 100 percent of his ability. Iron and grit appear next to his name in the NHL dictionary.

Ryan has created a professional career by handling plays that never make the scoresheet but impact each game. He makes the critical checks, chases the puck, blocks shots, grinds in the defensive corners and clears the zone while getting knocked to the ice. Did I mention the checks? During many games, Ryan often leaves the bench for the locker room to be attended by athletic trainers, maybe even the team doctor, to address some pain somewhere on his body.

Fans of the Rangers love Ryan Lindgren. He is that blue collar player who brings his lunch pail to work on Broadway. By now, he should be healed from last season’s bruises but certainly he will add new aches and pains with the first game this season. Make that the first pre-season game. No, make that the first scrimmage in training camp.

Aug 01 2022

One Of The New Girls In The NHL

A woman on the ice to coach hockey players was a rare sight 25 years ago. At that time, one or two would be seen at rinks on Long Island, teaching speed skating and other skills to boys from eight to 13 years of age. Whenever the young players saw the ladies on the ice, their eyes would roll. The reaction had nothing to do with getting schooled in hockey by a girl. The boys just wanted to play and they knew that these coaches were going to work them until they barely could make it off the ice for the comforts of the locker room.

Well, girls and women on the ice are much more common now at all levels of hockey, including in the NHL. Soon after the New York Rangers season ended, the team hired Jessica Campbell as a coach for the recently held development camp. While only 29 years old, Jessica carried with her strong credentials to work with future NHL players. She was the first woman to coach in a men’s tournament when she served as an assistant for Team Germany at the World Championship. Previously, she had been captain for Team Canada in international competition and played four years at Cornell University. Jessica has earned MVP and many other awards.

Since her playing days ended, a personal goal for Jessica has been to coach the game she loves. To her, it’s not about the women’s game or the men’s game. It’s about player development at all ages and all levels. Jessica’s long-range game plan did include working with pro athletes and she has learned that her transition to the men’s pro game offers unique challenges. Jessica feels that she has the voice and perspective to meet these challenges and that the older boys will embrace her contributions as they develop and advance in their careers.

Jessica prepared for this opportunity with the Rangers by focusing on learning, growing and remaining on top of her game first as a player and then as a coach. Her style, influenced by Doug Derraugh, who served as her coach at Cornell, relies on one simple yet critical principle that is valuable in all sports and in all other areas of life at all levels—strong communication.

May 01 2022

K’Andre Is Driven On, Off Ice

There is so much to like about K’Andre Miller of the New York Rangers. Fans like his play in the defensive zone, especially that long reach, and he has displayed several unique moves on offense, too. K’Andre has matured at the pro level in just a few years and he has the potential to become an outstanding NHL player.

There also is so much more to K’Andre than what he shows us on the ice.

K’Andre is driven by playing at his peak. He has always tried to be the guy that teammates can count on in any situation. He takes pride in his reliability and he tries to use this to influence the play of teammates.

The Rangers blueliner is most proud of all the hard work, sometimes along a rocky road, that he needed to employ to get to the NHL. He uses the ups and downs as motivation. He calls himself a workhorse.

The pressure of the NHL, for K’Andre, is addressed through meditation that includes yoga and finding that peace of mind and calmness. This is getting him to his next on-ice achievement—consistency.

K’Andre gets it! He realizes that he has one of the best jobs in the world and loves it. He understands the Rangers history and that wearing the team sweater is both a blessing and a dream come true.

Then, there is K’Andre’s biggest booster. His mother sacrificed a lot for her son during his formative years. He recalled that he broke a stick when he was about 12 years old prior to a tournament. His mom put in a little extra time at work for the money so he would have a new stick for the games. According to K’Andre, she always tried her best to provide him with the best possible life. He connects with her every day through texting, calling, Facetime, or any other available technology. According to K’Andre, mom is his best friend.

The Ranger defenseman is from Minnesota, so New York City has been a big change from Hopkins (population 18,000). He enjoys the social life of the big city, seeing so many different faces every day and experiencing the culture and the style. He also has many more restaurants to sample his favorite meal of pasta.

Even though K’Andre is only 22 years old, he already knows that he has attained a prominent platform where he can serve as a positive role model and influence the next generation of players or just hockey fans.

Mar 01 2022

Dad Was Watching Over Queens Hockey Player

We might not see Anthony Greco in a New York Rangers uniform again, but he already has achieved one of his life goals. He pulled on the red, white and blue jersey a few weeks ago in San Jose for his first game with the team he rooted for as a child. He inherited his passion for the Rangers from parents Paul and Mary Jane.

Anthony’s mom and an aunt watched the game from Mary Jane’s Massapequa Park home. Everyone said that Paul watched from above. A firefighter for the Fire Department of New York, he died during May 2020 from illnesses caused by breathing toxic air at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mary Jane was overwhelmed to watch her son fulfill his childhood dream after enduring such hardship. But she never expected to feel her late husband’s presence as much as she did. After the first 20 minutes of the game, Anthony had logged 3:43 of ice time. On September 11, 2001, 343 firefighters died at the World Trade Center.

Anthony signed with the Rangers as a free agent during October 2020. His father knew all about it before he succumbed to his illnesses. As with most hockey parents, Paul and Mary Jane had invested significantly in their son’s hockey career. Paul drove Anthony to games and practices at all hours, and then he moved the family to Minnesota for a while to allow Anthony to attend a prominent school with a hockey tradition. Paul still was an active firefighter at the time, driving back and forth for hours between Minnesota and New York for his assigned shifts with the FDNY.

Except for the one game against San Jose, Anthony has spent his Rangers days with the team’s AHL affiliate. His time in the Rangers spotlight was created by roster fluctuations to address the National Hockey League’s coronavirus protocol. Anthony is the first Queens native to play for the Rangers.

Anthony’s future is unknown with the Rangers and in the NHL. However, he always will have and cherish January 13, 2022, the night played for his beloved Rangers with many members of his family and the FDNY family rooting for him. Plus one more fan—a special husband and father from above.

Nov 01 2021

Reunited On The Ice Launches Confidence

His confidence on the ice was low. It could not sink lower. Professional scouts were concerned about his skating abilities, causing Brennan Othmann to doubt himself as he continued to accumulate bad habits. Brennan was 15 at the time and the family took action.

When Brennan was in kindergarten in Ontario, he had been in Lisa Clark’s skating group during school lunch breaks. They would enjoy lunch together before each training session. Brennan was a good listener, with his eyes focused on her as she taught the skills of skating.

As Brennan grew older and become more involved with hockey, the family and Lisa lost touch. Though he enjoyed a successful 2018-19 season with a prominent team that was undefeated, Brennan repeatedly was told that he needed to work on his stride and posture. His mom rushed to the rescue when she realized that her son needed to get back on the ice with Lisa, who featured a nine-week program with six hour-long sessions each day. Brennan worked with the noon to 1 p.m. group and often remained for another session.

The reunion convinced Brennan to invest in power-skating, those drills without pucks dreaded by all hockey players from age five to 35. Each time he and Lisa skated, Brennan’s confidence soared to new heights. Lisa encouraged him to believe in himself as much as she believed in him. She brought a smile to his face every day on the ice—even on the tough days.

The drills helped Brennan achieve a successful rookie 2019-20 season with the Flint Firebirds. He scored 17 goals and 33 points in 55 games as a 16-year-old, ranking third in goals among all under-17 OHL players. For 2020-21, with EHC Olten in the second-tier Swiss League, Brennan posted 18 points in 34 games.

The reunion of Brennan and Lisa placed the young man’s hockey career back on the ice. Only a few months ago, he was the 16th overall draft pick by the New York Rangers in the 2021 NHL draft. Lisa watched the draft and celebrated Brennan’s selection.

“You get tears in your eyes and you think, man, I started with this kid three years ago and even when he was five years old,” said Lisa. “And then you watch them, you think about the struggles, and all the corrections and all the time and the effort that you both put into it — I don’t even know what to say.”

Following his first NHL training camp, Brennan has returned to the OHL to fine-tune his hockey skills. Scouts and coaches expect to see him in the NHL in the near future.

Apr 15 2021

When That Door Of Opportunity Opened

Colin Blackwell consistently has talked about believing in himself. He always has remained confident in his abilities from the day he set his sights on the NHL. Colin also has remained patient and optimistic that good things will occur for him on the ice. He knew that when the opportunity door fully opened, he would be ready to step over the threshold and succeed in the best hockey league in the world.

Colin has done just that this season with the New York Rangers. He had previous NHL experience with the Nashville Predators after playing in the minors with the San Jose and Buffalo organizations. However, the door never completely opened for him during those earlier stops on the circuit. Now, with the Rangers, he plays on all four lines and creates scoring chances from just about anywhere inside the opposition’s blue line. Colin has scored 12 goals in 32 games (as of April 14) this season after scoring only three in 33 previous games in the league.

This kind of open-door opportunity usually does not occur with the Rangers, a team with a heralded history and many big-name big-ticket players. Before this season’s training camp, the Rangers did not sign Colin, a labeled journeyman, to a huge contract or provide him with a bonus. In this league, at age 27, he already is considered a middle-aged player. Yet, the team pursued the free agent. They saw potential in him on the NHL level to blend nicely with the youth and the top line star players.

Colin quickly jumped into the flow, scoring goals and setting up goals for others. He knew the opportunities to produce in the NHL were few and none provided a guarantee that he would be in the league a day later. It just all came together at this time, with this team and with this coach. Colin felt engaged from the first day he joined the Rangers. He felt the support from teammates, the coaching staff and management.

“When the opportunity comes,” said Colin, “you have to make the most of it. I try to do that every single day.”

Mar 15 2020

From Health Crises To NHL King For A Day

Did you hear about David Ayres? If you don’t follow hockey, you may have missed this wonderful moment, the most magical night of David’s life.

More than 15 years ago, David was an aspiring NHL goalie. A few weeks ago, at the age of 42, he finally played in a game. He was the winning goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. David, though, was not on the Carolina roster at the start of the game.

David works a regular job, coaches kids and suits up as Toronto’s practice goalie. He also drives the Zamboni at the Toronto arena and he serves as the game-day emergency backup goalie. When both goalies on a team leave a game, the emergency backup at each NHL arena quickly signs a contract for $500, suits up and gets on the ice. He could play for the home team or the visiting team. He could play for one shift or the remainder of the game.

The starting Carolina goalie on this night left at 6:10 of the first period with a lower-body injury. His replacement was body checked and left the game with 28:41 remaining in the game. Enter David, who made eight saves on 10 shots, recorded a shot on goal that appeared on the score sheet and then was credited with the win.

The Hurricanes players entered their locker room laughing, cheering loudly and chanting “Dave! Dave! Dave!” Their winning goalie was the last to leave the ice and then he was stopped halfway up the tunnel. David had to return to the ice, because he was named the first star of the game.

When David finally got to the locker room, he was doused by sprays of water by his new teammates. In the Toronto locker room, the Maple Leafs coach was unhappy with the loss but he felt good for David. The Toronto coach once had been David’s minor league coach.

While playing in the minors, David had faced a very serious medical issue. He underwent a kidney transplant with his mother as his donor. David’s career became secondary as he just was pleased to be alive.

Following David’s NHL debut, the Hurricanes announced a donation would be made to a kidney foundation to honor their goalie. His game-used goalie stick immediately appeared in the hockey hall of fame. The governor of North Carolina announced that David now was an honorary member of the state. David also made the rounds on television in Canada and the U.S.

“What a moment for him that he can have the rest of his life,” Hurricanes coach and former NHL star Rod Brind’Amour told his team and the media. “That’s incredible. That’s why you do this.”

David left the arena that night carrying a case of beer and his game-worn Hurricanes No. 90 jersey. He said he is going to look at that jersey every day.

Nov 02 2019

Nick Varano Has Figured Out All the Alleys

In New York, baseball has Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso while hockey has Henrik Lundquist and Mathew Barzal. As for bowling, we have Nick Varano. At only 17, the North Rockland High School student is the best bowler in the Lower Hudson Valley of any age or gender.

Earlier this year, Nick showcased a 242 average in a local league and a 235 average for the high school season. He threw two 800 series and one perfect game late last year.

Nick’s varsity accomplishments become more impressive when you learn that the Rockland County high school league is spread among three different bowling alleys in three different communities. No home alley advantage for this bowling star.

“He’s like a freak,” stated a former coach who was very successful during his bowling career. “But in a good way.”

The freak analogy must run in the family. Nick’s sister, Danielle, is an eight-time member of Team USA and she currently is one of the leading women bowlers in the world for the Professional Women’s Bowlers Association Tour. Even she stated what has become obvious: “He’s a freak of nature,” she said lovingly of her 6-foot-3 brother.

Though he has been so successful at such a young age, Nick has little interest in headlines and accolades. His personal goal always is a team goal—win the state championship.

Nick has thought about turning pro during the last few years. First, though, he wants to complete college and think about his options not just for bowling but for his life. Many coaches feel that Nick can be a PBA Tour titlist. We’ll just have to wait to learn what Nick decides.

Jan 15 2019

A Hockey Setback Takes Flight

Wilbur was a three-sport athlete. He enjoyed football, skating and gymnastics. He also was a very good student and had his sights on attending Yale.

One day, while playing hockey on a lake in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the 18-year-old was struck in the mouth with a stick wielded by another boy several years younger but much larger. It may have been an accident, but the boy was known as a bully. Years later, that same boy was executed for the murders of his mother, father and brother.

The hockey injury caused weeks of excruciating mouth and jaw pain for Wilbur. Several front teeth were lost and replaced by the crude dentistry of the day. This led to digestive complications, heart palpitations and depression. Wilbur remained a recluse for three years, ending his pursuit of a Yale education. During that time, though, he initiated what became a passion for reading and learning. He read about everything and had a specific fascination for history.

Wilbur was close to his younger brother, who had started a print shop that issued a town newspaper and then began publishing a variety of reading material. They worked together in the printing business and then they became involved in the growing bicycle craze that had swept the nation. Since they both enjoyed mechanics, the brothers opened a shop that sold and repaired bicycles.

When the younger brother was diagnosed with typhoid, he spent more than a month in bed. As he recovered, Wilbur read to him. Together, they became fascinated about the discoveries of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider enthusiast who had studied the flight motions of birds.

The brothers were excited about Lilienthal’s experiments and they never stopped learning. After several years of planning, they decided to use their mechanics ingenuity and their interest in the flight of birds to build several flying machines. They tested their creations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, changed history. The setback for Wilbur while playing hockey was just one of many catalysts in their lives that led to the collaboration that taught the world how to fly.

Apr 02 2018

Guided To The NHL By Family And Faith

Steven Santini feels that family and faith have guided him on his journey to fulfill his dream of becoming an NHL defenseman. He already has played more than 70 games with the New Jersey Devils.

Steven attended a Catholic high school in Westchester County for his freshman and sophomore years. He later attended the Jesuit Boston College. The religious education helped him grow spiritually. The hockey education helped him grow his game.

Steven’s road to the NHL did swerve a bit during high school. The final two years were spent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He transferred to a local school to participate in the U.S. National Team Development Program and gain international hockey experience.

Just 23 now, Steven most recently was sent out for more seasoning with the Devils’ minor league team. He said the coaching staff communicated with him and told him the skills that required improvement. He felt that it was okay to take a step back to push the reset button. He is confident that he soon will return to the NHL. Since beginning his professional career, Steven also has returned to BC to earn his business degree.

Steven always has received the support of family. He first stepped on the ice at the age of two. He didn’t have a choice, because the family owned a local ice rink. His 86-year-old grandfather still competes on the ice. Bob coached at Mount St. Michael Academy in The Bronx and was a founder and first commissioner of the Catholic High School Hockey League. Steven’s father, also Steve, played at the Mount and the University of Maine before coaching at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School.

What began as a child’s fun time on the ice has turned into a passion for professional hockey. Steven owes it all to his family, his education, his coaches and his faith.