by Jim Samuels
With all that’s transpired in the world this past week it’s no surprise to anyone that talk of pennant races, the potential comeback of Michael Jordan, and the impending NHL season have taken up residence on the back burner, to say the least. But as our great country sifts through the rubble of what were once symbols of our nations undying power and freedom, the sports world prepares to bring our society a much needed dose of normalcy.
They’re going to start playing the games again on Monday. Major League Baseball has six contests slated for today as America dips it’s toes back into the world of sports. Fittingly, the first major sporting event to be staged in the city that is now known to many a proud American all over this great land of ours as “ground zero”, will be played at The World’s Most Famous Arena.
Wednesday September 19th, just eight short days after many of our lives were changed forever, the New York Rangers will try to get back to business, taking on their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils in a pre-season Garden match. Focus will be the issue for both players and fans alike, the near non-existent intensity level of pre-season hockey not withstanding, simply getting the eyes and ears of sports starved New Yorkers off of CNN and the local news radio stations should prove to be downright therapeutic.
Meanwhile, the Ranger faithful breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday when the team announced the signing of restricted free agent center Petr Nedved to a contract, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Nedved, who has a history of long drawn out contract stalemates, had held out twice already during his 10 year career. Each hold-out had ended with Nedved changing sweaters, so signing the slick centerman to a deal was far from a foregone conclusion. He was dealt to St Louis at the tail end of the 1993-94 season after a long contract squabble with the Vancouver Canucks and then was re-acquired by the Rangers after failing to come to terms with Penguins GM Craig Patrick following the 1996-97 season. Overall, Nedved has missed parts of three seasons due to various contract impasses.
The signing of Nedved will give the Czech born star the chance to fill the role for which he is best suited, which happens to be second line center. In his second go-round with the Blueshirts, Nedved has clearly been the teams top center, being matched up against the oppositions best players night after night. The addition of Eric Lindros should help Nedved immensely. It should enable head coach Ron Low to get Nedved away from top defensive pairings and menacing eastern conference centermen on a regular basis, thus allowing the fleet footed pivot to flourish offensively.
Otherwise, things in Rye have thankfully gotten off to a rather uneventful start, all things considered. The team was scheduled to hold it’s first ever training camp at MSG which was canceled for obvious reasons. Goaltender Mike Richter took part in portions of intra-squad scrimmages during the past week and emerged unscathed. Eric Lindros, who will now make his Ranger debut on Wednesday at the Garden, tweaked a knee in practice and will likely be held out of a game against the Red Wings in Detroit on Monday. He should be ready to go in the pre-season home opener against Scott Stevens and the Devils.
The Rangers also made numerous roster moves this past weekend, sending several players to their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack. The most notable assignments were netminder Vitali Yeremeyev and Wolf Pack fan favorite PJ Stock, both will likely see time with the big club during the upcoming condensed pre-season schedule.