The two outdoor NHL games at Yankee Stadium involving the Rangers and their two local opponents, the Devils and the Islanders, this past week certainly drew big crowds despite the bone chilling cold of what seems to be an immobile polar vortex. The National Hockey League wisely made the games a de facto part of the NFL Super Bowl Week undercard.
It’s funny how the media has been in a frenzy about what the weather conditions will be like this Sunday at MetLife Stadium ever since the NFL announced that the 2014 Super Bowl would take place in our area, yet there was nary a word about the tundra conditions that fans would have to endure when the NHL announced this Stadium Series last year.
The Devils and Rangers held an outdoor practice last Saturday. Rangers players Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider got into the Yankee Stadium spirit by bringing their baseball gloves and tossing a softball through the snowflakes.
Devils head coach Peter DeBoer concurred that outdoor games are crucial for the growth of the NHL since they attract TV viewers who may only have a passing interest in hockey.
Marty Brodeur, the Devils’ 41-year-old goaltender, who may be the best to ever play his position, admitted that he was concerned about both the glare of the ice and the alacrity of his reflexes in the cold outdoor weather. He added that he would not wear sunglasses under his mask but would wear the anti-glare eye black under his eyes a lot of football players use. “I have a feeling that it won’t do much good and it’s a pain to remove,” Brodeur candidly added.
Veteran NHL right winger Jagomir Jagr admitted that he would rather have been playing in the balmy climes of Southern California, where the Los Angeles Kings were taking on the Anaheim Ducks in an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium Saturday night. “Nothing against Yankee Stadium,” he deadpanned to the laughs of a very understanding press corps.
Jagr was asked if he knew anything about Yankee Stadium when he was growing up in Czechoslovakia. “I did not know anything even about the NHL because of the censorship of the Communist government, let alone Yankee Stadium,” Jaromir replied in what was clearly the most poignant comment of the day.
Could the Red Storm men’s hoops team finally be turning things around? Last Thursday, in their final game of the season at Carnesecca Arena, they held on to beat Seton Hall 77-76 after nearly squandering a late 17-point lead. They quickly doubled their victory total in the Big East by soundly beating Butler University in Indianapolis last Saturday.
The Baseball Assistance Team is Major League Baseball’s foundation devoted to providing financial assistance to those in need in the baseball community. Last Tuesday night BAT held its annual fund-raising dinner at the Marriott Marquis.
Former Mets catcher Barry Lyons, who was on their 1986 World Series-winning team, freely admits to being a recipient of a BAT grant. Lyons, who is from Biloxi, Miss., was one of the millions who were adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Barry also was instrumental in getting the Milwaukee Brewers to move a AA team into Biloxi and a new stadium will open in 2015. “I put a lot of sweat equity into this project,” said the ever upbeat Lyons.
Steve Garvey was one of the most famous players of the 1970s, and his body of work was quite impressive. He also was, and still is, one of the most accommodating sports figures. It has surprised me that he has not gotten more support for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “I think that voters should look at a player’s candidacy not just on statistics but in comparison to others based on the generation in which they played,” he told me at the BAT event.
Former Yankees pitcher Ron Davis, the father of Mets first baseman Ike Davis, was understandably livid at how Mets general manager Sandy Alderson denigrated his son’s abilities after he struggled in 2013. The elder Davis let that be known after all the other players had left the BAT interview area. The funny thing is that the Mets, for once, have shown some restraint, and have not traded Davis for the equivalent of pennies on the dollar. He is still the best first baseman on their roster.
If Mets fans are looking for some hopeful news about Ike, a reliable source told me that Davis, a contact lens wearer, had trouble seeing pitches last year and has undergone laser vision correction surgery. If there is any sport in which top-notch vision is crucial, it is baseball.
Carmelo Anthony’s record-breaking 62 points Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats could not have come at a better time for Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. The Knicks have been struggling mightily and may have to play the rest of the season without forward Andrea Bargnani, who damaged his elbow in a missed dunk attempt. That kind of typifies how the Knicks’ season has been going.
Maybe the Nets, who stunk up the Barclays Center for the first two months of the season, were just waiting for the calendar to read “2014” — because as cold as the weather has been here is how hot the Nets have been. Surprisingly, their rise back to respectability has not gotten the media play that it deserves.
The Nets hung on to get by the Dallas Mavericks last Friday night 107-106. It was great to see again Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who in spite of his considerable wealth and fame, is incredibly friendly and down to earth.
Cuban is a broadcast network star as host of one of ABC’s few big hits, “Shark Tank.” For those who haven’t seen the show, budding entrepreneurs show off their products and try to get a panel, led by Cuban, to give them money either through a loan or by taking some equity in their company. I asked Mark how the panel can make rash bids without seeing audited financial statements. “We’re all sharp businesspeople,” he replied.
What is not as well known about Mark Cuban is that he is a cable network impresario, as he heads AXS Television, formerly HD Net, which programs a lot of live concerts and mixed martial arts bills. For some reason, Time Warner Cable, which seems to carry every little-watched network, refuses to put AXS on its system.
Legendary former CBS News anchor Dan Rather hosts a Monday evening program on Axs. Rather first came to prominence as the Dallas correspondent who was on the scene when JFK was assassinated. In an incredibly petty move, CBS removed any reference to Rather in its 50th anniversary coverage of that sad day that inexorably changed history. Axs, however, did get Rather’s recollections for its documentary.
Good profile of Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer in the current issue of GQ. The term “insider” is overused in the sports media but it is entirely fitting in the case of Glazer, who breaks a lot of NFL stories and has never had to retract a single one.
HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” did a terrific job spotlighting the work that Boomer Esiason has put into fighting cystic fibrosis through his foundation. Boomer’s son, Gunner, suffers from the disease but graduated Boston College in 2013 and maintains an incredibly positive outlook.