Saturday, June 7, 2008

Postcard from Wilkes-Barre

This will be brief, like a postcard has to be. I was working two non-game stories pretty hard tonight during Game 4 of the AHL finals (Thrashers upcoming draft and coaching search), so I have less on the game.

First let me say that I was interested in coming this trip partly because although I'm from PA, I've never been to this part of the state. I always wanted to check it out and this was the perfect opportunity. It's a little hillier than I expected. The fans and ushers are tough people. This is a Philly-type crowd for sure.

The press box was cramped, so I found another seat for the second and third periods. I sat next to an NHL supervisor for officials in a chair at the top of the bowl. We were instant buddies. I got some money out to go get a bite to eat and he said "oh that's OK you don't have to buy me a beer." In fact I got a cheesesteak. I figured we were close enough to Philly that this is what one should eat at the game. The lady asked me American or cheddar cheese, and did I want peppers and onions. I'm thinking, is there any other way? Yeah, bring it on. I give the arena cheesesteak only a 2 out of 10 though. A $5.75 letdown.

Back to my seat neighbor, I knew even prior to asking that he was there to watch the officials. I kept hearing him say "good call." One time he remarked to the guy next to him (tomorrow night's ref, I found out), "that's a helluva call." It was an icing. I guess everyone has their thing.

I took the opportunity to ask if he thought the AHL would go to two refs soon. He shook his head no. Money, I asked? He nodded. But he said that's OK, it's good to learn to stand on their own, not use partner as a crutch. I asked if he thought they would get video replay, a hot topic lately. Again he shook his head no. In turn, he asked me who I thought the Thrashers would get as coach. I told him my best and latest info, because him chattering about it could only help, I thought.

Obligatory postcard photo (Fahey, Pavelec, Kulda, Valabik):


I saw Wolves skating and skills coach Kenny McCudden over in a corner and went and said hello. I thought I could gauge the emotion of the team by chatting a bit with him. The game was tied 2-2 going into the third. Kenny, who while very emotional is never at a loss for words, warned me that he wouldn't be able to talk, he was too wound up. That said a lot right there.

In the Penguins locker room on their white board, they have the Wolves lines and pairings written out, along with about 5 or 6 tendencies of the team. I copied down five of them as I was standing at the back of a scrum. I won't post them today as that's not quite fair, but I'll share them once the series and season are over. They're pretty accurate.

A TV reporter complained about the "closed" locker rooms in the AHL, meaning you have to get coaches first, then players. He said the NHL changed that after the lockout to have locker rooms be open immediately because it makes for better TV. You can get better reaction onto post-game shows. Along with the number of refs and the video replay, this is another area where the AHL is different. But this one doesn't cost money.

1 comment:

nfieldr said...

I watched the game on NHL network. I specifically remember that icing call. The Wolves player definitely last touched the puck on their side of the red line, but he was being checked hard at the time. The TV analyst made a big point of the fact that the Pens player was playing the man and had no intention of playing the puck and that fact should have negated the icing. I'd never heard that before, so it's good to hear that the linesman got it right.

On the other hand, I thought that the referee (Morton, maybe?) had a pretty rough game. His calls seemed to be pretty inconsistent.