Bill Guerin at the Penguins' morning skate in Atlanta 21 NOV 09
Last Saturday morning, Frozen Pill and I showed up at Philips Arena in Atlanta, where we met up with a group of Thrashers bloggers (for a good list, check out the blog roll at Bird Watchers Anonymous). We were all there to attend the Thrashers' second Blogger Day of the season. Shortly before 10:00am, we were given press credentials and escorted into Philips Arena to watch the morning skate.
While watching the morning skate, Thrashers' TV play-by-play guy Matt McConnell came over to say hi. McConnell seemed to be very personable. One question he asked us was our opinion of the 7:00pm start times for weeknight games. The consensus was that the 7:00pm starts made it difficult for fans to get to the games before puck drop. I don't know how Atlanta traffic compares to Dallas traffic, but Frozen Pill and I were in agreement that our 7:30pm start times in Dallas were critical for the fans. I hadn't really considered it until Mr. McConnell asked the question, but WHY is it that the East Coast teams start at 7:00? Seems to me that it's inconvenient for the fans in attendance AND for the fans in other time zones who want to watch the game live. As a Rangers' fan in Dallas, I know that I've got to get home from work by 6:00pm for the opening faceoff. What usually happens, though, is that I get home in time for the 1st intermission. I can see that this could be a blog post unto itself, however, so I'll move on...
Following the Thrashers' skate, we went down to their locker room and stood in the hallway, listening to Coach Anderson's press conference. The most interesting piece of info to come from the coach was his comment that the locker room was "pretty quiet", which seemed a rather stark contrast to the almost playful mood of the players during the morning skate.
We were then given the opportunity to interview Assistant Coach Randy Cunneyworth. Personally, it was a pleasant surprise for me, as it brought on one of those, "Hey - I had his hockey card when I was a kid!" moments. Honestly, as I type this, I can't even recall whether or not I asked him a question. Frozen Pill has the audio, though - I'll have to check with him and get back to you.
Next, we went back up to the rink for the Penguins' skate. I was struck by the range in player size, from 5'8" Chris Bourque to 6'5" Michael Rupp. The NHL isn't like the NFL, where GIANT seems to be the norm these days. Hockey players are getting bigger, but a small man can still be successful in the NHL (see St. Louis, Martin). I was hoping to get a decent shot of either Crosby or Malkin to post, but a good shot never materialized. Instead, I had to snap a picture of Big Billy Guerin (see above), and I'm fine with that. I enjoyed his time with the Stars, and he was a worthy opponent for Dallas while wearing an Edmonton sweater. In fact, I can almost forgive him for his time spent in New Jersey.
We bloggers left the Pens to their devices and walked back down to the Thrashers' locker room, where we again stood outside and interviewed Rich Peverley. He came across as a guy who is genuinely enjoying himself in Atlanta, and who is grateful for the opportunity to play. When asked The Question (which I'm sure he's already sick of answering, and which I was fully prepared to ask but was beaten to the punch by The Falconer), he attributed his success in Atlanta to increased ice time and trust from the coaching staff. To his credit, Peverley said nothing about having Ilya Kovalchuk to pass to, rather than Jordin Tootoo.
I did ask Peverley a couple of questions. One of them was covered by the Pill in a previous post. The other was a follow-up after he was asked his favorite places to play (New York and Montreal): What is Rich Peverley's least favorite place to play? San Jose. Before this intrepid reporter could throw out another such penetrating question, the interview was over. We did, however, get some bonus time with Senior P.R. Director Rob Koch - good background stuff on player personalities, number selection (did you know that Toby Enstrom chose #39 to honor Original Thrasher and MODO teammate Per Svartvadet? Now you do.) and the like.
We then broke for lunch, and Frozen Pill and I accompanied Aaron B and The Falconer from Bird Watchers Anonymous to a funky little joint called The Flying Biscuit Cafe. Great food (try the Southern Scramble with grits!) and great conversation with two very knowledgeable and passionate hockey bloggers.
Tomorrow, Part Two: The Battle of the Birds, as seen from the Press Box.
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