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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NHL no help?

Golf dates for the Norfolk Admirals are already being set. The Virginia Mads went down big, 4-0, to the Hershey Bears. Tom Robinson in the Hampton Roads Pilot newspaper tells how the team spent Saturday night nursing “the chipped tooth, the swollen lip and the gashed eyebrow of the best player, bathed in white light as he receives stitches in the trainer's room.
It's the collective, vacant stare of half-dressed athletes in their hushed dressing quarters, listening to hope slip-slide away.”

Perhaps the hopes slide away with the arrival of “the Chicago Seven,” seven Blackhawks who were sent down as the NHL season ended. Tris Wykes, also of the Hampton Roads Pilot asked whether seven players suddenly added to the roster could have an ill effect on the Admirals playoff chances, “Will the fatigue and chaos of playing two games in two leagues in two time zones within two days be too much?” I guess it was.

Wykes also managed to get a player to publicly address an issue I’ve thought about, the bitterness you feel from some NHL players about playing in the AHL. “Hopefully they’re not bitter at getting sent down,” Admiral Center Eric Meloche said.

While Winger Carl Corazzini said, “it’s a bad situation.”

Another team that isn’t helping its affiliate is the St. Louis Blues. The team, sometimes called the St. Louis Rivermen during the year, sent players up river to Peoria where that team is struggling to overcome the Houston Aeros.

Only five players were sent by St. Louis, perhaps the reason the Rivermen are surviving in the playoffs longer than the Admirals. Yet they too are suffering. The Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian asking why a player can’t step up to make a difference. With all the NHL talent on the Rivermen I had expected the Aeros to be fighting for their lives right now. The series would have been different, of course, if for a bad bounce or two, as described by Kirk Wessler in a description of one of the Aeros two overtime home ice wins.

Another team that expected problems integrating NHL players into the lineup was the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins. Although Marc Andre Fleury is perhaps the best goalie in the AHL or the NHL this season, he too plays for a team that is not in the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins make no beefs about letting the chips fall where they may in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Q and A with Dave Molinari, “the reality is that farm teams exist for the benefit of the parent club, and the top priority for the Penguins during the Calder Cup playoffs should be to get Fleury as much playing time—and, ideally, success, as possible.”

Ouch! Baby Penguins fans. You’re just cannon fodder. As they say, you can love a sports team, but they’ll never love you back.

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