If you happened to catch the Atlanta Thrashers broadcast Friday night from the Verizon Center, and paid attention…you would have been privy to some of the human drama that took place off the ice and most of us relegate to the status of fantasy league banter. After all, it is a business and the moving parts, players, get traded all the time!
Between period interviews, are usually as exciting and painful as your next visit to the dentist. On this night however, the Thrashers broadcast team decided to “throw it downstairs” to welcome two of their newest acquisitions.
Mind you though, that this is Atlanta Thrasher hockey and the cute little blonde normally roaming the hallways, cameras in tow, questions prepped; is back in Buckhead at her favorite martini bar…a victim of this latest economic downturn along with the teams anemic attendence figures.
So a roadie also called an “assistant producer,” who’s more accustomed to loading hundreds of feet of cable in preparation for the broadcast, than doing interviews, lets the P.R. boss know that Thrasher T.V. would like to interview Niclas Bergfors after the first period outside the dressing room.
With no host to prep the player, they slap a head-set on Bergfors, tell him to look into the camera and ask if he can hear the boys upstairs in the booth? Great…3, 2, 1…”Hi everyone, Darren Eliot here and we’re joined now by one of the newest Atlanta Thrashers, Niclas Bergfors.”
Bergfors, along with Johnny Oduya had just made the trip south from New Jersey, thanks to Lou Lamoriello’s genius in fleecing Atlanta of their all-time leading scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk. The 22 year old Swede, a first round pick of the Devils in 2005, was contributing nicely in this his first full season in the National league. In 54 games, he had scored 13 goals along with 14 helpers for a solid 27 points. Life was good for this youngster. He was drafted and developed by the Atlantic leading Devils and now was playing regularly on a serious Cup contender…all according to the master plan.
With split screen technology in place and color man, Eliot, eight floors above in the press box, the interview began.
Quickly, Eliot, an experienced broadcaster, realized he had a kid on his hands that looked like either his dog had just died, or he was in Siberia, a place some bloggers equate to Atlanta in terms of the NHL.
The questions painfully followed, “I know this must have been a shock Niclas…how did you find out?” Without falling victim to hyperbole, watching this kids sullen expression made me realize I’d rather be getting that root canal I keep putting off. Like a jilted bride left on her wedding day, the strained look on his face said it all.
Niclas Bergfors was in pain…emotional pain. He was still in shock. He had just come off the ice in his first period with his new team, a 12th place team that resembled nothing like the division leading Devils he left behind. As much as he tried to say all the right things, his facial expression belied his words. “I am a professional, it’s part of the business, yes, I was surprised.” He even managed to say, “I am excited to be here.” Problem was, Bergfors could not hide his depressed facial intonations, his voice trailing off to barely a whisper with each successive answer.
Eliot, becoming uncomfortable himself, wrapped it up with, “I know this is difficult Niclas, thanks for taking the time and welcome to Atlanta.” The kid barely mumbled, “thank you.”
The only thing worse than that human expression was the next intermission, when Eliot’s producer decided to forge ahead and welcome Johnny Oduya to the Thrasher’s family.
Considering the Devils have won 3 Stanley Cups in the last 15 years, with 12 consecutive playoff appearences, while the Thrashers “family” conversely have made the playoffs only once in their existence, never winning a single game, some might say there is quite a disceprancy between these NHL cousins.
Getting traded from the Devils to Atlanta, might be compared to one day being a foster child in the Rockefeller household, and the next, you find yourself cozied up in a cardboard box under a foreign bridge.
Twenty tears from now, if you find yourself at a sports bar, down on your luck…you can always bet an unsuspecting patron, a pint, on the answer to the the trivia question: “Who got traded for Ilya Kovalchuk back in 2010?”
I, for one, don’t think I will ever forget the look on Johnny Oduya’s face, in that hallway, outside that locker room, trailing the Washington Capitals, 2-1 after two periods…still stunned, a glazed look on his face as if he was a long way away from an NHL rink.
Needless to say, Oduya said all the right things in the bowels of the Verizon Center, albeit in a somber tone.
And although this may not upset the balance of power in your fantasy league statistics, you may now remember forever who got traded for Ilya Kovalchuk…or maybe not?