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Bluelines: Rocking The Rock, Press Conference Madness, and an Island Dynasty

One of the more pleasant sidebars to the Rangers-Devils series has been the enthusiastic reaction of fans who have visited Prudential Center for the first time. For example, Steven L. Braverman, a Manhattan-based physical therapist, attended Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final at The Rock and raved about the Devils’ home. “It’s a beautiful arena for hockey,” says Braverman. Not surprisingly, all games in Newark have been sellouts from the first round and now well into the third. More importantly, a large number of attendees have confirmed the prediction of Devils Chairman and Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek, who told me years ago that mass transit would be the key to The Rock’s popularity. It’s evident that New Jersey Transit and Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) trains have made it easy and inexpensive to reach the Devils’ home. This was a gamble that has paid off handsomely.

The National Hockey league is 95 years old and in almost a century of big league play, there never has been so much attention paid to post-game press conferences than that attracted by John Tortorella. The Rangers head coach has magnetized the media with his sometimes brief, sometimes not-so-brief and always electrifying scrums after a playoff game. As a result, columnists on both sides of the border have zeroed in with lengthy pieces about Torts with even more in the works. What’s more, the Blueshirts boss keeps ‘em guessing in terms of how he will respond to any given question. Why the attraction? Because it is captivating theater and all you have to do is watch the expressions on the SRO press crowd. This much is certain; whether you like his retorts or not, Tortorella is sincere with his replies whether he’s being eloquent or terse. The Man believes not only that brevity is the soul of wit – William Shakespeare wrote it in Hamlet – but it’s also the key to explaining his positions. A good example was evident on Monday morning prior to Game Four with the Devils. The issue was how much ice time defenseman Stu Bickel would obtain. The question and answer period may have set speed records. To wit: Q: Are you comfortable with Bickel’s play away from the puck when he is up front? Tortorella: I don’t know what my lineup is today. Q: How about if he plays three weeks from now? Tortorella: I don’t know what my lineup would be then.

Paul Cyr, who played for the Buffalo Sabres from 1983 to 1987, died at the age of 48. According to reports, the cause of death was heart failure.  Cyr was also reportedly suffering from complications caused by diabetes. Cyr won Gold with Canada in the World Junior Hockey Tournament and was drafted eighth overall by Buffalo in the 1982 Draft. He scored 15 goals in 36 games during his rookie campaign. Cyr produced his highest goal total in 1984-1985, when he scored 22 times. The winger produced 85 goals and 111 assists in 342 career games with the Sabres. In 1987, Cyr was traded to the New York Rangers and he later finished his career with the Hartford Whalers.

The Sabres signed defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a one-year deal. Sulzer, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was acquired in a mid-season trade from Vancouver.

 Bill Torrey, currently Alternate Governor of the Florida Panthers and a close advisor to Cats g.m. Dale Tallon, remains a close follower of the playoffs. As an objective observer, Bowtie Bill is secure in the knowledge that no team – be it Rangers, Devils, Coyotes or Kings – ever will come close to matching the record amassed by the club he built. It was Torrey who constructed the Islanders from scratch in 1972 and saw them win four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983 with a trip to the Final against Edmonton in 1984. Ask Bill why his Uniondale dynasty could qualify as THE greatest hockey club of all-time and he won’t waste any time with the answer: “No other team ever won 19 straight playoff rounds as we did during the period from 1980 through the Final with the Oilers,” Torrey proudly asserts. Just imagine for a moment the challenge of taking four Cups and adding three more playoff series wins beyond that and you can understand Torrey’s point. Guaranteed, it will never happen again!

• When the Kings visit Phoenix on Tuesday night, the Coyotes once again will face the interminable question – will this be the last NHL game in Glendale? All signs indicate that Greg Jamison and his group have hammered out an acceptable plan to buy the Yotes. As Arizona Republic columnist Paola Boivin notes, “The good news for Coyotes fans is that talks with Jamison, the City of Glendale and the NHL appear to be going well.” But there is a distinction between “going well” and final approval. And until there is a resolution one way or the other, the franchise’s future will remain in limbo.

• The same holds for Shane Doan’s future with the team. The Coyotes captain’s contract expires this summer. Shane’s deal is that Don Maloney won’t talk contract until the ownership situation is resolved.


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