March 20, 2012

Fischler Report: Seguin surging, You Can Play gaining steam

By Stan Fischler

After tallying only 22 points in his rookie year, Boston’s Tyler Seguin has been a vital asset to the Bs offense. The second-overall pick in the 2010 Draft currently leads the Bruins with 58 points.

Our man in Beantown, Jared Lane, interviewed Seguin on the following topics. 

IMPROVING EVERY DAY:
I’ve improved with experience and confidence. It dates back to the summer, working out and knowing what I needed to do. There are a lot of things I have to get better at. I’ve learned to be smarter in the defensive zone. My main emphasis is to be a solid two-way player.

NOT PLAYING ON THE FIRST LINE:
I wasn’t surprised when Claude Julien moved me off the first line. I love playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but I know things had to change in order to generate more offense. Coach Julien felt he needed too switch things up for a spark.

PLAYING WITH DAVID KREJCI AND MILAN LUCIC:
I don’t know if I can take credit for getting David back on his game, but when I played with Milan Lucic at the beginning of the year, I knew we had chemistry. I haven’t had too much time with Krejci before, so I need to play my role and bring my speed on this line.

SELECTED AS AN ALL-STAR:
I feel honored and privileged. I couldn’t have done it myself. I give a lot of praise to my teammates. I was surprised when I first found out, but it’s a dream come true. Last year I went to the All-Star Game and I was fortunate enough to be one of the rookies selected. It was just a fantastic experience.

RIVARLY WITH MONTREAL:
There’s always going to be a rivalry between Montreal and Boston no matter what because of the pride that comes with being an Original Six match-up. Last year it was a bit tighter, but the Habs still give us a tough game every time we play them no matter if they are lower in the standings. Two teams out there who dislike each other always makes for a good game.

PATRICE BERGERON:
The biggest thing with Patrice is his consistency. He’s the most consistent player I’ve ever played with. Night in, night out, he’s competing. He works really hard at every end of the ice, and because of his effort, we are rewarded.

HOCKEY AS TOM MURRAY SEES THE GAME

Tom Murray, former editor-in-chief of The Hockey News, is a longtime TV newscaster who played collegiate hockey in Boston. For years, Murray has been one of the most expert hockey chroniclers and we at TFR are honored to add his column, “As Tom Terrific Sees It,” to our newsletter. The following is the first of what will be regular contributions from Murray to TFR:

Been thinking a lot lately about Brendan Burke and Tyler Clementi, two young men who died seven months apart in 2010.

Clementi was just three weeks into his freshman year at Rutgers University that September when he learned his roommate used a webcam to spy on him and another man. The roommate sent out Twitter and text messages alerting and urging others to watch when the man returned to visit Clementi two nights later.

When Clementi found out, he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. He was 21 years old. Burke, also 21, died along with a passenger earlier that year when his SUV slid out of control and into the path of an oncoming truck.

Like Clementi, Burke was gay and had only recently come out to his friends and family. His dad, Maple Leafs president and GM Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.), not only accepted his son and told him he loved him, but promised he’d march with Brendan in the Gay Pride parade in Toronto.

As for Brendan’s friends, many of them were players on the hockey team at Miami of Ohio, where Brendan was the student manager and Rico Blasi is the coach.

“When he told me his secret I thought to myself, ‘Thank goodness it’s nothing serious!’” said Blasi.

“I told him I really didn’t care, and he was part of our family and that was his choice and doesn’t change the way we feel about him.”

The concept of family isn’t just a word with Blasi and his team.

The Redhawks proudly refer to themselves as “The Brotherhood” and their one-for-all-all-for-one approach is the cornerstone of the program. Bolstered by the support from his father and Blasi, Brendan had the strength and confidence to tell the guys on the team.

Pat Cannone was first to hear the news.

“I don’t care, Burkie,” Cannone responded. “You’re a great friend. This has no bearing on how we feel about you.”

The rest of the guys felt the same way.

And it is their understanding, compassion and empathy that is the essence of You Can Play – a noble project whose mission is “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.”

The co-founder of the initiative is Brendan’s brother Patrick (Canton, Mass.), a scout for the Flyers, who concedes that before his brother revealed he was gay, Patrick casually used that word as an insult – like millions of other kids around the world.

Of course, we adults aren’t exactly immune as far as contributing to a lengthy history of insensitivity and innocuous banter on this particular topic.

Now eight NHL players, including Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Corey Perry of the Ducks and Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators, are appearing in public service messages for You Can Play. Plus, 35 more players have committed their support. Slowly but surely attitudes are changing.

“There are gay men in professional hockey,” says Burke. “We would be fools to think otherwise and it’s sad they feel the need to conceal this.”

Hopefully, with time, they won’t have to.

And hopefully initiatives like You Can Play will continue to change hearts, minds and attitudes not only in sports, but everywhere. Which brings us back to Clementi, a shy kid who played violin and was trying to figure out his place in the world.

Last week his Rutgers roommate Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted on all of the 15 charges he faced in what the jury deemed a hate crime. He’ll be sentenced in May. Some of the charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Two young lives, ruined.

All I could think of after reading the trial was what if someone was there for Tyler Clementi when those tweets and texts flew around in the same way Blasi and Cannone were there for Brendan Burke?

Would that have changed anything? We’ll never know.

All we do know is the response Brendan received was extraordinary. But the response was also sadly unusual, which is why Tyler Clementi paid the ultimate price.

And why the message of You Can Play is so vital for a kid on skates, sneakers or cleats. Or even for one who plays the violin.

GOSSIP

Nassau County (NY) politicians have for years ignored Islanders reasonable requests for help in building a new arena. Now they had better take note of the scoreboard overhanging the Coliseum in Uniondale. On all four sides it proclaims BARCLAYS CENTER and that also appears on the arena’s message board. The message to politicians is clear: not only are the Isles slated to play an exhibition game with the Devils next fall at the new Brooklyn arena, but implicit is the fact that the 14,500-seat (for hockey) building could conceivably be the Isles next home. …

There are many ways to interpret this but the NHL’s decision to scrap its opening season European games has a message. The most obvious is that this is another shot across the bow in the upcoming NHL-NHLPA battle. What’s the point of spending big dough to arrange games that could conceivably be cancelled because of a work stoppage. Most disturbing, in terms of labor negotiations, is what is not happening. It was hoped that opening talks between Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman would have been launched immediately after the All-Star game. More than a month has passed and still silence (not good!) According to insiders who know him best, NHLPA boss Fehr is extremely deliberate – some would call it “very slow” – in his reactions. Thus, the NHL is left waiting for him to start the already-delayed process. …

How serious is the Bruins goaltending problem? Marty Turco has proven to be a sieve and Tim Thomas hardly looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Vezina Trophy-winner. Add to that the dismal fact that Tuukka Rask may not be the same goalie once he emerges from his rehab. …

After losing only three regulation games in January and February, Roberto Luongo has had his own version of March Madness, allowing 16 goals in his last four appearances. Coach Alain Vigneault would like to see an improved effort from his starter. “Like other areas of our game, that’s one that can be better,” explains the Canucks bench boss. “There are points in games where a goaltender can stand and make big saves and make a difference. There are things we need to clean up and we need to get it up as a group.”