July 7, 2011

Fischler Report: Kariya was a class act for 15 years

by Stan Fischler

Paul Kariya (photo: Getty)

Paul Kariya’s retirement announcement hardly comes as a surprise, but is sad nonetheless.

During his admirable 15-year career, the former University of Maine star was one virtuoso who played the game as admirably as Mike Bossy and Nik Lidstrom – hard but clean and with the utmost class.

His farewell comments put it best about his character and feelings regarding those who made him so special: “I would like to thank all of those who’ve been part of so many meaningful memories,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received over the years from fans everywhere. It was my dream to be a professional hockey player and I wouldn’t have achieved it without the support of my coaches, teammates and management staff from all the organizations I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.”

Kariya also had some stinging words for the NHL on what he believes is still a lack of effort by the league on head hits.

“The thing I worry about," said Kariya, "is there will be a guy who’s playing with a concussion, and he gets hit and dies at center ice. Can you imagine what would happen to the league were that to occur? If the NHL wants to eradicate concussions, it should go after the employers – not the employees.”

Observations

* Chris Drury (Trumbull, Conn.) leaves the Rangers in what can best be described as a well-meaning opportunity that simply did not work out as planned.

When Mister Clutch arrived in New York in 2007 – with Scott Gomez – it appeared an ideal move. The Blueshirts had learned first-hand how the center could deliver in important situations. His quiet leadership qualities, along with his desire to play in the Big Apple, blended perfectly with the Connecticut native's plans.

In this case, the "best laid plans" dissolved for any number of reasons -- perhaps age, perhaps chemistry but certainly not for lack of trying. If nothing else, Drury gave everything he had in an attempt to make New York a better team. Eventually, injuries diminished his effectiveness and his buy-out ends the saga that best could be titled "What Might Have Been."

* The first black player in the NHL, Willie O’Ree, was honored at the annual Tradition awards ceremony in Boston.

Hosted by The Sports Museum – a nonprofit educational institute – the 10th annual awards gala included a presentation of the Hockey Legacy Award to O’Ree in recognition of his trailblazing NHL career and his many contributions to the community.

Past recipients of this award include Bruins alumni Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito and Harry Sinden.

"On behalf of the National Hockey League family, we congratulate Willie O’Ree on being awarded the Hockey Legacy Award in recognition of his lifetime of outstanding achievement, service and dedication to the community,” said Kenneth Martin Jr., NHL VP of Community Affairs. “We are proud of all that he has done as an ambassador for the game."

O’Ree currently serves as the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and hockey ambassador for the “Hockey Is for Everyone” initiative, a post he has held since January 1998.

Gossip

* While GM Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins will continue to make headlines throughout the summer, as each player has his day with the Cup, the industrious Boston GM can’t help but express his worry about the state of the NHL.

“The (salary) cap is certainly going to come down in some shape or form. Naturally, I’m wary of where the market may be heading. At the end of the day both parties will decide where the CBA will be. But I can’t see it remaining where it’s at now.”

Wise words from an equally wise man.

* The verbal beat-down of Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.) by the Toronto media for missing out on Brad Richards is appalling. When the Leafs GM got the invitation to visit Canadian troops in the Middle East, he couldn’t say no. “I did it because it was the right thing to do,” added Burke.

In this day and age there’s a multitude of avenues Burke could have communicated with his subordinates without physically being in the Queen City. But in the end, it was simple math for Richards: Skating on Broadway plus reuniting with John Tortorella (Melrose, Mass.) proved more valuable than extra dollars in the wallet.

* With the Rangers’ addition of Mike Rupp, the club now boasts a fearsome tandem – along with Brian Boyle (Hingham, Mass.) – on the end of its bench. Double B is the only player in the league to score more than 20 goals in the last two seasons while averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.