Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yotes: Some Words From Our Departed Ranger. . .

“It's great to be in an organization where you feel that they really want you to be [there] and they want you to play,” said Prucha, contrasting recent history in New York with Maloney’s show of faith. “It's a totally different feeling when you actually feel that they want you to be on the ice.”

Those are the first words I've heard on the subject of his departure from my favorite departed Ranger.

It makes you a little numb, but it's supposed to. I often thought, even probably said here, that I wondered the whole time Prucha was being scratched, just how much he understood about what was going on and how much got lost on him because there still might be a little bit of a language barrier. Or how much he didn't want to see what was really going on because he was so devoted to the team, and was such a genuine good guy and hard worker.

I guess he saw more than we knew. And again, we'll never know the whole story. I don't think Prucha will ever say more than he did above. He's probably too good for that as well. Yet another reason we can admire him.

Prucha was a healthy scratch thirty-six times this year, while Dawes sat out twelve. The Rangers even tried to send Petr to the AHL – the trip between New York and Hartford something Dawes became quite accustomed to last season – but Prucha refused the conditioning assignment.

The bold move got him back into the lineup and likely made a trade inevitable.

So apparently many were right on this too. His bravest move, a move many admired him for, probably was one of the final that sent him packing.

Oh but to get to see that goal, to see he and his teammates exhuberant celebration, and to hear the crowds cheers as the Garden shook that night - I'm not sure I'd take it back.

I doubt he would either.

In the 25 games he managed to crack Tom Renney’s lineup, Prucha averaged just over 12 minutes of ice time. When Renney was ousted for John Tortorella, his time got a slight bump and there was a faint glimmer of hope that things might work out in New York.

“Actually the system we started playing [had] more forechecking and I felt more comfortable in that [style],” says Prucha. “I was getting more ice time than before. Obviously, I was playing.

“So I was like, 'Maybe I'm going to stay.' But it didn't happen.”

It seems that Prucha felt the same range of emotions we did in his week under John Tortorella. He was being used more effectively, finally getting ice time. And contributing. I mean Tortorella didn't know him from most of the rest of the team, so when he was traded and he said of Pete: 'we tried to get him in to score goals and I think he scored one,' I didn't take it personally. I mean, sure, the entire team only scored two goals in the two games before they broke out in that six goal game versus the Avalanche, but hey, Pete got one of those goals. And it was a big goal from a big guy with a big heart.

That's really all we need to know.

In three games under Wayne Gretzky, he’s skated more than 18 minutes a contest, alongside some of Phoenix’ top scorers.

When someone’s confidence is bruised and battered, mending it can prove challenging and time-consuming.

Or, it could take just a few strides in new colors.

Prucha has yet to score for his new team, but he has three assists in five games since joining the Coyotes. His most recent came tonight against New Jersey. (See below). The team, meanwhile, has only scored nine goals during that span. Prucha is seeing first line minutes with young, fast goal scorers like Upshall and Lombardi. He's averaging over 18 minutes of ice a game in his five games.

He immediately did all the good things we love him for. Hit, defend, skate to the puck, chip and make plays. He's fallen into step well with his new team.

Those who know him, again, are not suprised.

What Rangers fans are losing is more than goals and assists will illustrate, though. These are two honest, humble and hard-working kids who the faithful have cheered until hoarse from the very start – with good reason.

That support didn’t go unnoticed.

“It was unbelievable,” says Prucha. “I can't thank them enough. Every time I went back into the lineup in the Garden they were cheering for me. It was awesome. It helped me a lot to stay in shape when I wasn't playing.

“Huge thanks to them and I'm going to miss them, but there wasn't a spot in the lineup for me.

“It wasn't my choice but I had to go.”

This is the part that gets me a little choked up, admittedly. Yet another example of a person we feel the dire need to take the time to thank, and he's thanking us instead.

He may never score 30 gaols again, even though in the right situation I think he will. He may not win league awards. Yet fans of New York LOVED him and it is during moments where they rewarded the most deserving players - like Prucha - with cheers that I am most proud to be a fan of this team. They saw the whole picture. They got what he meant, what he did, and what he stood for. Those same people were sad to see him go away.

Huge thanks to them and I'm going to miss them. . .

But from his own mouth, please know, he will miss us too.

**Many many thanks to Michael Smith at for this amazing article, which you can read in its entirety here. Thanks too to "Dan" who posted on Ranger Report this link. I'm so glad I had the chance to see this article.**

Michael's article makes me happy and it makes me sad. It's the bittersweet reality of what we lost and how much we gained, of what we had the chance to experience and of what we'll get to experience still.

It won't be here, and it won't be New York, but we'll get the chance again to enjoy watching a young player we love get to play our favorite game. It's funny. If this were even ten years ago, it wouldn't be the same. There was no such thing as Centre Ice. Even the Internet was not as common place. We'd have to search a lot harder to find out how our favorite player was doing. Now, thankfully, in this technological world, I'm lucky enough to still see every game he plays. And of that I am so grateful.

This article also makes me sad because I realized over the last few days that Petr Prucha, although a favorite and certainly in his own category in my mind, is just another example of a young, hard-working fan favorite that got sent away from the New York Rangers. Manny Malhotra. Mike York. Jed Ortmeyer. Those are a handful of guys that got it too. They weren't, minus York during his FLY line days, master scorers or high point producers. They were the guys doing the little things that amounted to big things. The guys the fans appreciated. The guys the fans cheered.

Manny Malhotra - the guy that took over for Adam Graves in being the last guy off the ice, ensuring his teammates were safe.

Mike York - the small kid with a scoring touch, who was one of three Rangers to be top five in scoring in the whole league, in the fall of 2001.

Jed Ortmeyer - a master shot blocker and a guy that, during a time when not much inspired in the 2003-2004 season, drew admiration from the Garden crowd for his effort and class.

Petr Prucha - the little big man who would hit people twice his size, sacrifice his body in being the first to defend a teammate, and the guy serenaded by Garden fans for just being himself and doing what came naturally.

Four young men.

Four home grown Rangers, three drafted, one not (Ortmeyer).

Four guys that I was very sad to see leave and still greatly miss.

I love the Rangers and I always will. But it is at some moments like these were I am forced to admit that this team, for all its great moments and great players, is not the type of team that will grow with youth. Not the type of team that will keep a player because he is beloved by the fans.

They are, at times, the type of team that will trade away those players for a pipe dream or for a rental player. Trade them because they'd seemingly rather have a team of mostly overpaid, inconsistent, unpassionate players, than a team full of kids who'd give everything for the jersey of the team that drafted them, and in doing so, entertain and be admired.

It is in the moments that such thoughts become reality that I am truly sad.

Yes, I do still love the Rangers. I always will. But it is for those reasons that I have, do, and will continue to have favorite players on other teams. I have, do, and will follow their careers and wish them well in every professional and personal regard.

I may be loyal to a team, but I am loyal to my players too.

They will all be remembered.

Footnote: Pete's assist versus NJ:


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Kels, as usual.

I'm totally brain-dead now so I'll make this short and hopefully add some more thoughts tomorrow. I just wanted to add that I, too, got all choked up when Pru started talking about the fans. It's really humbling for US, to think that we actually had a part in Prucha's determination and never-relenting spirit.

There's nothing else to say about that interview, because it's just so...Prucha. So typical, beautiful, heartwrenching Prucha. It's ironic, because a main part of the reason we idolize Prucha and make him out to be this larger-than-life figure is because he's so emotional, so vulnerable, and therefore so accessible to us. It's crazy to think that he feels the same feelings we do too...

That's a very sad point you make about the Rangers not being a team that really caters to youth. I hope against hope that that will one day change. :(

Kerri said...

I loved Mike York, BTW.

And as for Ortmeyer... same deal. I mean, when I was the most upset I could ever have been about Petr Prucha, when I felt like I couldn't get any sadder... the realization of Ortmeyer made me even sadder. Dominick Moore, who commanded a second round pick this trade deadline. And giving up on Jagr, or Shanahan... just why? Why do we have to let everyone we love go?

Why do we quit on them?

In some ways... I wish Jagr never resurrected this team. I can't help but think that was really our chance to rebuild... and Jagr being such a dominating force took that chance away.

I love my draftees. Raised in our system. It's heartbreaking to watch them leave, so much more than any others.

Are we ever going to have another Brian Leetch? Mike Ritcher? Guys how started and ended (in Leetch's case, practically and should have ended) in New York?

How do you have the audacity to trade away Brian Leetch?

And how do you have the audacity to trade away Petr Prucha?

It's a fuck you to fans, that's what it is. Excuse my mouth, but that's exactly what it is. We loved Brian Leetch more than... more than anything. And in a smaller way, trading Prucha is exactly the same thing. It's like punching MSG in the collective gut.

A perrenial healthy scratch meaning so much... in so many ways, it's so unreal.

I'm so happy I read this AFTER the game on Thursday, because I would have cried my head off.

“It's great to be in an organization where you feel that they really want you to be [there] and they want you to play.” Ugh. Ugh. UGH! All we wanted was for Prucha to play. All we wanted was for him to get the chance. To hear him say that... ugh.

Almost wish he didn't realize. He would have had to have been an idiot to NOT understand, but I hate for him to have bitter feelings about his time here.

That stuff on the fans... well isn't that just Petr Prucha in a nutshell? Thinking we, from our cheers and our chants and our Prucha jerseys and our support, we helped keep him in shape? We helped Petr Prucha be what we loved about Petr Prucha?

I could go cry again.

Don't tell me you miss us, Petr. Because you may miss us, but we miss you more than you could understand.

His bravest move, a move many admired him for, probably was one of the final that sent him packing.

Oh but to get to see that goal, to see he and his teammates exhuberant celebration, and to hear the crowds cheers as the Garden shook that night - I'm not sure I'd take it back.

I doubt he would either.

I love this quote.

I've never been so proud of Prucha, when he turned down that conditioning assignment...

And then he scored.

How could a moment that filled my whole heart up with excitement, and happiness, and love... how could THAT moment lead to his packing, that hurt me so much? Isn't life so...cruel?

For me, the best moment of the Rangers season led to the worst moment in my hockey-watching lifetime.

"It wasn't my choice but I had to go."

That's the worst part.

It wasn't his choice, but he had to go.

He knew exactly what was going on here, but he didn't want to go anyway.

Excuse me, but it's time for a good cry, I think.

kels said...

Allyson: Thank you. On Prucha, that is a great point. He is accessible because he's so vulnerable. We've seen him at his best and worst. We've seen him cheer and we've seen him cry. He's real to us.

And I really hope that I am wrong about the Rangers and their youth, but it's just a bad pattern I've seen.

Kerri: The comment about Jagr and the team is something I think about sometimes too. If there ever was a time we were going to do what Chicago did or Phoenix is doing, it was 05-06. But as I'm sure you agree, I still wouldn't take it back. That was an amazing year.

And sports can be painful and cruel, as can life. We saw this. I too cried a bit again after reading this. It's amazing and I'm so happy to have read it, but it brings back all the emotions of why couldn't he have gotten the chance here, where everyone surely wanted it to be. It's just one of the things in life where we'll have to be grateful for what we had.

As for the will their be Leetch and Richters - I just don't know. I would hope so. Right now, I can see Hank, if he doesn't demand a trade, staying here for the long haul. And Staal, under the same circumstances. Who knows what will happen, exactly, but I can see one of Dubinsky or Callahan staying, but probably the odds are against both.

Look at this team. It's been disbanded and torn apart so much, it's no wonder only Betts, Rozsival and Hank are still around from the start of 2005. That's a depressing reality.

I hope it changes someday, I really do. Because despite all the pain they make me endure, I love this team.

Thank goodness for those that have the true blue attitude and get to remain.

For the others, our dearly departed being the primary example - as it played out, he was never, sadly never, going to get the chance to truly succeed here. It perhaps is rare that they gave him enough of a chance to do what he did for the first two years.

But, even though it is painful, and yes, it will continue to be in some ways, we have to think about him and where he's getting a real and true chance.

In Phoenix he is playing twenty minutes a night. He is on the powerplay and the penalty kill. In New York, with or without Renney, Pete was not going to ever play the bulk of the minutes or get opportunites to work on differnt aspects of his game.

He's still young enough. Think about how much it is helping him grow as a player to see ice in every conceiveable situation.

We will always miss him. But he's getting an amazing opportunity. Even if he was sad to leave, he must know that.