OK folks. I’m back from another week of vacation and some heavy reporting days. I’ll be taking another week in a couple weeks. I have to get all my time in before the season starts.
I spent some time in Duluth on Wednesday. I interviewed Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn, who are training with a boxing instructor, for a story next week. The Thrashers web folks tagged along so they might have some video on their website soon. I think it will be a good story. They do it in part for conditioning and in part to bolster their on-ice fights. Let me tell you, those guys can punch. It’s a good thing a hockey player can’t get the same kind of leverage on skates as he can in a gym, because those were some powerful punches. Look for that next week. By the way, let me say that Boulton and Thorburn are very personable. I’ve dealt with them a couple of times this offseason and they could not have been nicer.
Also in the gym working out were Slava Kozlov, Johan Hedberg and Nathan Oystrick, along with several prospects, including Angelo Esposito, the Saponari brothers and Doug James. They all had an on-ice training session following the gym work.
I spoke to Hedberg following the workouts. I will be writing a weekly Inside the NHL column for the Sunday paper. That will begin this Sunday and my talk with Hedberg will be much of it. He is back after 10 weeks in Sweden, just in time to get the kids back and school. He was very good, had some good things to say, especially about the upcoming goalie competition. Look for that Sunday.
Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of the week on the ownership situation with the news of the court decision on Monday. I had a long interview with co-owner Michael Gearon on Tuesday, along with my esteemed colleague Sekou Smith. I will put some of that in my Sunday notes column. I pushed him on several issues, including the sale and/or move of the Thrashers. While he said the owners are looking for investors, like Arthur Blank and the Falcons did recently, there are no intentions to sell the team or move them. The quick reasons they are not a movable franchise are that they are tied to Philips Arena in naming rights. The arena must have an NHL and a NBA tenant or Philips can get out of the deal. Also, the owners signed an agreement with the NHL that they would not move the franchise. Several years remain on that deal.
I am working on the Ilya Kovalchuk negotiations. I have to speak to a few more people before I can give a full report. All my indications, so far, are that they are proceeding slowly with no major roadblocks at this point. Any thing can change in contract talks, but that is where we stand right now. I will keep you posted.