Details from an emotional trip to the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena

Checking in from Buffalo as I wait to return to Atlanta. It took me exactly 30 minutes to check out of my hotel, return the rental car, check in for the flight, clear security and arrive at my gate – three hours before departure. Does that happen in Atlanta? So, plenty of time to post this blog, write a notebook of items leftover from the weekend and work on a Ron Hainsey story that will appear Wednesday/Thursday.

I had never met the Snyder family before this weekend. I took over as Pro Sports Editor shortly after the accident, so I was involved in a lot of the coverage and the Dany Heatley trial. When I arrived at the Woolwich Community Center in Elmira on  Sunday I was quite early. Children were already lining up to get in, two hours before the doors opened. I was directed down a hallway between the two rinks and almost immediately met by a woman, with a walkie-talkie in hand, making sure every detail was under control before the Thrashers arrived. It was LuAnn Snyder, Dan’s mother.  She couldn’t have been more gracious to me – and all those there for the event.

I got my first real look at what this event meant to the Snyders and the community when the team bus arrived an hour or so later. LuAnn greeted the bus and hugged every player and team official as the de-boarded. Dan’s father Graham was there, as well, with  handshake. Ilya Kovalchuk got a special hug from LuAnn and a greeting of  ‘There is my boy!” More on that later.

The Thrashers dressed and practiced at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena at the community center in front of about 1,500 fans. I’m told they were to limit the attendance to the capacity of 1,450 but it seemed like more than that, from kids to adults.

After practice players tossed the practice pucks to children in the crowd. It was hours later, as I sat in the coaches office of the Elmira Sugar Kings, the Tier II junior team that plays at the center, writing my story, that I found out the team had given away most of the practice pucks. They had to scramble to come up pucks before the Sugar Kings game that night. Just a funny footnote.

The folks in the community went above and beyond to be welcoming and helpful. I took photos of the event for the paper but had no way to get them out of my camera. The GM of the Sugar Kings and a local photographer spent more than an hour helping me. I also wrote the story there as the coaches got ready for the game that night. That was hospitality.

A bit about the Thrashers involvement. They practiced longer than expected and after lunch signed autographs. There were to be two lines with half the Thrashers in each. The team was to stay until 3:45 p.m. when they had to leave to catch their flight to Montreal. But every person there was allowed to go through both lines and the team was still signing at 4:20 p.m. Little things like that mean a lot.

I waited to talk to LuAnn until the day was almost over. I wanted to stay out of her way, but also give her a chance to take everything in before speaking about it. She was again gracious. When I brought up the subject of Dan’s watch, broken in three pieces in the accident, she related the story of how she kept a piece, gave one to Bob Hartley and another to Kovalchuk. She started to cry, but made it through. To tell you the truth, I had tears in my eyes as well by the time she was done.

Why Kovalchuk, I asked?

Here is what she said. “I told Kovy that he was the future of the franchise. He was going to be the glue that holds the franchise together.”

And then she said this about the Thrashers captain: “He’s my boy. He’s a sweetheart. He’s an absolutely wonderful person. People that don’t get to know him on a personal level like we have, don’t realize what a wonderful, wonderful, genuine person he is. He’s a superstar hockey player, but he’s a father, a friend and he’s always, always been so good to us. He’s a wonderful kid, but he’s first and foremost a wonderful person and the fans have reason to love him.”

Those are some of the highlights that I wanted to pass on.

OK, let’s get back to a little hockey.

There is plenty reason so far to think the penalty kill is headed in the right direction. Marty Reasoner, Todd White, Pavel Kubina and  Christoph Schubert have stood out to me. Schubert was excellent on the 5-on-3 kill in Buffalo on Saturday.

Having two separate power play units is also paying off. The transitions have been a benefit.

The shots-on-goal situation is troubling, I think. The Thrashers have been outshot in every game this year. Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg have stood tall and that’s one reason they are 4-1. At one point Saturday, the Thrashers held a 12-1 shots advantage and ended up being outshot be a considerable margin.

I’m doing a little more research and some interviewing, but the face-offs are something I will take a closer look at in the near future.

Not much to comment on here, but let me know what you think about the special teams or the team’s start. I asked both John Anderson and Don Waddell if they were surprised by the start, but they won’t admit anything more than they expect to win every time out.

90 comments Add your comment

Daculafan

October 19th, 2009
9:34 am

The special teams have been totally stand out. The PK especially, which up this point, has been our achilles heal seems to be a shining part of our game now. I’m sure that coach Anderson and his staff have really been working on it and it seems to be coming together well.

With the start we’ve gotten so far this year is there a noticeable difference in the locker room atmosphere both pre and post game? Would like to get your impression

Alan R.

October 19th, 2009
9:34 am

Thanks for the post. I’m happy to hear about the event in Elmira, and I’m glad it went well.

My best to the Snyder family.

Our PK and PP units look fantastic so far. I’m pretty astonished at how well everything has come together, but I also have no false hopes about the present. Time will tell whether this trend continues with the Thrashers.

The SOG differential is quite troubling. I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of the system we’re running or what, but whatever the deal is, I don’t like it. Even if those shots are coming to our netminders from bad angles, every attempt should be made by our defense to block the shot or fill the lane so the shot can’t get through. It almost feels like our defense is relying a little too heavy on Pavs and Moose to make the stop. That will hurt us in the end.

Toby

October 19th, 2009
9:56 am

One of the best stories I’ve read in a long time…Thanks Chris :)

GaVaHokie

October 19th, 2009
9:57 am

Damn Chris… if only you had one more hour to proof-read. ;)

Great article! Thanks for the info.

Toby

October 19th, 2009
9:58 am

Also…I’m sure you’ll be busy following this as well. After the Buffalo/meet with Grossman trip, all the outlets are writing up new Kovy stuff. Most of it seems positive…

Pretty much the same quotes from before the season started, but at least he hasn’t changed his opinion…

When asked about how the Thrashers were cautiously optimistic that he would soon sign a contract extension, the superstar winger answered: “Hopefully. I like it here. And I think they did a lot of good things during the offseason to sign some guys and I feel it’s the best team we’ve ever had. They took some good steps. So we’ll see. My agent is talking to them. I just want to focus on hockey.”

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=4575551&name=lebrun_pierre

Custance also has one with Dub saying he is still optimistic…

Bode

October 19th, 2009
10:04 am

Thank you for taking the time and presenting the Dan Snyder article. It is nice to hear that the Thrasher organization continues to support the family and honor Dan’s memory. Unfortunately I only saw Dan play for the Thrashers a couple of times. It wasn’t until later that I learned of his great determination and work ethic which led him to making into the NHL. In today times when it seems that everyone has more important things to do the Thrasher organization each year takes the time to honor Dan. It is also rewarding to hear that all of the players, most of whom, had never played with Dan, took the time to stay to accomodate all of the spectors and honor his memory. They are truly an unselfish group of individuals.
It was also interesting to read about Mrs. Snyder’s appreciation and close friendship with Kovalchuk. Let’s hope that he will and is re-signed to a contract.
Again, thanks, for a touching article.

DWTOO

October 19th, 2009
10:16 am

Really good piece Chris. The Snyders are truly a remarkable family. Hope that everyone in the organization and Kovy take Mrs. Snyder’s comments about him to heart. I’m proud of the fact that I have a small part in this through donations to the Snyder foundation.

Reading this brought back memories of the night Dan was honored before the Columbus game. I can still hear/see the bagpiper (which is amazing for me because I usually think bagpipes sound like someone stepping on a cat) playing Amazing Grace while Snyder’s picture from the Wolve’s locker room after winning the Calder Cup was on the Jumbotron.

j nes

October 19th, 2009
10:18 am

I appreciate your coverage of the team this year, but your multiple errors in this piece have a negative effect on my opinion of you as a professional writer. An error here and there is expected, especially on a “blog article,” but your carelessness throughout this article is disappointing.

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
10:23 am

Sorry folks for the typos. It was a little early in the morning and I don’t sleep well in hotels. Going back to fix the the small mistakes. Please excuse me as I was trying to get you something to read early before the plane departs.

Toby: I talked to Waddell about the Kovalchuk negotiations as well. It will be in my story posted later today. Didn’t figure to rush it online because everything remains the same. Talks continue and Waddell remains optimistic.

john10

October 19th, 2009
10:34 am

Nice job Chris! Thanks

Kaat

October 19th, 2009
10:35 am

Fantastic blog. I felt a little weepy reading it.

I love the human interest angles you are bringing to the table this season. To love the team, to sell the game (not your job I know), it helps would-be fans to feel they “know” players and peek behind the curtain. As well as know what kind of an organization they are putting their money into. For all the woes in the upper echelons of Atlanta Spirit going up there was a truly classy move.

What the Thrashers have done, and how they’ve supported the Snyder family is fantastic. I wonder what Heatley was doing yesterday (rude, I know).

In short, Chris, you moved me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have been there. Could the AJC do an online gallery of photos?

ChippersLoveChild

October 19th, 2009
10:41 am

Thanks again for the constant updates Chris. Nice piece on the Snyder event, really classy move by the Thrash, glad they did that. Now lets get another win and bring home a 4-1 roadtrip! Some tough ones coming at home this weekend with the Sharks and Caps…… Chris could you get a story with Heatley on Saturday and ask him why he is such a douc^%? ;)

Smoothie

October 19th, 2009
10:43 am

Chris, that was a wonderfully touching piece on the Snyder family and the event honoring Dan in Elmira yesterday. Bravo, well done! I’m sure it was difficult to keep from tearing up when talking to LuAnn. The Snyders are remarkable people and it is truly heart-warming to know that the Thrashers organization went out of their way (even requesting an early road date in Western NY) to deliver and share in a very memorable occasion for the folks in the Snyder’s home-town.

Perhaps LuAnn should take over for Waddell in negotiating Kovy’s new contract! ;-) Those are some very kind and heartfelt words about our Captain coming from Mrs. Snyder.

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
10:49 am

Thanks for the kind words folks. I do very much appreciate it. I trust you’ll find the typos fixed. Man, there were a few of them! Again sorry, I was just trying to get you something quick as I wrote from stream of conscious. Cut me a break j nes?

Kaat: I do have other photos. Perhaps I can do a digi-blog of them when I get back to Atlanta shortly. I have a couple of LuAnn Snyder hugging the players.

Bravos33

October 19th, 2009
11:33 am

I understand the shots of goal being potentially troubling. The 40 saves was staggering to me as well, but you also have to remember that, besides the Ottawa game, we have taken a multiple goal lead early in most of these games (NJD not until the 3rd). You could see a discernable style change from us in that we were taking fewer chances in the neutral zone and we were trying to just wait for our opponents to get over aggressive and make a mistake. Therefore, teams have somewhat piled up shots on us in the 2nd and 3rd. That being said, I do do not feel that many of these have been GREAT scoring chances. We have allowed shots, but not many with traffic in front of them and not many off of good passes deep in our zone. we have allowed our goaltenders to have good looks and we have cleaned up after the shots. I simply feel it is a product of the types of games we have played so far. But yes, we still need to lower that SOG total anyways! Any agreement there?

Bravos33

October 19th, 2009
11:41 am

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the pride felt by reading the comments about the event in Elmira. Excellent that you were able to be there, and I am very pleased that it appears our organization has handled the entire situation with class and respect. It seems as though this was a perfect time for such an event. The rebirth of #37’s spirit in the form of an arena memorializing him as well as the rebirth of our franchise into what I believe is a quality hockey team again. Hopefully the boys continue to play hockey that will honor the memory of Daniel Snyder.

Also, dont worry about the typos! You fixed them, and we knew what you meant anyways. Everyone deserves a break now and then!

Cranky

October 19th, 2009
12:27 pm

Those are some pretty agregious typos and grammatical errors. I hate to be that guy, but if I were a professional print journalist, or writer of any kind, I wouldn’t want my work being seen in such a state. BTW: There are still some in there. “immediately met by a women”? Really? “An handshake”? Yikes!

R. Stroz

October 19th, 2009
12:43 pm

C-Viv – Nice Piece. Maybe some of those errors were from tears blocking your view of the keyboard. You just can’t please everyone. Anyway, very well done.

d

October 19th, 2009
12:44 pm

Has Heatley done anything to support the Elmira Community Center – or does he simply pretend (publicly anyway) this tragic event in his past never happened? I’m not sure he ever completed his community service “punishment” in Atlanta before leaving town…

J.B.

October 19th, 2009
12:49 pm

i was actually just thinking that it would have been a huge gesture for heatley to attend as well.

j nes

October 19th, 2009
1:02 pm

Consider yourself out of the box Chris.

Get The Puck Out

October 19th, 2009
2:04 pm

I just read on ESPN rumors Kovy’s going to Boston???????

Alan R.

October 19th, 2009
2:13 pm

It has also been rumored that I won the lottery. Nevermind the fact that I’ve never been to Virginia in my life, but I am the newest Mega Millions lottery jackpot winner.

No, I’m not sharing. Get off my lawn.

Toby

October 19th, 2009
2:22 pm

All you need to know is that the article is titled:

lya Kovalchuk may be off to the East Coast.

Rumor is now dead because it’s obvious they don’t know what they are talking about.

J.B.

October 19th, 2009
2:34 pm

does anyone ever remember when tsn had us at #5 in their power rankings? …Because they do today!

Smoothie

October 19th, 2009
2:51 pm

J.B. – we’re # 5!!? FIVE?? Wow, the Canadian media really IS that obtuse, impulsive and dunder-headed. I mean, c’mon…how do we go from 27th / 28th to 5 that quickly? Don’t get me wrong I love our team and think we have loads of potential, but realistically we are somewhere in the range of #18 – # 12 if you ask me. Still a lot of work ahead.

Someone tell Kovy we’re # 5…he will surely put his name on the dotted line right after practice in MTL today…wow.

[...] Vivlamore documents his time in Elmira, Ontario to honor Dan Snyder.  Very good [...]

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
3:14 pm

j nes: Thanks! I did my five for bad typing.

Cranky: Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays. Don’t worry you’ll get over it. We hope. Look no typos!

All: Chicago Wolves fired head coach and assistant coach. Off to a 1-5 start.

Elmira Native

October 19th, 2009
3:27 pm

Thank-you to the Thrasher organization for making the day in Elmira memorable for a lot of people.
The kids were still buzzing last night at the Junior game and I am sure it was a hot topic at school today.

Your article was great and yes the Synder’s are a great family.
Time passes quickly and I still can’t believe it has been six years since they lost Dan.
But he and I am sure he was smiling yesterday.

For those of you who are curious yes Dany Heatley’s name is on the Contribution list plaque.

Alan R.

October 19th, 2009
3:33 pm

For those of you who are curious yes Dany Heatley’s name is on the Contribution list plaque.

Thanks for that info. It’s too bad he couldn’t be there yesterday for whatever reason. Sure, Heatley and the Thrashers part ways a long time ago, but it would have been nice to see him stand in solidarity with the Thrashers.

The Earl of Bud

October 19th, 2009
3:41 pm

Holy Cow J.B. I just fell over. All other stuff I agree here, great show by Thrashers in Elmira, PK is great, SOG sucks, and so on. While Todd White was mentioned, I have liked seeing him with Kane on the PK.

Vivs, the Thrashers are 7th in the league in faceoffs right now. As expected, Marty Reasoner is in the top 15 winning 57.7% of his draws, a few points better than last year for him. Oh and that guy that had to replace Reasoner on the 3rd line, Rich Peverley, he is #1 in the league winning 71.7% of his faceoffs.

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
3:46 pm

Breaking news: Thrashers working on contract extension for Rich Peverley. Expect it to be official in the next couple of days.

GaVaHokie

October 19th, 2009
3:46 pm

I just read on ESPN rumors Kovy’s going to Boston???????

Yeah, the “rumor” is apparently Blake Wheeler and Sobotka and some prospects… which is still about $7 million off of what Boston needs to free up to fit Kovy on their team.

… it’s all B.S.

The Earl of Bud

October 19th, 2009
3:47 pm

“but you also have to remember that, besides the Ottawa game, we have taken a multiple goal lead early in most of these games (NJD not until the 3rd).”

Bravos33 is right here, if we were playing from behind perhaps the SOG would look much different. I am more than happy to be giving up weak shots and coming back with odd-man rushes while playing with the lead. For crying out loud Thorburn scored shorthanded when we came up the ice on one of those rushes.

MB

October 19th, 2009
3:47 pm

Really terrific piece on the Elmira event and the Snyders, Chris. Felt myself puddle up a couple of times in admiration of the graciousness of the Snyder family, in appreciation of the class shown by the Thrashers organization with their ongoing support, and in pride reading LuAnn’s comments about the captain. Like many Thrasher fans, in the early days I suspected that Heatley would end up being the more complete player and a no-brainer choice for captaincy. I couldn’t be happier to be be so wrong and delight every time #17 exceeds expectations.

It would be interesting to mention the Elmira event to Heatley and ask what his relationship is with the Snyders these days.

GaVaHokie

October 19th, 2009
3:48 pm

Breaking news: Thrashers working on contract extension for Rich Peverley. Expect it to be official in the next couple of days.

Hell, F*ck Yeah… pardon my french… but you just made my day! That’s incredible news!!

The Earl of Bud

October 19th, 2009
3:48 pm

LOCK. PEVERLEY. UP.

Thanks Chris, that’s the kind of stuff we love reading about.

Smitty

October 19th, 2009
3:49 pm

Chris,

Did you get a chance to stop at the Landmark for a beef on weck or some wings while you were at the airport in BUF?

GaVaHokie

October 19th, 2009
3:53 pm

All: Chicago Wolves fired head coach and assistant coach. Off to a 1-5 start.

No surprise there… how can you lose with that line-up? That team is stacked… No excuse!

You’re on fire today Chris!! Keep it coming! :)

The Earl of Bud

October 19th, 2009
3:54 pm

Smitty you’re killing me, thanks for making me crave some food that I won’t get to eat for another couple months.

I have to say something again about Peverley. If Waddell gets that done he will have officially turned the corner for this team. Obviously the Kovalchuk signing is going to make or break us, but all the other pieces are clearly being put into place. The only other thing is to possibly do something with Little which I am not in a hurry on.

Eileen

October 19th, 2009
4:04 pm

Chris, your article about the Snyders really touched me. Thanks for all the details. Losing someone long before their time is especially painful. I am so impressed how they have turned their grief into something so positive for themselves and their community.

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
4:13 pm

Good news on Pevs. Thanks for the compliments. Some days I earn my pay!

Smitty:I didn’t have any decent food in Buffalo. My fault. It just turned out to be a busy trip. Not that anyone should feel sorry for me, but my two meals in the fine city – in two and a half days – was Denny’s (next door to the hotel) and McDonalds on the drive home from Elmira. I know, I suck.

Cranky

October 19th, 2009
4:25 pm

Careful, Chris. You know what Lawrence says about someone saying “…case of the Mondays.” :)

You’ll have to forgive me, I am a journalist myself, so I may hold you to a higher standard than others. You may be alright with publishing/posting with mistakes in order to rush the info out, but I can’t stomach the thought of someone thinking ill of my writing skills. My skills are nowhere near perfect, however I wouldn’t blame someone for questioning my credibility and dedication if I included similar errors in a publication…as a matter of fact, I’d most likely be in big trouble.

While I won’t apologize for being a harsh judge of your technical skills I will praise the substance of the Dan Snyder Memorial story. I won’t comment on your practices anymore. Just keep the Thrashers info coming. Thanks!

R. Stroz

October 19th, 2009
5:18 pm

If Waddell gets that done he will have officially turned the corner for this team.

Well, it’s about time. It only took him about ten years.

Smoothie

October 19th, 2009
5:20 pm

The Thrashers record without Peverley last year: 14-24-5

The Thrashers record since the Peever was plucked off waivers: 25-18-1

Richard “Ricky Pevs” Peverley has 42 points in 44 games as a Thrasher.

I would say that is some convincing evidence for a contract extension.

Congratulations to a great player and a fantastic lockeroom guy!!

Nate

October 19th, 2009
5:21 pm

Bob McKenzie gave a fair assessment of the Kovalchuk negotiations on NHL Live today after being asked by Hradek. He said it’s all about winning for Kovalchuk and that Ilya doesn’t really care about the money. He thinks as long as the Thrashers continue to win and move in the right direction he’ll re-sign during the season. He says Ilya just doesn’t want to get stuck in a situation where he’s already signed and the team starts to slide one or two months from now. I know it’s nothing earth shattering but he could’ve taken jabs at the Thrashers and really didn’t.

Cranky's Critic

October 19th, 2009
5:30 pm

A dependent clause should be followed by a comma.

While I won’t apologize for being a harsh judge of your technical skills is a dependent clause which should be followed by a comma prior to I will praise the substance of the Dan Snyder Memorial story..

LAC

October 19th, 2009
5:38 pm

Sounds like marian hossa all over AGAIN !!!!

Chris Vivlamore

October 19th, 2009
5:50 pm

Cranky: Please hold me to your high standard. I hope I didn’t come off as annoyed. I’m just having a little fun – at my own expense. Obviously as a former editor I feel proper grammar is a necessary practice. Sometimes I rush in this “new age” of journalism. It’s often hard to edit yourself. Please let me know. Oh, and thanks for getting my Office Space reference!

Todd

October 19th, 2009
5:55 pm

What is up with cranky’s critic? We don’t really care what you have to say!! We are blue collar hockey fans.. We don’t speak The Queen’s English, forget about it!!