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Victor Hedman’s American Eagle flight from Toronto landed at Laguardia on Sunday at 4:25 pm, where he was greeted by a Point Blank reader who works the checkpoint. Victor was described by our man Pete as “a complete gentleman.” Pete told Hedman to make sure the Islanders take him to Jones Beach. The defenseman from Sweden asked about the women of New York.
“He is tall in size, but looks like he needs to fill in a lot,” Pete relayed via email. “I wouldn’t call him the second coming of Zdeno Chara, but he’s big. He’s got the frame to be a force to be reckoned with.” After grabbing his luggage, Hedman got into his Islanders-arranged limo. He is accompanied on the trip by his agent, Peter Wallen.
I was thinking about Hedman’s visit Sunday night, of how he said he was visiting the Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning back-to-back this week. No question, the young man will be warmly welcomed and charmed by the ownership and management of both teams. However, I was thinking about the difference in the facilities Hedman will be touring.
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and NHL arena in Tampa Bay will make Victor think he visited teams in completely different leagues. The St. Pete Times Forum is a palace, as those of you who have attended a game there know well. The accomodations for the home team – the locker room, the change room, the stick room, the workout spaces, the family and wives lounges – are spectacular. As for the Coliseum, by comparison it’s like the high school gym in Hoosiers.
But then I flipped on NBC Sunday nnight and thought, big Filppula’n deal. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, played at the home of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, also a very out-dated hockey barn. Both the Coliseum and The Joe have something else in common: history.
What will the enormous difference in arenas in Nassau and Tampa Bay mean to Victor Hedman? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
In the case of cornerstone players like Hedman and John Tavares, it’s not about the building.
It’s about the kind of team you’re building.
It’s about who’s doing the building.
It’s about the kind of players you want to build around.
Victor: welcome to Long Island, New York, United States of America.
Late Sunday night, I tracked down Hedman agent Peter Wallen in New York.
What are your expectations for Victor’s meeting with the Islanders on Monday?
It’s all about Garth Snow and Victor getting to know each other. I’m sure they’ll show Victor around the arena and Long Island, talk about the areas where most of the players live, talk about the direction of the team. It’s just a chance for them to get to know Victor and for Victor to learn more about the franchise. I don’t have the itinerary. I just know we get picked up by a car in the morning.
How badly does Victor want to be the first overall pick by the Islanders?
Very badly. It would be a dream come true for him, I know that. But I also know that if he goes to 2 or 3, he will still be very happy and very proud. That said, going to the Islanders at 1 would be very big for him.
Do you think Victor is going to be the first overall pick in the draft?
That’s impossible to know. I think we might not even know until the night of the draft. I mean, if you’re the Islanders and you have the first pick in this draft with two or three really great players, you’re going to get a lot of offers for the pick. Victor could go No. 1, and it might not even be with the Islanders.
That’ll stir it up, Peter. Do you already have a working relationship with Islanders management?
Not much of a history with them. When I had a partner in my agency, he handled Mattias Weinhandl and I did some work with them. But I know Ryan Jankowski very well and we talk a lot. I also have a good relationship with Anders Kallur. The Islanders have good people.
Any other connections to the Islanders?
This is good. You’ll like this. A long time ago, when I was 14 years old, I traveled from Sweden with my youth hockey team to a tournament in Canada. They told us we would be staying with local families. I got placed in the house of Mike Bossy’s family.
Yes! It was 1979 and he was already a big star with the Islanders. His parents were so nice to me. My second week there, the Islanders played the Canadiens in the Montreal Forum. The Bossys took me downstairs to meet him and Mike gave me his stick. I still have it, 30 years later. A Titan.
Do you leave for Tampa Bay on Monday night?
Change in plans. The NHL is hosting some of the top prospects at Game 3, so we leave New York late Monday afternoon and travel to Pittsburgh. On Wednesday we’ll be in Tampa Bay.
Do you think it will matter to Victor that the Lightning’s arena is state-of-the-art and the Islanders don’t have a deal yet for a new facility?
It’s out of Victor’s hands. He’ll sign with the team that drafts him and he’ll play there this season. Secondly, it’s the NHL! It’s the culmination of a life-long dream. The arena doesn’t matter. I mean, shut up and play.
From talking to your client on Thursday, he seems like an impressive young man. For all we know, the Islanders may have become enamored with John Tavares when he came to the Island two weeks ago. But I believe there’s a good chance they’ll be just as impressed with Victor.
I agree with you, which is why the Islanders should draft him. He’s a special player and a great young man.