It’s a little after 10 on a magnificent Friday morning in Manhattan when, walking among the thousands on 42nd Street, we bump into three guys from Ottawa — Chris Phillips, Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil.
"What are the odds?" I say a few moments later to Bruce Garrioch. "This city ain’t so big after all."
Now, I’m thinking we might even be able to find Milan Michalek. I hear he’s here, but I don’t think I actually saw him the night before during a 4-2 loss to the Rangers that leaves the Senators one down after one game in a best-of-seven.
"That’s a little harsh, isn’t it?" says Tony "Trigger" Caldwell, the third member of Team Sun spreading the news from and surrounding the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Probably, but this is New York. Everybody’s harsh. Besides, Trigger is the same person who, moments later, expressed what I believe are the sentiments of many Senators fans back home.
"They say you’re not in trouble in a playoff series until you lose a game at home," recalled Trigger. "But the Senators are in trouble."
They can still go home Saturday night all even up in this series if they can get their offence going again. Counting the regular season, they now have six goals in their last four outings. That’s a bit of a rut, right?
Capable of leading them out of it is Michalek, the Senators streaky marksmen. He had a team high 35 goals in 77 games, or one every 2.something times he hit the ice.
He’s a fine fellow and he works quite hard, but presently he’s not producing. Michalek hasn’t scored in four games, since he was the star in the team’s last win, and against the Rangers Thursday he had just two shots on net.
Or so says the stats. I didn’t see them.
"Excuse me," I say to a security guard, a big man we’ll call Bubba, who’s walking through Times Square. "Have you see Milan Michalek?"
"What is that?" replies Bubba.
"Not a what. A who. He plays for the Senators," I tell him.
"The Washington Senators?" he says.
"No, the NHL’s Ottawa Senators," I tell him.
"I don’t watch hockey," he says.
"Oh, so you didn’t see the Senators crush the Rangers 7-0 last night then," I say.
"I’d rather watch tennis," he replies.
"Please," I say.
"In hockey they fight until they drop, then all is good, right?" Bubba asks. "I’m not like that. I got eight brothers. You hit me with a stick, I’m gonna wait for you in the parking lot and smash your teeth in."
I decide at that point to stop hitting Bubba with my schtick. I say see ya and follow Bruce and Trigger into the NHL store. Alas, there’s not even a Michalek jersey there.
Back in the centre of the Square, people are trying to sell us on taking in a Comedy Central taping that night.
"Sorry, I’m working," I tell the guy.
"There’s two shows," he says.
"And there’s four NHL playoff games on TV," I tell him.
"Fair enough," he says.
Trigger decides he wants a photo of me with the Statue of Liberty. Under the costume, this Lady Liberty is a dude. His name is Amadou Tandia. He figures one pose should be of him kissing me on the cheek. "The Liberty peck," he says.
For another, he says I should plant one on him. What the heck, eh? I get close — I swear I didn’t actually kiss him — but quickly pull away. Amandou smells. At least his mask does, anyway.
"Have you seen Milan Michalek?" I ask him.
"No, but The Naked Cowboy is here from 1-2 p.m.," he says.
"Thanks, I’m looking for Michalek. You haven’t seen him?"
"No, but a lot of people come by at noon," Amandou informs me.
A block away, I seek the assistance of New York’s finest.
"Have you seen Milan Michalek?" I ask Officer Finnerty.
"Who’s he?" the cop replies.
"Plays for the Senators," I say.
"Are you supposed to meet him here?" he asks.
"No, but I might file a missing person’s report," I say.
"I’ll keep my eye out for a hockey player," says Finnerty. "I’ll just look for a guy with no teeth."
I love New York. I really do. I love our hotel on Fifth Avenue, even though only one elevator is working and we’re on the 21st floor. I love Cafe Charlie next door. It may be a glorified deli, but to me it’s the finest restaurant in NYC.
And I love the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden. The fans can be vulgar, some may think Senators versus Rangers is actually a Canada-U.S. war, but the majority are passionate and loud and make much more of an impact than the customers supporting the home team at Scotiabank Place.
I’m sorry, but that’s a fact.
Away from the rink, however, New York is just too big to have any real playoff fever. The best two-month tournament in sports actually gets lost in this city.
And, thus far, anyway, the same can be said for Milan Michalek.
Yes, after one game, that is a little harsh.
But when in New York …