by Patrick Hoffman on 04/12/10 at 08:04 PM ET
With the Rangers’ season officially over, I figured now would be as good a time as any to interview Adam Raider, one of the author’s of 100 Ranger Greats, a terrific book on the Blueshirts.
Adam was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into the sport, how he started covering the sport, which outlets he has written for, his thoughts on the book and working with John Halligan and last but not least, his thoughts on the current disappointing Rangers’ squad.
PH: How did you first get into hockey?
AR: I grew up 20 minutes from Yankee Stadium, idolized Reggie Jackson, and collected baseball cards. As a kid, I had no awareness of hockey. By the time I was a teenager, I had essentially stopped following sports of any kind (you can thank George Lucas for that).
But a funny thing happened when I got to college. First, I discovered grain alcohol. Then I discovered hockey. Some of my roommates were big fans of the sport, and I got into it through them. It very quickly became an obsession, particularly the history of the game. I had never heard of people like Marcel Dionne, Terry Sawchuk, Stan Mikita, or “Phantom Joe” Malone, so I read about them and all the legends of yesteryear. Then I memorized records and statistics. I think I can still name every Stanley Cup champion from 1961 to the present. I could … but I won’t.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
AR: I am a proud, albeit frustrated, Rangers fan. As for favorite players, I tend to gravitate towards the underdogs and “unsung heroes” who bring depth and character to a team. My current favorite is Ryan Callahan. For me, Ryan represents everything a Ranger should be: he’s professional, he plays every shift like it’s his last, he contributes at both ends of the ice, and he’s cooperative with the media. You couldn’t ask for a better representative of the organization and the city. Every Rangers scout should be given this simple directive: go find the next Ryan Callahan.
PH: When did you first know that you wanted to be a hockey writer?
AR: My first reporting job was covering general news for a small weekly newspaper in Connecticut. I wrote about politics, education, crime, etc. For a while, I found it to be very rewarding. I felt as if we were providing an important service to the community. But the work started to become repetitive, and I decided that if I was going to be a journalist, I preferred to write about a subject that I enjoyed.
PH: Tell us which outlets you have covered hockey for.
AR: Prior to the NHL lockout of 2004-05, I contributed articles to all of the major hockey magazines in the U.S. and Canada. I also spent eight seasons as the NHL columnist for New England Hockey Journal. I wrote extensively about the business of the sport for magazines like Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, but also covered events like the Stanley Cup Finals, the NHL Entry Draft, and the Frozen Four. Unfortunately, the lockout effectively killed my freelance career by driving many of the magazines I wrote for, including Hockey Digest, The Hockey Magazine, and Face-Off (UK), out of business. I don’t really miss it, though. I have found that I much prefer working on bigger projects like books.
PH: You were one of the authors of the terrific Rangers book, 100 Ranger Greats. What was that experience like?
AR: It was a tremendous amount of work but also a lot of fun. I learned so much about the history of the Rangers and took great pleasure in recalling that history for our readers. Then, of course, there is the business side of publishing, which can be really unforgiving. It took years for myself, John Halligan and Russ Cohen to find the right publisher for our book. The waiting was unbearable at times, but our patience was rewarded. We are very happy with the finished product.
PH: Tell us about what it was like to work with John Halligan? He was a mentor to a lot of us (including me) and I’m sure people would love to hear about your experience working with him?
AR: John has been described as a true gentleman and someone who treated everyone as his equal. That was certainly my experience with him, both as a friend and as a writing partner. I absolutely loved working with him on 100 Ranger Greats. His knowledge of the team was unrivaled and the material he contributed to the book was pure gold. He had a great sense of humor, too, which came in handy when our collective spirits were down. John had no shortage of ideas and he was looking forward to collaborating with us on future projects. His passing was a shock to all of us, and I miss him very much.
PH: Do you and Russ have any plans in the future to write another book on the Blueshirts?
AR: There is talk of another book involving the Rangers, but it would be very different from 100 Ranger Greats. For now, that’s all I can really say about it. We are also each working on solo projects, some of which involve hockey, while some do not. I am currently finishing a book about the Minnesota North Stars.
PH: Now for some actual hockey talk - what do you think of the Rangers’ season this year? Name the good, the bad, surprises, disappointments, etc.
AR: The Rangers were a wildly inconsistent team, and the negatives far outweighed the positives. Among the highlights were the arrival of rookie Michael Del Zotto and the late-season acquisitions of Brandon Prust and Jody Shelley. Del Zotto shows a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to following his maturation on the blue line. Prust and Shelley were thought to be one-dimensional goons, so it was nice to see that they could thrive in expanded roles. I was also pleasantly surprised that Marian Gaborik stayed relatively healthy in his first season as a Ranger. He was, too often, the team’s only real offensive threat. As always, Henrik Lundqvist was the team’s most valuable player. Without him, there would not have been any realistic chance for the Rangers to make the playoffs.
Chris Higgins, Ales Kotalik, and Donald Brashear all bombed on Broadway, Chris Drury had the lowest offensive totals in his pro career, the defense was spotty, and coach John Tortorella struggled to find any consistent line combinations until the very end of the season. I would argue that he made poor use of the assets at his disposal, both in New York and Hartford (I’m also not fond of the way he treats team broadcasters and other members of the media, but that’s a gripe for another day).
The shootout loss in Philadelphia that eliminated the Rangers from postseason contention was just the most recent in a string of bitter disappointments. Fans older than you and me have been suffering through games like that for 50 years.
PH: What does the team need to do to improve in the offseason?
AR: This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, I could tell you the Rangers need a big, physical defenseman, a playmaking center, and another goal-scoring winger. But these would be short-term remedies for a much bigger and older problem.
The truth, as I see it, is that this team was not constructed properly. It is a collection of ill-fitting pieces, and has been for over a decade. The long-term solution is a change of front office personnel and philosophy—one that focuses on building through the draft and better management of the salary cap. You can’t buy chemistry, and that’s the ingredient the Rangers always seem to lack.
PH: Any words of wisdom for Kukla’s Korner readers?
AR: With their knowledge, passion, and loyalty, hockey fans deserve the best possible coverage of their sport. Sites like Kukla’s Korner exist to offer alternative viewpoints to mainstream media, and I hope that in the years ahead, the NHL and its member clubs provide better access to bloggers. They can’t afford not to.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.