Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa Brown on 09/03/11 at 04:30 AM ET
On Wednesday August 31st, Gene Principe and Robin Brownlee had a very long interview with former Oiler prospect Jason Bonsignore. I needed a few days to digest what Bonsignore had said and to look for the other side. Robin Brownlee stated that “I’ve e-mailed John Rosasco, VP of public relations with the New York Rangers, told him about the interview with Bonsignore, provided a link to the audio on the TEAM 1260 site and offered to have Glen Sather offer his version of events, if he so desires. I’m waiting to hear back.” I would very much like to hear what Sather has to say as a rebuttal.
In the meantime, Mark Spector discussed his thoughts on Bonsignore with Principe an hour after the marathon interview with the ill-fated Oiler. Spector paints quite a different picture, as did Grant Fuhr.
Speaking with Principe, Fuhr said he had to run the same stairs, only he had to do it in goalie equipment. He added “Glen liked to push the young guys, to be as good as they could be. I think it’s all about how you take it.”
Spector didn’t start off gently, he jumped right in; “The kid never got into proper shape, he had a silver spoon in his mouth, he thought they owed him a job in the National Hockey League, he sassed the head coach whenever he had the chance, he figured he was there before he was even close. You getting my point yet?”
Although there were a few prospects that never quite worked out with the Oilers, Bonsignore was the highest pick to be a “bust.” Spector points out though, “What happened when he tried out for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who wronged him there?”
The main point that Spector made was “You’re a professional, get in shape.” He repeated for emphasis, “Get in shape and you won’t have a problem.” Oilers fans are likely thinking of Dustin Penner at this point ad wondering what was going on behind the scenes there.
“This kid was a classic whiner from the very beginning. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. I never had a problem with him, but I was on the beat when he was playing for the Oilers. He acted like he was a 6/7/8 year veteran when he spoke to me as a media member. He was a classic whiner and a kid that thought the world owed him a job. The proof’s in the pudding; if he was a good enough player, he’d be playing for somebody. There’s 30 teams in this league and they’re all dying for right handed 6’4” centremen with a scoring touch and he just couldn’t play.”
With a term like “classic whiner,” you have to think that it was not a onetime only situation.
“He had every chance. They didn’t pick him fourth overall because he couldn’t play junior, because he didn’t have every opportunity. He didn’t have the ticker. He didn’t have the heart to train, he didn’t have the heart to earn it, he didn’t have the heart to work at it. He was like the anti Ryan Smyth. I’ll tell you right now, at that stage of his life, he had way more talent and god given size and speed and physical ability than Ryan Smyth ever had. Smytty’s reached a 1000 games and he never played 100. It’s about what lies in his chest and probably more so what’s between his ears. He never figured it out, Smytty figured out, I know the kind of player I can be. My abilities allow me to crash a net and to try real hard. I better have a tonne of heart or I’m never going to make it. Smytty got in a thousand games and this kid never got 50 because he never figured it out. It’s a shame, but it’s a fact.”
Mark Spector worked closely with the Oilers, closely with the players and the staff. He would have watched not only games but practices and everything in between giving him ample opportunities to come to his conclusions.
Someone else that had opportunity to interview and observe Bonsignore was Bill Drake, Media Relations for the Springfield Falcons during Bonsignore’s time with the organization. Drake recalls “He played very well, perhaps some of the best hockey of his career while he was on two consecutive ATO contracts (these contracts are try-out contracts that last a week), then he was signed to a yearlong contract. He continued to play well at the AHL level and was producing at a point-per-game pace until he signed a two-way deal with Phoenix, the parent club of Springfield at that time, and then he started to lose some of his finish.”
It seems during Bonsignore’s time in Springfield, “The talk in the pressbox was that he was great while working for a contract, playing with something to prove, but once he signed long-term he would coast.”
Drake recalls that Bonsignore “Played very well over the time that he had an ATO contract until he signed a two-way contract with Phoenix. He didn’t last the season.”
It appears as though Bonsignore’s relationship with some members of the media didn’t improve much after he left Edmonton “From what I recall he wasn’t the most talkative to the media. Sort of a do my thing, get on the bike, shower and get back to the hotel kind of guy, but who can blame him at that point in his career.”
Without knowing Bonsignore personally or being in the rink at the time of the events, it’s hard to know where the whole truth lies. However, with more people close to the teams Bonsignore played for indicating that Bonsignore didn’t do all he could on a consistent basis perhaps Oilers fans were right all along. Bonsignore may feel that he let the people of Edmonton down, but that’s because he did in many ways.
There is no way to go back in time, but after Bonsignore’s interview, I want to believe that he wishes that things could have been different. Wishing things could have been different doesn’t make them different, but it gives us something to talk and think about during the off-season.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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