September is almost here! So is hockey.


It’s a wonderful Saturday morning in the land of the forgotten borough of Staten Island in the Big Apple. I drove around past Richmond Town to my favorite old bagel spot that I used to frequent some 26 years ago in high school.

Ah. The good old days of Staten Island Tech. When the autumn wind blew the beautifully colored leaves around as they crackled like Rice Krispies as I walked from the S74 bus stop a few blocks to school.

That’s the kind of day it is. Mid 60’s going up to 75 with little humidity. A classic Fall day a month early. It is the final week of what feels like the longest August in recent memory. Maybe it’s due to the long offseason. I have no idea. Or quite possibly the ridiculousness of so many big name restricted free agents still unsigned. Patrik Laine. Kyle Connor. Mikko Rantanen. Matthew Tkachuk. Mitch Marner. Zach Werenski. Charlie McAvoy. Ivan Provorov.

You get the silly idea. It’s ludicrous. That’s what the salary cap has done. Teams don’t know how to properly spend money. They are mostly irresponsible and spend recklessly. The cap hasn’t solved anything. The Rangers are banking on Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux to accept their qualifying offers for the good of the team. If they each do, both can play for better contracts next summer and become arbitration eligible.

So, what should we be looking forward to? That maybe these contract impasses will cease. I still am building in anticipation of what the Maple Leafs plan to do with Marner. Toronto is so easy to mock. They gave John Tavares all that money and still couldn’t escape the first round by falling to pieces in Game Seven at archival Boston. When are the Leafs gonna win a playoff round? There will be lots of pressure.

There hasn’t been much going on. Old buddy Derick Brassard found a new home with the Islanders after passing up the Oilers (shocker). So, Big Game Brass goes to Brooklyn and Long Island on a cheap one-year deal for $1.2 million. Can he get his career back on track? It’s a decent fit. He can slot in behind Mat Barzal and Brock Nelson as the third line center, replacing Valtteri Filppula. Brassard went from a clutch postseason performer with the Rangers to a NHL nomad. He went from Ottawa to Pittsburgh to Florida and then Colorado in record fashion. Now, it’s the Islanders for team number five over two years. Not even.

Remember when the Blueshirts gave him that five-year, $25 million contract? What happened? What about that monster Game Six when he went off in a blowout at Tampa to stave off elimination? It’s hard to believe that was only four years ago. It was a cruel ending to that team and they let Alain Vigneault have one more kick at the can. His infamous words. If only they had beaten Brassard and the Senators in 2016. Mika Zibanejad was in his first year here. Jeff Gorton’s best trade.

So, what is there to get excited about? No. I’m not going Gaga over third jerseys returning to Broadway. Even if it’s Liberty ones. Please not the cheesy white. Did anyone get a look at the awful uniforms baseball teams are wearing this weekend? The oddest color white and by far the ugliest black jersey I’ve ever seen. Complete with nicknames. Unless you’re Brett Gardner. He just wants to let the umpires know who he is. Kidding. Those are hideous.

I never cared much for alternate jerseys. Put me down as a classic home white and road blue for the Rangers. Yes. It’s time to ditch the color jersey back for the more traditional white at home. I know the Ducks are gonna have those cool Mighty Ducks logo jerseys for select games. Are the Sharks gonna rock those awesome road turquoise blue with that fancy logo? Let’s hope so. The Canucks are bringing back their best jerseys. The ultra cool 90’s with the kickass logo. Those were the best. Think Pavel Bure flying down the ice and burying one for a highlight reel goal. Go look at some of his numbers for goal breakdown on even strength and power play in different seasons. There was no one like the Russian Rocket.

It’s a real bummer about Evgeny Kuznetsov. Sure. He won’t face any discipline for testing positive for cocaine at the 2019 World Championships. However, good on the IIHF to suspend him four years from representing Russia in international play. He has sought help from the NHL Substance Abuse and Recovery program. A good step. Let’s hope for his sake, he makes a full recovery. Cocaine is dangerous. Kuzy’s production was way down last year. It didn’t make sense. Now, we might have an idea why. He denied rumors that he did coke. Now, he’s admitted it and taken responsibility. Best wishes to him in his recovery.

It’s weird for me because it takes me back to the Theo Fleury days. Those were chaotic times for the Blueshirts. He punched the Sharks mascot after getting tossed out of a game. I can still remember quite well meeting him at a book signing and reading the heavy details of his epic struggle which stemmed from being sexually abused as a preteen. It’s still disgusting and sickens me. Fleury could have been another statistic, but he didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he turned his life around and wrote two great books, did multiple interviews and finally spoke out. He truly is someone I admire. It took tremendous courage. I’m glad he is such a great advocate for mental health.

Fleury still belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I know he will probably never get in due to how it derailed. He doesn’t need it. He’s already one in my book. And you know how political those things are anyway. Alexander Mogilny and Jeremy Roenick are still waiting. So is Curtis Joseph. So yeah.

I’m really looking forward to hockey. The excitement of prospect tournaments with both the Rangers and Devils boasting some of the game’s best young players is great. Then training camp and preseason. It’s going to be fun again for the Hudson Rivalry.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the baseball and football. Yes. Football is back tonight. I’m holding out hope for my Hurricanes that they’ll surprise me at Florida. Chop up the Gators!

God bless Michael Irvin! 😁😂

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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