I’ll be 100 percent honest here. For as long as I’ve rooted for this team, Larry Brooks has been around for all of it. A veteran reporter of the New York Post, he’s been there since the beginning.
The Hockey Hall of Fame hockey writer certainly has earned the reputation of being at times controversial to get a story. However, he also has guts. He’s sometimes willing to go the extra mile to get the information that readers want. I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Brooks, who at times can push the envelope. That’s how it is with most sportswriters.
Things sure have changed since I got into the Rangers as a teenager. The decade of the 90’s was way different than today’s ultra sensitive generation. It was a lot more relaxed. The focus was almost exclusively on whatever team the reporter covered. Unless it was a huge story off the field, court or ice like Yankees owner George Steinbrenner getting suspended for hiring Howie Spira to spy on Dave Winfield, the play of the team was the story.
That’s how it was when Brooks shifted from covering the Devils to the Rangers three decades ago. He was around for the classic Eastern Conference Final in ’94. Even if it was covering it from the other side, his game stories and columns were first rate. So too was his infamous Slap Shots Sunday column that somehow has stood the test of time. Only back then, it was more fun to read. Could the Rangers really have had Brendan Shanahan for Alexei Kovalev? As big a Kovalev fan as I was, it sure would’ve been a better trade than the one Neil Smith made. No way could it have been straight up.
Having been around the sport as long as he has, Brooks decided to do some homework and get Tony DeAngelo to break his silence. Since being dismissed by the Rangers organization for the altercation with goalie Alex Georgiev after an overtime loss to the Pens in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, the 25-year old offensive defenseman has kept quiet about what happened. He’s kept a low profile on social media except for positive stories on Instagram involving nothing controversial. Probably wise on his part.
My question was would any Rangers beat writer actually touch base with DeAngelo. I had to figure not any of the recent new beats. That also sadly applies to a well respected veteran who just cowers in fear due to their relationship with the organization. Sad if you ask me. What ever happened to professionalism and intestinal fortitude? This is why I dislike how sports are covered currently. If there’s a good story out there that’s not being told, it should be pursued.
Unfortunately, there was a dishonest fan blog that went too far by having a fraudulent blogger make up rumors about the polarizing DeAngelo. That crossed the line. They intentionally tried to smear the reputation of the already questionable DeAngelo by making it racial. I recall when K’Andre Miller scored his first NHL goal. DeAngelo went and got the puck. He didn’t do what he was falsely accused of. Something even ESPN reporter Greg Wyshynski investigated. He didn’t make it political. Instead, he got the truth through Miller’s agent. It was good work.
At that moment a week ago, that should’ve dispelled the notion of said player being unfairly labeled something they’re not by bitter nobodys who have nothing better to do with their time. I’ve stated this before and I’ll repeat it. Those aren’t fans. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Nobody knows what’s happening with DeAngelo off the ice in private. I have some knowledge of what his situation was, but who knows what it is now. Hopefully, it’s better.
When the Rangers took a chance and acquired DeAngelo from the Coyotes as part of the Derek Stepan salary dump that involved former goalie Annti Raanta which also netted now former Ranger Lias Andersson with the number seven pick, the organization was aware of his reputation. One that dated back to his days playing in the OHL. They knew the player had talent. But it came at a price.
At first, it didn’t go well for DeAngelo, who often found himself a healthy scratch under former coach Alain Vigneault. In the first year under David Quinn, it was similar. Particularly in the first half of ’18-19. The new coach pointedly said that his benching wasn’t hockey related. It was due to his immaturity. Something that still plagues him following a career year where he paced all Blueshirts’ defensemen in scoring with 53 points. He did it by accepting their qualifying offer to earn a bridge deal worth $4.8 million on average cap hit. The contract expires next year unless he’s bought out this off-season. Something they can’t afford to do given their salary cap situation.
With the team up and down since DeAngelo went home to South Jersey where he’s been skating with 18-year olds at a local rink, Brooks went and contacted the 25-year old defenseman to get his side of the story. But also to finally put an end to the unsubstantiated rumors that have embarrassed Rangerstown. It’s absolutely appalling how low they’ll go. Not even a retraction from the person in charge. They’re responsible for this garbage. The sad aspect is they once ran a respectable blog until they added a dishonest person with no integrity.
The worst part was seeing Team President John Davidson have to address these people during a press conference. He called it embarrassing. The best part is the well respected JD wouldn’t name the guilty party. Neither would GM Jeff Gorton. They didn’t get the satisfaction. Instead, we heard even well respected reporters like Elliotte Friedman confirming that it was all made up. That it reached Canada tells us the ridiculous nature of things.
That’s what you now have in a world full of PC nonsense. You have to be careful what you believe. There are toxic people out there who make up rumors to be heard. They don’t do it for any other reason than to draw attention to themselves. It feeds into the negativity that now exists on Twitter. We must distinguish fact from fiction. I only trust reliable sources like TSN or Sportsnet or in this case, the veteran Post writer Brooks, who dug deep to write a good story.
I may not always agree with him, but he deserves a lot of credit for speaking to DeAngelo and former D partner and high character teammate Marc Staal. Staal dismissed the silly notion about his ex-teammate and wished him well. If you don’t think Staal is missed in that locker room, then you haven’t been paying attention. It looks like Quinn was justified in not naming a captain. Neither Chris Kreider or Mika Zibanejad are ready to carry the mantle. Their inconsistent play is proof. They’re easily the biggest disappointments in the Rangers’ first 13 games.
What Brooks discovered from interviewing DeAngelo is that he’s not interested in defending himself. He knows he screwed up a good thing. The truth is he would love an opportunity to prove himself to another NHL team. He emphasized on and off the ice. When a controversial player acknowledges that his mouth has got him in trouble, it’s a big admission. What is he doing to improve that crucial issue? Here’s part of what he told Brooks in an exclusive story that appears in Sunday’s NY Post.
“Hockey-wise, there are mistakes that I have made. I’ve gotten hot-headed at times. I’m the first one to admit that and I take responsibility for it. I’ve tried to learn and get better and better at it, but there are still times where things have happened and emotionally I’ve gone over the line a little bit, and I accept responsibility for that. The thing with Alex, exactly like he said, emotions got away.
“I wish things had happened differently, but like I said before, I’m not in any way playing the victim card.”
In regards to being suspended as an 18-year old for harassing a Sarnia Sting teammate in the OHL, he was remorseful. It also wasn’t racial as had been rumored by people who just can’t help themselves.
“I accepted responsibility for it then, I still accept responsibility for it now. I learned from it. I make a mistake with something I said,” DeAngelo said. “I explained myself many times to any NHL team I met with [leading up to the 2015 entry draft], the people in the OHL I met with back then, I apologized to my teammate who I was still friends with following the incident.
“It was mistake. There was no excuse for it. I wish it had never happened. But it will never happen again.”
Miller’s agent also confirmed that the puck story was totally fabricated. Of course it was. He gave the puck to team personnel so it could be presented to Miller. The things some people believe.
“K’Andre Miller was never part of any part of the Tony DeAngelo story at all,” Ian Pulver, Miller’s agent, told The Post on Friday. “There were no issues between them of any kind. There is no reason he should be part of this.
“As far as the first-goal puck being an issue, K’Andre never even knew it to be an issue. It was always his understanding that the puck was with the training staff. It’s not right that he has become part of this story.”
Staal also didn’t have anything negative to say about his former teammate who initially drew interest from the Red Wings. If Steve Yzerman was interested in reacquiring a player he dealt from Tampa to Arizona, that should be satisfactory enough to show that real hockey executives don’t judge players on made up rumors. Rather talent. There are questions about his character.
“There has never been any indication at all that Tony has racist tendencies,” No. 18 told The Post. “I hear these things about him, and it’s as if they’re talking about a different person. The guys here in Detroit, they’re all super-curious about him.
“I feel bad for him, to be honest. Whether it’s the junior stuff that warps into this, I don’t know. He’s a lightning rod, and yeah, he yells at coaches and referees and he has these moments where he goes overboard, but he’s a good teammate.
“Racist? I’m telling you, some of this stuff is just insane.”
DeAngelo admitted to Brooks that the stuff he said about COVID was wrong. As sometimes is the case online, things can get misconstrued. He didn’t word it right.
“The post about COVID, it was taken out of context,” DeAngelo said. “I shouldn’t have tweeted it, obviously, but I was commenting more about how the media was covering it following the election, the parades after the election that President Biden won, there were no more worries about masks and social distancing in the street compared to the way the Trump rallies were portrayed.
“That was my point, not that the virus wasn’t real. There have been family members and friends that have had it. I respect the seriousness nature of it, I have followed all the health and safety protocols. I didn’t explain it well on that tweet, but it’s important for me to do that now. I’m not a COVID-denier.”
As we are well aware, DeAngelo was a Trump supporter. He made that very clear on social media. Maybe too much so with him being a professional athlete. Personally, I don’t care who these players support or what they think. There’s way too much emphasis on it. As long as you behave well and represent the logo on the front, that’s what I care about. We root for each player to do well. When they don’t or mess up as he did, we’re disappointed.
I am not a phony like these political ingrates who root for the demise of people. It’s a complete disgrace to the city. I could critique many things I don’t like about how NYC is run. But this isn’t the time or place for that. What I can do is hope for the best for humanity sake. Things must improve soon. At the end of the day, we all should appreciate what we have. That’s what the past year has taught me.
Whatever happens with Tony DeAngelo, I hope he gets his life in order. He’s a young guy who has to understand you only get so many chances at the NHL. The Rangers miss him. But he’s not coming back. I’m glad he understands why. Good luck to him in the future.
Stick taps to Brooks.
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