Absenteeism, hotel rules serve as a roadblock

With the strange current schedule alignment in the NHL, teams in the opposite conference will come to a city and then not be in town again for three years. This is a major disadvantage for autograph seekers, since it can be quite some time until another visit from these teams.

Luckily, in Minnesota, the Wild has the Atlantic Division from the NHL’s Eastern Conference on the schedule this year, which means appearances by some of the league’s superstars. One of those teams in the East that is loaded with stars is the New York Rangers. Not only do the Rangers have many veteran stars, but they also have built up a nice mixture of young talent that look to be stars for years to come.

The Rangers brought out one of the bigger crowds of the season at the team hotel, and for the most part, New York did not disappoint. The Rangers probably have two guaranteed Hall-of-Famers on their roster in Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr, and both were kind enough to pick up the Sharpie at one point or the other during the team’s stay in town.

Shanahan was one of the best signers with the Rangers, as he signed for every single person waiting at the team hotel after the morning practice. Unlike many other players who always say one thing and do another, the 39-year-old lived up to his words when he said before practice that he would sign on the way back. He did just that and signed for the crowd of more than 30 collectors.

When the team left for the game later that night, he surprisingly signed for many of the fans that waited. This is quite the gesture for a guy with more than 600 career goals and has been in the league for more than 19 years.

Jagr, on the other hand, was not as kind, but he did sign for a small number of people as the Rangers left the hotel a few hours before the game. The 35-year-old with more than 600 career goals got on and off the team bus and ignored all pleas from collectors before and after the team’s morning practice. Many collectors regard Jagr as a difficult signer, but from my experiences, he is fairly good about signing for a guy of his status.

With the veterans showing the way to deal with fans, the younger guys gladly followed and were great about signing. The Rangers have themselves one of the league’s top goalies in Henrik Lundqvist, and the future star is just 25 years old. Lundqvist refused to sign on his way to the morning practice, but he was nice enough to sign for nearly everyone after the team practice.

Also being extremely fan-friendly was rising star Ryan Hollweg, who is a building block for the future.

Former Oilers head coach and Hall of Famer Glen Sather, who is now working for the Rangers as the general manager, was great about signing whenever he was asked. The other good signers with the Rangers included Blair Betts, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Marcel Hossa, Marek Malik, Paul Mara, Colton Orr, Martin Straka and Jason Strudwick.

Taking a Flyer
The week before the Rangers were in St. Paul, Minn., the Philadelphia Flyers came to town and were more than accommodating with fans.

Unfortunately, the Flyers do not have many names that the casual hockey fan would recognize. To make matters worse, the biggest name on the team, Simon Gagne, was not with the team due to an injury. That left offseason addition Daniel Briere as the main attraction for collectors.

Things were not looking good for fans at the hotel the morning of the game, since the temperatures in Minnesota were hovering around zero, which usually means more players are more likely to refuse to sign due to the cold. Briere did stop and sign for everyone waiting at the team hotel after the morning practice, which was not a surprise since he has proven to be a kind signer in the past.

The negative aspect of the day with the Flyers was that the team’s all-time leading score and current senior vice president, Bobby Clarke, did not make the trip to town. Clarke does not always travel with the team, but when he does, he is a great signer in person (and through the mail). Clarke can still be reached in care of the Flyers team address, and he is still as reliable as they come with mail requests.

The other Flyers who were good signers in Minnesota included Martin Biron, Jim Dowd, Scott Hartnell, Derian Hatcher, Sami Kapanen, Mike Knuble, Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen and R.J. Umberger. 

Stand back, please
Hotels can have a big impact on the day of a collector, with certain hotels enforcing different rules with collectors. The days of being able to wait inside the hotel are long over, but different hotels tend to have different rules as to where autograph seekers can stand outside. Obviously, the farther away you are forced to stand from the doors, the poorer the results will be.

In Minnesota, the hotels have been getting worse and worse over the years with autograph seekers, and it’s scary to think what autograph seeking could be like in another five or 10 years.

The lack of cooperation with the hotel was surely the case with one of the last NFL teams that we saw, as the Chicago Bears decided to go back to the hotel were many teams stayed a few years back while in Minnesota. This hotel is one of the worst in the city in terms of where they make collectors stand, as we are forced to be a long distance away from the doors. 

This was terrible news because the Bears have been great signers the past few years in Minnesota, and this year we could not really get too close to many of the players. Tommie Harris continues to be a stud on the defensive front for Chicago, and he came out of the hotel the night before the game and walked over to us and signed for anyone who asked.

Star linebacker Lance Briggs also came out the night before the game, but he ignored the small group of fans waiting, as did All-Pro Devin Hester. Other than those three, we really did not have much of a chance with many others because of where we were forced to stand.

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