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For some players, it pays to be uninformed

They say they stay away from papers, TV to avoid being fazed by Stanley Cup hype.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 2, 2001


Avalanche center Steven Reinprecht claims he has not read a newspaper since hockey season began.

That's nine months without checking what Hagar the Horrible is up to, what movies are picked and panned, or what Miss Manners has to say about using the tablecloth as a napkin during dinner parties.

Teammate Chris Drury said he has not watched television, at least when it comes to sports networks such as ESPN.

"If something comes on about the playoffs," he said, "I turn it off."

Without these defense mechanisms, both players said, the Stanley Cup hype might turn into Stanley Cup fright. As if facing the defending champion Devils isn't nerve-racking enough.

Players don't need to hear overblown or oversimplified analysis of how bad, or good, they are playing, Reinprecht said. They don't need breathless reminders about how their cities are living and dying with every shot and save.

"We're trying to relax and make it like it's just another game," he said.

Stanley Cup games are not like any other, of course, and neither were the days leading up to the series. Reporters were everywhere. That's no surprise; the NHL said it gave out more than 1,000 credentials.

Days between games, which are 2-1 in favor of Colorado heading into tonight's Game 4 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., are just as bad.

Cramped locker rooms are transformed into sound stages. Television lights abound.

Players are peppered with every question imaginable, and usually more than once as one pack of reporters and then another makes its way around the room.

Some players roll with the experience.

"I wouldn't change it for the world," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "It makes it all worthwhile."

At the same time, he said, "You have to keep your emotions in check. You can't get too high after a big win or down after a loss. You have to realize you're in it for the long haul."

Some players said that is difficult to do when every game and every move they make is analyzed and debated by the media and fans.

"You know, it's tough, especially being a first-year guy," Avalanche left wing Dan Hinote said. "I've never gone through this before. You know it's going to be wild. You try not to think about it and make sure you're not overly excited."

"You get used to it," Devils defenseman Scott Stevens said. "You just try to relax and enjoy your time away from the game."

Does Stevens read the newspaper?

"A little bit," he said. "The sports."

That's an interesting answer considering New Jersey coach Larry Robinson accused his players of reading and believing their press clippings before Game 1, in which the Avalanche embarrassed the Devils 5-0.

Does Stevens have a pregame routine?

"No. It's worse when you have a routine because you feel pressure to try to follow it," he said.

"We have a good system. We've been doing it in the playoffs ever since I've been here. We just relax and get away from it, and when it comes time to play, you're ready, fresh and ready to go."

For Avalanche defenseman Jon Klemm, that requires a hard line.

"I don't read the papers. I don't watch TV," he said. "I think there are a lot of guys like that. The papers can be ruthless if things aren't going well. And you don't want to read how good you are because you may relax. You don't want to get too cocky."

Daneyko said that can be accomplished without living in a cave.

"Hey, I'm a hockey fan, too," he said. "This is one of the greatest experiences for every hockey player. All the hoopla that goes along with it is part of the territory and part of the fun.

"But when it comes down to game time, it has to be all business."

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