October 2, 2011, 2:44 PM
After Giving His All, Sykora Waits for Answer From Devils
By CHRISTOPHER BOTTA
NEWARK — Petr Sykora, a training camp tryout with a Stanley Cup ring, surveyed the Devils’ spacious locker room at Prudential Center. He glanced at some of his younger counterparts. After 935 regular-season and 115 playoff games in the N.H.L., the 35-year-old Sykora offered some perspective.
“These guys,” Sykora said with the smile, “they have no idea how good they have it here.”
Sykora is not a changed man. He always appreciated his time in the N.H.L., especially the 1999-2000 season, when he played a central role in the Devils’ second title. But after a year in which he played 13 games for Plzen, his hometown team in the Czech Republic, and 28 games with Minsk of Russia’s K.H.L., he is a bit more enlightened.
He also smiled a lot more over the last three weeks. Whether or not he won a job and a contract with the Devils, Sykora was going to enjoy the moments: being in the locker room with friends new and old, including Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias; receiving the best instruction from coaches like Peter DeBoer, Larry Robinson and a former opponent, Adam Oates; hopefully having a talk or two with Lou Lamoriello, the architect of the Devils’ Stanley Cup teams and still the president and general manager.
In early August, Sykora asked his agent, Allan Walsh, to procure an invitation to the Devils’ training camp. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Sykora said. “I told Allan, ‘It’s New Jersey, and I don’t have a backup plan.’”
He played like there was nowhere else he’d rather be, scoring a hat trick in an early intrasquad scrimmage. He scored a goal in his first preseason game, against the Rangers in Albany, and in the Devils’ last, a 2-1 win over the Flyers on Saturday.
Late Saturday night, Sykora did not want to review his performance.
“The puck was going in for me the whole camp,” he said. “I just wanted to do my best, and that’s it. I can’t control what’s going to happen.”
He politely deferred all questions about his roster status to Lamoriello, calling the G.M. “the only one who has my future in his power.”
Sykora should learn his fate by Monday afternoon. There has been one positive sign. Lamoriello hardly said a word to his former and possibly future player during camp.
“I haven’t had any meetings, which I like,” Sykora said. “You are never called for a meeting when you’re playing great or good.”
Short of announcing a new contract for Sykora — which is Lamoriello’s responsibility — DeBoer paid the veteran forward the highest compliment Saturday night.
“I don’t know what else he could do, if you’re going to script a camp for a guy who’s walking on,” DeBoer said. “However it shakes out, I don’t think he can have any regrets about how he played and what he did to earn a spot.”
It sounds like Sykora won’t.
“It was important for me to prove that, in the right situation with the right players, I could still play in this league,” he said. “I believe it.”
But there was something about getting another chance with this team, in the region where he still owns a home.
“New Jersey is my home,” Sykora said. “No matter what happens, it will always be my home.”
I didn't know that he still had a house in New Jersey! And I like how they refer to Adam Oates as his former opponent instead of, say, his linemate for a season. I think they might even still have been on the same line when they played the Devils in 2003!
The general opinion of various bloggers (which I acknowledge is kinda' worthless :P) is that he'll be signed to a 1-year contract. It would make me so happy!!! If only Whore could have stuck around.
[ Edit: From another article that was almost the same, but had this additional quote:
"I went into this game and said, 'Just have fun.' i could drive myself crazy," Sykora said. "I could be on a flight (back to the Czech Republic) Tuesday. But if I think about it, I could drive my mind bananas."
He could drive his mind bananas. I love him so much. ]