SUN Hockey Pool

Cross, Rita get tickets out of town

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Jani Rita and Cory Cross of the Edmonton Oilers expected something to happen, but when their tickets out of town arrived yesterday, their reactions were distinctly different as they packed for Pittsburgh after being traded for Dick Tarnstrom.

While Rita, 24, welcomed a change of scenery after five seasons of trying and failing to earn a regular spot in the line-up, Cross, a Lloydminster lad and former Alberta Golden Bear who'd fallen out of favour with fans, was teary-eyed when he faced reporters.

"Tom Poti went through it. I went through it," Cross said of the rough ride he'd endured from fans this season. "I was hoping it would never happen to me, but ...

"You've got it in the back of your mind. You don't want to make a mistake. When you do make a mistake, somebody is yelling at you and that. You can't play when you're not confident.

"It was tough on my family, but it's a hockey environment and people want to win."

Cross, 35, a veteran of 637 NHL games with Tampa Bay, Toronto, the New York Rangers and Oilers, had become the whipping boy for the Rexall Place faithful this season, one in which he was in and out of the line-up.

"They're going to pick on somebody," Cross said. "If it's not me, it's going to be the next guy. I feel sorry for the next guy because it's not a fun environment to play in when people are taking advantage of you. What can you do? You move on. They can boo somebody else."

Cross had scored just 2-3-5 and was minus-5 in 34 games and had been a healthy scratch in five of the last 12 games.

"I came to camp and there was already people questioning me," Cross said of his tenuous status.

"When you lose confidence in yourself as a player, it's tough to get back.

"This game is very fickle, and when it's time for a change, it's time for a change. It's time for me."

Rita, 24, taken 13th overall by Edmonton in the 1999 Entry Draft, had played just 36 games with the Oilers since draft day, including 21 this season, scoring 3-0-3. He'd been a healthy scratch in four straight games and five of the last six, including Wednesday's 6-3 win in Anaheim.

"I'm a little disappointed," Rita said. "It's a great bunch of guys. A great team. Although I wasn't playing, I had fun with the guys. On the other hand, I'm really excited about the new chance.

"You can't really make your living in the press box, so I'm really excited about the chance to get on the ice, finally."

After sticking through training camp, Rita got his longest look in October, when he played nine straight games, but he never did manage to win over coach Craig MacTavish for an extended stay in the line-up.

"I just couldn't make it," Rita said. "He uses three lines a lot and I just couldn't make it.

"I can play in this league and make a career here. I would rather go to Pittsburgh than a top team and find myself in the press box again. When you're sitting in the press box most of the games, you know something is going to happen."


Videos

Photos