Wild about Coyotes players

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

There are reasons to like the Phoenix Coyotes besides the fact they have the coolest-looking jerseys in the NHL and they used to be the Winnipeg Jets.

Like, they’ve got a great dressing room.

Captain Shane Doan is one of the nicest guys you’re going to meet, in or out of hockey.

Their tough guy, Paul Bissonnette, is an entertaining conversationalist and fun to follow (BizNasty2point0) on Twitter.

All-star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has a dry sense of humour and, in his civies, really does look like a tall security guard.

And then there’s Jason LaBarbera. Their backup ’tender started Tuesday, hours after proving he isn’t one of those guys who are too uptight to speak on game day when he held court with Ottawa reporters interested in his fascination with wrestling.

LaBarbera grew up idolizing the Ultimate Warrior, but he has not let himself get caught up in the Ultimate Fighting craze.

“It’s exciting, but I’m not a big fan of a guy being helpless and getting his ass handed to him,” he said. “It’s not really my cup of tea. I’d rather watch a good boxing match.”

On his mask, the Burnaby, B.C., native has pictures of the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Vince McMahon.

“My wife always gives me a hard time about it,” said LaBarbera. “She says I’m a loser. She’s like, ‘what the hell ya watching this crap for?’ But it’s good. It’s male entertainment.”

Yup, LaBarbera is an awesome guy, but at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night, he was also a loser, as in the losing goalie. Shaky on Alex Kovalev’s first goal and not looking so hot on Chris Kelly’s, he was pulled after the first, with his team trailing 3-0.

Even Ottawa fans who don’t know any of the Coyotes or LaBarbera liked them on Tuesday.

Will this turn out to be a game from which the local heroes can build from and use as a springboard in making just a bad memory of the franchise’s worst start in 16 years? Up next are the Panthers Thursday, another game the Senators should win.

STARTS AND STOPS

The natives showed how restless they are during pre-game ceremonies honouring Sergei Gonchar for his 1,000th game. The fans booed GM (and Shawville’s own) Bryan Murray ... The Senators equalled their shot total of the previous game just 14:45 into the first when Kelly recorded No. 19 to give them a 3-0 lead. Kelly’s attempt came from behind the net, providing further proof that the answer to their struggles were simple ... Apparently, 12 teams had scouts in the press box. Wonder if Kovalev is an untouchable now?

BETWEEN PERIODS

Watch for Doan and brother Brook to play the part of the prey in an upcoming episode of Mantracker, the popular OLN television series. The star of the show, Alberta outdoorsman Terry Grant, hunts them through mountains three hours north of Whistler, B.C. “I grew up in the middle of nowhere and it ain’t even close to that,” said Doan, who, in case you didn’t know, is a second cousin of Habs goalie Carey Price. “We saw seven black bears. One black bear went up a tree right in front of us. We didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. You’re just laying out there and thinking, oh my goodness, something’s going to get me. That was an unbelieveable experience. One of the coolest things I’ve ever done.” ... He didn’t drop the gloves against the Coyotes (nobody did, in fact) but guess how many fights Chris Neil had in his nine-year career. You’ll get the answer Down Below.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Denis Potvin is a wonderful man. He had what it took to relieve my pre-game headache. “This will do it,” said the Hall of Famer defenceman-turned-broadcaster as he reached into his bag. “Do you have to work tonight?” Okay, so I’m not responsible for anything written on this page ... What’s more impressive than Erik Karlsson and Kovalev setting a new Senators record by scoring nine seconds apart? How about that Kovalev would have had his second point had Nick Foligno been a little better on a shot that hit the post just a few minutes later, and yet another had Mike Fisher been able to convert his setup late in the second. The way Kovalev’s been going, nobody would have ever guessed he was capable of a five-point night. Or even the three he wound up getting ... The Senators organization is probably just trying to come up with a great gift idea to present to Daniel Alfredsson in honour of his 1,000th point. Yeah, that must be it ... The Senators need their own song. Stealing the one the Blackhawks use to celebrate goals is lame.

C’MON MAN

A TV crew from his homeland of Denmark spent the past few days following Peter Regin. Reporter Morten Kaus even interviewed Cheapseats. (Bruce Garrioch says we may have finally found an audience that understands me.) Before I went on camera, Regin suggested I put some gel in my hair. Guess he wanted me to look presentable. I told him I’d say something nice for 20 bucks. He didn’t bite. “They’re here to learn about the NHL and bring a message back,” Regin said of his entourage, which left for Long Island to profile Frans Nielsen. “It’s good for Danish hockey.” Would have been really good for Danish hockey had I only told his country that Regin’s the next Wayne Gretzky. And all it would have cost him was 20 bucks ... As colleague Chris Stevenson pointed out Monday, buying a T-shirt thorough saucehockey.com is helping BizNasty help the homeless. Bissonnette donates all of the $7.50 he is paid for each ‘Biz Nasty Feeds The Homeless’ pullover. “Those are my people,” he said Tuesday. “I try to take care of them. I try to give them food, but if you’re in a spot you can’t, like they’re on the side of the road, I usually just throw them a couple of bucks. In the summer, after the bar when you’re with your buddies, you go get late night food, you just bring them to that spot, near the bar, and buy them a piece of pizza.” Otherwise some of them spend the coin on booze, which Bissonnette is okay with too. “If they’re honest, I’ll be like, all right, do your thing.”

DOWN BELOW

Both Chris Neil and Jarkku Ruutu played their 588th NHL games Tuesday. Neil has more points (159-to-133) and more PIMs (1511-to-998). “But he’s got a lot more dives than me,” joked Neil ... Including pre-season and playoff games, Neil has had 138 fights in his NHL career. But being a tough-guy is about more than just scrappin’. He’s also played hurt (like he’s doing these days), through a broken jaw, crushed finger and ripping scar tissue, among other things. Generally speaking, Neil stays away from pain killers when he can. “Obviously there’s certain times you have to take stuff for injuries,” he said. “But I’m a firm believer that you let your body heal as best as possible. It’s mind over matter.” It’s easier once you’re in the game, Neil added. “Your adrenalin kicks in,” he said. “When you’re other there and take a high stick, you come in and get stitches. I won’t even get freezing because it takes too long. You’re numb, you’re adrenalin’s going, and it takes longer to do the freezing ... plus I don’t like needles.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunDoniB


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