Dave Molinari On The Penguins -- Recchi, Sydor part of group to buy Kamloops Blazers in WHL

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Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor have been friends for years.

They became teammates in July.

And Wednesday, they will officially become co-owners of a hockey team.

Recchi and Sydor are part of a five-man group that has negotiated the acquisition of their old Western Hockey League club, the Kamloops Blazers, for a reported $7 million.

The WHL Board of Governors will meet at mid-week to consider the sale and if, as expected, two-thirds of them approve the deal, Recchi and Sydor will own a share of the club.

Their partners are two other NHL players who are Blazers alums, Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla, and businessman Tom Gaglardi.

This will be Recchi's first foray into ownership, and he said "it's definitely going to be a real neat thing for me."

He has not sought advice from Mario Lemieux, a close friend who is the Penguins' primary owner, saying with a chuckle that, "I don't even know if he knows" that Recchi is about to move into management.

If Recchi's group gets control of the Blazers, the team will be privately owned for the first time since a community group purchased it from then-Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington in 1984 to prevent him from moving it.

"We wanted to see if we could get it to private ownership," Recchi said. "Most things now do much better under private ownership. ... We think we can ultimately turn this thing around."

Recchi said he and Sydor began talking about the possibility of buying the team "four or five years ago," because they were troubled by the way what had been an elite franchise had lost much of its luster.

"We just saw everything kind of slipping downhill a little bit with the organization, and we just thought it could be great if we could put something together," Recchi said.

The Blazers were a model franchise when Recchi and Sydor played there, and in the years that followed. Former general manager Bob Brown, father of ex-Penguins winger Rob Brown, laid the foundation for a team that won three Memorial Cup junior championships between 1992 and 1995.

Those days are distant memories now, but Recchi and his partners have a plan for restoring the Blazers to prominence.

"We're going to look at the best teams in the WHL, how they run their organizations, make a model and go from there," he said.

While there are no immediate plans to replace people in the hockey end of the operation, hiring a team president will be a top priority. Gaglardi will be the face of the ownership group most of the time, because it obviously isn't practical for the four NHLers to spend time there during the season.

"We won't be involved in the day-to-day [operations]," Recchi said. "We'll be ownership. But obviously, we're going to hire people, or keep people, whatever the case is.

"They're going to have direction from us, how we want it run. Ultimately, if they don't do it the way we want, that's when we're going to have decisions to make."

Nickname sticks

There is a space on the shaft of every player's stick where the manufacturer stamps the identity of the individual who uses that particular piece of equipment, allowing him to easily pick out his stick when facing a locker-room rack holding hundreds of them.

There are no regulations for how the players are identified on their sticks but in general, most settle for some combination of numbers, initials and surnames. Survey the rack in the Penguins' room, for example, and you will see sticks made to the specifications of "19 Whitney" and "B. Orpik."

Upon cursory inspection, Evgeni Malkin's stick doesn't look terribly different from any other -- it certainly won't be mistaken for that of, say, former Penguins winger John LeClair, the blade of which looked like it had been stored underwater and warped in every conceivable direction -- but it does bear a rather distinctive stamp.

Not because his name appears in Cyrillic, which wouldn't seem terribly inappropriate for a Russian player, but because it simply says "Gino."

That's Malkin's nickname (an anglicized takeoff on Evgeni), although it is spelled "Geno" by most people who interact with him. The ones who aren't stick company representatives, anyway.

Turns out that using the nickname does serve a practical purpose, however. Because Malkin's stick pattern has changed several times, the various versions are labeled differently, with the earlier ones bearing more conventional means of identification.

The book on Pens

An online gambling site, BetUS.com, made the Penguins a preseason 10-1 choice to win the Stanley Cup. Anaheim (9-2), Detroit (7-1) and Ottawa (8-1) are the only teams to which it gave more favorable odds.

Bodog, another online sportsbook, had the Penguins go off as an 8-1 pick to take the championship, placing them behind Anaheim (4-1), Ottawa (5-1), Detroit (5-1), San Jose (7-1) and the New York Rangers (15-2).

Bodog also offered odds on a series of other races that pertain to the Penguins or members of the team. Among them:

The Penguins were a 4-1 choice to finish first in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa was the favorite at 5-2, and the Rangers also were 4-1.

Sidney Crosby was the top pick to win the Hart Trophy as MVP, going off at 3-1. Immediately behind him were Joe Thornton (5-1), Jaromir Jagr (6-1) and Jarome Iginla (7-1).

Crosby also was the favorite to win another scoring championship, beginning the season as a 4-1 selection. He was followed by Jagr (8-1), Eric Staal (10-1) and Daniel Sedin (15-1).

Ryan Whitney was a 7-1 selection to win the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman, putting him behind only Nicklas Lidstrom (4-1) and Dion Phaneuf (9-2). Sergei Gonchar was the No. 6 choice at 9-1.

Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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