For two seasons running, the New York Night have been running the same disappointing script. They’ve come into the season with a star-laden, expensive roster and big dreams of championship contention. But those dreams have come crashing down, as the Night’s high-powered offense has been undermined by a poor defense and mediocre goaltending. And Night RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson has seen enough of it. This week, he fired off a broadside against his team on Saturday, attacking his teammates and calling for the firing of coach Preston Rivers.
Nelson made his remarks after New York suffered a 5-1 thumping against Anchorage. In that game, the Night collapsed completely in the third period, allowing 4 goals and looking utterly outclassed and disinterested. A reporter asked Nelson if the long season and the long flight to Alaska had caught up with the team. The question seemed to set the star winger off.
“That’s a crap excuse if you ask me,” snapped Nelson. “This team hasn’t been playing to its potential all year. Yeah, this game sucked, but it’s not like we’d been killing it before now. And I’m damn sick of it. This damn team is wasting my prime.”
Pressed to elaborate, Nelson made a face. “You’ve all watched this team play. There’s no cohesion, no unity. Everybody’s out for himself. And that starts behind the bench.”
Nelson proceeded to tear into Rivers, saying, “All that guy’s interested in is getting his name in the headlines and covering his [expletive] when things go wrong. He doesn’t know [expletive] about hockey, and he can’t teach us a damn thing. He just tells us to think like champions, like that helps. We’d be so much better off if they dumped his [expetive] on the street. Eventually, they’re gonna run out of scapegoats.”
Nelson then attacked “the selfish, me-first attitude around here. Everybody’s priorities are all [expletive] up. Everybody’s thinking about whether he can get laid or whether he can get a table at Eleven Madison after the game. Nobody’s focused on what really matters. I mean, I’ve had three hat tricks this year. But I could have had a lot more if guys would have fed me the puck. But they don’t; all they care about is their own shot. That’s the kind of attitude I’m talking about.”
Nelson is the second Night player to criticize Rivers in recent week. Earlier, D Tuomas Nurmi said that the coach’s constant boasting and taunting caused other teams to attack New York players in retaliation, and LW Chase Winchester implied agreement with Nurmi’s comments. With Nelson joining the chorus of critics, there are clear signs of a rift between Rivers and his stars.
The coach played down talk of a rift. “Rick’s expressing frustration with a tough year, and I feel him. We all feel that way. But I’m not going to let the jackals in the media tear this team apart. You’re whipping up conflict so that you have something to write about. But in here, everything’s fine. Believe me.”
One anonymous player reacted to the fracas with some amusement. “You know the world’s turned upside down when Rick Nelson is calling people out for being selfish,” said the player. “That’s not the pot calling the kettle black; that’s a black hole calling the kettle black. But the hell of it is, he’s not wrong. And if even a guy like Nelson can see it, you know things are bad. Something’s got to change around here.”