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4 сентября 2005 года. 
Rangers keep Kasparaitis - Star-Ledger


It is a question critics and skeptics have been asking with rolling eyes and shaking heads. And, Rangers assistant general manager Don Maloney concedes, it is a question that is perfectly reasonable.

How, people wondered -- in this new salary-cap era NHL -- could the Rangers pass up an opportunity to buy out the three remaining years of Darius Kasparaitis' contract? This is a player, after all, who even Rangers GM Glen Sather admitted is "probably overpaid" at more than $3 million per season. And with the Rangers' oft-stated plan to try to develop a young, homegrown core of players, why on earth would they hang on to an undersized 32-year-old defenseman with four knee surgeries on his record?

"The reason Darius Kasparaitis is still here is because he brings many intangible qualities to our organization that we're lacking," Maloney said at the Rangers' Greenburgh, N.Y., practice facility. "He's here all summer long, skating and pushing young players. So, as much as people say, 'He's making 'X' amount, and how could you ever consider keeping him at that amount?' ... he fit with what we need to stabilize this young team for the next couple years (because of) the example he sets with his work ethic, the energy he brings."

As Maloney spoke, Kasparaitis was just outside his office, finishing up his daily skating session with young prospects Hugh Jessiman and Al Montoya, the Rangers' first- round draft picks in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and another youngster, Rick Kozak. On this day, veterans Dale Purinton and Jamie Lundmark have joined them, but Kasparaitis and the three kids have been skating together most of the summer.

More than anyone in the Rangers' organization, Maloney is acutely aware of the intangibles Kasparaitis provides. He was the general manager of the Islanders when Kasparaitis was a young, reckless, hip-checking fan favorite at Nassau Coliseum.

"I came as a young kid and I didn't respect anybody," Kasparaitis said of his early years. "I see my tapes sometimes from the old times as an Islander and it looks goofy to me now -- but I just went after anybody. I didn't think, for a second, about who was on the ice. I just hit whoever moved."

But the other side of Kasparaitis is that he was always a great guy to have in the locker room -- a player whose wisecracks kept teammates loose and whose obvious love for the game could be infectious.

"He always comes in and wants to work the hardest out of all of us," Jessiman said of Kasparaitis. "And I know he's obviously doing it for himself, to keep in shape and be ready for the season. But I know that a part of him is doing it because he wants some of us to hopefully model our work ethic after him. And I certainly do."

It's more than just teaching by example, however. The first time the 6-5, 228-pound Jessiman skated with Kasparaitis, he reached for a puck in the corner and found himself sitting on his butt after being checked by Kasparaitis, who is generously listed as 5-11, 215. After finishing the play, Kasparaitis stopped and showed Jessiman a better way to chase a puck into the boards -- how to first "reverse check" his opponent, bumping him off stride before going to get the puck. Jessiman had seen NHLers do that all the time, but he never did it until Kasparaitis explained to him why he should. Now it's one of his favorite moves, he said.

"I like working with young guys," Kasparaitis said, explaining he feeds off the youngsters' enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. "It's nice to help somebody and tell them that you have to work really hard to be in this league, you don't think it's going to be easy." 

As a kid in Lithuania, Kasparaitis trained six hours a day before he was spotted at an intra-Soviet Union youth tournament and invited to go to hockey school in Russia. At 14, Kasparaitis left home to join famed Moscow Dynamo, where he trained 11 months of the year and learned the game with other future pros, including future Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Alexei Kovalev.

Still, it isn't all about hockey with Kasparaitis. He has lived a full life away from the rink and can be a positive influence over his young teammates in that area, too. Having triumphed over personal obstacles and tragedies early in his career -- he quit drinking alcohol at age 21 and persevered through his first wife's miscarriage of triplets -- Kasparaitis has maintained a positive attitude and a sense of perspective his teammates can't help but notice. And he treats young players with the same respect he would veteran teammates, making them feel as though they belong.

"As a young guy, you come in, you're just awestruck," said Montoya, a goaltender. "You see guys you've watched on TV your whole life, you never know what to expect, so you just come in with your mouth shut and you just don't say much. And to have a veteran like that just come up to you and have a conversation about nothing just makes the transition a lot easier."

Kasparaitis often invites teammates over to his Westchester County home to swim in his pool, and he keeps them laughing with his zany antics. Jessiman chuckled as he told the story of how Kasparaitis called him up early this summer -- before the NHL lockout was settled and he was allowed to use the Rangers' facilities -- to arrange a skating session at a local rink. Kasparaitis pulled up to the rink in his Mercedes wearing full gear -- helmet, shoulder pads, hockey pants -- everything except skates.

But Kasparaitis isn't just a clown. He's a good enough player to have won Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals as a member of first the Unified Team (in 1992) and then Russia (1998, 2002). And while his crowd-stirring hits are fewer and further apart than they used to be, he has grown into a steadier and more reliable defender with age.

Of course, Ranger fans' first impression of him might be a bad one. Even Kasparaitis will admit he was flat-out awful in the first part of the 2002-03 season. Maloney theorizes Kasparaitis tried too hard to justify the big free-agent contract he'd signed in the summer, running all over the ice and often straying out of position looking to make too many big hits. The result was a stunning minus-25 defense rating early in his Ranger career. But he eventually settled down, and wound up finishing the year a plus- 5. He was plus-11 in 43 games in 2003-04 before a broken leg ended his season.

As far as this season, the young Rangers will need a lot of things to go right if they hope to compete for a playoff spot. To start with, they will need stellar play in goal from veteran Kevin Weekes, and they will probably need 50 goals or more from Jaromir Jagr. They will need to have a good power play, and they must have superb penalty-killing. And of course, they will need their young players to learn fast and play well.

Kasparaitis will be expected to make sound defensive plays and teach his young teammates how to make sound defensive plays. If he can do that, then perhaps people will stop wondering why the Rangers didn't buy him out.

Because then, he'll have earned his money. 

Страничка Дариуса Каспарайтиса на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


29 июля. «Рэйнджерс» отказались от идеи выкупа контракта Дариуса Каспарайтиса. 

4 декабря. Дариус Каспарайтис: "Мой любимый прием - "мельница" // "Советский Спорт"

23 октября. Хабибулин и Каспарайтис - в "Ак Барсе" - "Спорт-Экспресс"

20 августа. Дариус Каспарайтис: "Кубок Мира выиграет самая дружная команда" - Спорт-Экспресс.

24 декабря. Kaspar Puts On Big Hit - Newsday

4 декабря. Kasparaitis a Jolly Ranger - Newsday

20 августа. Каспарайтису прооперировано правое колено.

11 августа. Каспарайтис - Король силовых приемов - Советский Спорт

20 февраля. Дарюс забыл обиду

19 февраля. Sather Down on Darius


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года