DENVER -- As far as exciting days go, it doesn’t get a whole lot better for Jacob Ahrens.
The 6-year-old from Sheridan, Wyoming was front and center Tuesday at Pepsi Center in Denver for Colorado Avalanche practice, invited as a special guest of the team. There he sat with his family in the stands, cheering on Ryan Wilson and the rest of his hockey favorites.
Avalanche forward David Van Der Gulik is 11 games into the longest NHL stretch of his career. At age 28, he feels like he has finally cemented his dream of finding his niche in the league.
But it has been a draining process, emotionally as much as physically. Van Der Gulik was called up from Colorado's American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, on Dec. 14. And his wife delivered the couple's first child, Jackson, on Dec. 19 in Cleveland.
David, who is living at a Denver-area hotel, has seen his son only twice: the day he was born and on Christmas. The Avs allowed Van Der Gulik to fly to Cleveland for the birth, and on Dec. 24. He made his own arrangements and met the team in St. Paul, Minn., for its game against the Wild on Dec. 26.
Friedman does his weekly "30 thoughts", plus some info on the realignment woes.
Example I: Behind the scenes, the NHL and the NHLPA are battling over the $25 million the league gets from the city of Glendale to run the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2004, every player would have had an opinion about this, and been happy to share it publicly. In 2012, you don't hear anything.
Example II: The NHLPA's release cited the imbalanced conferences and schedule issues as reasons for their refusal to consent to the proposed realignment. Away from the rhetoric, you know what the players and agents said? It was pretty much about the postseason.
"When we talked about it in our room," one player representative said, "that dominated the conversation. Our guys were asking about being in a [conference] with eight teams and having less of a chance to make the playoffs."