By Tim Graham
When the Buffalo Sabres traded center Derek Roy on Monday, it reminded me of the time goaltender Martin Biron and I convinced Roy that I was on the verge of getting traded to Newsday.
I referenced the story in a tweet that generated a healthy response. People wanted to know the details. So, inspired by similar anecdotes I've been reading the past few days in Frank Deford's excellent autobiography "Over Time," here's just one of a thousand behind-the-scene stories I can tell from two decades hanging out in locker rooms.
A day or two before the NHL trade deadline in February 2007, I leaned against the wall in a nearly empty Sabres dressing room, waiting to interview a particular player. I don't recall who.
Biron and I were about five feet apart on opposite sides of the entryway. He was inspecting his leg pads at his locker stall. Roy sat at his locker way down the row to Biron's left. Jason Pominville was down the row of lockers to my right.
On the large, flat-screen television was a TSN show dissecting trade-deadline rumors.
Ever since Ryan Miller emerged as the franchise goalie, Biron's name frequently got bandied about as trade bait. He was anxious about getting dealt, and this time he would be -- to the Philadelphia Flyers. By this time, Biron and I had known each other for seven years and enjoyed many conversations never meant for the paper.
With my notepad in my back pocket and no recorder I asked Biron -- just two guys talking -- how he was holding up. He said something diplomatic, but he silently telegraphed, with a theatrical roll of the eyes, that he was stressing out. Then, in typical Biron fashion, he quickly tried to turn the situation into a joke.
"How are you hanging in there, Tim?" Biron asked. "Do you think you'll get traded this year?"
Those who know me are aware my sense of humor can be drier than powdered gin. So I deadpanned that my agent was hearing Newsday and the Boston Globe had called The Buffalo News about me and wanted to know what it would take to close a deal.
Biron, equally as sarcastic, started to express sympathy for my predicament. Roy hollered "Bulls---! Reporters don't get traded."
I gently informed Roy newspapers make trades all the time. "Yeah, that's true!" Biron chirped. I explained when NHL teams are about to make the playoffs, their local newspapers sometimes need to bolster coverage for the stretch run. Sometimes they have too many editors and need to acquire reporters. Or vice versa.
The New York Islanders, under Ted Nolan, had been one of hockey's most exciting stories that season and were gunning for a playoff berth. Newsday wanted go all-in. As for the Globe, I wasn't sure what its motive was because the Boston Bruins didn't look like a playoff team. Maybe the Globe needed to unload a contract or wanted me for depth.
Roy, about to turn 24 and in his fourth NHL season (counting the lockout), stared off in the distance and nodded his head, satisfied with this new bit of insight.
Unfortunately, the ruse wouldn't last long -- not nearly as long as the time I used a tape-delayed boxing match to persuade defenseman Alexei Zhitnik into thinking I was a legitimate psychic by predicting the exact round and method that massive underdog Corrie Sanders would whip Zhitnik's countryman and friend Wladimir Klitschko.
I shifted a glance to Pominville. I could tell he wasn't buying it, and he was about to say something.
Biron and I cracked. We told Roy we were just screwing with him.
Roy didn't think it was as funny as we did.