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May 24, 2019

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Ice Ice Billy

Is Bryz really going out with them? Yes, he is

Ilya Bryzgalov

Matt Slocum / AP

Philadelphia Flyers’ Ilya Bryzgalov in action during an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Philadelphia.

I have a lovely and talented wife. Her name is Erica.

She is so beautiful that when we walk about in Las Vegas, packs of fellas lose all filters and perform hilarious double-takes and gawk as she passes by. Once their gazes turn to me, stares morph to the "holy-crap-I-just-got-caught face" to the "seriously-she-is-with-him?" face.

Now, I'm not bragging. Quite frankly, I don't quite get it either. But certainly after a few moments to process what they have seen — and assuming these guys have not locked onto another attractive woman — rationalizations most certainly follow.

Something is definitely wrong with her.

Wednesday night a rumor broke in social media, and then on NHL game telecasts all across North America, that NHL goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was close to signing a try out agreement that would allow him to participate in the Wranglers pre-season training camp. His joining the team would come just one short off season after having minded the nets for the Philadelphia Flyers and becoming a bit of revered character on HBO.

On Thursday, Bryzgalov arrived in Las Vegas. And so, the Twitter feedback began.

Bruins Hockey Girl (@hockeybabyy) tweeted, "Bryzgalov close to signing with the echl team Las Vegas wranglers lololol going from the nhl to the echl hahaha."


What's wrong with the ECHL? There is a record number of ECHL alum currently playing in the NHL, and now I have capitalized the league's name as it should be for this blog. And the Wranglers? There is a nice NHL representation from this team as well, not to mention I have also taken the liberty to capitalize the team name.

From the Patrick Crotty (@Patrick15Crotty) Twitter feed, "Ilya Bryzagalov close to signing with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. His career has gone to the toilet."

Wait. What? I've been working for a decade in a commode. Sigh. We thought we meant something, and this whole time the only ship we've been guiding is that little boat that used to be captained by the Ty-D-Bol man.

And then there's this one from Alex Nilsson (@aalexnil), "Ryktet säger att Bryzgalov är på väg till ECHL och Las Vegas Wranglers."

Heck, I don't even know what that one means. But if I try to sound it out in a growly voice, I'm not flattered.

And so, if you were to believe the dull-axe carrying keyboard warriors from parts unknown, there must be something very wrong with Bryzgalov to stoop so low as to play professional hockey in one of the most exciting cities in the world—and by "world" I mean the only planet known to support and cultivate any kind of life in the universe, something for which Bryzgalov has already shown an appreciation.

I have only briefly met "Bryz" so there's not much I can say about him personally, not that I even would. But I do know his kids go to school in the United States. There are only so many jobs in the NHL to be offered. Plus, we all have a pretty good idea as to his financial standing. What none of us really know is what's left in the Bryz-tank to get back to the NHL, and nobody is going to find out — including NHL brass with checkbooks — unless he's crouched in a net someplace rather than catching up up on Dante.

Yes, he reads Dante.

And, there's all that roster-movey-NHL-contracty-international-waivery mumbo jumbo to navigate if he wants to be back in the NHL. And so, Bryzgalov's joining Las Vegas in camp is a strong one. It's smart. There are no other ways to describe it.

Painters paint. Dante wrote. And goalies goalie.

Bryzgalov's stay in Las Vegas could be as little as a day, or it could be weeks. Maybe months. But as for now, he is coming to train and to be a teammate. And he's coming to play because he — more than anyone — may have a lot to play for.

As Lesley Cass (@Lesley1480) asks her 65 Twitter followers, "Las Vegas Wranglers – who??" The hockeyverse is doing double takes trying to figure out why we are together. Man, the mighty have fallen, some say.

But be warned: Don't confuse the last parts of a fall with the first parts of getting up. It's the Wranglers' mission (as it is with all of its players) to give him a chance to beat Lesley Cass' favorite NHL team someday.

We'll see how it turns out for Bryzgalov. In the meantime, don't think too hard about any of this. Because, Patrick Crotty, we're jumping in. The water's fine.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers and author of the novel “If I Die Tell Steve Martin I Found His Journal.”

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