One of the oddest, saddest, most unintentionally hilarious stories of the hockey summer was the "Dry Island" fiasco for the Philadelphia Flyers.
To recap: Dan Gross, a society columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, was told by two unnamed players about a plan by coach Peter Laviolette to have members of the team abstain from drinking for a month. From the Daily News:
Shortly after his arrival in December 2009, coach Peter Laviolette instituted what players came to call the "Dry Island." Laviolette asked team members to commit to not drinking for a month, and each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted.
The news emerged after Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were traded from the Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings respectively, their "hard-partying ways" cited by observers as a catalyst for the team breaking up the dressing room.
The Flyers, as expected, have downplayed the entire "Dry Island" thing — something that continued on Toronto sports radio this morning.
Danny Briere of the Flyers joined host Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet Radio 590 and was asked if the "Dry Island" thing was blown out of proportion? Said Briere:
"You hit it right on the nose when you said people were trying to make a bigger story out of it. It really wasn't much of a deal. Our coach came in and said, 'I'm not drinking, I'm trying to lose weight, I'm not drinking for the next month. If you want to join me, put your number on the board.' Nobody was forced, and we had about half the team that was on it and half the team that weren't.
"It certainly wasn't a big deal to anybody. It was just a commitment to better yourself for a few. Some guys do it that way, some guys do it in the gym, some guys do it after practice — we all have our ways. It certainly wasn't a big deal to us.
"The person who got that out there created a big riot for nothing. I felt bad for Mike and Jeff for being thrown under the bus like that, because it certainly wasn't a big deal."
As for Richards, out from under the bus and now in Los Angeles, it all comes back to how terrible the Philadelphia media was to him.
"Sometimes you go to the rink have to defend yourself and your teammates instead of focusing on the game," Richards lamented early on in his interview with Sportsnet 590, somehow failing to equate one having to do with the other.
As for Dry Island, here's how Richards explains it:
"It started out being more of a joke around the locker room. Something that we could do as a team, or joke around as a team, is to have something to joke around about.
"There was a handful of guys that did it — mostly younger rookie guys, first year or second year players. Then it went from being a fun thing to somehow getting out and then just exploding. Turned something that was really nothing into a big deal. It happens with the bloggers and the people in Philadelphia blowing things out of proportion.
"I did an interview last week and said I really have no regrets leaving Philadelphia, especially going out on that Dry Island thing."
While we are fond of Briere's explanation that this was an experimental weight loss program for Peter Laviolette, we also can't help but think it might have been a way to try and alter the lifestyle choices for a few of the players in the Flyers' locker room.
Was it blown out of the proportion? Well, we'll concede to the guys in the room on this one that it was.
Was it just a joke that had little to do with problems inside that room? On this, we'll say two things: There's always a kernel of truth in comedy, and Mike Richards is now an LA King.