Sources: 'Bryz' fell asleep at team meeting

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ilya Bryzgalov was not available to discuss his latest controversy.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ilya Bryzgalov was not available to discuss his latest controversy.
Posted: April 12, 2013

DESPITE PUBLIC denials from four Flyers players, multiple sources confirmed to the Daily News that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov did "doze off" during a team meeting on Monday.

His sleep habits, however, were not the reason for Steve Mason making his first start as a Flyer on Tuesday on Long Island in the team's biggest game of the season.

The news - that cameras caught Bryzgalov with his eyes closed on the bench during the third period of Saturday's loss in Winnipeg - rippled throughout the team on its charter flight home. Bryzgalov was pulled after allowing four goals in the second period.

(Video of Bryzgalov dozing off on the bench against the Jets is posted at www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers.)

After practice on Monday, coach Peter Laviolette notified both Mason and Bryzgalov of his plans to start Mason.

At that point, multiple players confirmed Bryzgalov closed his eyes during the team's brief meeting that followed him being notified.

"Whether he was actually sleeping or not, no one knows for sure," said one player on the condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution. "It seemed like he may have been doing it to get a rise out of other players. I'm not really sure why he did it, or if he was faking it. Either way, it seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise and angered a few people."

Once again, Bryzgalov is in the thick of controversy - something that has marred his 2 years in Philadelphia since he signed a 9-year, $51 million deal in 2011.

The Daily News had begun to report the story Tuesday but was unable to question both Bryzgalov and Laviolette. On Wednesday, Harry Mayes, a host for the team's flagship radio station, 97.5 FM "The Fanatic," reported that Bryzgalov was "benched" because he fell asleep in the meeting.

Bryzgalov would have made his 23rd straight start of the season on Tuesday. He was not available to answer questions on Wednesday, despite the fact that he practiced with the team's healthy scratches in Voorhees, N.J.

"Did he get benched because he . . . [fell asleep in a meeting]?" Laviolette said. "That's completely incorrect."

Laviolette was responding to the question he was asked. However, he was not asked directly if Bryzgalov appeared to be sleeping.

When pressed to further clarify by the Daily News after his meeting with the media ended, Laviolette offered a blanket statement: "Our meetings are team meetings. They're not for media or public consumption."

Whether Bryzgalov's antics on the bench in Winnipeg had anything to do with Laviolette's decision to start Mason on Monday remains unclear.

Flyers veteran Mike Knuble said it would be impossible for a teammate to fall asleep in "not even a half a cup meeting."

"Not unless they're narcoleptic," Knuble said. "You hardly even sat down. I don't think your [butt] made your spot on the bench warm enough. That's silly. That's asinine. You're sitting in a bright room in the middle of the day."

Kimmo Timonen also emphatically denied that Bryzgalov fell asleep at the meeting.

"That's not true and I'll tell you on the record," Timonen said. "If you want more, ask 'Lavy.' That's not my business to tell you what happened and what didn't happen. He wasn't sleeping."

Ruslan Fedotenko called it a "bad rumor." Wayne Simmonds said he "did not see him sleeping at a meeting."

"I don't know where that report came from," Fedotenko said, "But nobody fell asleep when I was at the meetings."

Yet, two other players said Bryzgalov "definitely had his eyes closed" and "it was a big topic of conversation amongst players." Some voiced their concern that Bryzgalov closed his eyes to show his displeasure of the decision to start Mason.

That wouldn't be the first time Bryzgalov expressed dissatisfaction over not starting in a big game. Before the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, Bryzgalov famously announced to the world that Sergei Bobrovsky would be in net, as Bryzgalov wanted to make sure he "didn't forget" his thermos to keep him warm on the bench.

In a rare move this season, Bryzgalov held court with reporters after Tuesday's pregame skate on Long Island. He made it a point to explain his fatigue level after starting 22 straight.

"I was tired," Bryzgalov said. "In general, I don't have major injuries. But you're sore here, you're sore there. Every day, it's something new. It's just regular maintenance."

Bryzgalov's exact fatigue level is something only he - and his teammates - know. From afar, it seems more like Bryzgalov being Bryz. What is abundantly clear, though, is that Bryzgalov's teammates are tired of the act, and covering for him.

Slap shots

The Flyers announced that defenseman Nick Grossmann will miss the next 2 to 3 weeks because of a concussion that already has sidelined him since March 18. The Flyers' season ends on April 27, so it's possible Grossmann's season is over. He was evaluated by a specialist Wednesday in Pittsburgh . . . Tye McGinn was reassigned to Adirondack, which means Danny Briere could return from a concussion against Ottawa on Thursday night.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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