Magazine article The New Yorker

THINK POSITIVE Series: 3/4

Magazine article The New Yorker

THINK POSITIVE Series: 3/4

Article excerpt

Bobby Holik, the New York Rangers' nine-million-dollar center, is not one of the most popular players in the National Hockey League. A few years ago, when he was playing for the New Jersey Devils, some Ranger players wrote his uniform number--16--on their locker-room chalkboard, alongside the word "asshole." Now that he's crossed the Hudson, the Rangers have softened toward him somewhat, and given him a new nickname: Positive Bob. The name is sarcastic, and based on the fact that Holik speaks his mind a little too freely. He's a pessimist. He complains a lot. When the Rangers lose, he doesn't say they played hard and came close; he finds fault. When they win, he's apt to say they got lucky. (And they haven't got lucky often enough; the team is on pace to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.)

"I was just talking to a lot of guys on the team yesterday, and it's like the problem is--well, I don't know if it's a problem--I have opinions," Holik said recently, while sitting in an exhibition hall at the Museum of the City of New York. "I can't keep my mouth shut." Holik's father, Jaroslav, had the same "problem" as a young hockey player in Czechoslovakia in the nineteen-seventies, and got himself suspended from the National Team. "During Communism, you know, being opinionated was not necessarily popular," Holik said. (Bobby moved from Czechoslovakia to the United States in 1990, after the Velvet Revolution.)

Holik likes to describe himself as "a man who marches to his own drummer," but he was limping, not marching, when he arrived at the museum, on account of an ankle injury he'd sustained during a game the night before. His iconoclasm was evident just the same; that afternoon, many of Holik's teammates were participating in a Maxim photo shoot, but Bobby was more interested in the "Between Worlds: Kabul/New York" exhibit, a juxtaposition of photographs taken in the two cities during the fall of 2001.

Positive Bob is an enormous man (six feet seven on skates, and two hundred and forty-plus pounds), with a face that's a caricature of a hockey player's: square jaw, nose a little flattened, hair cropped close, and a scar that begins just above his right ear and zigzags up and across the top of his scalp. When he sweats, his hair separates on either side of the scar, and the effect is of a face that has been reattached by a zipper. …

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