Asked during an NHL-organized conference call Tuesday what he’ll do with the US$10 million he’ll earn this season from the New York Rangers, Gomez had a quick answer that ended with a chuckle. “I cashed it all in and went hog wild for a week,” he offered. “So it looks like I’ll have to play a little longer.”
It’s easy to wear a smile earning that kind of money – US$51.5 million over seven years in all.
But, really, what’s he going to do with that kind of cash?
“I’ve got wonderful people who look after that,” he said in all seriousness. “The main thing is my folks and everyone is taken care of.
“But nothing has changed. I still live ghetto-fabulous. I’m not a jewellery guy or a car guy. I’m from Alaska so that wouldn’t be acceptable.”
He couldn’t resist reverting to his humour-a-lot-of-the-time persona.
“If I need a job in about 10 years I hope you’ll help me out,” he added.
It is his quickness and playmaking skills the Rangers coveted. He scored only 13 goals last season, but he had 47 assists and he should hit a career high feathering passes to the exceptionally talented Jaromir Jagr.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with some talented wingers that are amazing, but this guy – we’re probably talking about the top five players to ever play, he’s that good. We’re getting used to each other. Hopefully, it works out. I’ve always had the same mindset: it’s my job as a centre to get my linemates the puck and get them in a position where it’s easiest for them to score. I’m not going to change that.”
Gomez has the positive attitude and outgoing personality that should make him a hit in the big New York sports market. He says he’s always loved the city, and he’s moved right into Manhattan so he can drink it all in.
After spending the first seven years of his NHL career with New Jersey, winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003, he’ll be a fan target when the Rangers visit the Devils for the first time this season on Nov. 14 in their new arena.
“Didn’t even cross my mind,” he replies when asked if he expects to be booed. “I didn’t know they did that.”
Pulling his tongue back out of his cheek, he answers the question again.
“It’ll be different, for sure,” he says. “I’ve never really been booed through a whole game but I’m sure it’s going to happen.
“I’ll be Public Enemy No. 1.”
Chris Drury also signed on with the Rangers as a free agent, and Drury wore 23 with the Buffalo Sabres while Gomez had 23 last season, too. They flipped a puck to see who’d retain it and Drury won, so Gomez will wear the 19 he had earlier in his career.
Gomez, 27, has one of the most unusual backgrounds in the NHL having been the first Latino drafted. He parents have Mexican and Colombian roots, and he was born and raised in Alaska.
He returned to his home state during the 2004-2005 lockout to play for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. He was rushed to hospital after he was checked into an open bench door late that season. The seriousness of the injury was blown out of proportion.
“I read in the paper I had a broken pelvis and it was news to me,” he says. “All that was false.
“I was on the dance floor in a week. It was only a tiny crack (in a bone). If it was the NHL, I probably would have played the next game.”
Madison Square Garden is his dance floor now.
Like Brian Leetch and Mike Richter before him, Gomez and Drury are American-born stars that New Yorkers will latch onto with fervour.
“Now it’s our turn,” says Gomez.
The Rangers are going to score a lot of goals, and Gomez will undoubtedly provide laughs as well as assists.