Illusionist Criss Angel is famous for making the impossible seem possible. He's made elephants disappear, levitated from rooftops, raised the dead and walked on water. But his latest stunt has sports fans seeing stars.
On Saturday, in full view of thousands of people in broad daylight, Angel made two real National Hockey League defensemen - Boston's Johnny Boychuk and Chicago's Nick Leddy - suddenly and without warning appear on the New York Islanders.
The illusion, done during a trip to Angel's hometown of East Meadow on New York's Long Island, put two of the most coveted players available on a perennial second class team in the blink of an eye. After relaying some instructions and addressing the crowd, Angel pulled a black curtain over an empty stage. He counted to three, pulled the curtain away and revealed the visibly confused Leddy and Boychuk, in full uniform, sitting in chairs on the stage.
The unexpected exhibition left the crowd stunned and asking how he pulled it off.
"A magician never reveals his secrets. Especially for free," Angel joked as he posed for pictures with Boychuk, Leddy and Islanders general manager Garth Snow after the show. "Making an athlete appear out of thin air on another team requires total concentration, mental strength and vast amounts of space under the salary cap.
"Magic is all around us. You just need to believe and be willing to give up some draft picks and a very good prospect."
Reactions from the crowd ranged from stunned silence to fainting to raucous applause. Few expected Boychuck and Leddy to appear on the Islanders and had trouble believing what they had seen.
"It's amazing, simply amazing," said Islanders fan Jae Keefe. "One minute, the Islanders have maybe one decent defenseman. The next - poof! - they get two from a couple of Stanley Cup winners without losing someone off the roster. I don't know how he did it."
"I'm still stunned," said fan Marilyn Ian. "I don't know where they came from. The Islanders never trade for any good players. It's crazy."
Both Boychuk and Leddy were teleported from championship teams that were in danger of being crushed by the NHL's salary cap and are upgrades to the Islanders' less experienced defense corps. The Blackhawks and Bruins were each over the league's limit on payroll and couldn't squeeze in future contracts. That meant that Boychuk, an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and Leddy, a restricted free agent looking for a raise, were both perfect subjects for Angel's brand of magic spectacle.
Snow said that although the Islanders and Angel collaborated on the event, he could not divulge the magician's methods.
"Any time we have a chance to upgrade our club, we have to think about it," Snow said. "Even if it means using smoke, mirrors, sleight of hand, distractions, props, lights, loud music and faith to put on the show.
"Being a GM is a lot like being a magician: you've got to keep 'em guessing."
This is FAKE. It is not real. Criss Angel only makes other dudes' girlfriends disappear.