May 14, 2008 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Albany River Rats
Each week during the off-season, Albany River Rats broadcaster Owen Newkirk will catch up with a member of the 2007-08 River Rats to find out how their summer is going and what training preparations they are doing heading towards the Carolina Hurricanes and Albany River Rats 2008 training camps and the 2008-09 hockey season.
May 14, 2008
You just signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week, congratulations!
Thank you. It was a happy day at the household here and for me it felt like it was a goal that I have been working towards for a while and now it finally happened. It\'s fun to be wanted by an NHL team and it\'s fun to have something to look forward to as the summer goes on. It gives me even more motivation in my summer training and now I can\'t wait for the season to start.
In 2007-08 you started in the ECHL with the Columbia Inferno, did you have any thought in your mind that you would be signing an NHL contract one year later?
No. It was starting to get a little dim for me, in where my career was going, and I wasn\'t sure when a chance was going to come. After getting traded from Columbia early in the season I had a few tough weeks where I didn\'t know what I was going to do. And then to have the opportunity to come up to Albany, to play in the AHL was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It was great to have two coaches that believed in me and taught me a lot about the game. It was a year I didn\'t think that was too far down the road for me, but I\'m just glad that it finally happened.
Were you glad to take care of your contract early in the off-season?
Absolutely! Not having an agent, I don\'t know all the time frames about where things are allowed and not allowed. I was really hoping to get a deal this summer, but I just didn\'t know when it was going to happen. The fact that I signed so early in the summer is great motivation for me right now. The only thing I\'m looking towards is training camp and getting ready for the season. It\'s an exciting time for me and it made my summer maybe a little more relaxing and at the same time, maybe also made it that much tougher because I\'ll be pushing myself harder. It\'s an exciting challenge that I\'m looking forward to going through.
Did you take any time off after the playoffs ended before starting your summer workout program?
I got hit with a bit of a bug right after playoffs and I wasn\'t feeling that great when I got home. So I didn\'t take a very long break, but I definitely had to because I was sick. There were a couple days where I got to spend lots of good time with my family and other loved ones. It was a quick time period, but definitely rejuvenating and now its back into the whole swing of training and starting to focus on getting better for next year.
What is your focus this summer physically?
Obviously nobody\'s perfect and there are lots of things that each hockey player needs to work on. For me I think I need help in all areas, so I\'m going to train my extremely hard in all aspects. Whether it\'s cardio or weight training, I know I want to get stronger, quicker and faster to keep up with the rest of the hockey world. That\'s a challenge for me that I\'m looking forward to taking head on and I think training only makes you a better player. There\'s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel for me now, so it\'s an exciting time.
What are some of the areas of your on-ice game that you want to improve on?
Nothing about your game is ever perfect and each night brings different challenges when you\'re playing different teams. For me it\'s going to be working on my strength so that I\'m stronger and more durable to play against top guys and thinking about being able to play at the next level. I think there\'s no part of my game where I can\'t improve in so I am just going to work on everything.
How important is it for a hockey player to have some time to mentally unwind and refresh after a long season and a grueling playoff series?
It was a grueling playoff series and it definitely didn\'t end the way we all wanted it to end and I didn\'t think we deserved for it to end that way. I am still not over it even as we speak now. It\'s tough to watch games on TV, especially at Philadelphia\'s arena in their series with Pittsburgh. We played some good games in that building and that\'s where our season ended, so I still have a little ill will towards that arena. It\'s good for your body to unwind, but mentally it was too soon. I think it gives us more drive and determination to build on towards next year.
Will you take a break from skating? If so, how long?
I\'m definitely going to take some time away from hockey equipment. There may be the odd pick up game with friends or family that come along. Those are perfect times to get out on the ice and feel the puck again. Otherwise for me skating won\'t begin until probably closer to late July and getting into the first week of August. And then I\'ll skate every day until training camp begins. There will be a really good stretch of down time for a while where I won\'t be putting on any hockey equipment.
Are you excited about going to Carolina\'s training camp in September?
Definitely. Any other NHL camp that I have gone to was nerve-racking, a very stressful time on me. Going to a training camp as a free agent you might know a couple guys that you played against or maybe played with along the way, but this year it\'s different. I\'ll know a lot more guys going to Carolina\'s camp and I\'m sure that will make me feel a lot more comfortable in a stressful period of time. It\'s going to be good to have some familiar faces there and to know that there\'s a job to be earned. I\'m looking forward to the first day of training camp.
How do you think your game developed this year by playing in Albany?
There\'s a big difference between the AHL and the ECHL in the pace of the game, how strong guys are and how talented they are. Getting a chance to play at this level has shown me that I can play at the speed the game requires. I think that has always been a knock on my game was my skating, the speed I was playing at and my ability to defend against fast players. This year showed that the speed is not overwhelming for me and I think that\'s the biggest difference when you go up each level.
Experts say that young players develop exponentially faster in the playoffs. Did you find that you learned a lot in the seven-game series with Philadelphia?
I think so. Later down your career, when you look back I think we\'ll realize that we\'re gaining experience as we go, we just don\'t really know it in the moment. That was tough series to lose the way we did. We felt we were right there, we just needed to get a bounce or two our way and our team would move on. No one ever likes to lose and I think that makes you better as a player, the fact that you\'ve felt that losing feeling before and you don\'t want to feel it again. You learn some of the tricks of the trade that you need to win a tight series. No on likes to lose like that, but to look at things positively, the experience gained losing like that can be good.
Are you keeping track of the AHL playoffs?
Yeah, once in a while. I\'m not religious about it by checking every day. I live with my brother now, and he keeps an eye on pretty much every sport in the world, so we keep up on things. One of the TV channels back home in Ontario has the Marlies games on, so I watched a period or two of their series with Syracuse. That was a great series and I really thought Syracuse was going to win it. But good for Toronto for coming back like that.
Who is your pick to win the Calder Cup?
I think any of the four teams have a great chance to win. I haven\'t seen Chicago play this year, we didn\'t play against them, so I don\'t really know that much about them. Portland has a really good team with a great goalie and they are well coached, so I think they have as good a shot as anybody. But who knows? The way the Marlies are playing it could be a nice battle going to the Finals.
How about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, who is your pick?
Well with both series being 3-0, it looks like its going to be Detroit and Pittsburgh. The way Detroit is playing, with their experience and their ability to score in any situation I think I\'m going to have to pick the Red Wings. But just to see those two teams play each other will be a treat.
You are a very skilled offensive player; what made you play as a defenseman?
My dad might have planted the seed in my head when I was younger to be a defenseman. It kind of offset what my brother was doing because he was a play-making centerman. Growing up whatever my brother was doing I wanted to be doing. I wanted to play hockey because he was playing hockey, but I wanted to do it better. I think with that and then my dad in my ear, as a group we probably all made the decision that I was going to be a defenseman. Right away I loved it. I loved being the last man back and also being the first man starting the play. It was always natural for me and I just stuck with it over the years.
Are people still talking to you about the Five Overtime game?
Yeah, once in a while somebody I haven\'t seen will comment on it. They\'ll say, \'How was it?\' or \'You must have been exhausted!\' The only answer I have is \'It was overrated.\' It would\'ve been a completely different story if we won. Then it would have been a memory that I would\'ve had forever. Instead it\'s one of those games that you just want to forget about, because thinking back ultimately that game might have cost us the series.
What are some of your favorite off-season/summer activities?
Any chance to golf, my brother and I are on the course. Aside from that watching the Blue Jays religiously.
You are a big Toronto Blue Jays fan. Are you going to go to any games this summer?
I think we will get to one or two games. But we never miss one on TV.