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[Archive] 2014 interview with Matt Irwin

August 25, 2014 Leave a comment

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My interview with San Jose Sharks’ defenceman Matt Irwin posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on March 26, 2014. The NHL sophomore went on to play his first season entirely in the NHL, with no AHL appearances. He boosted his game appearances from 38 to 62, added 11 assists to his 2012-13 total for a career high 17, finished with a career high 19 points and +5 rating. He also made his first ever NHL Stanley Cup playoff appearance and scored his first ever NHL Stanley Cup playoff goal in the first round against the LA Kings. 

The audio of this interview can be heard on XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast, or on iTunes

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Interview: Getting to know San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Matt Irwin

Matt Irwin2

He may not be a household name just yet, but San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin may work his way into your mental NHL player directory yet. Now in his second NHL season, the 26 year old British Columbian is continuing a trend from his amateur career that has seen his point totals, ice-time, and contributions to his team’s success dynamically increase every year.

Irwin spoke with me at length about his long road to the NHL and what he’ll have to do to stay there, the tough decisions he was required to make and small window of opportunity he had to live out his dream, past teammates that helped get him where he is now, current ones that help make him better, what the San Jose Sharks will have to do to win their first Stanley Cup, what it takes to be consistently inserted into a lineup full of Olympians, All-Stars, and Stanley Cup champions, and more.

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Let’s start at the beginning. In 04-05, you got to play three games of Junior A hockey just up the road from your hometown of Brentwood Bay, BC, with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. You didn’t record any points, but did skate alongside future NHLer Jason Garisson. In 05-06, you played alongside future NHLer Colin Greening in Nanaimo for 56 games and had 9 points. In 06-07 you exploded for 49 points, was the team’s top scoring d-man, the Clippers won the BCHL, and you were named the BCHL’s best defenceman. 07-08 was more of the same, as you’re again the team’s top scoring d man, and win league’s best defenceman. So explain your rather dynamic development in junior hockey — what did you take away from the guys you played with that went on to play at higher levels of the game, and how did it help influence your junior career to produce what it did? 

Irwin: “Those three games were as an affiliate player. I played Junior B with Saanich in Victoria, and got an opportunity to play in three games [with Nanaimo] and see what it was all about. It was a big step for me. From there, I got the opportunity to sign and play [the following season] with them for the whole year where I got to play on a consistent basis. Not a lot of power play time, more five-on-five minutes. The following year when everything picked up, Bill [Bestwick] gave me a great opportunity to play on the power play. The first five games of that year I had five or six goals. It was all happening really fast, I wasn’t expecting it. I was working on my shot, Bill had me working on it all the time. That’s where the offensive side of it started to come together.”

After you completed your junior career, you moved on to play NCAA hockey with UMass Amherst from 2008 to 2010. Instead of playing four seasons you only played two, joining the AHL’s Worchester Sharks at the end of the 09-10 season, and did not return to the NCAA. Why did you choose not to stay for all four years after taking the BCHL scholarship route rather than major junior? Talk about making the choice to abandon a fully funded education.

irwin hit2Irwin: “It’s interesting how it worked out. When you mention the WHL, I never had any interest in it at all until my 19 year old year of junior. At that point, it made no sense to leave Junior A and forgo a scholarship that I was about to get at that time to play only another year and a half of hockey, when I could play five and a half more years with the four year scholarship instead.

“I had full intentions going in when I stepped on campus at UMass of playing my four years and getting an education. After my first year, San Jose and some other teams were interested in bringing me out to their development camps. I ended up going to San Jose’s, and they showed a lot of interest afterwards, regardless of whether or not I wanted to stay at school or leave then. I chose to go back for another year at UMass, and then after my second year, they offered a contract. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in terms of hockey. You’re leaving an education on the table that’s paid for, to pursue a dream that you’ve had since you were a kid with no guarantee that you’ll make it to the NHL, or even be able to stick in the AHL. It was a risk. I got a lot of support from my family. What they told me, and what made me make my mind up, was that school would always be there, but my window of opportunity to chase my dream to play in the NHL or play professional hockey at my age – I was 22 when I left school, so I was older — to establish myself at that level in the AHL and get a crack at the NHL wasn’t a large one. I figured that school would always be there. Jumping at the opportunity was something I had always wanted to do, and dreamt about as a kid. Afterwards, I could go back to school and go from there. I’ve been going back to school, and I’ll be getting a degree pretty soon, so everything’s falling into place.”

What are you going to graduate with? What’d you see yourself doing with that education if pro hockey hadn’t worked out? How are you taking classes while playing in the NHL?  

Irwin: “I hadn’t declared before, but it’ll be a Bachelor’s in Management Degree. I hadn’t looked too far into what I could do. It was more or less that I just wanted to get myself a degree. Something in the business world. I was deciding on what degree would interest me the most and which I’d be able to do the majority of online, so that’s where it went. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do if hockey doesn’t pan out. We’ll let those chips fall where they may and cross that bridge when we come to it.”

While with playing in the AHL with Worchester, you skated alongside Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels who were on their way up to the NHL, and Jonathan Cheechoo who was rounding out his North American playing career. Was it reminiscent of your experience in Nanaimo, playing with future NHL guys? What did you learn from them at that level, now only one step away from the top? 

Irwin: “It was huge going there. It was definitely an eye opener going to pro. It’s a totally different lifestyle. When you’re in school, you’re either in the books or involved in your social life and hockey, whereas when you move on to pro it’s pretty much hockey in the morning and then you’ve got the rest of the day to do what you want.

“You learn a lot from those guys that I’ve been around. Cheech was a great mentor for me to have my first year — a guy that had established himself as a goal scorer in the NHL, and won the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals in the league while he was in San Jose. Just to see how those guys prepare for practices and games, seeing them get called up, sent down, and how they react to being sent down. It doesn’t change their game. They get a little pace, they get hungry, and keep pushing forward because the ultimate goal is to stick in the NHL. You learn from different experiences, and I think that helped my game a lot.”

You played two more seasons with Worchester afterwards — At 25 years old, did you still think you had a good shot at the NHL, or were you starting to think about other options? Some guys at that age who are playing in the minors start thinking about other career paths, and ultimately some decide to move on, thinking their window is closed. 

Irwin: “Well I kept up the school thing, but I was still chasing that dream of playing in the NHL. Like I said, when I left school, my window of opportunity was very small because of my age, and it’s not too often you see guys that are 25 and older that are getting a fair crack in the NHL. There are a handful of guys, but your chances get smaller and smaller because there’s so much young talent coming up. I knew where I stood in the organization. They always believed in me, and told me that I was on the right track — right where they wanted me to be as far as development. I thank them and give them a lot of credit for staying with me, believing in me, and giving me that opportunity. The first year that I got called up I never played, my second year I got called up, didn’t play, but got to practice with the team for a week. That was a cool experience. Then when the lockout ended last year I got invited to training camp, and was able to play with the team for the majority of that season. I never gave up on the dream of playing in the NHL. When I was 25 it was only my third year of pro, so I knew if I kept going in the direction I was going, playing well and being dependable in Worchester, they were going to give me a chance up here in San Jose.”

Last season you got called up to San Jose for 38 games. Talk about getting to play your first NHL games after chasing your dream for so long, and what the season was like trying to prove you belonged up there. 

irwin hitIrwin: “It’s pretty cool once you step on the ice, you hear the anthem for your first NHL game, your family’s in the building… it was a cool experience, something I’ll never forget. But then you realize you want to stay there, and prove to yourself, the coaches, and your teammates that you do belong in this league. It’s very cliché to say, but you just come to the rink everyday, work hard, prepare like you’re playing the game, practice to get better, improve and challenge yourself, and translate that over to the game and play consistently. Do what makes you successful, don’t try to do too much. All those things were running through my head. I didn’t want to over think and do anything I wouldn’t normally do. I just wanted to stay consistent and do the things that had gotten me to where I was at that point. I knew what those things were, tried to stick with them, and help the team win.”

How noticeable was the jump in level of play? You took a very incremental route of levels to get to the NHL, and must have seen tangible spikes in talent and speed at every league you ascended to. Did it take some getting used to?  

Irwin: “I was comfortable. From the BCHL to college, it’s a different game. Every level you go up, it’s faster. You’re playing with better players. Every level above is going to be a little bit better, little faster, more structured. From the AHL to NHL, there are similarities. The North American style pro game is the same, but the skill level of players is a bit better. The AHL is a great league. It allows you to develop your skill set to translate it into the NHL. The league does such a great job of developing players, and teams do a great job of getting players and not bringing them up too soon, making sure that they’re ready. Once you’re in the NHL, it’s not so much about developing as it is about being able to step in the lineup, play, and contribute, while getting better at the same time. There’s not a lot of time to wait on development because they’ll just find someone else. It’s a business at the highest level. Once you’re there, you’ve got to do what makes you successful and keep getting better. As you go up, the leagues are obviously a little bit better than the one before, but those leagues before were very helpful and were great stepping stones to getting me where I am now.”

So far this season, you’ve played entirely with San Jose. You’ve appeared in ten more games than you played last year and have six more points, but have also missed 17 games as a healthy scratch.  Still, you’re playing between 15-22 minutes a night, and are getting up to 28 shifts a night. Do you get a sense that you’ve hollowed out some permanent real estate in the San Jose dressing room? What do you attribute your boost in production and ice-time to? 

Irwin: “Coming into this year, I wanted to establish myself as a legitimate top six defenseman in this league. This year there have been ups and downs. We’ve got a great group of d-men between the seven of us. Any of us could play on any given night. We’ve got some young d-men, and some veterans in Dan Boyle, Scott Hannan, and Brad Stuart. Obviously Marc-Edouard Vlasic too, who made the Olympic team and won a gold medal – he’s my age, but he’s played almost 600 games in the NHL. He’s another veteran presence for guys like myself, Justin Braun and Jason Demers, who are the younger guys that don’t have as many games of experience as they do. We have a really solid group of d-men that any one of which can play on any given night. When you do play, you want to take advantage of that opportunity, and help the team win. I’ve sat out my share of games this year, but it’s part of the learning process. You get to see the game from a different angle, and you realize that you actually have more time with the puck than you think you might. It’s good to step back from the game a little bit. Obviously you want to play, but when you do sit out for a couple of games, you’ve got to take it as a way to learn and improve yourself, instead of dwelling on the fact that you’re not playing and being a bad teammate. You’ve got to stay positive until you get that next opportunity to step back in and play.”

You’ve got a pretty elite group this year – 4 Olympians in total between gold medalists Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, bronze medalist Antti Niemi (also 2nd in NHL wins), and Joe Pavelski, in addition to some of the NHL’s elite in Joe Thornton (2nd in NHL assists), Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, and others. The team is currently 4th overall. Is this the roster of San Jose Sharks that finally get past the seemingly cursed third round? What will it take to do so? How is it playing with guys who have accumulated the accolades they have?  

Irwin: “Those are so pretty impressive names to have all in one locker room. When you first get to the team you get caught watching, seeing how they go about their business. It’s pretty impressive what they do, because they’ve been doing it consistently for so long. That’s one thing I’ve tried to learn from those guys — consistency. That’s one of the greatest attributes someone can have playing in the NHL — bring it every night, be consistent, and help your team win. We’ve got guys who have been around for a long time and have won Olympic medals, Stanley Cups, NHL awards, and have been NHL All-Stars. There’s a lot of that in the room, and they’re great for young guys like myself and the others to look up to, and learn from.

“As far as whether this is ‘the year’ for us to win it all, of course we think every year is the year for us, but the league is just so tight, and it’s tough. It’s not easy to win the Cup. If it was, we’d have a handful of them already. The guys in the locker room are determined, we have a great group of core veterans and young guys, and we feel strongly about this year. Our goal is to get home ice advantage throughout the playoffs in the Western Conference, and if we’re fortunate enough to make the Stanley Cup Final, get it there too. We’re chasing Anaheim for it right now. We’re comfortable at home. We play well there. You’d always prefer that seventh game to be on your home soil if it comes down to that. Last year we lost in game seven in LA. We felt like we played well enough to win, but we ran into a really good goalie. This year’s going to be a lot of the same. With the way the new playoff format is, we’re going to have to play out of our division first, so we’re looking at playing Anaheim, LA, or one of those teams in the first round. That’s a tough first round matchup, but you’ve got to get past those teams at some point to get where you want to go. I think our team is built to make a deep playoff run. We’re a big solid team that skates well and can score. I like our team, and time will tell when we get to the playoffs.”

How’s hockey in California these days? With Anaheim and LA now both having won Stanley Cups, and San Jose being in the hunt every year as well, there’s been a real evolution of interest in the game there, and competitiveness of the teams located in the state – especially when compared to how teams in that area traditionally fared in the 90’s and earlier.  

irwin body positionIrwin: “It’s great. Growing up as a kid, it wasn’t a hockey hotbed here. I didn’t know much about them. You watch the Mighty Ducks movies, and that’s pretty much all you know about hockey in California. But nowadays, it’s three teams at the top of the league almost every year. LA and Anaheim won Cups, and we’re looking for our first. It’s good for the state of California. More and more kids are getting involved in hockey. The youth programs around here are picking up steam. We’ve got a junior Sharks program that we just had our first graduate player of just suit up for us last year in Matt Tennyson. The grassroots of hockey in California are picking up, and the sport’s becoming more and more popular. I would like to think that’s in large part because of the success of the NHL teams in the area. Kids look up to us and they think hockey’s a pretty cool sport to get involved in. You see more and more players from California in the NCAA, major junior, and the pros. The number of guys from California that are making it to the NHL is going up. It’s good to see.”

Back to your Olympic teammates – did you notice any extra fatigue in them after the tournament, especially considering the travel? Did they come back totally gassed, or energized from the experience and ready to go? 

Irwin: “When those guys came back – we had Patty [Marleau], Eddie [Vlasic], Pavs [Pavelski] and Nemo [Niemi] who were all at the Olympics and all played deep in the tournament —   they were confident. They all had good tournaments. I think the hardest thing on them was the travel and the time change. Tthat’s probably where the fatigue came in, but you wouldn’t know it when we played the games. They stepped right back into the lineup, played their 20 minutes a night, and contributed to helping the team win. I think Pavs had a hat trick in his first game back. I don’t think fatigue was much of an issue. They got a lot of confidence from playing in the Olympics, and for us, that’s great. They represented their countries and our organization really well. We’re happy to have them back. They’re four of the best players on our team. They came back and didn’t miss a beat.”

Has there been any light back and forth between any of those guys regarding the different places the countries they represented finished at the Olympics? Is it a sensitive issue, or just water under the bridge?  

Irwin: “There hasn’t been too much chatter, really. There might be the odd poke here and there, but other than that, there’s not much that has been said. Coming back, the Olympics are behind them now, and the focus is on the stretch run for us. We’ve got 13 games left, and our goal is that home ice. I think they embraced the opportunity they were given at the Olympics, and here and there there might be a quick jab, but other than that, everyone’s focused on the Sharks and making a deep run.”

How did you spend the two weeks off you got during the Olympic break? It seemed like lots of guys did different things; some just trained harder, while others took time off to spend with their families and other things.

Irwin: “I went home to Victoria and spent time with friends and family. I helped out with my old Junior B team the Saanich Braves, and the hockey academy that runs out of my old high school. Other than that, I just relaxed, got engaged, and that was pretty much it.”

Regarding another current teammate of yours, what’s Raffi Torres like in the dressing room now that he’s returned, considering the drama he’s been through? Is it distracting at all to you or the other guys?

Irwin: “We’re all happy to have Raffi back. It’s been a long recovery for him. Any time you get a player back after they’ve worked so hard to get back into the lineup, the boys are excited. He’s a really good teammate. He was great while he was injured, which is tough because you might not feel part of the team when you’re out, especially for that long, and don’t travel or participate in practices. He was always around the room, chilling with the boys. When we got him back we were thrilled. He brings a presence to the lineup, adds depth and scoring, and he’s relentless on the fore check. He’s one of the better guys in the locker room. He’s funny. It was almost like he didn’t miss a beat – he had a couple of goals his first game, a couple more the next night, and he was playing physical, the way he has to to be successful. He helps our team out so much when he plays like that. It backs up our d-men, and backs other players off of them when they know Raffi’s on the ice. He’s the kind of player you need this time of year, and especially in the playoffs. We love having him in the lineup, and he adds a lot more depth to our group.”

In such a tight and dominant Western Conference, what’s it going to take to be the team that tops this year’s powerhouses like Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim? Who’s been the toughest for you guys to play this year, and who will it be toughest for you guys to beat in a deep playoff series? 

Irwin: “We always have tough games against LA. It won’t be a walk in the park for any team that makes the playoffs. There may be upsets based on your seeds and where you’re ranked going into them, but the parity in the league is so tight. There are teams on the wildcard bubble like Dallas who would be tough to play in the first round of the playoffs. Whoever you draw in the first round isn’t going to be easy, and as you go on it won’t get any easier. LA, Chicago, Anaheim all have great teams, big bodies, great players, depth throughout the lineup, rolling four lines – I think that’s what makes those teams so good, having four lines and six d-men that can play, and it’s not just a burden placed on two lines and four d-men to play heavy minutes. In a playoff series, that’ll take its toll eventually. To be able to spread the minutes out among the lineup is important. All those teams have that ability with the depth they have at all positions.”

As a defenseman, who’s one guy you don’t want to see bearing down on you on a 1-on-1 or an odd-man break? 

Irwin: “There are a lot of guys in this league that have the ability to make you look really funny if they get that chance. Datsyuk, Jagr – he’s just so good and so strong even at his age and with how long he’s been playing. He’s just a dominant force. He doesn’t look like he’s that fast, but he can move. His first couple of strides are so quick, and he’s a big body. He’s hard to get the puck from and he’s got great vision. Those types of players are the ones that on any given play can make you look silly.”

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[Archive] 2014 interview with Troy Bodie

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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My interview with Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Troy Bodie posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on January 15th, 2014. The Leafs were hoping to earn themselves a repeat playoff appearance, but ultimately their bid was not to be. Bodie appeared in 47 games with the Leafs that year — his second highest single season games played tally. 

Bodie signed a one year/$600,000 deal with the Leafs in the off-season, and will no doubt be playing next season to prove he belongs with the big club rather than their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies — especially now that his father-in-law, MLSE president and CEO Tim Lieweke, will be moving on from the club. Bodie finished 2nd in Leafs’ +/- in 2013-14 with a +6 rating, his 10 points put him ahead of 16 of his teammates, and his 7 assists were his highest in an NHL season to date, so it no one should be surprised if Bodie becomes a more permanent fixture on Toronto’s bottom six forward lines in 2014-15. 

You can hear the audio of this interview here on  XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast or on iTunes

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Interview: Troy Bodie of the Toronto Maple Leafs on 24/7, life as a bubble guy & more

Bodie 2

Toronto Maple Leafs fans may not have seen a whole lot of Troy Bodie this season, but he’s no stranger to the NHL, and probably more familiar with Randy Carlyle as a coach than most of the Leafs’ current roster.

The 2003 Edmonton Oilers draft pick is a four year NHL veteran who has suited up for 121 games between the Anaheim Ducks (where he played 57 games in three seasons under Carlyle), Carolina Hurricanes, and now the Toronto Maple Leafs. Over those four seasons, he has amassed seven goals, seven assists, fourteen points, and 156 PIM. He’s been a pro for twice as long though, logging 368 games in the minors with eight different teams since 2006-07. He also played four seasons with my hometown Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, where he won the Memorial Cup with the team in 2004.

Though Leafs fans may remember him best from episodes two and three of the HBO 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic series (Bodie put up 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 fights and 15 PIM in that time), he’s now primarily playing with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. So far, the 6’4” winger has appeared in 16 games, scored 4 goals, 4 assists, and registered 9 PIM. His reassignment to the AHL cost him an appearance in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, but he still got to play in an outdoor game, as the Marlies bested the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3 outside at Comerica Park on December 30, 2013.

I caught up with Bodie recently during a Marlies’ road swing to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the team was marooned and at the mercy of the polar vortex that had delayed the team’s trip home to Toronto.

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Playing in 14 Leafs games this season also means that you’ve missed more than 30 of their games. What factors go into Randy Carlyle giving you the call and putting you in the Leafs lineup or not from night to night? 

Bodie: “I believe that one was strictly numbers. Colton Orr, who plays primarily the fourth line right wing, was down with an injury. That’s the kind of role I play. It was nice to get the call and get up there, but it was strictly just to fill a role. He got healthy, and then I went back down.”

Most opinions from players who have played or are playing for Randy seem to concur that he can be a tough coach. This is now the fourth season you’ve played under him, how is he to play for? 

Bodie: “Randy and I actually get along fine. He’s a tough coach. He expects a lot out of his players. At the same time, I think he’s fair. If you work hard for him and play the systems, he likes you. But if you go astray and do your own thing he can be pretty rough on you.”

During the 24/7 series, there was a scene at a Leafs practice where Randy pulls Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger aside and says, “…you’re not playing tonight, you’re not giving us what we need…if you’re going to play with our hockey club, your level of play has to go up.” Did you get a talk like that from Randy when you were reassigned, or how did your exit interview go?

Bodie: “Randy doesn’t do a whole lot of that on his own. He doesn’t talk to guys really, he kind of stays to his own. The one that actually told me was assistant GM Claude Loiselle. It’s usually just, ‘hey you know we liked your game… it’s a numbers game… go down to the minors and do your thing.’ That’s usually about it.”

How hard is it being a guy on the bubble? You’re good enough to play in the NHL, but have struggled to stay there. Obviously you’re a team guy, but to be the one who gets to play in a call-up scenario over others, it seems like you’d almost secretly have to root for guys to get hurt, or something. Can you describe what that situation is like? 

Bodie: “You definitely want to be there. I wouldn’t say you secretly hope for injuries or anything like that, that’s bad karma. But you definitely pay attention to that kind of thing. Playing in the minors and being a bubble guy, you want to get up there and you obviously think about it quite a bit, but it’s something where you just worry about your game, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may kind of thing.”

In your opinion, is there more value from an ice-time and development standpoint to be playing in the minors regularly where you’ve played 16 games this year – and there may not be considering you’ve played more than 300 AHL games already — or is there more value for you to be practicing with the big club regularly but only playing sporadically? 

Bodie: “I think there’s definitely value to both. Being up in the NHL with the big players, going through those practices, having the expert level coaching and being treated completely first class is very valuable. But if you’re not playing up there, it’s good for a guy like myself to continue playing by coming down to the minors and getting good minutes, getting the work in and being ready for when they do need you up.”

What are those little differences between the NHL and AHL that make them such different worlds? You mentioned the Leafs being first class, and I imagine the Marlies are top notch too.  

Bodie: “In most organizations, the AHL and NHL are very different. In Toronto, we get treated very well in the minor leagues, so it’s tough to complain about much at all. The subtle differences are definitely the travel – in the minor leagues, you travel a lot by bus. In the NHL you really get anything you need. There are meals at every point you would need a meal. There’s always someone available, even if you need a Band-Aid, or an ice bag, or something like that. In the minor leagues, it’s a little more limited. Those little differences are big when you need them.”

Is there a level of frustration that comes with repeatedly getting called up and sent down, as you have over the last five seasons, rather than sticking? 

Bodie: “Yeah, there’s definitely a level of frustration. You want to be a full-time player in the NHL. That’s your goal ever since you were a kid. So achieving your goal of getting to the NHL and then being sent down to the minors without any sort of timetable, then getting called up and everything’s good again, and then sent back down – it gets very frustrating, but it is what it is. It’s all part of being professional, I guess.”

How is it playing in the “centre of the hockey universe”, especially after playing in markets like Anaheim and Carolina? The scrutiny that comes with playing under that kind of microscope has proved to be too much for some players. How do you handle it, and how much pressure do you feel to be successful in Toronto and win the team’s first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years?  

Bodie: “Yeah, it is very different. In Carolina and Anaheim, you’re very under the radar. You’re not bothered at all if you go out somewhere or anything like that. People don’t give you the third degree about “…that turnover in the third period…” kind of thing. But in Toronto, that happens. It’s tough at times to get away from the game and just relax, but that’s more of something for the bigger time players like the Phaneufs and the Kessels of the world than the players like myself and the Marlies guys.”

So far this season, you appeared in 14 games with the Leafs, scored one goal and two assists, had three fights and 15 PIM. With the Marlies, you’ve played 16 games, have four goals and four assists, and nine PIM. You have 121 career NHL games played, seven goals, seven assists, 14 total points, and 156 PIM. With your penalty minutes outweighing your point totals as much as they do, is it fair to classify you as a fighter? 

Bodie: “I don’t think a lot of players anymore really classify themselves as fighters. That’s something that doesn’t happen as much anymore, because in this day and age in the game you have to be able to play in order to get out there. There aren’t many guys that cannot play the game. Fighting is something I definitely think is part of my game and will be for the rest of my career, but I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fighter. I think if you do that, you limit yourself.”

What do you think of the scrutiny that has been placed on fighters and fighting in hockey recently with respect to their relationship to concussions?

Bodie: “It’s a tough topic for the average fan, or mom or dad to really comment on because they don’t play the game. Fighting is very much a part of the game. It’s a way for the players to police themselves. People say things like injuries result from fighting… well of course they do. But if there wasn’t fighting, we all believe there would be more injuries from players taking liberties, knowing that there wasn’t that level of policing going on.”

Is it fair to assume that, if fighting were removed, some players may never get their break in the NHL? That doesn’t necessarily just mean the fighters, it could be guys who will just fight when they need to, and do whatever it takes to get into the lineup from night to night. What kind of players would we see getting their break into the league instead of guys who fight if that part of the game were taken out?  

Bodie: “If that part of the game was taken out I think you’d find a more skilled fourth line. I think you’d see maybe more younger players getting their shot up there, in and out of the lineup. Maybe they’d call a young guy up for some experience in a spot that otherwise might have been held onto by a guy with more of a fighting role. I think the young guys might get a little more opportunity, but it’s tough to really say.”

What would happen to you and your game if fighting were to be removed from hockey? What elements of your game would you change to make sure you kept getting those call-ups? 

Bodie: “I don’t think there would be much that I would personally change. As a player, you always want to get better. I work on my game. Every day I’m on the ice. But I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I’d more or less just hope the rest of my game would be adequate.”

You got called up to play with the Leafs during an interesting time, with the HBO 24/7 series being filmed and all, and you coming into their lineup on Dec 14th. You debuted in episode two, with the narrator mentioning you were filling in for David Clarkson. You fought twice that night, and we saw you get four stitches and return to action. Episode three saw you score your first NHL goal of the season in a win over Phoenix to open the show. Talk about that experience – how was it having the camera crews behind the scenes with you? 

Bodie: “The HBO stuff was kind of cool. I thought maybe it’d be a bit of a nuisance with them around and being in your face and stuff. Like I said earlier, I think it was geared more towards the big time players — the Phaneufs, the Kessels, they got it the worst. But they were all good guys and they were respectful. It was a good experience having them around.”

With so many guys on the roster, they surely couldn’t feature everyone on camera, but you got significantly more screen time than a lot of your teammates. How did it play out that you got the TV time that you did? 

Bodie: “I don’t know, just dumb luck I guess. Obviously it’s a TV show, so they’re looking for some sort of excitement. In the second or third game I got in two scraps, and they got some good footage of me getting stitches. That was maybe something they were looking for. It wasn’t something I was prepared for, but it is what it is.”

When you play in the NHL you have cameras on you all the time anyway, but is there any additional pressure in having a show like that present as well? Did it change the dynamic in the dressing room, or anything else? 

Bodie: “There were times when you didn’t really notice them, I’d say. They kind of just sat in the middle of the room with the camera on. You saw them there obviously, and the camera moving, and the microphone around, but it wasn’t something that was overbearing or annoying. Like I said, I thought they were respectful in our space, so it was good.”

Did they have microphones on every guy all the time, or how did they pick up everything? Was it bothersome at all to skate with a microphone on? 

Bodie: “For games and practices they’d pick a few guys and put a microphone on them. I had it once, and I didn’t even notice it for the game I had it on. You don’t think twice about it. You maybe mind your p’s and q’s a little more, but you don’t really notice it.”

Did you watch the show? What did you think of it?

Bodie: “I saw a little bit of it, yeah. Not all of it. I saw the little parts that I was in, but I didn’t get a chance to watch the whole thing. The parts I did see, I thought they did a great job. We were represented well. I thought it was good.”

You didn’t get to play outdoors at the Big House in Ann Arbor at the Winter Classic as you were returned to the Marlies on Dec 23rd, but you did appear in the Marlies outdoor game against Grand Rapids at Comerica Park in Detroit instead. How was that experience? How different is the outdoor game compared to a regular indoor game? Did you take time to enjoy it, or did you and the team just focus on getting the win?

Bodie: “It was an outdoor game, so it was pretty cool. I’d never played in one of those. I thought it was really neat how they did it. You definitely are thinking about the conditions, the cold, and whatnot, but it wasn’t that cold. Once you got into the heat of the game after the first few shifts it was just like another game. To win that game was more special than anything, but it was a good experience all around.”

In your opinion, what will it take for you to get back on the Leafs roster this season and tally 50 or more NHL games again like you did in 2010-11? Have they given you any indication of what it will take for you to play more games with them this year?

Bodie: “No, they don’t really communicate like that. You’re more or less left on your own to play hard and do your thing. You’re expected to know what you have to do to get up. Other than that, they don’t say a whole lot.”

Have you had a chance to follow your WHL alma mater Kelowna Rockets this year? They’re ranked #1 in the CHL for the time being.

Bodie: “I haven’t kept the greatest tabs, but I knew they were doing well this year. I saw Bruce Hamilton earlier this year, in Toronto actually, and he spoke very highly of them – which was unusual because usually he just complains and complains. But he had good things to say about them, and I’m excited to see them go farther and hopefully bring home another championship.”

Just to have a little fun, how often does Dion Phaneuf wear bowties to games, and how many more games would you have to play to have enough clout in the room to change the post win song to something other than a Miley Cyrus song? 

Bodie: “To answer question number one, too often maybe. To answer the second one, I don’t worry about the music at all but that’s usually how it happens, you play some dumb win song and just go with it. It’s associated with good things, so you like it, right?”

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XP PSP s01e10: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Troy Bodie

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

In episode 10, I went one-on-one with Toronto Maple Leafs/Marlies forward, Troy Bodie. A veteran of 4 NHL seasons, Bodie spoke at length about playing for Randy Carlyle, the HBO 24/7 series, fighting in hockey, being a bubble guy, outdoor games, Miley Cyrus tunes, and more. Have a read and/or listen, and give it a share too!

Troy Bodie

Click here for the written version at The Score’s Backhand Shelf 

Click here for the XP PSP audio podcast

Download_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_1004https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/xppsp/id643817929

Hockey Talkie: 24/7, NYI, Kings Colors Contention, Price Pose, Langenbrunner Laud, Spin-O-Rama’s, Pro-tection, and Euro-League Relegation.

January 15, 2011 3 comments

So I, seemingly like every hockey fan, loved HBO’s 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic mini-series. I touched on it a couple of blogs ago already, and the topic’s generally been beat to death and forgotten by now, but there’s two points I still want to discuss: First, as cool as the series was, the build-up was for a gimmicky mid-season game. Doesn’t the series seem tailor-made for the passion and emotion behind the pursuit of the Stanley Cup in the playoffs, and for specifically, the Cup Finals? Wouldn’t your eyes be glued to your TV watching the triumph of winning and heartbreak of losing the toughest trophy to win in sports? The boyhood dream storyline, first and last shots at the Cup… can you imagine seeing Marian Hossa backstage at any point of losing 2/winning 1? It blows me away that Americans need hockey to be put in a football stadium (where I can’t imagine fans at the game can see any of the action on a playing surface that’s ¼ the size of the football surface, unless they’re watching the jumbotron the whole game, in which case why didn’t they just stay home and watch it on TV?) in order for them to flock to it. Part of me thinks someday they (Americans)’ll get our game, the other part thinks the US sell is a big waste of time and the NHL should just milk the Canadian loyalist audience for all its worth.

On a lighter note, one of, if not the funniest segment of the whole series was Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau Christmas shopping for his wife, getting distracted by a Haagen Daaz ice cream store, saying “it’s never too early for ice cream”, getting turned away because the store didn’t serve ice cream that early, getting rattled, and then leaving the store with a shoes for his wife that were admittedly the wrong size and color. I mean, fat guy hypnotized by ice cream? The comedy writes itself. Enjoy:

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In an ongoing effort to not be poor, I was seriously considering betting against the New York Islanders for the rest of the season to make some money; and it seems good that I didn’t follow through on the notion, because they started beating top teams like Detroit and Pittsburgh. Someone tell the Islanders they’re not supposed to play “spoiler” until the playoff push. Good for them frustrating top teams lately, as well as my interest in gambling.

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If the LA Kings were better in their earlier years, do you think they would have stuck with the purple and gold jerseys? The LA Lakers win titles, and they look good in those colors; yet the Kings were bad, and got mocked for them. Coincidence?

Same colors: One is adorned in rap songs, the other ridiculed through history.

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I really enjoyed Carey Price’s crossed arm pose after stopping Pittsburgh in a shootout recently, mostly because of the heat he’s taken in Montreal for so long; it was good to see him have some success and win some favour back.  I’ve secretly been cheering for him to shake the Halak-ian curse, and I think he’s pretty well done that, finally.  Then of course, the Habs lost to Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury jammed it down his throat by doing the same pose. Hmm, oh well, so much for that.

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I was surprised to see Jamie Langenbrunner not only traded from the New Jersey Devils recently, but also traded for so little. A guy that’s won 2 Cups, captained an NHL and Olympic team, and always put up consistent, steady point production seems worth more than a 3rd/2nd round pick. But there isn’t much value in anyone from the Devils these days. I think NJ got hosed in that deal; at least Langenbrunner gets to play for a good team.

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There’s been lots of talk about spin-o-rama goals in shootouts these days. My thought is I’m fine with them. My only potential beef is with goals like Mason Raymond’s ; I think he might have stopped moving forward, which is the only real shootout rule, besides the idiotics of Kovalchuk losing the puck and Stamkos falling (seriously, of all players, those two both f’d up clear, uncontested breakaways?).

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Ovie demo'ing the 2012 Oakley visor

I’ve never understood why pro players insist on things like wearing no helmet in warm-up, taking the earguards of their helmets, and wearing visors that are not approved by any standards association in the world. I just don’t get wearing less protection at the level full of the biggest and toughest players in the world, that theoretically could damage you more than anyone else in the sport. Did anyone see Scott Gomez a few years ago take a puck in the head during warm-up that ricocheted off the post and into his melon and bust him open? At literally every level of hockey besides pro, you have to wear approved equipment (minor, junior, college/university, & minor pro), so why do players shed all the gear they’ve gotten used to over their entire playing career to be less safe? It’s gotta be all aesthetics, right?  From a business standpoint, it’s a really dumb move — the pros wear all this special gear, and young minor hockey players want to wear it, but when they go to buy it, they find out it’s not approved by the safety standards that regulate equipment use at their level (The Oakley visors are the prime example, they’re illegal in every level up to pro).  These kids are the major market for equipment manufacturers because parents will buy their kids whatever they want, in contrast to the junior or college player who gets all their gear provided to them by their team. 

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And lastly, do you think European-League relegation theory would ever work in North American hockey, specifically the NHL–AHL and maaaaybe ECHL? The process is this: If you win your league, your team ascends to the league above and receives an inflated budget. If you finish dead last, you go down and lose money. Sure, this could introduce a lot of problems, most notably probably the last-place/first-draft-pick system, but it’d make for a little more competitiveness and exposure to unknown teams, don’t you think?

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