Friday, June 6, 2008

NHL draft guide: Silly Q&A

By Rick Morris

As announced previously in this space, Sportsology and are joining up to produce HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY, a comprehensive guide to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and offseason as a whole. The issue will be released online, for free, at these two websites and on June 10. Until then, the features to be contained in the guide will be released here individually in serialized form.

Today, we go back into the archives of the notebook of Sportsology's Russ Cohen. He's covered several past NHL Entry Draft events and he furnishes for HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY a look at the lighter side of prospect interaction with the media.

The Baseball Question

For the past 3-4 years, I have routinely asked the Cubs or Sox question to the Chicago Blackhawks’ pick to see which team they want to see. Most hockey players (North American ones, anyway) are baseball fans. Jonathan Toews was drafted third overall in 2006 by Chicago and after the interviews were over and the cameras were turned off, my colleague Shane Malloy and myself asked him the question. At first, he said he didn't know and that's when Shane jumped in and said, “You can't waffle like Cam Barker, we need an answer.” Two years before that when I asked Cam that question, he answered Cubs, but then soon became a "big" Chi Sox fan right around World Series time.

Getting back to Toews, he then turned to me and asked, "Who should I pick?" I thought I would help out the Winnipeg, Manitoba native and told him to pick the Cubs for the sake of fun and the better ballpark or pick the Sox if you are trendy. The Blackhawks PR representative turned to me and helped out the youngster by revealing he would be seeing the White Sox when he hits town because of scheduling. He saved him from being called a "bandwagon fan" as Malloy has told Barker in person.

The Anaheim Ducks picked Logan MacMillan in the 19th slot, but there was something more pressing to ask him about.

Q: Will you go Angels or Dodgers?

MacMillan: I’m not sure. I was a Yankees fan, so I will have to get that switched off pretty quick.

The Golf Question

Nicklas Backstrom was the first victim of this question in 2006. The fourth overall pick handled it very well.

Q: Do you play golf?

Backstrom: Yes, I play golf.

Q: Are you very good or are you just learning?

Backstrom: I am learning.

Q: Are you better at putting or driving?

Backstrom: I think driving.

Q: Does it relieve some tension that hockey can bring on?

Backstrom: Yeah, absolutely [it relieves tension].

Phoenix draft pick Peter Mueller was the 8th overall pick in 2006 and he was talking about golf once he overheard the conversation, and he immediately spilled the beans about fellow Team USA teammate and first overall pick Erik Johnson.

Mueller: I called Erik to go golfing the other day. He likes it, but he throws his clubs a little bit. He gets a little temper going on…but who doesn’t? I would say I’m better, but he is probably better.

Johnson: Oh no. He threw me under the bus.

Q: Why do you throw them?

Johnson: I get upset. I dump the ball and I just whip that thing. He throws the club, too. I don’t know what he is talking about!

Q: He didn’t say he did that.

Johnson: He throws the clubs.

The Style Question

Washington defenseman Karl Alzner was drafted fifth overall in 2007. He was sporting a perfect Windsor knot and something told me that he wasn’t the person that pulled that off.

Q: Did you tie that or did somebody in your family help you?

Alzner: I tied it about 15 or 16 times. My sister tied it once or twice. My dad tied it once, and then my agent tied it for the final time. I didn’t know how to do the double Windsor, and I wanted something that looked good, so I let him do it.

Next up was Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. He was the ninth overall pick in 2007.

Q: How many teeth are real at this point?

Couture: All of them. They are all real. I haven’t lost any yet. I got hit with the puck right here (as he pointed to his lip and lower teeth) for 13 stitches, but I was lucky enough I wear a mouth guard. I’m one of the smart few.

Colton Gillies was pretty loose after being picked by the Minnesota Wild 16th overall in 2007.

Q: Are you trying to make a fashion statement with that tie? Who picked that out for you?

Gillies: The guy that gave me, the guy that picked up my suit kind of thing. He said, “Here this will look good with this,” and I said okay, I’ll wear it.

Star Struck?

Detroit’s defenseman Brendan Smith (27th overall pick in 2007) was in awe of the next question (well, sort of!).

Q: Are you going to try to get Yzerman on the ice to see if you can stop him?

Smith: I’ll try. I don’t know, it’s Yzerman right (he said as a fan)! I grew up watching him. I am just in awe. Coming up there (on the draft podium with him), I couldn’t even get words out.

How Strong Are You?

Olivier Fortier was picked by the Canadiens with the 65th overall pick in 2007 and wasn’t afraid to talk about his strength.

Q: Is it the physical battles you are talking about winning?

Fortier: I’m not big but I will get bigger and I will be big enough to be in that league (he’s currently around 5’11, 170 pounds)….I am stronger than my weight.

Q: Can you bench-press 180 pounds? That was an issue in the NBA draft.

Fortier: 180 pounds? I can bench more than that.

Q: See, you can bench more than Seattle’s Kevin Durant.

Fortier: LOL

Famous Families

I ran into Brandon Sutter of the Carolina Hurricanes (the 11th overall pick in 2007) the day he was drafted and I asked him this:

Q: Brandon, if you played in a pickup game with the Sutters against the Staals, who would win?

Sutter: I think we outnumber them so it would probably be the Sutters. Those are two pretty good families.

The day after, he answered this question about playing for his dad like a pro.

Q: Let’s say you have a bad game. You guys lose 6-0, you’re not in a good mood, dad is not in a good mood, you get home, mom’s trying to keep everything happy and you are trying to get away from the game for a while. That can be different?

Sutter: Actually I live in a billet family. Which is obviously a very good idea because I can’t imagine being at home after a loss. Yeah, it’s nice to get away, but there are some times where he is gonna …you’ll hear it from him, but he’s pretty good about it.

Do You Fight?

Patrick O’Sullivan, who was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 56th overall pick in 2003, is now with the Los Angeles Kings. He had a great sense of humor, and I noticed that he was sizing up Zach Parise, who was standing next to him for a few hours the day before the draft. Parise went #17 overall and O’Sullivan went much later but the sparks flew early!

Q to O’Sullivan: Do you think you can take Parise?

O’Sullivan: In a fight?

Q: Yes.

O’Sullivan: I think it would be a good tilt. That’s the funniest question I‘ve heard so far.

Q to Parise: O’Sullivan said you guys were pretty much the same size and it would be a pretty good fight between you too. Do you agree with that?

Parise: It would be a good scrap. He would probably beat me up.

The Donut Question

Eric Staal was the second overall selection by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 and he was giving all the right answers. He plays hard, plays chippy, will fight if he has to. When he mentioned that he didn’t hear enough weird questions I obliged and the inspiration came from my Sportsology partner Doug Cataldo (who thought it up).

Q to Staal: What’s your favorite donut?

Staal: A Bismarck (a chocolate and maple glazed donut with a custard filling).

Q: Is that Canadian (my American was showing)?

Staal: Yes, it’s from Tim Horton’s.

Ask Me Anything

Ryan Getzlaf was my last interview of the day in 2003 and he was giddy. Maybe it was the fact that he felt he would be the 19th overall pick by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (at that time), or maybe his blood sugar dropped.

Q to Getzlaf: What can you tell me about you that nobody else knows about? Were you a bully in school, or did you not go to your senior prom?

Getzlaf: (chuckle)

Q: Do you have a secret move like slew footing a guy or holding the stick? What was your favorite tactic to get the edge?

Getzlaf: I never really thought about that all that much.

Q: You play a totally clean game?

Getzlaf: No, I play the same as everybody else, chippy…I had three fights last season.


Keaton Ellerby was grilled about his joking around in the WHL.

Q: So do you think you are the funny guy on the team (meaning Kamloops)?

Ellerby: I can be.

Q: That’s what some of the guys are saying.

Ellerby: Who was that (the source was never disclosed)?

The Show Stopper

The Atlanta Thrashers drafted themselves a talented player and a new quote-master by snagging Bryan Little with the 12th overall pick in 2006. In Little's bio is a little blurb that claims he would like to go out to eat with two other famous people and sexy siren Jessica Simpson was the third. Maybe he threw that in there figuring the folks that put together the draft guide would forget to print it, or maybe he himself forgot about it.

Q: Will you ask out Jessica Simpson to dinner now?

Little: I don't know? Maybe?

Q from an unknown reporter: What's that a reference to?

Little: That was in that book I think, yeah...if I could.

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