Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stastny Media Transcript - NHL Player Of The Week


(left) DU Alum Paul Stastny was named NHL Player Of The Week

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon with the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department. And I'd like to welcome you to our call. Our guest is Colorado Avalanche Forward Paul Stastny. Thanks to Paul for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to the Avs' public relations staff for helping to arrange the call.

Yesterday Paul was named the First Star for the opening week of the season after leading all NHL scorers with eight points on four goals and four assists as the Avalanche posted two victories in three starts. In the season opener in Denver on October 3rd, Paul recorded his first career NHL hat trick as the Avs defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3. After being held off the scoresheet the following night in Nashville, he finished the week by recording one goal and four assists in a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Last year Paul was runner-up to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League Rookie of the Year after posting 78 points on 28 goals and 50 assists playing in all 82 Avs games. He was also tied with linemate Milan Hejduk with six winning game goals. Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to answer questions.

Q: It's always hard to predict how a young player coming out of U.S. college makes the adjustment to the NHL. Some take a long time and some take a very short period of time. Can you pinpoint why there doesn't seem to have been the steep learning curve that some young players have had, why it seems to have gone so relatively smoothly for you?

STASTNY: I don't know if it was quick. But I was in college for two years. And so when I came up, I was already 20, 21. Pretty mature for my age, and it was easier for me, maybe because I was a little smarter. Some of the things you can't teach I got from my dad. Playing with better players I think makes it a lot easier for me, just knowing that you can give and go. They think the way I do and it makes it that much easier.

Q. Last year, during the spring, the Niedermayer brothers talked about how much they enjoyed playing together and winning the Stanley Cup together, and both your father and uncles had a chance to play with each other. Do you speak to your brother about that in your hockey playing lives, to play together and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup together?

STASTNY: We talked about that growing up. I think we're both trying to battle for jobs in the NHL and hopefully one day if we're both fortunate our paths might cross. I think the two happiest people would be our parents besides me and my brother. But that's the only thing we've talked about. Can't really predict or look forward to that because you never know if it's going to happen.

Q. You're playing for basically the same franchise that your father played for. Do you have any memories of Quebec and when you were growing up?

STASTNY: Yeah, not too much. Not hockey specifically. I remember growing up, the cold winters and playing on the ponds right across the street from where we lived, going to the rink, just me and my brother. Obviously it was fond memories. Then when I went back there for the Quebec Peewee tournament, it really showed up. My dad was there.

Q. Do you remember how old you were when you started to realize what hockey legends your dad and uncles were, any stories that stick out? And can you describe growing up in St. Louis with your brother and how competitive you were with each other?

STASTNY: As I got older, I think just from hearing from other people, obviously my dad and uncle are two humble guys. Just from hearing from other people how respected of a player my dad and uncles were, how good of players they were. As you get older you start reading stuff and seeing more highlights. I was probably 15, 16, right around there, when hockey started getting serious. Growing up in St. Louis, I think it's changed from the moment - from day one from when I've been there the last 12, 13 years hockey has been growing big. Me and my brother have been best friends and working out and doing everything side by side for the last seven, eight summers. One big reason I'm here is we compete against each other and we're always trying to do what we can to help each other out.

Q. I think there's a sense around the league that last year you guys scored a lot of goals, but this year you might be more dynamic. Is there a sense around the team that you're the sort of team that is capable where no lead will be safe, that you have the ability to get four goals a game?

STASTNY: I think we're just - we can't think like that, because when we do that's when we end up getting in trouble, we're playing the high and taking too many chances. We're focused on playing defense. And like you said, with the players we've added offensively, we know we can score. If we're playing a tight game or open up game, I think we're comfortable playing both ways.

Q. How has the attitude in the dressing room changed from last year to this year? Is there a sense that this team has all the tools necessary to make a real serious run at the Cup?

STASTNY: I don't know. I think it's a lot similar to the way it ended last year with the run we went on. And it's a loose atmosphere. And obviously it's well ran by the coaches down to our captains leading the way. Obviously we're having fun out there, and we're working hard. But I think when it comes game-wise we're just trying to focus on one game at a time instead of looking forward to halfway down the year or the next couple of games. I think we're taking it one at a time. We put ourselves in a better position once the season rolls around.

Q. Playing in the WCHA, what did that do to prepare you for the National Hockey League and playing now with the Avalanche?

STASTNY: I think the WCHA was really good for me, a big stepping stone to where I am now. Just obviously it shows - obviously when I was there it was top-end competition all around, from the first place team to the 10th place team. It's starting to show more and more now with more guys leaving school early. And I think it's getting the respect that maybe it finally deserves.

Q. On that team you've got a future Hall of Famer in Joe Sakic, can you talk about what kind of a mentor he's been to you, if in any way he has been?

STASTNY: Yeah, I think he's been good. He's a quiet guy. I think once you get to know him he opens up. If I ever needed little questions, small questions answered, he's always there to help me. Obviously he's making sure I'm having fun out there, always saying little jokes about my old man when they played together. But I think it's more of you just watch the way he presents himself the way he is on and off the ice and you learn more from that than just asking him questions.

Q. You were born in Quebec, raised in St. Louis. There was a story that was making the rounds in the spring that because you hadn't played internationally for either Canada or U.S. you were sort of an international free agent, and then ultimately opted to play for the U.S. So I guess my question is, one, was that true that you had a choice? And, two, if so, why did you decide to play for the Americans?

STASTNY: I could play either one since I hadn't played in any IIHF competitions. But I think I had maybe a better opportunity or I think the U.S. wanted me and maybe looking to the future, my brother already played for the U.S. So like you said it's always a dream of ours to play together and maybe one day we'll play together in an international event like that. But obviously they gave me an opportunity and you can never turn that down.

Q. Can you talk about how intense it was as you approached the streak last year, the record?

STASTNY: (Chuckling) it wasn't too bad until I got to 13, 14 games. Until then I didn't even think about it then I started hearing about it all the time. I think it wasn't something I was worried about, just because we kept winning it made it that much easier. Obviously when your team is winning and you're having fun, I think everything was rolling smoothly there. Obviously no one on my team or in this organization gave me added pressure. So I think it was something that was maybe a little easier said than it actually appeared.

Q. Obviously you had all summer to think about how your sophomore season would get kicked off. It's been a great start for you. Can you talk about how good it feels to pick up where you left off?

STASTNY: It's always good to know you get a good start to the season. Always in the past I've been a slow starter, but obviously you adapt and you learn - I learned a lot last year, and I trained a lot harder this summer thinking this year would be a lot harder than last year. Now everyone knows you. You can't get away with little things anymore. I think I prepared myself pretty well this summer.

Hockey Media Day Transcript

From: DU Athletics Website

DENVER - The University of Denver held its annual hockey media day today in the press box at Magness Arena. Head coach George Gwozdecky and senior captain Andrew Thomas met the media. Gwozdecky and Thomas shared the following with the Denver media:

Head coach George Gwozdecky:

Opening Statement: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be back for our new season. It’s nice to see all of you here. I will basically mimic what Erich said about our new partnership with AM 1510 Mile High Sports Radio. I think it’s a great partnership and it’s going to allow us to be on the air on a consistent basis, not only with hockey but with our basketball program and also our continued relationship with FSN Rocky Mountain, which has been so successful in the past.

Probably like every coach and every team at this time of the year, we are looking forward to the start of the season. We’ve had an opportunity to play one game and that was on Sunday night against the University of Calgary. We saw some good things happen and probably more importantly we got a chance to view our freshman for the very first time. We have a number of freshmen on our team, as you’re all probably aware. Almost half our team is made up of freshmen due to not only successful graduation rates, but also because of the early exodus of some of our players to the professional hockey ranks. Just to think right now that Paul Stastny would have just been starting his senior year at Denver if he were still with us, but we’re pleased to see Paul and many of our other players moving on to their pro careers, whether it’s in hockey or otherwise. The one thing that I’ve told our team since day one when we came back to school here is that our biggest goal is to become a team.

On Goaltender Peter Mannino: Peter Mannino is going to be carrying the mail, and we have some young guys backing him up. Marc Cheverie is a very talented young goaltender. It will be very similar to a few years ago when Adam Berkhoel was a senior and Glenn Fisher was in his freshman year. Peter is going to mentor Marc very similar in many ways as what Adam did for Glenn. That is a position that we all know is the most crucial on a hockey team, and we’re very pleased to know that Peter is going to be with us. He is the most talented and potentially the best goaltender in not only the WCHA but the country. And we know that as skaters, if we make a mistake, Peter will be there to cover up for us.

On the Blueline: Our blueline will be led by preseason All-American Chris Butler who is back for his junior year, along with our anchor, our rock on the back of the blueline in senior captain Andrew Thomas. They will really be the key guys to run the show on the blue line.

On the Forwards: Up front we’re going to rely on our underclassmen similar to last year. Rhett Rakhshani, Brock Trotter and Tyler Ruegsegger were the three guys who really gave us a boost last year. When they went well, so did we. They kind of got fatigued down the stretch, especially in the month of February. When our opponents learned how to play against Denver and started to shut down our freshmen, our consistency wasn’t as good as it had been. Our success was a little bit more challenging, but there’s no question that those three guys are going to be bolstered by some other people.

On the Maine Series: We’re looking forward to having the University of Maine here, not so much because of the 2004 National Championship game but in 2005 we had to travel out there and start the season off with a series in Orono. It did not go very well. There were a lot of conditions that worked against us, but nonetheless, we remember those two games and the outcome of both and hopefully we get the chance to turn the tables on them this weekend. We are certainly looking forward to playing against a national power like Maine and a well respected team like the Black Bears.

With so many new faces, does it change your approach or what you expect out of the guys heading into the season?: There is a lot more teaching going on with individual and skill instruction as well as systematic instruction, which is keeping us busy. I think our captains also realize the work that needs to be done to bring this group together as a team. There is a lot of building of a team that has to be done.

Impact of "older" freshmen, was that a plan?: Age rarely is a deciding factor in who we recruit and how we identify players. I think sometimes age may be a factor with guys who blossom late or develop early, but no the age level of a number of our guys had nothing to do with us recruiting them. It was dependent on their skill level and their academic status and if they were the kind of character that would fit into our program.

Compare this team’s raw talent to previous teams’: We had a much larger senior class both in 2004 and 2005 than we do this year. Our senior class has four players, three of which have played on a regular basis. Tom May, Peter Mannino, Andrew Thomas and Zach Blom make up our senior class. The real difference in the leadership is that we had so many more seniors in those two championship teams, which really offers a greater advantage, especially when you have the amount of talent that those two senior classes had.

Senior captain Andrew Thomas:

Opening Statement: First of all I’d like to thank you all for coming, you guys do a great job in supporting us all year long, and I think that if anyone saw this past Sunday it shows a lot of promise. Having 12 freshmen this year, our biggest challenge this year, as coach said, is getting everyone acclamated, getting everyone on the same page, so after four weeks of Captain’s practice and obviously this past week, having the coaches on the ice, it’s been a challenge. But, it’s also really exciting because we’re starting to get guys really used to the routine and with having 12 freshman is something nice to see. Being an Eastern kid I’m excited for this coming weekend, having Maine coming to town, maybe a little redemption from a couple years ago when we went up there to visit them.

Andrew could you talk about how much of a rock Pete (Mannino) could be in the nets, based on his experience? Well Pete’s a gamer, and I don’t think it’s a question of him changing his play at all, I think it’s just keeping it up. I think our responsibility and the pressure lies in the defensive corps and rests on the forwards in really supporting Pete as much as we can because he’s our rock, he’s going to be our go-to guy this year, but like I said the emphasis is definitely put on us.

Do you feel old, now with so many kids around you, in terms of both age and experience? Well having been a freshman at 18 and only being 21 now, it is strange looking around the locker room and seeing so many freshmen faces. I don’t think it’s a question of age having Tyler Ruegsegger as sophomore assistant captain, I think that in itself speaks miles. Age just really hasn’t been a factor for us the past couple years. Like Coach said, we throw freshmen right into the fire. I was one of them three years ago, but we’re excited, regardless of age, freshman are freshman, they still have some learning to do.

What kind of captain are you going to be? I mean you had (Matt) Laatsch as a freshman, (Matt) Carle and Gabe (Gauthier) as a sophomore, and Adrian (Veideman) a year ago, what kinds of things have you drawn from those guys? Playing off of what Coach said, the richest tradition we have at Denver is always that put forth by the captains, all the way back from Keith Magnuson to Cliff Koroll who have influenced me a great deal. What I’ve noticed is that none of them mimic each other, they all established their own identity as a captain. I think that with the support staff that I have with Chris (Butler), J.P. (Testwuide), and Tyler (Ruegsegger), I think that makes my job a lot easier because they can delegate responsibilities. I can delegate the pressures that are put on a captain. Thankfully I have them there, but I’ll do anything I can to help the team: on the ice, off the ice, helping freshman with any questions they have, but really carrying the load when I have to, putting it on my shoulders and saying "follow me, this the direction we’re heading."