In this edition of Rays On The Record, the Stingrays’ Joe Shetrom sits down with veteran defenseman Marc Busenburg for the first of a two-part interview. Busenburg, 29, played 35 games last season with
South Carolina as well as 27 contests with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. During Hershey’s playoff drive to the Calder Cup Finals, the Worcester, Massachusetts native talked about his leadership role with the Stingrays, putting on an NHL jersey and his appearance on The Price Is Right.
JS: Well, Marc, how does it feel being with a Bears team that is four wins away from a second straight Calder Cup championship?
MB: It’s just really exciting. To see this team come together and really elevate their game in the playoffs, the bounces that are falling their way and the commitment everyone’s putting in – it’s just great to be a part of.
JS: When was the last time your beard was this long?
MB: (Laughing) This is the first time I’ve ever grown it. I’m used to shaving it every three or four days, so it’s actually exciting to see what would grow.
JS: Are you getting sick of it yet?
MB: Uh, yeah. I’m ready to shave it off.
JS: This is the furthest any of your teams have ever gone in the postseason, correct?
MB: Yes. I think I’ve been in three playoffs and haven’t gotten past the first round.
JS: What has it been like practicing with the Black Aces (Hershey’s in-residence practice squad)?
MB: It sometimes gets tough because they’re not playing any games, but for the most part everyone’s staying upbeat. It’s fun. There are a good number of us so it keeps it interesting.
JS: I bet this beats some of the bad teams you’ve played with in the last few years.
MB: Yeah, I had a couple of tough years so it’s been really good spending a part of the year here, and just the experience playing with these great players.
JS: You had your first taste of ECHL action this past season in
South Carolina . What was it like playing at that level?
MB: I thought it was good hockey. You have a lot of guys that should be in the AHL, so it’s a lot of young guys coming up showing a lot of skill. It was a good experience coming in as an older guy, maybe showing them little tricks I’ve had up my sleeve for years. I had a lot of fun this year.
JS: We’re you surprised to essentially split the season between the ECHL and AHL?
MB: To tell you the truth, I thought I was going to be there (in
South Carolina ) the whole year. When I got to (training) camp with the Bears and saw the amount of defensemen, I pretty much ruled out that I was never going to get called up. I was like, if I do get called up maybe it’s just to fill that void of the ECHL call-up; the playoff rule that you have to play 10 games [at the AHL level]. I thought if I got called up it’s going to be the token ten games and then go back down, but unfortunately some guys got injured and I benefited from it.
JS: You donned an alternate captain’s “A” with the Stingrays this year. Did you enjoy the leadership role, and did you feel like a mentor toward some of the younger players?
MB: Yeah. I always looked upon the older guys I played with when I was younger. I remember learning a lot. I just wanted to extend my leadership and knowledge of the game, but at the same part you don’t want to be doing too much. I thought it was interesting trying to balance that. But I get along with the younger guys; they make fun of me sometimes for being a dad. (Laughing) I think I still look around their age. I had a lot of them fooled most of the year until they started looking up my stats and seeing how old I was.
JS: You spent the 05/06 season in
. What was it like playing overseas, and how did you end up in Skelleftea?
MB: It was different. The opportunity arose early in the summer, but I didn’t know if I was ready to head over there. A friend of mine gave an agent over in
Europe my number. All of a sudden they came back with a really good offer with a really good team that I was going to. We lost two games all season. It was really different, though. It was cold, it was dark. It was a two hour drive from the
Arctic Circle , so come December there were like three hours of sunlight. But, for the most part it was fun.
JS: Did you pick up the language pretty well?
MB: I was always that guy that said, people who come into our country that don’t know our language needs to learn it. And I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, so before I went there I studied for about a month. I get there, and the first few people I talk to I tried to throw out the Swedish I knew. (Laughing) They came back and talked to me in English. I thought, “all right.” They were happy to talk English to me because they don’t get to do it that often.
JS: You got to spend some time with the Tampa Bay Lightning during training camp a few years back, suiting up for an exhibition game against the Atlanta Thrashers. What was it like donning an NHL sweater?
MB: That was awesome. [Bears President & General Manager] Doug Yingst actually pulled some strings and was really pushing to get me in there. I owe a lot to him for helping me out in that direction. Going into camp…I didn’t think I should be there. I found out 10 days before I was going to camp, so it was like a shock; I was ecstatic. I just wanted to have a good showing there. It ended up working out pretty well. They even let me play over a first round draft pick and play in an exhibition game, which I’d say is the highlight of my career so far.
JS: During the 02/03 campaign, you were assigned to the WCHL’s San Diego Gulls from Hershey, appearing on an episode of The Price Is Right. Tell us about the experience.
MB: The way I took it, it was a two week vacation (going from Hershey to
San Diego ). I played 6 games and we won all six. I played Magic Number (on The Price Is Right). I was the second person called up – it took me until my third try to get up on stage – and bid on a pearl and diamond necklace. Somebody bid $1,800 and I did $1,801 because I was the last one to bid. So, I got up on stage and played Magic Number. You have two prizes; he doesn’t tell you what they cost but he says the magic number goes in between them. I ended up winning a Pilates exercise machine and a dinette set.
JS: Do you still have everything you won?
MB: I sold the exercise machine and gave my mom the pearl and diamond necklace. I gave my parents a housewarming gift with the dinette set.
Note: Part 2 of Busenburg’s interview will appear Wednesday.
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