How did you wind up in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization?
Actually, we had a connection through Ft. Wayne in the IHL, where I was last year. They have a really loose affiliation, and they had two guys who were under two-ways (contracts). The coach in Ft. Wayne kind of recommended me to fill a certain need for this team, and I came to camp – didn’t go to Tampa Bay, went straight to Norfolk – and got myself a contract. I got lucky that there was an opportunity in the organization, a role that needed to be filled. I was lucky enough things went well in camp, and won the job.
63 penalty minutes in seven games coming into tonight’s action. Who are some of the guys you’ve gone with this season?
Sean McMorrow with Rockford, (Paul) Bissonnette from Wilkes-Barre – twice each. (Chuckling) I don’t know, they all kind of blend into one. My penalty minute total is a little high because of a couple short circuits I’ve had; they’re a little overinflated. I think I only have five majors in seven or eight games, but there are a couple misconducts that pumped them up to make it a little higher. I’d like to bring the per-game average down a little bit. A five-minute major’s good, but a misconduct or suspension is no good.
Any players you’d like to drop the gloves with this season?
(Laughing) No, I’d like everyone to leave me alone. Every team has guys, they have a job to do, I have a job to do. I learned a long time ago that if you start calling your shots you’re going to end up on your back with a guy pointing at you saying “I told you so.” You go out there, you play the game and when it happens, it happens. You hope that it’s a good, fair fight and nobody gets hurt. You don’t call your shots, that tends to lead to problems for you.
Your assistant coach, Alan May, was an NHL enforcer for several years. What has it been like having him behind the bench?
He’s a great resource to have, not only because he enforced but because he also played a fair amount, contributing all over the ice. He’s good for tips. He was an undersized heavyweight, so you learn how he tried to fight guys my size and give tips on how to fight guys who aren’t quite my size. He’s an unbelievably hands-on individual. You get to see how he stayed in the NHL for so long. If you could match his intensity you’re giving yourself a really good shot. He’s just as intense behind the bench and during practices as he was during his career.
After seven seasons as a pro you finally won your first championship last year with Ft. Wayne. What was that experience like for you?
It was the greatest moment in hockey, maybe in my life. After the great teams we had in South Carolina, and the disappointing finishes – my first year pro in Colorado we had a great team but a disappointing finish. The year before, in Ft. Wayne, 55 wins and a disappointing finish. I was really starting to think that it wasn’t in the cards. I wasn’t playing for an NHL contract; I was playing for a championship. That was my concern, I wanted to leave the game with at least one (championship). No matter what happens in my career, whether I stay here or go back down…just to be able to say I won a championship and wear that big ring and have those memories I won it with and skate on the ice with he trophy.
What are some of your memories of playing with South Carolina?
I have absolutely wonderful memories of South Carolina. It’s a first-class organization, from Fitzy (Jason Fitzsimmons) to [Jared] Bednar to everyone I dealt with there. I have nothing but fond memories and positive things to say. Those were probably, with the exception of winning a championship, my two best years of hockey. There’s nothing negative about my time there. I absolutely loved it. I still follow them, to see how they’re doing. I check the box scores, because I know Bedsy’s still coaching. Anytime anybody asks me about that place I recommend it a hundred percent over anywhere else.
So I guess I don’t need to ask where North Charleston ranks among the different places you’ve played throughout your career.
Hands down, first. From the hockey aspect and just the lifestyle, the downtown is absolutely gorgeous. [There’s] So much culture, from the churches to the cobblestone. And then you get into the fan base and the booster club. I’ve put on a lot of jerseys, but I’ve never seen fans that enthusiastic and knowledgeable in the south. And a booster club that supports them that much and has that much passion. That led to the whole positive experience.
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