As part of The Globe's exclusive, cross-country photo shoot with the captains of Canada's seven National Hockey League clubs, the players sat down with our reporters to chat about the new season and a wide variety of other subjects, too.
Here, in their own words, are Andrew Ference, Mark Giordano, Andrew Ladd, Henrik Sedin, Dion Phaneuf, Max Pacioretty and Erik Karlsson.
Andrew Ference, Edmonton Oilers
I first met Dr. David Suzuki when I was playing in Calgary. We were already doing a ton of the environmental stuff at home – all the things you’re supposed to do. The biggest thing after meeting him was getting involved in a public platform – with the union and with the league.
There is an opportunity as a professional hockey player in Canada to stand for something and maybe to leave a positive influence on something other than just playing the game.
We went with carbon neutral for travel. It was something that was easy to implement and it was something we could work with the Suzuki Foundation to actually quantify how much carbon we were emitting per guy, and plant a seed of thought ... that it’s not just about jet-setting around the globe without any consequence.
I went to Tanzania with Steve Montador for Right To Play a few years back. He’s a very conscientious and personable guy himself; he was up for the adventure; so hanging with the kids there and going to the different projects, seeing the work Right To Play was doing there was amazing. To see what the organization was doing and then to help spread the word, it was a powerful trip for both of us.
My mom was a GP and my dad was a dentist. The biggest thing they passed down was never just being one-dimensional – or relying on just hockey or sports. Hockey was always like a lottery ticket – and I kind of treat it that way.
You work as hard as you can at everything you do, especially with sports because if it works, great. It’s unbelievable. But don’t count on it working. Always, always have a back-up plan in case things take a detour. Be prepared for that by doing well in school and having other interests.
Coming into Pittsburgh, my first coach was Kevin Constantine, who loved structure and work ethic. I could easily say if he wasn’t my first coach, I might never have made it. But he gave me an opportunity to get my foot in the door. There was a lot of fortunate timing in my NHL career. It’s not just about hard work. You do need the right people in the right place going to bat for you.
Coming in when I did, when a lot of guys were just starting to work out and trying to kinda be fit, the bar was set pretty low. You could go into those camps and do the fitness testing and really separate yourself from the group with really strong scores. My initial foot in the door was probably that, just trying to act bigger and tougher than I probably was.
The tattoos are starting to connect now, so they might actually be dropping in terms of individual numbers. My whole back is done; my entire arm is done, some of my chest. It’s 20ish. A have a couple of big Haida birds for my daughter Ava – her nickname is Ava-bird. Stella, she has a big star, because Stella is stellar.
Growing up in Edmonton, I was a Paul Coffey guy – just because of the way he could skate, head and shoulders above everybody else in the league. Watching him was a real treat.
Going to the games with my dad, the other influential guy we’d talk about was Randy Gregg. My mom being a doctor that was always impressive to them. Here was a guy that could be in the NHL and still be a doctor. I thought that was so cool.
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I’m at the point in my career where I have a much different perspective on the game and can appreciate how special it is playing in my hometown.
There are a lot of similarities here now to how things were in Boston when Claude Julien first came in as coach and you wouldn’t see anybody wearing Bruins’ paraphernalia and you wouldn’t hear anybody talking about the Bruins; they’d be talking about the other sports. ... The people in Edmonton are sick of being out of the playoffs. You just want to bring the pride back to the fans that have been so patient and love the sport so much.
I sold the Harley; I wasn’t riding it enough. I never really rode it around the cities; I always went on big trips around the country. Since I’ve had kids, I’m not going to take off for two weeks and go on trip across the country on a motorbike.
The Harley bar? It wasn’t an actual functioning bar, but over the years, from my first time playing at the world junior championships, or whenever there was a big playoff game that was the place where the neighborhood people would go to watch. My uncle and aunt were both really into Harleys, so my uncle converted his whole garage into this man cave – where the whole neighborhood would come over and drink beers and watch the TV. They had a good time with it. But he moved; so that was the end of it.
As told to Eric Duhatschek
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
At 18, I was just playing to play – for fun.
I was thinking of going to a Canadian university and I had a scholarship offer from Ferris State, but I liked the idea of playing in the OHL, so I went and tried it out in Owen Sound and had two good years there. After my overage year, I came to a development camp the next summer in Calgary.
My first contract was a three-way contract – NHL, AHL and ECHL. [GM] Darryl Sutter was honest, he said, ‘this is pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it-offer.’ But he also said, ‘if you play well enough, I don’t care where you were drafted, or if you were drafted, you’ll get a chance.’
It was pretty cool he lived up to his word. Playing in Lowell, then Omaha turned into a great opportunity. I think I made the right choice.
After my first contract was up, I was at a point where I was asking myself, ‘am I going to play in the NHL for the next 10 years and be a regular?’ I didn’t know. I had a pretty good offer in Moscow in Russia and took a chance.
It’s sort of how I’ve always done things in my career. The risky things, I always believed they would work out, if you worked hard and played well enough.
The year in Russia helped me as a player. ... I had an offer to go back for two more years, but Calgary called at the end of the year in Russia, with a three-year contract offer.
A one-way contract to me at the time was huge – and a chance to get back to the NHL. But I was totally prepared to spend the rest of my career in Europe if I’d had to.
My wife and I just launched a new foundation here, called Team Giordano, working with the Calgary School Board, after working for years with Habitat for Humanity. We have a little guy of our own now [Jack] and it changes your mindset. We wanted to help out kids in need – to pay for school lunches, or kids can’t afford to go on a school trip, or if they don’t have access to a computer at home. It’s just starting; but it’s exciting. I think it’s going to be a great program.
Being a parent really puts everything in perspective. I like to take a lot of pride in playing well, but now I feel I can let go more at home and leave the game behind. If I have a tough night, I can still go home really enjoy my family. Before, I held on to things more. And I feel like I’m at a better point in my career as a result.
I’m a private guy, and very low key. Both my wife Lauren and I have great relationships with our families and we value that.
I like heading back to Toronto for the summers, where you can get lost in the shuffle a bit.
Some people really enjoy beach destinations, but to be honest, when I travel, I get sick of it after a few days. I’m more a city guy and a stay-at-home guy.
I take a lot of pride in being Italian.
My 21-year-old self would not recognize my 31-year-old self, not at all. I was a completely different body. Different physically and different mentally.
The science of nutrition and exercise has come such a long way. When you’re young, you want to get as big and strong as possible, and that doesn’t always translate on to the ice.
I’m 31 today. On the back nine, eh?
I’m pretty boring to be honest. I just enjoy spending time with friends and family. I do like golf – and I am really competitive on the golf course. If you ask people who are close to me, they’ll tell you I don’t like losing. I’m competitive about everything and it comes out in areas other than hockey.
When I first broke into the league, I didn’t understand why Darryl and all the other GMs stress experience. Now I do. It truly makes you a better player, especially as a defenceman. You’re calmer in your own zone. You don’t run around as much as you get older; and you read plays better. I think the guys who come into the league and are elite defencemen at a young age are special, special players. I’m 30 now. It’s taken me this long to really understand the game – and I’m still learning.
The last time I was a captain? I would probably have to go back to my minor-midget or midget days.
As a young guy, I looked around the league and asked, ‘who are the best captains; who are the best leaders?’ It’s the guys who show it on the ice. I just try to do that. I try to lead by example.
With Jarome, we’re two different types of players. From him, I tried to take away the way he treated people – he always treated everyone with so much respect.
As an organization, we believe we took some steps last year, but everyone wants to push to win, and they want to do it sooner rather than later. Some days are going to be tougher than others.
We can’t be satisfied being a team that’s just in games.
As told to Eric Duhatschek
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg, as a place to play, is an experience. Every day you wake up and go to Starbucks for your coffee and everybody knows who you are and they want to talk about the game and wish you luck for this season. They eat, sleep and live hockey, which is awesome.
It’s fun to play in a market with that much passion about the game – and you know that every night you go out there, they’re going to have your back. Every time you to go the rink, the place is packed, excited and ready to go.
Jonathan Toews is one of the most competitive guys I ever played with. I remember playing Nintendo with him my first year, me, him and Brent Seabrook were living together – and him throwing a remote control across the room because I’d beaten him in Wii golf or something. Each and every night, he wants to win so badly. But that’s what makes those people great at what they do.
I played with all sorts of different guys who brought different leadership attributes to the table. Whether it was Rod Brind’Amour and his work ethic; or Ray Whitney, who knew the right time to joke around and keep things light, but when it came down to it, he was as competitive as anyone I’ve ever played with.
The most inspirational people in my life are my family. My grandfather, my parents, they set the standard by which I live my life and everything I do and the work ethic I bring to the table and how to respect people and how I go about my business.
My uncle, my mom’s brother had Down Syndrome, at a time when there wasn’t always a great understanding about the mentally handicapped. ... So my parents fostered David [who was autistic] and Bruce [who had physical and intellectual challenges because of thalidomide] pretty much since the day I was born. They lived with us my entire life. They were part of the family.
It taught me a lot – not only how lucky we are to be healthy, but just their view on life, and how optimistic they are; how happy and genuinely they appreciate life, just doing the simplest things every day. Like going bowling, or having a slice of pizza. Those two had a smile on their faces every day. It made a lasting impression on me. It still does to this very day.
To me, the best teams I’ve been on have a family-type relationship, where you can yell at each other on the bench and five seconds later, you let it go. I grew up with two brothers; and it’s like that relationship you have with your brothers. You could beat the crap out of each other and 10 minutes later, be having a laugh and enjoying something else. Having those types of relationships, where you’re all working towards the same goal is definitely a big part of winning teams.
Winning [the Stanley Cup] in Carolina, to have that experience so early in my career, I didn’t have an understanding of how hard it is to make that happen.
I remember all the older guys saying throughout the run, ‘you’ve got to enjoy this because it doesn’t happen very often, so we need to take advantage.’ I was sitting there, 19 years old, going ‘okay, sure.’ I think it means more now, looking back on it. Now, I realize how that experience led me down the path to where I am today, but at the time, it was lost on me, I guess.
The only tournament I played with the Pacific Vipers was the Brick tournament, for novices. I actually played for another team and just got picked up for the tournament.
It’s pretty crazy to look back. In Chicago, the four of us were all playing for the Stanley Cup and to look back and have all of us on the same team at the age of eight or nine, when we’d have no clue that down the road we’d be winning a Stanley Cup together. It was pretty cool.
My wife and I honeymooned in Bora Bora just because we wanted to do something different and go somewhere we normally wouldn’t go. The image of the huts on the water stuck in our heads. It was something that seemed like a great honeymoon spot – and it was.
This year the goal is to get to the playoffs. It’s one thing to talk about it, but in camp now, seeing how hard guys have worked, the urgency has set in. I think [coach] Paul [Maurice] has done a good job of bringing that intensity every day and putting it in our mindset.
As told to Eric Duhatschek
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
A few guys that played for Modo [in the Swedish Hockey League] back then got together and bought a horse when we were 18. We stuck with it and now we own seven. These are trotters, so you sit on a cart behind them. It’s a big thing in Sweden. It’s exciting, it’s fun. You can’t do anything about it. It’s animals. They’re fun to be around. They have their own personalities, even though they’re horses. Every horse is different. It’s just fun to get to know them, and talk to the trainer about them. We’ve got a lot of bad ones but, for us, it’s the lead-up to the race. Once the race starts, the adrenaline goes up, too.
Wherever you live somewhere for a long time, you become part of that culture, where you live. We’ve been here for 16 years now. We spent 18 in Sweden before we came over. We’re close to spending half our lives here. It’s more and more. Our kids speak English, they’ve got all their friends, they play hockey. They have their lives over here. We’re close to being more Canadian than Swedish.
We started skating when we were five but we only skated once and then we stopped for two years because we couldn’t skate. So we started when we were seven. We practised maybe once a week, and played a game on the weekend. Right now, there’s too much focus on hockey for kids at an early age. We played all different sports, hockey, soccer, ping pong. Whatever there was, we played. We played soccer until we were 16. We both liked soccer just as much as hockey. It’s helped us. We’ve never really been tired of playing hockey.
We had a lot of good older players on that team [Sweden’s gold medal 2006 Olympic team], that were at the end of their careers. Just to be around them taught us a lot. To see how they acted around games, before big games. It was a big deal for us. Lidstrom. Mats Sundin. Peter Forsberg. They come in and you couldn’t notice whether it was the Olympic final or the first game against Switzerland - nothing bad against Switzerland.
[My mother] had four boys she had to drive around everywhere, and have dinners prepared. Our dad the same way, coaching. We were always on the move, always going somewhere. They were there for us but they weren’t pushing us. Just enjoy life, don’t worry about things. If things come up, you deal with them, and then you move on.
You get chosen to be a captain because they think you’ve done something that shows you can do it. For me, it’s just being myself. You have to try to stay on an even keel and pick guys up when they’re down. And really be positive around them. That’s how you get them to be relaxed.
When we grew up, the main thing was to win the world championships for Sweden, for your country, and play for your hometown team in the elite league. That was every kid’s dream growing up. We were going to play for Modo. That was our only goal. Hakan Loob was actually the first one that I know who won the Stanley Cup. When was that? [1989, Henrik was 8.] That was the first time they’ve shown anything from the Stanley Cup playoffs, like where you’re, ‘Oh, there’s a Stanley Cup.’
To miss it when it [the Stanley Cup] was there for us, it’s tough. Looking back, we got caught up in the moment too much. We got away from playing our hockey, being relaxed and making plays. It was something we had done so well leading up to the finals.
I haven’t seen The Wire. Game of Thrones I’m into. Homeland I’ve been watching. I watch a few TV shows. I like to read books. Mostly Swedish criminal stories. We have a lot of good authors in Sweden. I try to read as much as I can in Swedish. And try to keep our kids into reading Swedish books too.
We [Henrik and his brother Daniel] debate a lot of things but never about hockey. We debate who’s right and wrong. About anything. Anything. Who’s right? Depends who you ask.
As told to David Ebner
Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs
When you’re coming into the last quarter of the season you want to be as fresh as you can and maybe when you’re playing bigger minutes throughout the year it has a tendency to wear you down. I’d be lying to say that it did not wear me down because when you’re playing those big minutes by the time Game 70 comes around you might be feeling it a little more. If you’re around 23, 24 minutes, it might help the longevity.
The bottom line is I had to be better. I take full responsibility for that. Whether it’s worn down or too many minutes early, that’s excuses. The bottom line is I didn’t play well enough in the last 20 games and I was disappointed in that. I definitely did look over and reflect. You always do at the end of the year when things don’t work. Obviously we came up short. There’s lots of self-evaluation and re-evaluation of what you could have done better. I know personally that I felt I could have played better for our team.
My job is to go out and play when I’m tapped to go out and play.
There are no easy minutes. When you’re playing shutdown minutes and you’re shutting down the other team’s top lines they’re challenging minutes. It’s about managing them and getting the most out of yourself to help your team win games.
With the moves that we’ve made this year and the guys that we’ve brought in, I really like the team that we’re starting with.
With the additions that we made we brought in some experience, especially on the back end. You look at Robidas and Polak, they’re guys that can eat minutes and I think that benefits everyone. When you look at it at the end of the day maybe sometimes I’d be guilty of wearing down. I think I’d be the first to admit at the end of Game 70, Game 75, you’re feeling it when you’re playing 27, 28 minutes. I think it will help me personally. But I think it will help our whole defensive core.
The biggest thing from all the guys, you brought in guys that are a little bit older and that have experience ... I think the biggest thing for our team right now is we do have more experience and more depth and with that I feel that we are a better team than we were last year.
You notice [having more experienced teammates] during the tough times. Especially in a market like this when there’s a lot of pressure.
There’s a lot of attention paid to our team and when things don’t go well sometimes things get blown up a bit more than if you’re in a different market. But that’s the way things are here. When you have the older guys, they’ll be able to settle things down a bit more.
Last year we got into a slide and we couldn’t get out.
Defence doesn’t just happen in your own zone. I think a good defensive team has the puck a lot too. When you can kill time and when you can control the puck and you can wear teams down that way, I feel that’s a good form of defence, too. That’s what wears teams down.
We keep going back to last year and the year before. I know for me personally I’m really excited about this group and the guys that we did add. It’s a new year and it’s a fresh start for everyone. But we do want to play with the puck more. When we do that, it will give us more offensive zone time, it’ll wear teams down and we’ll be a better team for that.
We know we have to tighten up. We said it last year too when we were going through those stretches when we were giving up so many scoring chances, so many shots against, our goaltenders held us in a lot of games that maybe we shouldn’t have been in.
Our job as players is to play the style that we have to play and that’s put in front of us.
We’re going to play however we have to play and however we’re told to play.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
It seems like every training camp I’m asked about [the hit]. I’m very pleased with how things have played out since then. I wouldn’t change anything in my life that’s happened until now. I’m so happy and grateful for what I have ... maybe a handful of times I’ve thought about it, and it was always to tell myself that I’m able to overcome adversity, and to convince myself to be confident. Maybe then, that experience creeps into my mind. But it hardly ever happens.
The most beautiful thing about the game is the little differences between players reading the play. From an outside point of view it looks like we’re all just robots and we make the same decisions out there and go to the same areas of the ice. But one thing I’ve learned playing with different players, the guys who think the game ahead of schedule are the ones who have the most success and are the most fun to watch. To single out a couple of guys, [Mike] Cammalleri and [Thomas] Vanek were great that way.
Sometimes when you don’t make a good connection, it might hurt your wrists, you might get a little bit of vibration through the stick. When it’s clean you hardly feel it at all, and the puck just flies. Definitely, as a shooter, it is the best feeling in the world.
I still admire mainly athletes, mostly for their stories and different accomplishments. But right now it’s Derek Jeter and the way he was able to handle playing in such a tough market for so long and have such a positive reputation and be loved by basically everyone in the sport is impressive. I was a Yankees fan growing up, so Derek Jeter was always one of my favourites.
Grand Central is one of my favourite places in New York. It’s the train station I always used going into the city, it’s cool to see it in so many different movies and shows, it’s kind of a staple.
My buddy texted me the other day that he messed up a stock, and everyone in the office is mad at him. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that pressure of working a desk job. But that’s the route that most of the people in my area grow up and end up doing.
[Parenthood] has taught me to value things differently in life ... every decision I made and everything I did used to revolve around hockey, but now having a child, all the big decisions revolve around my family.
Being a dad shows you you’re maybe a little more emotional than you thought you were. You always think you’re going to be the tough dad and be hard on your kid, but I definitely have a soft spot even though it’s only been nine months.
For whatever reason, I’ve always been intrigued with sports like surfing and skateboarding. I’ve tried them both, and I’m terrible at both. I just always thought it would be fun, especially surfing.
You have to realize when people are out there and talking to you and about you, they’re passionate; they care about what you’re bringing.
I could be in an area where I’m not recognized and people have no idea what sport I play or what team I play for, I’d much rather have it this way.
Someone’s always there to capture every moment. You learn to make the right decisions. You see a lot of people getting in trouble and getting – maybe not deserved – for things they’ve done or things they’ve said. I’ve learned to think before I speak or before I want do something stupid. You realize everything can get taken away from you, your reputation can be ruined in a second.
The hands-on stuff is the most rewarding, the hospital visits. When you see the people you’re helping in person. We’re so fortunate to live the life we live in this game ... the foundation stuff is great, and the money is great, but what people appreciate the most is the face-to-face contact, that’s what’s been most rewarding to me.
I’ve been asked too many [stupid questions] to think of just one right now.
One of my high school coaches, to get us to start doing better in school and to get us to behave, he mentioned to focus on being a good person and doing your work off the ice and things on the ice will take care of themselves. It goes back to the message of worrying about the process and the results will come ... it’s definitely how I live my life.
I’m a man of extremes. I either want to live in the middle of a huge city, or in the middle of nowhere. If I could have an ideal hideaway I’d either do Napa, and do it sick, right by the wineries, or Upper East Side Manhattan.
As told to Sean Gordon
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
I missed Alfie a lot. We were very close friends off the ice and I spent a lot of time with him and his family. I got to see him a lot this summer. Finally, the kids have pretty much grown up a little bit – no diapers anymore, which is nice. We still talk and keep in contact.
I came back quickly [from the Achilles tendon injury] and that was fine. I couldn’t have done that any differently, I don’t think. It’s been taking me a while to get to where I am today. Last summer, pretty much all I did was rehab. I think that might have affected me a little bit. I didn’t really feel all that comfortable throughout the season last year.
This is finally the first summer where I could do the stuff I normally do and I think that’s really improved my health a lot.
I never know if I’m going to feel the way I did before completely, but I’m used to it now. I don’t think it’s going to affect me that much and hopefully, as of this year, I can really start getting back to the shape I was before the injury.
I don’t think [Cooke] meant to cut my Achilles in half. It was a reckless play with the worst possible scenario. I don’t think he did it on purpose, but I do think it could have been prevented. Every player, throughout their career is going to get injured. It happened to me and I’ve moved on from it. I don’t really think about it anymore.
I love the city of Ottawa and have ever since I got there. The longer I’ve been there, the more I like it. I love spending time there and I spent a lot of time there this off-season as well.
Everybody who comes to play for the Ottawa Senators wants to win; that starts from the top and goes all the way down to the players and the staff and the management and everybody around us. It’s fun and it’s challenging and it’s tough at times, but it’s also very rewarding when you’re playing well and you’re doing well.
We have great fans and great people in Ottawa. I’ve never been harassed in any bad way; it’s always been positive. No matter when we’ve been playing good or bad, people are understanding and realize it’s tough at times.
I’m there for another five years at least and whatever happens after that, but I can definitely see myself playing my entire career in the city of Ottawa.
We’re going to be a better team this year than we were last year. Everybody’s had a good long summer, working on themselves and getting excited for this year.
We learned a lot of things from last year. The team we have right now, that was our first real setback. I think we’re going to bring a lot of good things from the season, and flush the bad ones. I’m extremely excited about starting this year, starting fresh, and I think everybody is feeling the same way.
Hopefully, we can get back to where we were two years ago and start building from there again – because we still have a pretty good team.
It's an honour to be a captain of a Canadian team and it's not something I could have hoped for when I came here, but I embrace it and am very much looking forward to the responsibilities to come. I am, right now, a very, very happy guy.
I met with Mr. [Eugene] Melnyk and [GM] Bryan Murray and [coach] Paul MacLean and they told me the news and they asked me if I was ready for it.
I’m excited to have this opportunity and that they trust me with the responsibility.
I’ll never be Alfie, I’ll never be Spezz, I’ll never be anybody else. I’ll be myself and I’ll probably lead in a different way than other players would and that’s how it is for everyone. No one could – or should – shape themselves exactly after someone else.
As told to Eric Duhatschek