FMR RED WING BRENDAN SHANAHAN INTERVIEW

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DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m David Keon of the National Hockey League’s public relations department. I’d like to welcome you to today’s call. With us we have New York Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan. Thanks to Brendan for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to John Rosasco of the Rangers public relations department for arranging the call.
Brendan is currently preparing for his 19th NHL season and will be attending his first New York Rangers training camp later this week. He’s 31st on the all-time games played list, having played in 1350 career regular-season games, including the last 226 consecutively. He is eighth on the active consecutive games list played. Brendan is 15th all time and first among active NHLers with 598 goals, and his 1232 career points place him 33rd on the all-time points list.
Again, we thank him for taking the time today to join us and answer your questions.
Q. Last year when the Wings lost to the Oilers, did you feel it was time for a new challenge, the old guard might be breaking up?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, actually right after the Game 6, after the game, we went back and had a meal at the hotel. Steve Yzerman and I talked for quite a while. I think when you just finished losing, it’s so fresh, you know to go home and not make decisions, let some time get in between there.
I think we both agreed that we both had a sense that, for different reasons, possibly that was our last game as Red Wings. I wouldn’t say the decision was made that night, but I certainly felt like the instinct for each of us was beginning at that moment.
Q. Do you need a new challenge at your age?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I think it’s always good to get new challenges. I mean, definitely every year I was with the Wings, I felt motivated and excited. I wouldn’t say that it was 100% a decision made, you know, that came from me. I think that part of my instincts about moving was just picking up on — nobody pushed me out the door or anything like that in Detroit. I think I picked up on some, you know, certain feelings that it was time for the organization to make the switch over to some of its younger — give maybe some of their younger players an opportunity to take over that leadership in the dressing room.
Rather than sit back and wait for it to happen, I kind of became proactive in it.
Q. On the marketing side of the game, everybody is talking all summer about how critical that is for the players to be out front maybe more than they had been, more visible, selling the game a little more. What are your thoughts on what needs to be done? And you in New York, what do you foresee for this season?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: You know, I think we’ve really done a great job at improving the quality of the product on the ice. I think most managers would say that the business aspect of our game is fixed. I’d say that most players would say that the on-ice game is going in the right direction. Now it’s just a matter of, you know, getting that message to the people. Our fans are very loyal. We have a very loyal fan base. But the casual fan and maybe even the person who hasn’t been a fan of hockey, it’s just a matter of getting them involved.
Q. When it came down to choosing your new home, I guess Montréal had also made you an offer. Can you discuss why New York over them. Maybe it was something you always wanted, to play in New York.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, yeah, it came down to, you know, probably Detroit, Montréal and New York. I went into Montréal and had a chance to visit with them. Had a great meeting with Bob Gainey, the president of the club, the coach of the team, even the owner of the team. I think aside from a lot of the on-ice reasons why I chose to come to New York, this was also off-ice for my family prob ably a little bit of an easier cultural move and closer to the grandparents. My kids are getting to that age now, it’s a little bit easier for my wife’s parents to take the drive from Boston.
I felt on the ice it was a great fit here. I had a couple great meetings with Tom Renney and Glen Sather. But, I mean, when you’re talking about those three teams, Detroit, Montréal and New York, three of the original six, the on-ice aspect certainly great, but when you’re a dad and a husband, you have to look into the family aspect as well. I thought that New York was a good fit for that.
Q. Would I be reading too much into this, given the immense sort of effort that you put in during the lockout to help the on-ice product, the experience you gained from that in terms of dealing with the league, other players, sort of an executive-type experience, am I reading too much into this that maybe you might be thinking also post hockey in terms of New York?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Honestly, my focus is on the ice. I don’t think in our hockey world you have to be in a certain city if you want to get involved in the game after your career. I don’t think playing for one particular team over another has a major influence on your ability, if you choose to go that direction once your career is done.
Q. A lot of pro sports focus on the individual now, individual marketing with stars. I wonder where you think the NHL is at in terms of that and where you think they need to be?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, I think it’s still very early in the process. I think that we can get a lot better. I do think that you have to market the individual stars of the game and try to make them household names, focus not just on their on-ice playing ability, but some of the interesting stories about some of our young players off the ice as well.
Am I satisfied where it is right now? No. But we’re one year into a partnership. I think it’s just beginning. I think that the NHL over this past off-season has been very surprised at the involvement that the players — a lot of players at the NHLPA meetings expressed a desire to get involved on the marketing side of the game. I think it’s going to improve.
Q. Do you not think as well that the players, obviously hockey is a conservative culture where guys don’t want to step out of line, make themselves more important than the team, but do you think there has to be a balance of knowing when to maybe have a little fun, say something outside the cliché box?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, but so long as they give 110%, take it one game at a time, I think things will work out best for the team. I agree with you, I think we definitely have a culture that our pest players in the history of our game, I’m talking like Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, have been very modest, humble fellows. To say outrageous things or to behave in an outrageous manner, I don’t think it’s an invitation to just be a donkey, but I do think we have to cut some guys some slack for being themselves, and certainly allow players that freedom.
Q. I know you spent the first four years of your career with the Devils. Did you develop an appreciation for the Rangers franchise, what it means to the NHL during that period of time?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah. You know, we had a great rivalry with them when I was with the Devils. But certainly obviously they outmatched us. We were still relatively new in New Jersey. That being our closest rival, the first four years of my career, them being an original six team, as much as I loved to play against them and beat them, they made a big impression on me as a young hockey player on sort of a lot of the things that now as a veteran hockey player I’m attracted to: the traditions of the original six organizations with that kind of history.
Q. Can you give us a quick overview of Competition Committee meetings this summer. You alluded earlier to the product being improved. I think most people would agree with that. Is that the consensus that emerged from your group thi s summer?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, I think so. I don’t think we felt any major changes needed to occur. Obviously, there are a few changes that will go to a vote pretty soon with the Board of Governors. But I think the general feeling was that with better communication from the refs and the players, the games will get better and faster, there will be less need to call penalties without taking away from the standard. I think players and refs will just, you know, communicate better and get better at it. So the standard won’t change even though there may be less penalties.
Q. You’re a right-handed shot who has had a lot of success playing off wing. Have you had talks with Tom Renney about possible combinations, whether you would play the left or right side?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: We talked a little bit about it. Basically where it stands now is wherever the team has the most success with me playing, that’s where I’m going to play. I have played almost my whole career on the left side. I played probably the last 60 games of last season on the right side and really enjoyed that.
I basically told Tom that whether I’m the left wing or right wing, I don’t care, it’s just a matter of whatever’s working at the time, whatever’s working best for the team.
Q. You talked about the Shanahan Summit a bit. When you look back, do you feel enough of what you guys spoke about, got done?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, you know, I definitely am pleased with the results of that meeting. Probably more things got accomplished than I expected to, to be honest with you. I think it got people talking about hockey. It took the focus off sitting back and criticizing hockey and put the focus on sitting in a room and trying to fix what you see are problems in hockey.
Q. I think everybody agrees the game made some great strides. It’s also a work in progress. From where a lot of us sat out here, a lot of penalties were called last year where players were shrugging their shoulders, didn’t know what was going on, announcers couldn’t find really what the penalties were. Do you hear what I’m saying on that? Do you think it’s going to get better?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I expect it to. That was one of the messages that we had at our last meeting this summer, was that we want it to get better. We expect it to get better. We think the standard should remain the same. We’re trying to improve the communication with the referees and the players. The great messengers for us are the commentators. There’s lots of times where I watched games last year where it just looked like one of those three didn’t understand an aspect of the rules, whether it was the player, the referee or the commentator.
In time I think the whole work will be a lot smoother. I think some of the referees didn’t get it every night, some of the players didn’t get it every night. But over time I hope that improves.
Q. Do you expect the number of power-plays to go down? I don’t think people want to see it as a complete power-play contest. I don’t know what number you think is too many, but some nights it just seemed like way too many.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, I guess in a perfect world both teams really have a great understanding of the rules and the referee has a great understanding of the rules and the flow of the game. It’s not to me so much a matter of I hope that the penalties go down. I hope that the product gets so good that the penalties, as a result, will go down.
But I still think you’re going to have those ugly nights where a couple teams are tired or they’ve got some injuries and they maybe have some inexperienced players in there, tired hockey player has to reach and pull, cheat a little bit to gain an advantage. I think there are still always going to be those ugly nights in the NHL where there are going to be a lot of penalties called.
We really are optimistic that it will continue to improve.
Q. What is it going to be like playing on a team with Jagr compared to when you played on a team with Yzerman? Why do you think th e Red Wings did lose to the Oilers in the playoffs?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: To answer your first question, I haven’t had a chance to get to know Jaromir yet. All I can say is that I’m excited about meeting him and playing on a team with him. Your second question, I think that — we could go on and on for a long time about that, why we didn’t beat the Oilers. It’s funny, the last three years we were eliminated in Detroit, the team that beat us lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals in each of those seasons. I don’t know if we’re giving teams confidence or sending them on their way or if we’re just running into hot teams at the wrong time.
Obviously a big save, a big goal at the right time, that wins you playoffs series. They did those things and we didn’t.
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Courtesy of the NHL