Steve Ott had a busy summer. The Buffalo Sabres forward got married to wife Erica and continued his offseason role as crew chief to father Butch, a world-champion powerboater. Ott also spent time giving back to the community in Buffalo and relaxing at his offseason home in Windsor, Ontario.
Wednesday, he added amateur modeling to his list of offseason activities when he posed in Buffalo's new third jersey and posted the photo to his Twitter feed (@otterN9NE).
The Sabres' Twitter feed (@BuffaloSabres) had been unveiling the jersey piecemeal; the hockey pants here, a swatch of fabric there, and fan intrigue mounted with each photo. By Wednesday the full reveal still seemed days away, but Ott had other ideas.
Just as he breaks up opposing rushes, Ott broke up his own team's social media offensive. Apparently impatient with the Sabres' approach to unveiling the new jersey, Ott hijacked one and issued threats to his team's social media department; when the social media folks balked, Ott debuted the third jersey to the public.
"Well, I stole the jersey," Ott told NHL.com. "So I had to play it up a little bit, right?"
Ott laughed as he admitted his "crime," which reportedly followed a script set up by the Sabres. If nothing else, it showed he still has a flair for the subversive.
A decade in the NHL has done nothing to soften Ott, who remains among the League leaders in penalty minutes season after season. He revels in his image as one of the NHL's best pests, evidenced in his Twitter biography: "Loved by many. Hated by many … MORE."
Ott may be an agitator, but he also is a useful offensive player. In addition to his 93 penalty minutes in 2012-13, Ott scored nine goals and finished with 24 points, fifth on Buffalo's scoring list. He was the only one of the top 15 NHL players in penalty minutes to score at least 20 points.
So which comes first, being a pest or being a scorer?
"It's a good question," Ott said. "I think my competitiveness, being hard to play against, sparks any offense that I have. It's obviously hard-work offense; I'm not going to out-skill anybody, that's a proven point. But it all comes with my work ethic and having those competitive battles. When you have all that together you're going to get penalty minutes, and hopefully that translates into having great offensive numbers."
Ott said as his career has progressed his focus has shifted to becoming a more complete player.
"I want to be strong defensively, I want to be playing in that last minute if it's a tight hockey game in the defensive zone," he said. "I also want to be on the 6-on-5 if I have to be, or a power-play situation. So playing power play, penalty kill, faceoffs, going down the list. And being a glue guy on a line. You can be slotted if a first-liner goes down, or if you've gotta be on the third or whatever, you get your role and you get whatever minutes you can."
Ott will be relied on for contributions on and off the ice this season in Buffalo, where second-year coach Ron Rolston will lead one of the youngest rosters in the League. Ott said he is excited at Rolston's plan to use training camp as a competition for roster spots.
"It rejuvenates anyone's career to know that you have to go out there and battle the next guy for your job," Ott said, mentioning young centers Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko, who he sees as on the brink of NHL stardom. "It's great because it creates that healthy competition."
As for the reaction to that sweater, which hasn't been completely positive, Ott defended the Sabres' choice.
"First off, it's a third jersey," Ott told NHL.com. "It's not a new symbol, it's not a new look, it's not a color change; it's just a third jersey. People obviously have opinions. It's extremely yellow, it's extremely bright on the ice, it's supposed to be a fun jersey and that's where it's at. There's no need to read too much into it."