Anaheim's Kurt Sauer: One Sweet Duck by NHL | Jan. 22, 2004
For years, commentators covering almost every sport have said that offense wins games but defense wins championships. You didn't have to look much further than last year's Stanley Cup finale between the New Jersey Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for proof. Only New Jersey and Ottawa had better goals-against per game during the playoffs than Anaheim, and despite Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastien Giguere being red hot, a lot of the credit had to do with the players that accompanied them on the ice. The Ducks game-tested defensive system helped the club finish sixth in goals-against per game, and second in penalty-kill percentage during the regular season—two improvements that helped them jump from twenty-fifth in the overall standings in 2001-02 to Stanley Cup runner-up in 2002-03.
After a full season of playing with the mostly veteran group, 23-year-old defenseman Kurt Sauer gained a reputation for playing like a 33-year-old. The youngest defenseman to play for the Mighty Ducks in the playoffs emerged into one of the team's cornerstones. Sauer averaged 20.44 minutes per game in the playoffs and finished with a game-winning goal and a plus-3 rating. Why so much ice time for a rookie? Sauer is what many teams want, but few enjoy the luxury of having—a big, strong, durable defenseman who can take care of things in his own end and move the puck out of it. Luckily, Anaheim head coach Mike Babcock coached Kurt while he was playing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League and was able to sign him in June of 2002.
The St. Cloud, Minnesota native is the epitome of what a "Stay at home" defenseman should be. In less than two seasons in the NHL, he has demonstrated exceptional hockey sense and positioning—two qualities that are key to a reliable blue-liner. And at 6-4, 225 lbs., Kurt has no problem dishing out plenty of punishment in front of the net while avoiding costly penalties. In fact, he finished eighth on the team in ice time per game, but he had only 74 penalty minutes—statistics that impress his coaches and devastate opposing players.
Sauer has had the good fortune of working with a multi-talented defensive unit that includes playmakers Sandis Ozolinsh, and Niclas Havelid, and bruisers Vitaly Vishnevski, and Ruslan Salei. But the one defenseman that Sauer looks up to the most is hearty veteran Keith Carney—the man that has been called the "glue" that holds the Ducks together. The soft-spoken sophomore always keeps one eye on Carney, in hopes of picking up defensive tricks that will help him sniff out opposing teams' rushes and continue to take his game to the next level.
Make sure you keep two eyes on Kurt Sauer and the rest of the YoungStars this year!
What other sports did you play as a kid? When I was growing up, I played baseball and football. I was a pretty good pitcher.
Have you asked any other players for autographs since entering the NHL? I got a stick from Adam Oates and then I had to get a Jiggy (JS Giguere) stick after last year. Then I got a team autographed jersey.
What do you think about or do when you're in the penalty box? You try and stay in the game and keep focus...then you cheer the guys on to kill off the penalty.
If you could have any song play when you score a goal, what would it be? I don't even need a song, they would play it just once or twice a year anyway.
How did you decide to choose your jersey number? I wore it in juniors and just kept it.
Do you ever talk to your stick? No, I have never talked to my stick, but I take really good care of it...I tape it up real nice.
What was your favorite cartoon as a kid? Favorite one now? When I was real little I used to watch "He-man." I don't have a favorite one now, but when my eight-month-old starts watching cartoons I will probably get one then.
Which player do you look up to the most? I can't say I look up to one the most. I just like the guys that go out there and work hard every day, then you try to mimic what they do.
Favorite Halloween costume? I always just had a wig and mask because it was easy to take off.
What is your favorite home cooked meal? Chicken and mashed potatoes with cucumbers.
What age did you start playing hockey? I started playing hockey at six.
Have any pets? Growing up I always had dogs, but right now, for the first time in my life I don't have any pets.
What about playing in the NHL has surprised you the most? I think it is how many games we play. You have to be ready to play everyday...it is more mental then physical.
Do your teammates have any nicknames for you? What are they? Sause. Sausey.
Chunky or smooth Peanut butter? Chunky of course!
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Name: Kurt Sauer
Hometown: St. Cloud, Minnesota