Greg Zanon signed a two-year contract with the Avalanche on July 1, 2012. Zanon, 32, split the 2011-12 season between Minnesota and Boston, recording eight points (3g/5a) with a +3 plus/minus rating in 56 combined games between the two teams. The Burnaby, B.C., native went on to dress in all seven playoff games for Boston, picking up one assist. Selected by Ottawa in the fifth round (156th overall) of the 2000 Entry Draft, Zanon has appeared in 449 career games, totaling 56 points (12g/44a). He spent parts of four seasons with Nashville (2005-06 to 2008-09), two-plus seasons with Minnesota (2009-10 to 2011-12) and finished the 2011-12 campaign with Boston. He has also skated in 18 career playoff games (0g/5a). He recently sat down with coloradoavalanche.com during training camp.
Q: What did you do in the offseason? How did you work to stay in shape?
A: I stayed here and trained at DU (University of Denver) with about eight other guys. I just skated and trained there and tried taking in some of the sights. That’s about it.
Q: How will you use your veteran experience in the league to help lead the young Avs?
A: Just try to play my game and do what I can to try and keep pucks out of my net since that’s my game. Contribute any way I can offensively. Just come in and be able to calm things down. The team had a great run at the end of last year and we just want to carry over. Everybody is going to talk about it but we have to start strong and we are playing 48 games so you get into the season a lot quicker.
Q: How will your physical and reliable defense be an asset to this team?
A: I guess just trying to make it stronger and give more support. I just have to do what I can to do my job and my job is pretty easy. I just try to play physical and try to move the puck to the forwards and let them try to do their job.
Q: You are regarded as one of the best shot blockers around the league. Is this something that comes natural to you or do you consciously practice it?
A: I worked at it in college but it is more of a natural thing. You see it and try to figure out how guys shoot and when to go down and when not to go down. It is just something that has evolved as one of my bigger attributes.
Q: How do you prepare differently for a short season?
A: I don’t know. I will be learning that as it goes. Rest and taking care of your body are probably the biggest things. You are going to be playing every second night and on most nights probably playing back-to-back games. You just have to make sure you are eating the right things and staying hydrated and making sure we are getting enough sleep at night so we are ready to go for the next game.
Q: Who was your favorite player growing up?
A: As I was younger, I loved obviously watching (Wayne) Gretzky. As I got into it more and started playing defense, I liked watching Scott Stevens.
Q: Who is the most talented player you have ever played with?
A: When I was in Nashville, I would say probably [Peter] Forsberg and [Paul] Kariya were the tops. Forsberg was just a different human being on the ice. Playing in Boston, [Zdeno] Chara was a beast. Playing in Minnesota, [Mikko} Koivu is one of the greats. I have been fortunate enough to play with a lot of real great players.
Q: I understand you have been in Denver since the summer. What are your favorite things about this place?
A: The weather. My dad was in town and we went golfing on Dec. 05 and it was like 70 degrees out, so you can’t complain about that. I think the sights have been great. With the lockout, we have been able to see a lot more than we would have. The sights, like Red Rocks and the Garden of the Gods, are pretty amazing.
Q: Have you been up to the mountains much?
A: We actually were just up in Breckenridge last weekend. We were there at the hotel when I got the news that we were going back to play. It is beautiful up there.
Q: Your family is out here, I have heard. How old are your kids? How have they settled in and enjoyed Denver?
A: I have three kids that are seven, four, and 19 months so we are busy. The hardest adjustment is this was the first time we have moved when school was involved so it was tough on my older one to start a new school and make new friends. But she has adapted now and loves it. She couldn’t wait to go back after Christmas break, so that is always a good sign that they are adjusted. The other two are just easy and go with the flow.
Q: What is the next week going to be like in terms of building chemistry with the team and learning the systems of Coach Sacco?
A: Well, there are only a few new guys so that always helps. You don’t find yourself at the front of the lines during practice. You just watch the other guys and learn that way. Obviously, it is a learning period but the quicker you can get into doing what we want to be doing, then the better. We want to get off to a quick start. The way Joe [Sacco] held practice today, we went over a lot of things but we did things short and sweet and we covered a lot of areas. I think it is good to have upbeat practices like we have had and cover as much as we can in the next five or six days.
Q: Do you have any nicknames?
A: Every team is different but a lot of guys around here call me Zanor. I have got Z a lot. I have been on teams where there is two Z’s so I have been Zed and everything but Zanor is the one that has been sticking around here so far.
Q: How was your first official practice with the Avalanche?
A: It was good. Obviously, you have been waiting for it. It was nice to get out there with all of the boys around. The pace was fast and the guys have been looking good. It looks like the guys did the right things during the lockout to be ready for this type of situation. We are going to just get better every day and get into the game on the 19th and look to get two points.
Q: You have one of the best beards in the NHL. How long have you grown it for?
A: It has been almost six months and I don’t plan on shaving it so we will see how long it gets. I am hoping to make it a full year. Hopefully, we will be in the Cup and I will have a year-long beard.