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You asked the questions, now Avalanche defenseman Jeff Finger provides the answers in the latest edition of "Ask an Av".
Hey Jeff! I was just wondering when it became apparent that you might have a shot at getting into the NHL? Justin from Englewood, Colorado JF: “I’d like to think I always thought I did, and that’s why I never really gave up. The more years you play and the more training camps you go to, the more comfortable you get. I’d have to say probably two years ago I had a good camp and played well enough to believe I was able to play at this level.”
How long did it take for the jitters to wear off before you actually felt comfortable playing against the "Greats" that you grew up admiring? Roger from Houghton, Michigan JF: “Good to see a question from back home! It took awhile. Honestly, I still get nervous before every game. The first few were really bad, but then I realized the only way I was going to be able to stay was to block it out, relax and just play hockey. It’s kind of cliché, but it’s true. It definitely was tough for the first couple of weeks.”
What advice would you give to a player that has just been drafted or is going to be drafted and might not get called into the NHL right away? Chris from Aurora, CO JF: “Just like every other person says, you have to keep working hard and believe it will happen. I got drafted in 1999 and didn’t get a shot until last year, and that’s a long time between getting drafted and actually playing in an NHL game. There are plenty of times where it seems like a long ways away, but it’s not as far as you think.”
Jeff, what kind of music do you listen to before a game to get yourself pumped up? Chris from Billings, Montana JF: “We usually put music on in the room as a team now, but my personal favorites include some of the harder stuff, like older Metallica and Pantera. I enjoy stuff like that before games more than anything.”
Who was your childhood hero growing up? Travis from Calumet, Michigan JF: “I would have to say as far as hockey players go, when I was young Wayne Gretzky was the best but my favorite player was Mario Lemieux. I just liked the way he played. Scott Stevens was my favorite defenseman, so I’d have to say I looked up to those two guys in terms of hockey.”
I read in your profile that you grew up a Quebec Nordiques fan and not a Red Wings fan! My question is why? It must be pretty special to play with Joe Sakic. Nick from Quebec City, Quebec JF: “Yeah…ummm…I have to spill the beans on that one. One of my roommates filled out that questionnaire for me because I was late for practice and had to get on the ice. He was injured, so he wasn’t skating that day. This was shortly after I was drafted. That’s the truth. I was a Red Wings fan growing up, but it is amazing to be able to play with Joe and all the other great players in the room.”
If you could play in a pairing with any other defenseman (playing currently or retired) who would it be and why? Travis from Cheyenne, Wyoming JF: “I’d have to say Scott Stevens in the past because I looked up to him my whole life and loved the way he played. I’d like to model my game after him, but those are some big shoes to fill. I just love his style and how he hits. As for current players, Adam Foote would be cool. I remember when he was still here, people would make jokes about the names Foote and Finger. I like the way he plays; he’s really consistent and it would be great to play with a guy like that.”
What was it like growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? What were some of your favorite memories of growing up and being a “Yooper”? Miles from Centerville, Minnesota JF: “Hey Miles! As you know, there’s tons of snow and lots of hockey all winter. Some of my favorite hockey memories were during Christmas vacation, when we would have open hockey at Dee Stadium. We used to go down there for hours. My dad would drop us off in the morning and we would stay at the Dee all day. Even if you weren’t skating, you’d be hanging around, laughing and having fun. Those are definitely some of my favorite hockey memories.”
Coming from an area with an incredible amount of snowfall, did you hone your skills by skating on an outdoor rink and/or playing road hockey for hours, like many kids from the “Copper Country”? Deke from Laurium, Michigan JF: “We did both. We skated down in Ahmeek at the Oscardome and at Laurn Grove in Hancock. Not to mention, we played road hockey for hours on end because the roads get so snow-packed it’s almost like an ice sheet. It’s one of the best road hockey places ever. That’s all we would do in the wintertime was play outdoor hockey and road hockey when I was younger.” You have the distinction of leading the Avalanche in number of hits per game. I imagine that means you take quite a few hits as well! For those of us who have never played hockey, can you describe what goes through your mind and what you do physically to prepare for a guy when he is coming toward you on the ice at 20 miles an hour to put a hit on you? Daniel from Denver, Colorado JF: “That’s a great question, Daniel. Physically, all you can do to prepare is lift weights in the offseason. You have to be physically strong to take all the hits that we take. As far as the mentality goes, I’ve heard people try to refer to it as being in a miniature car accident and I think that’s a fair comparison. Some obviously hurt more than others. Sometimes when you get hit it doesn’t hurt, but at the same time some hits you give might hurt more than the hits you take. You just have to make sure you keep your head up, because these guys are big and strong. You have to be prepared; otherwise it could be pretty dangerous.”
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. It was good to hear from everyone, especially folks from back home!