DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon with the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department. And I'd like to welcome you to our call. Our guest is Colorado Avalanche Forward Paul Stastny
. Thanks to Paul for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to the Avs' public relations staff for helping to arrange the call.
Yesterday Paul was named the First Star for the opening week of the season after leading all NHL scorers with eight points on four goals and four assists as the Avalanche posted two victories in three starts. In the season opener in Denver on October 3rd, Paul recorded his first career NHL hat trick as the Avs defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3. After being held off the scoresheet the following night in Nashville, he finished the week by recording one goal and four assists in a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Last year Paul was runner-up to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League Rookie of the Year after posting 78 points on 28 goals and 50 assists playing in all 82 Avs games. He was also tied with linemate Milan Hejduk
with six winning game goals. Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to answer questions. Q: It's always hard to predict how a young player coming out of U.S. college makes the adjustment to the NHL. Some take a long time and some take a very short period of time. Can you pinpoint why there doesn't seem to have been the steep learning curve that some young players have had, why it seems to have gone so relatively smoothly for you?
STASTNY: I don't know if it was quick. But I was in college for two years. And so when I came up, I was already 20, 21. Pretty mature for my age, and it was easier for me, maybe because I was a little smarter. Some of the things you can't teach I got from my dad. Playing with better players I think makes it a lot easier for me, just knowing that you can give and go. They think the way I do and it makes it that much easier. Q. Last year, during the spring, the Niedermayer brothers talked about how much they enjoyed playing together and winning the Stanley Cup together, and both your father and uncles had a chance to play with each other. Do you speak to your brother about that in your hockey playing lives, to play together and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup together?
We talked about that growing up. I think we're both trying to battle for jobs in the NHL and hopefully one day if we're both fortunate our paths might cross. I think the two happiest people would be our parents besides me and my brother. But that's the only thing we've talked about. Can't really predict or look forward to that because you never know if it's going to happen. Q. You're playing for basically the same franchise that your father played for. Do you have any memories of Quebec and when you were growing up?
STASTNY: Yeah, not too much. Not hockey specifically. I remember growing up, the cold winters and playing on the ponds right across the street from where we lived, going to the rink, just me and my brother. Obviously it was fond memories. Then when I went back there for the Quebec Peewee tournament, it really showed up. My dad was there. Q. Do you remember how old you were when you started to realize what hockey legends your dad and uncles were, any stories that stick out? And can you describe growing up in St. Louis with your brother and how competitive you were with each other?
STASTNY: As I got older, I think just from hearing from other people, obviously my dad and uncle are two humble guys. Just from hearing from other people how respected of a player my dad and uncles were, how good of players they were. As you get older you start reading stuff and seeing more highlights. I was probably 15, 16, right around there, when hockey started getting serious. Growing up in St. Louis, I think it's changed from the moment - from day one from when I've been there the last 12, 13 years hockey has been growing big. Me and my brother have been best friends and working out and doing everything side by side for the last seven, eight summers. One big reason I'm here is we compete against each other and we're always trying to do what we can to help each other out. Q. I think there's a sense around the league that last year you guys scored a lot of goals, but this year you might be more dynamic. Is there a sense around the team that you're the sort of team that is capable where no lead will be safe, that you have the ability to get four goals a game?
STASTNY: I think we're just - we can't think like that, because when we do that's when we end up getting in trouble, we're playing the high and taking too many chances. We're focused on playing defense. And like you said, with the players we've added offensively, we know we can score. If we're playing a tight game or open up game, I think we're comfortable playing both ways. Q. How has the attitude in the dressing room changed from last year to this year? Is there a sense that this team has all the tools necessary to make a real serious run at the Cup?
STASTNY: I don't know. I think it's a lot similar to the way it ended last year with the run we went on. And it's a loose atmosphere. And obviously it's well ran by the coaches down to our captains leading the way. Obviously we're having fun out there, and we're working hard. But I think when it comes game-wise we're just trying to focus on one game at a time instead of looking forward to halfway down the year or the next couple of games. I think we're taking it one at a time. We put ourselves in a better position once the season rolls around. Q. Playing in the WCHA, what did that do to prepare you for the National Hockey League and playing now with the Avalanche?
STASTNY: I think the WCHA was really good for me, a big stepping stone to where I am now. Just obviously it shows - obviously when I was there it was top-end competition all around, from the first place team to the 10th place team. It's starting to show more and more now with more guys leaving school early. And I think it's getting the respect that maybe it finally deserves. Q. On that team you've got a future Hall of Famer in Joe Sakic, can you talk about what kind of a mentor he's been to you, if in any way he has been?
STASTNY: Yeah, I think he's been good. He's a quiet guy. I think once you get to know him he opens up. If I ever needed little questions, small questions answered, he's always there to help me. Obviously he's making sure I'm having fun out there, always saying little jokes about my old man when they played together. But I think it's more of you just watch the way he presents himself the way he is on and off the ice and you learn more from that than just asking him questions. Q. You were born in Quebec, raised in St. Louis. There was a story that was making the rounds in the spring that because you hadn't played internationally for either Canada or U.S. you were sort of an international free agent, and then ultimately opted to play for the U.S. So I guess my question is, one, was that true that you had a choice? And, two, if so, why did you decide to play for the Americans?
STASTNY: I could play either one since I hadn't played in any IIHF competitions. But I think I had maybe a better opportunity or I think the U.S. wanted me and maybe looking to the future, my brother already played for the U.S. So like you said it's always a dream of ours to play together and maybe one day we'll play together in an international event like that. But obviously they gave me an opportunity and you can never turn that down. Q. Can you talk about how intense it was as you approached the streak last year, the record?
STASTNY: (Chuckling) it wasn't too bad until I got to 13, 14 games. Until then I didn't even think about it then I started hearing about it all the time. I think it wasn't something I was worried about, just because we kept winning it made it that much easier. Obviously when your team is winning and you're having fun, I think everything was rolling smoothly there. Obviously no one on my team or in this organization gave me added pressure. So I think it was something that was maybe a little easier said than it actually appeared.Q. Obviously you had all summer to think about how your sophomore season would get kicked off. It's been a great start for you. Can you talk about how good it feels to pick up where you left off?
STASTNY: It's always good to know you get a good start to the season. Always in the past I've been a slow starter, but obviously you adapt and you learn - I learned a lot last year, and I trained a lot harder this summer thinking this year would be a lot harder than last year. Now everyone knows you. You can't get away with little things anymore. I think I prepared myself pretty well this summer.