|As one approaches each hockey season, there are the usual expectations among players and fans alike. |
While many hope for improvement in their play on the ice, others look to incorporate a different attitude with regard to other aspects of the game as well. Among this year’s Vancouver Canucks roster, there is one such noticeable difference.
As his recent numbers attest, the play of Ryan Kesler has steadily improved. But this year, “Kes” has added another dimension for which he hasn’t really been known; a more relaxed approach with the media.
READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP
Not having been regarded as the most engaging interview among the team, the speedy centre has made tremendous strides in this area for the 2007-08 season. In fact, just prior to sitting down for our conversation, Kesler was surrounded by the media hordes, replete with a sea of microphones, note pads and cameras at the ready. It’s a scene he notes was unlikely to have previously occurred as readily.
“I think if I saw that last year, I would have been out of here by now,” says Kesler jokingly. “I would have been in the shower, staying away.”
This of course begs the question, why the turnaround? “I think I’m just trying to have fun with it,” he says. “Before, I was a little uptight and didn’t know what I should say and what I shouldn’t say. Now, I just try and have fun with it and I think that’s it. Vancouver’s a big media venue, and you’ve got to get used to it.”
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2003, Ryan Kesler became a permanent fixture on the team later that season. As one of the few U.S. born players to don the Canucks jersey, has the transition to playing in Canada posed any challenges?
“I don’t think so,” he says. “You can say Canada loves their hockey more than the States. I really only know playing here, so I don’t know what it’s like playing in Florida or playing for a team down south where they don’t know much about the game. So if your not up for a game and just seem kind of sluggish, the fans will re-energize you here and it’s always fun when you skate out to a packed building and they’re all cheering. It’s pretty special.”
TOUGHING IT OUT
While showing flashes of brilliance last season, Kesler’s hopes for a breakout year were dashed having to undergo hip surgery in January. While injury is indeed a part of the game, that comes as little solace to someone so keen to participate.
“It was tough and I didn’t realize just how tough,” says Kesler. “I never really had a lot of lengthy injuries or never really even missed a game before the surgery. The first couple of weeks it was alright because I didn’t really know what to expect. But as the weeks wore on, it got a little tougher.
Height: 6' 2"
Born: Aug.31.84 (Age 23)
Born in: Livonia, MI, United States
I think if I saw that last year, I would have been out of here by now. I would have been in the shower, staying away. - says Kesler jokingly about the media attention
I was just trying to stay positive for the guys by being in the dressing room and trying to be around them as much as possible because that helped me. I don’t know if it helped them, but it helped me just to stay positive, and try and feel like a part of the team.
34 - Games missed due to hip injury in 2006-07
57 - Hits in 48 games last season
24 - Points this year - setting a career best in 53 games played
|I was just trying to stay positive for the guys by being in the dressing room and trying to be around them as much as possible because that helped me. I don’t know if it helped them, but it helped me just to stay positive, and try and feel like a part of the team.” |
Returning for the start of the Playoffs, Kesler suffered another setback, breaking a finger while blocking a shot. That injury rendered him unavailable for the remainder of the post season. Being sidelined at such a crucial time certainly takes its toll on a player. It’s been said that Kesler even suggested that he was willing to sacrifice the digit in order to return to the lineup.
“Yeah, it’s true,” he sheepishly admits. “The guys were giving it to me about that quote. I wanted to play so badly, and to fight so hard to come back and have that happen, it was devastating at first, but you know, it happened for a reason.”
A PLEASANT DISCOVERY
Known for his passion for the game while creating offence, Kesler further delighted fans with impressive displays of his physical nature, dropping the gloves for two very well matched clashes with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, both of which are among the most widely-viewed hockey scraps currently seen on Youtube.
Kesler himself only recently became aware of that fact.
“My buddy just showed me it this summer,” he said. “We were playing around on the computer and he brought it up and I didn’t even know that you could search my name on Youtube. It’s pretty cool.”
Asked whether we can expect to see further clashes with his Alberta counterpart, Kesler doesn’t rule it out.
“It is a possibility,” he says. “I don’t think that we like each other a lot and in the heat of the game, he has a lot of pride, and I have a lot of pride for the team. I think when we’re playing against each other as much as we are, there tend to be heated rivalries, and I think that this is a heated rivalry.”
Kesler was born in 1984 in the suburban surroundings of Livonia, Michigan, situated about 30 minutes outside of Detroit. While regarded as the home of fellow NHLer Mike Modano, Kesler notes the Dallas Star actually hails from neighbouring Westland.
Is Livonia now then officially known as Kesler Country and chock full of Canucks fans? “You could say that,” he says with a laugh. “I think I’m starting to get known around there.”
It’s a true testament of achievement to follow your dreams and reach one’s goals in life. Returning home in the off season with his wife Andrea and their two dogs, Ryan Kesler was reminded of that fact.
“My mom brought out a book of mine from back in kindergarten and it asked what I wanted to be in the future,” he says. “I said, ‘NHL hockey player.’ It’s pretty neat to look back at that. I’m living my dream.”