By Adam Brady
He's a surfer in the offseason and a longtime resident of Hermosa Beach, so Sean O'Donnell couldn't be happier playing hockey in Southern California.
The Ducks are the 35-year-old O'Donnell's sixth team in his 12-year career. He came to Anaheim at last season's March trade deadline and made an immediate impact on the defensive end. He even added some surprising offense in a pivotal Game 4 against Calgary in the first round of last year's playoffs. Despite having just two goals all season long, O'Donnell netted a slapshot from the left point to give the Ducks a dramatic overtime victory.
This season he has paired with Chris Pronger to help the Ducks establish one of the NHL's top defenses and maintain his reputation as one of the hardest-working players on the team.
O'Donnell spoke recently about his offseason hobby, why scoring goals doesn't interest him that much and how life with the Ducks couldn't get much better.
How has this year been different from your situation with the Ducks last season?
Anytime you come to a team during the season and you don't have a chance to have training camp with the team, there's an adjustment period. I had a great time last season and it was a nice run through the playoffs. But this year it was a lot better being there from the start.
How meaningful was it to go through the postseason last year?
That's what you play for. The regular season, for the most part, is kind of a tuneup for the playoffs. Before I came here I was in a situation in Phoenix where personally it was not a great situation and team-wise it was not a great situation. To come here it felt almost like being rescued. Going on that run with those guys, you feel like you grow a lot as a team in the playoffs.
What was it like to score that overtime goal against Calgary?
It was the biggest goal I ever scored. It was a big game for us because we tied the series up at 2-2 and we knew we didn't want to go down 3-1 heading back to Calgary. It was one of those things where I was in the right place in the right time, Rob Niedermayer was kind of screening in front and I just shot it as hard as I could. Somehow it found its way to the back of the net. When you realize that you've scored and it kind of sinks in that everyone is coming off the bench to see you in the corner and you just tied the series up, it's an incredible feeling. I didn't get a lot of sleep that night.
You've said before that scoring goals doesn't interest you that much.
Don't get me wrong, everyone likes to score goals, but for me it's almost more of a surprise when I do. There are things that I bring to the team that I take pride in that aren't as flashy. When I do those things night in and night out, it brings me a lot of joy. There are times when I've scored a goal, but not had a good game. If I do happen to get a goal and I do all the things that have helped me stay in the league for so long, then it's a great day.
What are those things you enjoy more?
I think it's just about consistency and steadiness. I think I'm a pretty good guy in the locker room and I think I have the respect of my teammates. I've been around for a little while and I don't think I have anything that stands out, but I think I'm a pretty smart player, move the puck pretty well, anticipate my play and step in for my teammates when it's needed. There's nothing fancy, I just hope to have consistent play every night.
How has it been playing alongside Chris Pronger this year?
It's been great. Every player would love to play with someone like that. I've played with other players who were maybe as good as him defensively, players who were as physical as he is or players who were as smart, but never the whole package like he has. We have both played a lot of games in this league and I think we work well together.
About the surfing, how often do you get out in the summer?
I probably go once or twice a week. I'm not hardcore, but I enjoy doing it. It's just a fun spot to be in. The sun is out and you're sitting out there on the water. Sometimes the dolphins come pretty close to you. And you grab a wave here and there. I would never go out when it's cold, wearing a wetsuit or anything like that. It's more the experience for me.
There aren't a lot of hockey players who surf, are there?
You'd be surprised. I'm not sure who the first ones around our area were, maybe Glen Murray and Rob Blake [when O'Donnell was their teammate with the Kings]. I went down to San Onofre last summer and there had to be 10 of us in the water. There were a bunch of guys who live around here like Rob Niedermayer and [former Ducks] Keith Carney and Paul Kariya. So, it's definitely growing.
When did you start doing it?
During the lockout [in 2004-05]. There was some free time and we were like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhat do we do?' There were some trips where a bunch of us went for three or four days. Then I was in Hawaii for a few days during Thanksgiving of that year. That's when I started getting into it.
Is being with this team the perfect situation for you right now?
I can't think of a better place to be. If the 405 and the 91 were to clear up a little bit, then it would be an even more perfect situation [laughs]. That's really the only problem I have. Living in Hermosa, where I have a lot of good friends and love the area, is great. I'm 35 now and I think I have a couple of good years left. Playing on a team like this, with guys like this, is certainly a lot easier on your body. It's really made coming to the rink fun.
This feature appears in the recent edition of Ducks Digest, the official game day program of the Anaheim Ducks. Pick up a free Ducks Digest at all Ducks home games.