Following Anaheim's practice at Rogers Arena, Ryan Kesler
spoke with members of the media in his first trip to Vancouver since being traded to the Ducks on June 27. After being drafted in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft, Kesler went on to record 393 points (182g/211a) with a +25 rating and 594 penalty minutes in 655 career NHL games with Vancouver. Kesler was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2011 (awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game) and was a 2011 NHL All-Star. During Vancouver’s 2011 Cup run (lost in Game 7 to Boston in the Stanley Cup Final), Kesler earned 19 points (7g/12a) in 25 games and led the team with a 54.1 faceoff percentage.
On what it was like returning to Vancouver
It’s not too different. Not much has changed. It’s a little different going to the other locker room as a visitor, but I’ve played here for 11 years and called it my home for 11 years. It still has a close place in my heart.
On what he expects tomorrow night
I expect an exciting game. I expect to get two points and get out of here.
On how he thinks he’ll be received by the fans
Hopefully they appreciated the 11 years that I played here, and remember the good times. I’m hoping for a warm reception, but if not, it’s part of the game.
On walking into the visiting locker room
It brought me back to last year’s training camp, actually. I was in that dressing room and had the same stall. It’s a little awkward, especially coming in this morning and walking by that room. It definitely brought up some good memories.
On his time in Anaheim
It’s been great. The guys, the room, the staff…everyone has been great. Obviously, I was a little nervous going into a new room for the first time, and being the new guy for the first time in your career. Their leadership - and the guys in the room - really brought me in and made me feel comfortable right off the bat.
On if he’s surprised that he still remains a polarizing figure in Vancouver
Yeah. I guess that’s my personality. You either love me or hate me. I love this city and called it my home ever since I came here for training camp when I was 18. Now I’m 30, so that’s a long time in my life. It’s over one-third of my lifetime. It’ll always have a place in my heart.
On how capable Anaheim is to challenge for a Stanley Cup this season
We’re very capable. We have the talent in that room, but saying that, as you guys know, it takes a lot of things to go right to challenge for a Cup. It’s a long year and you need a lot of things to go right. We have a younger group, and they’re getting better every day. Who knows the potential of this team? I like the way we’re set up. Hopefully, we keep getting better.
On thriving as a player opposing fans love to hate
It’s going to be an emotional night for me, but if they boo me, it’ll probably jack me up even more. It’s going to be fun tomorrow. It’s going to be an intense night, and I’m looking forward to it.
On if playing Vancouver two weeks ago lessens his emotions heading into tomorrow’s game
I think a bit. I think it’s still going to be weird. When you play with guys for 10 or 11 years, and are roommates with Kevin Bieksa for eight years, you grow a bond and a friendship that’s never broken. But saying that, we’re on separate teams now. Friends off the ice, but enemies on the ice. The biggest thing is putting on a different uniform and being the visiting team in this building. That’s going to be different.
On Bieksa jokingly telling the media that he’ll line him up
That’s “Juice” being Juice. He’ll get his licks in, and I’ll get mine, too. I’ll chirp him a little bit out there.
On the importance Marc Crawford had on his career
He was very important. I had to play mistake-free hockey for him. That really [forced] me to play defensively, and reinforced the importance of defense and not making mistakes out there. My dad and [Crawford] really instilled that hard work and perfection into me, and probably made me the perfectionist that I am today.
On if he felt mistreated by the media during his 11 years in Vancouver
No. You guys think I’m grumpy all the time, but sometimes I just don’t want to talk to you. [Laughs]. The media here hasn’t been hard on me. Everything has been fair. I just think there are a couple of guys who report stuff that shouldn’t be reported - personally and away from the game. That’s the stuff I didn’t like. Other than that, you guys are hard on us, but it’s fair. It goes along with playing in a Canadian city and Canadian market that thrives for news about hockey and news about the guys. You learn over time. Were there moments when I wish I did things differently? Yeah. I was a young kid coming up and didn’t know how to deal with stuff. But saying that, I look back and I remember a lot of good memories.
On if there was any reason in particular that led him to ask for a trade
Talking with Jim [Benning] and Trevor [Linden] over the summer, I just think we decided that it was time to move on. As hard of a decision that it was to waive my no-trade clause, it was something that had to be done.
On how playing in a hockey-crazed city affected him as a player
It gets you excited to come to the rink every day. It gets you excited to play in front of very passionate fans. The building gets loud. Other than that, it’s still the game of hockey. At the end of the day, you’re playing for those 20 guys that you’re battling alongside. As much as the fans and playing in a hockey market is good, it’s really the 23 guys in that locker room that you’re battling for. I’m sure that if you guys have ever played on teams growing up, you realize that bond you have with your teammates, when you go to battle night in and night out. That’s what you play for.
On his ability to elevate his play in big games
Playing in big games – gold medal games, Stanley Cup Final Game 7…those prepare you for big games and big moments. Tomorrow? Yeah, it’s a big game. I’ve definitely had this one circled for a long time.
On what the Ducks think of the Canucks as an opponent
They’re a very good team that’s very deep on defense. They’re one of the top teams in the league, and you view them as an enemy. That’s how you have to view them. They’re one of the top teams in our conference, and we have to play them strong.
On if playing the Canucks has the same intensity and emotion as games against the Kings or Sharks
That’s a California rivalry. I’ve played three games against those teams and one game ended with pretty much everyone getting kicked out. The other two were super intense games. Those rivalries take on a life of its own, but saying that, there is a bit of a rivalry with the Canucks.
On the importance of earning a win tomorrow night
It’s very important. We’ve hit a skid where we seem to be getting points, but not two points, and losing in shootouts. It happens in the season. It’s a long year, but the good thing is that we play tomorrow night against a good opponent. We’re all excited about it. Hopefully we get the two points, get home, and turn this into a seven-game winning streak like the beginning of the year.
On if the determination to earn two points drowns out possible distractions
There are a lot of distractions for me, personally, in this city, and probably for the team, as well. Our main goal is to go out and focus on the game tomorrow, and playing a full 60. Last night, we played 40 and lost. That’s the importance of playing a full game in this league. You have to play every single minute as hard as you possibly can.
On what he’d like to say to the fans in Vancouver
Thank you for your support, and continued support. I’m sure a lot of people are going to remember the bad times, but remember the good during the 10 years that I put on that Canucks uniform. I can honestly say that I left everything out there every night. I wore that jersey with pride, and I grew up with the fans almost. That’s probably what I would say to them.