"All right," Brett Pesce said as he packed his black Carolina Hurricanes bag, marked with the team's primary logo, wordmark and his No. 22. "Another year."
For too many seasons, end-of-season player availabilities were marred with frustration, disappointment and questions and answers of what went wrong and where and why and how.
This season was different.
As players milled about in street clothes, cleaning out their lockers, packing their bags for the summer, signing a picture here or a stick there like they're signing the yearbooks of their classmates at the end of the school year, there was an air of optimism, of change, of hope for the future.
This season was different, indeed, and it's only the beginning.
What follow are some highlights and noteworthy quotes from the Hurricanes' locker room, and each player's end-of-season interview is linked below.
On his first Stanley Cup Playoffs experience: "It's a little bit more tough. It's intense. … We all know now what it takes to first of all get to the playoffs and go through those tough series. Now we're even more hungry."
On proving himself as a center in the NHL: "It was a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I got better at it. I know I can be even better at center. … It was tough, but it was a lot of fun."
On taking his game to another level: "I like to think so, too, that I have another level. I have to put in a lot of work in the summertime, every day and every year. It's just a lifestyle to want to be better every day."
Video: Exit Interviews: Sebastian Aho
On his first Stanley Cup Playoffs experience: "Getting to taste playoffs, I had no clue. I've watched it on TV. I had an idea. I wasn't really wrong about what I thought it would be like, but just to have that experience is nice. … I'm not old, but I'm not getting any younger. You don't know how long this career is going to last. … It gives you that drive to want to come back and do it again and get farther along. The end goal is obviously the Stanley Cup."
On reigniting fan interest: "It was pretty rough for a while. You had a group of fans that stuck through 100 percent, and you appreciate that, and some that lost a little bit of interest, and you can't blame them. We didn't give them anything to be excited about and come here. We didn't have a product for them to even want to watch. To bring that life back for them, to come back to games and get excited and have fun - I mean, my family was tailgating. They got to see what it was all about. It was just nice to give them a good product to get excited about and watch in the area."
Video: Exit Interviews: Justin Faulk
On shedding the mullet: "I feel like a different person. It's a little weird looking at myself in the mirror."
On head coach Rod Brind'Amour: "Everyone respects him so much. I think that's the biggest thing. Whatever he's going to say, you're going to listen. … We all bought in to our system and our process of what we did every day to work hard and build the culture."
On the playoff atmosphere at PNC Arena: "I'll always remember looking up in the crowd, seeing the towels waving and how loud it was. It was just so much fun."
Video: Exit Interviews: Dougie Hamilton
On his experience this season: "It was special. It was fun to be a part of it. I've never gotten an opportunity like I did here this season. It started out with a lot of uncertainty and finished kind of like a storybook ending, really, for myself personally. It was great to be a part of it."
On working in tandem with Mrazek: "I've handled a starter's workload before in the minors. This was kind of the first season I've been given a fair amount of games on a regular basis. I felt good. It was nice to be in that regular rotation."
On his future with the Canes: "I enjoyed it. It ended up being a pretty good fit. … I don't know where they're at moving forward in terms of their depth and what they'd like to do, but we'll see. Hopefully it will work out, and I'll be back."
Video: Exit Interviews: Curtis McElhinney
On what he's most proud of: "I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the coaches, how everything worked out. Everyone was so professional and so friendly. Every morning when you came to the room, the atmosphere was great, and the energy level was high. I'm proud of the guys and everyone around this team."
On the playoff atmosphere: "The fans in playoffs were amazing. They pushed us to another level."
On his future with the Canes: "I would love to stay. We all know this sport is a business, so we'll see what's going to happen. … I hope we'll find a way, and it will work out."
Video: Exit Interviews: Petr Mrazek
On what he's most proud of: "Just how we played for each other. When guys were down, we'd pick each other up. How much we cared about each other was pretty amazing. You ask anyone … it was just a special team. I've never been a part of anything like that. It was cool, and it was exciting, but there's definitely more to give."
On the leadership of captain Justin Williams: "He was arguably the most important piece we had this year. … He leads by example. There's not a practice where he's taking a practice off. He's always giving it his all. To see a guy who is 37 or 38 definitely gives me no excuse to take any days off. Guys took that to heart this year. I know I did."
On a different feel to this offseason: "It stings a little more. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from that last series, but it also motivates you to be better. Hopefully we can come back stronger next year."
Video: Exit Interviews: Brett Pesce
On what he's most proud of and what he's most disappointed in: "I'm proud of the guys in this room, how we competed all year, how close we got as a team, the identity and culture we created here within this organization. I'm most disappointed in probably just the way we went out. I don't think we played our best hockey in that last series. Just having that bitter taste in your mouth kind of stings."
On culture: "With Roddy as our coach and Willy as our captain, I think the culture is definitely far improved from years past."
On his sales pitch to free agents: "The city of Raleigh is great. The Caniacs are great. The crowd during playoffs was unbelievable. … The culture we're building here. We've got a young team, and I think we're on the trend upwards. Just looking at our roster, looking at the guys in the locker room, looking at our head coach, you can't turn that down."
Video: Exit Interviews: Jaccob Slavin
On the season: "The boys did a great job of pushing and having a great playoff run. Obviously didn't end the way we wanted it to, but I had a lot of fun. Exciting hockey, exciting for the fans, exciting for us. It was a good time."
On reflecting on the season after Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final: "After that game, I remember just going straight to bed, to be honest. Pretty toasted. You just try to unwind as best you can. A lot of reflecting on that series, trying to figure out what went wrong and what we could have done better. That stuff is always running through your mind. Frustration, a little bit. Then, it kind of rolls into the whole season and reflecting on what we accomplished, how we got here and how much fun it was."
On excitement for the future: "Building off what we started. In general, we have a good, young group. … This young core is going to be good for a really long time. It's exciting to see."
Video: Exit Interviews: Jordan Staal
On if this season was the most fun he's had playing hockey: "Oh, yeah, for sure. It's the NHL. It's the most fun. We had a great group of guys, and we had a lot of fun together."
On Brind'Amour and his tutelage: "He did a great job. I like him a lot as a person and a coach. He helped me a lot. We watched videos and stuff, and he explained to me a lot of things. It's very good."
On what he aims to improve this summer: "Improve everything. My shot, my skate, my stickhandle. Just to be faster."
Video: Exit Interviews: Andrei Svechnikov
On what the team accomplished: "We did something good this year just because we expected to, not because we just got lucky. We did things right. We played well. We played hard. We played for each other. We expected to do good things. Maybe from the outside world it was, 'Wow. Where did they come from?' It's a powerful thing when you get everyone together doing the same thing."
On building a foundation: "I'm absolutely proud of where we were to where we are, but it's just building blocks, right? We're stacking LEGOs. Let's make a bigger one."
On the future of the team: "The direction is there. The leadership is there within this organization, and we're just going to keep getting better. I know that."
On what he's most proud of: "I'm just proud of the way we stuck it out. When things weren't going well, we still stuck it out. We still showed up. We could have drifted off and done what had normally been done, just finished the season out. We dug in, stuck with it and persevered. We were rewarded because of it."
On deciding his future: "You don't do those things irrationally. You put thought into it. You put perspective. You find out inside whether you have the full capabilities emotionally and physically to do it. I put everything I had into it this year, and if I have everything again, then I'll be here."
Video: Exit Interviews: Justin Williams