That’s one of the many nicknames for Jason Chimera, one of the Islanders’ three free agent pickups this offseason, and yes, he is fast. His age betrays his skill set, as the 37-year-old skates – and scores – like a much younger man, netting 20 goals last season for the Washington Capitals. He even signed quickly, too, inking with the Islanders on a two-year deal on July 1.
The wily vet is now settling in on Long Island, where he thinks he can help the Islanders win the Stanley Cup, which is the only thing on his mind this season. NewYorkIslanders.com caught up with Chimera to talk about the Islanders, life away from the rink, his speed and – of course – that awesome nickname.
NewYorkIslanders.com: So how are you settling in on Long Island?
Jason Chimera: Right from the first day the guys have been really welcoming. A lot of guys texted me, called me and welcomed me into the team. It’s a new thing for my family because we were in Washington for seven years, so that’s all my kids and wife knew. So it’s new surroundings and school starts right away, so it’ll get better for them, but everyone’s been great from everyone from the trainers to Garth right on down with helping me find a place and getting acclimated to the Island and mainly the traffic. That’s a little different.
NYI: Playing in Washington, you’ve seen the Islanders a lot over the last seven seasons. What have you seen from this team and where are they at in your opinion?
JC: So I’ve seen the team grow and see how good they are and how good they can be. A lot of people don’t know about the young guys they have like [Brock] Nelson and [Ryan] Strome. It’s a good team and still on the rise and the potential hasn’t even been reached yet for this team. They still have a lot of growing to do and there are really good parts and it has a really good feel. It was always a tough game playing against them and it’s a fun to play against, so it’ll be a fun team to play for.
NYI: How do you think you’ll fit in here? How can you help this team get to that full potential?
JC: My game is no secret. I try to keep things simple and keep things rolling and I can score some goals when need be. I’ve played anywhere from the first line to the fourth line, but I’m not really expecting anything, I just want to come in and help the team win. I’m at the point in my career where you just want to win a Stanley Cup and that’s really all I want and that’s why you sign here because you realize how good they are and you realize that this team could win a Stanley Cup. It sounds like the old cliché, but I’ll do anything to win, but that’s why I’m here and want to do whatever aspect I can to help out.
NYI: Have the coaches talked to you about assuming a leadership role here?
JC: I can bring some leadership, I’ve been in the league quite a bit, over 900 games in the league and I think I’ve been around and have seen different teams and how they work, helping young guys along. I’m not going to come in here and reinvent the wheel and try to take over the team. It’s John Tavares’ team and I want to help anyway I can. I’m not going to come in here and be the leader, they have enough leaders on this team. I just want to come and help anyway I can.
NYI: You’ve got 951 career games under your belt and can hit 1,000 this season, what does that mean to you?
JC: Any time you can say you played 1,000 games in the NHL that’s a pretty big deal and it’s gone faster than you think it would. Any time you can put 1,000 games next to your name it’s a pretty cool thing and not many NHLers that have done it, so it’s one of those things. My goals and assists records aren’t going to mean too much, so it’s nice when you can have that next to your name. You look at the names that have gone 1,000 games, if you can do that in your career you can say you had a pretty good career.
NYI: Tell us about the speed. How have you been able to maintain it for so long?
JC: I work really hard in the summer with trainer Barry Butt at Premier Strength. Me and Johnny [Boychuk] work out with him, I’ve been with him for about 18 years, so it’s been good. I also had a skating coach in Edmonton Stephanie Hanlon – now it’s Quantum Speed - and that’s really helped me out, she kind of had the foundation of how you skate and how you do things and how you approach skating. I was always pretty fast but she reinvented my stride when I was younger and that helped a lot too with her helping me. My wife cooks really healthy, so I think that helps a lot, taking care of yourself off the ice is a big thing. As you get older, you have to take care of yourself and make sure you’re ready to go and I think food’s a big part of it.
NYI: You’ve got a few nicknames, Chimmer, Chim Dawg and Ice Cheetah. That last one is unique, how’d that come about?
JC: That only came about a couple years ago, I don’t know the background behind it. Anything that’s a compliment on the ice you’ll take it for sure. I think it’s certainly different but it’s a pretty cool nickname.
Chim Dawg is the one I really go by, no one really calls me Ice Cheetah, but if the fans like it, I like it.
NYI: What about away from the rink? What are you doing, watching and listening to?
JC: I’m a father, so it’s pretty busy taking your kids to sports and taking them to hockey. I’m going to Andover, Mass. for a tournament for my kid because he’s playing on the PAL Jr. Islanders so that’s going to be fun. My family does a lot of things together, we spend a lot of time together.
Mostly my life revolves around family. I like to golf a lot and from what I’ve heard Long Island is probably one of the best places in the world to golf, so I think that’ll be good. My family likes to golf, so we usually go out as a foursome and the kids hit the ball around, so it’ll be a fun place to go.
I like folk music, that kind of thing, singer-songwriter type guys, that’s about what I listen to.
Game of Thrones is one thing that my wife and I watch a lot. And I always seem to watch Deadliest Catch and those kind of shows, HGTV shows, Mining Alaska and stuff like that. Alaskan Bush People. Nothing too crazy.