TBL.com correspondent Erin Chenderlin talked with the Lightning's newly acquired Ryan Malone about coming to Tampa Bay, his family, his time in Pittsburgh, and the fortune cookie that sealed his fate.
TBL.com: You're from Pittsburgh, were drafted by Pittsburgh and have played your entire NHL career in Pittsburgh… what will it be like to play for a different organization, away from your hometown?
Ryan Malone: I don’t know. I think it’s kind of like a fresh start. With the new coaching staff, everyone gets off to the same start and kind of just take it from there. We’re all excited about the changes the owners are making and everyone just seems really excited and passionate about it. It's going to be exciting there; I think that's the biggest thing.
TBL.com: You not only signed with Tampa Bay before testing the free-agent market, but you agreed to a long-term deal. What excites you about playing for Tampa Bay, and what made you want to come here?
RM: I think the biggest thing was the night [VP of Hockey Operations Brian] Lawton and those guys made an offer. I went out to eat with a couple friends to think about it, and I got a fortune cookie that said, 'Don’t be afraid to take the next big step.' So that was a good sign. But honestly, I thought I really couldn’t paint a better picture for myself and my family. I think the owners in Tampa want to put a winning team on the ice every year, and that's the biggest thing is having a chance to win and get into the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. It's going to be exciting I think with the foundation that they have there with Vinny [Lecavalier] and St. Louis, they were a big part of their Stanley Cup year. A lot of those big pieces are back and it’s going to be a great team to play on.
TBL.com: The Penguins, in just three seasons, went from last in the East in 05-06 to Conference champions this past season. Do you feel the Lightning are on the brink of doing something similar?
RM: I think the East is so close, if you really have a top power play and your special teams are good, those are some big things that can really carry your team. Obviously you need solid goaltending and I think [Mike] Smith and [Olaf] Kolzig are great goaltenders. Like I said earlier, those big pieces are there and they’re bringing in experienced players, so it's not quite like Pittsburgh where they're starting out young, but they're bringing in guys that know how to win and want to win.
TBL.com: How do you feel about playing under Tampa Bay's new head coach, Barry Melrose? Have you talked with him at all?
RM: I talked to him a little bit, but talking to other players who have played for him, he seems like a real player's coach where he’s going to be a real straight shooter and tell you if you're playing bad or if you're playing well, he'll reward you. He’s played the game, along with the other coaches that have the battle scars to prove it. I think the coaching staff is just going to help everybody out and teach us, as well.
TBL.com: Having come that close to the Cup last season, what will that do for your motivation and drive next season?
RM: It makes you want to get back there! To be two wins away … obviously it’s a big dream of every hockey player to lift the Stanley Cup. It's one of the reasons I’m coming to Tampa, to hopefully accomplish that dream. I think those big pieces are there, with Vinny, especially, he's one of the best players in the league. If you have that, you can build around it. Like I said, in the East, it's very tight, so if you have those little things clicking, it could be your year, you've just got to ride it out.
TBL.com: You took quite a beating in the Stanley Cup Finals, breaking your nose in Game 1, then getting hit in the face with a slap shot in Game 5 … how did you deal with that, and how's everything feeling now?
RM: The first hit hurt, especially. My nose and face are feeling good. At the time you're realizing that you're in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you're in the Finals, and unless you have a broken leg, no one’s going to take himself out of the game. You may never have that chance again, and that's the biggest thing. You just want to make the most of it when you can because you never know if you’re going to be back. That's just a simple mindset, I think, to have when all that was going on. You've just got to battle through it, and I think anyone else would’ve done the same thing. My nose was already broken before, so I don’t even know if [getting hit in the face with the puck] really counts. It got broken, Game 1 I think, so I don't know if that counts. My face felt like … my nose, upper lip, felt like it was dented in. I thought my face was dented in from the puck! I was very fortunate nothing too serious really happened, I was really lucky, knock on wood.
TBL.com: Who are you most looking forward to playing alongside here in Tampa Bay?
RM: I actually played with [Jeff] Halpern before, at some USA things, but I also know about bringing [Steven] Stamkos in, and Vinny’s obviously going to be there. We're going to have some great centermen for the next couple years and I think my game could adjust to playing with all three of them easily. Fitting in, that's something I try to work on where I can try to play with anybody. I'm just going to try to do that and come in and try to fit in with the guys. It should be great.
TBL.com: Did you follow this year's draft at all with all the hype surrounding Tampa's No. 1 pick, Steven Stamkos?
RM: I did, I tried to go on the Internet watch some video of him, but it's all junior highlights. You hear a lot about him, Barry Melrose spoke highly of him, just how he handles himself off the ice. He seems like a great kid and it's going to be a pleasure to meet him and play alongside of him. It'll be similar to playing with Sid [Sidney Crosby or Geno [Evgeni Malkin] or even Jordan Staal at such a young age, but those guys bring a lot of enthusiasm and passion to the game that I think is contagious among the players. It's going to be great to see. I'm sure he’s putting enough pressure on himself, as any hockey player does, and he's going to come in and do whatever he can to help the team. Sounds like everyone's going to fit in well down there.
TBL.com: What can you tell me about Gary Roberts and Adam Hall, your teammates in Pittsburgh and now coming with you to Tampa Bay? Will it help with the transition to have familiar faces going through everything with you?
RM: I think so. Like I said, I know Jeff Halpern from previous USA teams but I’m not too familiar with most of the guys. Andre Roy was my roommate in Pittsburgh though, so… he fit in with some of the guys and said they’re a great group, so that’s all I really needed to hear. I think anywhere you go, if you can bring some other guys along with you, it definitely makes the transition easier. Gary Roberts, I’ve learned a lot from him since playing with him the past two seasons. He's going to come down there and really show a lot of guys what it takes to play so long in the NHL and really what hard work is. Adam Hall, I think, is the same way. He went to college at Michigan State and he’s a hard worker that can play a lot of different roles and he's a good team guy. He's a good fit for what the coaches and owners are looking for in those character guys that are going to make sure you’re working hard every night. That's the biggest thing, to make sure you're consistently working hard every night.
TBL.com: What do you do with your time outside the rink? I hear you're a big golfer.
RM: Yeah, I do golf a little bit. I've only golfed actually once so far this year, so this year golf's kind of out of the question. We don't really have enough time for that with the season going so long. I'm definitely in to golf and right now I have a 4-month old at home, so that takes up a lot of time. I'm just trying to get my life back in order right now. Get organized with maybe getting a place in Tampa. We just bought a place in Minneapolis. My wife and I went to school at St. Cloud, Minnesota, so we now have a summer home in Minnesota. We just got that organized, so that's all I've really got right now for leisure activities. A lot of family stuff for now.
TBL.com: Have you seen any of the SAW movies? Would you be willing to play a part in the next one?
RM: I’ve seen I think SAW I or II. I think I would be in one, just for the experience. I think you’d have to try it once, right? I'm sure it wouldn't be a big role, maybe my body would be getting cut up somehow or something. I'm not really into scary movies. My roommate and I were on the road and I hadn’t seen a scary movie in forever, so we watched it. I thought it was really great, actually. I'm not a really gory guy, but I thought it was pretty creative, the way the whole thing went down. It's scary, but it really makes you think about everything. I think they're kind of cool. I think I would definitely take the opportunity to be in one.
TBL.com: With the new owners having big ties in Hollywood, who would you most like to see in the stands of the St. Pete Times Forum next season?
RM: Will Ferrell. He's obviously a character and it would be nice to meet him. That would be someone interesting.
TBL.com: I've heard your nickname is Bugsy … Is that for the movie gangster, Bugsy Malone?
RM: It was. Actually, my dad had it when he played, so when I came to Pittsburgh, even though I was little kid, I was always Little Bugsy. Even my rookie year, the older guys started calling me Bugsy, so it stuck. It was after my dad, and my dad was after Bugsy Malone.
TBL.com: If someone were to play you in a Hollywood movie, who would you want it to be?
RM: Oh geez, I don't know! I would want to say Will Ferrell, but that's just … I don't know. Maybe Andre Roy could give a good imitation of me, too.
TBL.com: You and Darryl Sydor were named alternate captains for the Penguins in January, and Sydor was part of the 2004 Lightning Stanley Cup. Have you talked to him at all about his time in Tampa?
RM: Yes I did, and he absolutely loved it there. Even in Pittsburgh, our families went on a trip together, my wife and his wife are good friends. He’s a great guy and also a great leader, I think, helping out the younger defensemen we had on our team. He really got along with everybody and really showed people how to stay focused on and off the ice and in the weight room. He did a great job in Pittsburgh. He played for Barry Melrose, too, in LA, so that's who I was talking to about Barry. He said Tampa was great, the fans show a lot of support and obviously winning the Cup there was icing on the cake for him. He definitely loved the area and loved it for the family too, lots of stuff to do. There's a lot of positive reasons to look into Tampa, even besides the hockey. You look at the family stuff, where you're located and the entertainment around the area for the family, which is great.
TBL.com: How many tattoos do you have? What are they and what do they mean?
RM: I don’t really have a certain number, they're more areas of my body covered… [laughs] I have a couple on my arms. I have my first hockey team, when I was 8 years old, it was the Pittsburgh Hornets, we were called, so it’s a huge bumblebee kind of … hornet-type guy holding a hockey stick. It's kind of tough to explain. I'm also a dual citizen, so I have American, Canadian thing. The first tattoo I ever got was our family shield. Usually everyone has a family shield or a family crest, so that was the first tattoo I got. I have some Irish stuff as well, kind of, everywhere. It’s a bad habit. I probably would have more if I didn’t have this job, where if I go to the golf course and I’m covered in tattoos it probably looks a little out of place. Everything’s mostly hidden underneath a golf shirt. The one that means the most to me right now, I just recently got my son’s birthday, so I’d have to say that right now. My wife and I have different tattoos, matching tattoos that mean different things, as well.
TBL.com: Thanks, Ryan, and welcome to Tampa Bay!