There are few people as charismatic in the spotlight as recently-retired NHL defenseman Dan Girardi.
So why not stick him behind a microphone and see what happens?
That was the idea behind the 13-season NHL veteran's new venture 'The Block Party with Dan Girardi,' a podcast hosted by Girardi and Tampa Bay-area radio personality Seth Kushner. The weekly podcast series is available now on TampaBayLightning.com and wherever fans download their favorite podcasts, the debut airing Wednesday, October 23.
In the first episode, a 25-minute back-and-forth between Girardi and Kushner, interrupted only by the occasional stray helicopter - "Sounds like my Uber helicopter has arrived," Girardi jokes - the former Bolts blueliner talks about the random NHL players who reached out to him upon his retirement announcement, the three things he promised himself he'd never do during his playing career (spoiler alert: fantasy football, Instagram and Twitter) and the bait shop on Gandy Boulevard that knows him by name now that he spends all of his free time fishing from his backyard.
Click here to listen to Episode 1
"It's something different that I didn't think I'd be doing, but it's good to stay in the game, stay busy," Girardi said during a media availability session at AMALIE Arena Wednesday morning to announce the podcast. "The first one is just me making fun of myself, being who I am. We did a nice one with (Lightning founder Phil) Esposito, and I think that'll be pretty funny. And now the guys are back from the road trip, going to grab a couple guys and it's mainly just to talk to guys in a different (way), not just say, 'Hey, how'd the game go last night? What went wrong? What went right?' More away from the rink. 'What do you like doing?' Funny stories about me. My stories about them. Kind of just a different side of the guys that sometimes (media) can't get out of them. That's just the way it is. I think it'll be something cool, and I'm super excited about it."
The podcast name comes from the stat Girardi is most known for throughout his career: the blocked shot. Since the NHL started keeping track of the stat prior to the 2005-06 season, no other player in League history has recorded more blocked shots than Girardi, who finished his career with 1,954 (Chicago's Brent Seabrook is closing in to claim Girardi's title with 1,953 career blocked shots, though).
That's 1,954 times Girardi purposely put his body between a frozen, vulcanized rubber disc being fired off a hockey stick at speeds of over 100 miles per hour to keep the puck out of his net.
Video: Girardi on the Block Party Podcast
That willingness to sacrifice his health and well-being throughout his NHL career is what made him a fan favorite for 11 seasons with the New York Rangers and the final two with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's also why his former teammates and other NHL personalities are willing to sit down with him and Kushner and open up about their experiences in the NHL.
Girardi said he can empathize with NHL media now that he's the one asking the probing questions.
"I haven't talked to any of the guys yet, but I'm going to not poke too personal with the guys," Girardi said. "Going to have some fun. It is a different side. You've got to think what you're saying and ask a good question. I have a lot of respect for you guys and what you guys have to put up with us. This should be a good opportunity for the Lightning and myself and just have some fun."
Girardi announced his retirement on September 20, the 35-year-old hanging up his playing skates for good after 927 career games, 56 goals and 265 points. He made it to the Eastern Conference Final on four separate occasions - three times with the Rangers in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and once with the Lightning in 2018 - and played in one Stanley Cup Final during his career (2014). Although he never achieved every hockey player's dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup - a fact he laments in the first podcast episode -- Girardi said he has no regrets about calling it a career before the 2019-20 season.
"Honestly, I don't miss it at all," Girardi said. "I've always liked watching the game from the top or afar to see how everything develops and what's going wrong, what's going right. I haven't gotten any calls from the management yet to see what I think. They've only had a couple home games here. I'll try to come to the games whenever I can. But don't miss blocking shots, getting hit, getting yelled at, working out, all those fun things."
Besides fishing, Girardi has spent most of his time in retirement coaching his son Landon's youth hockey team, the Brandon Bulls. Naturally, Girardi coaches the defense. Another former Lightning great, Vinny Lecavalier, is the head coach. Vinny's son Gabriel is on the squad. So is Johnny Cooper, son of Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.
"My coaching career started off really well with nine-year-old kids," Girardi said. "I try not to yell at them every shift and stuff like that. Like I mentioned before, I do like to watch the game from the top, analyze things that way, but I'm not too worried about getting a full-time job. I like having free time and being able to be at all my son's games, practices, take my daughter to her dance or whatever she needs to do. It's kind of nice to be around full time for that. You really don't realize how much stuff you miss when you're playing and you're on the road, so it's kind of nice to be involved with everything."
Girardi remains well connected to the Lightning. In addition to the podcast, there are other content ideas he's pitched or the team's pitched to him. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman live right down the street from him. He remains good friends with Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan, who he watched make his NHL Network debut a few nights ago.
"I caught the night where (Columbus forward Sonny) Milano put the puck between his legs and they were trying to imitate that and I found that very entertaining for the most part watching those guys try to do it with their suits on," Girardi said. "He's a great guy for that."
Girardi also tries to make it back to the arena whenever he can, which will be more frequent now that he'll be recording his podcast from a studio inside AMALIE. Vinny cut a recent youth hockey practice short so the two could attend the Lightning season opener.
"Vinny had some tickets to a box (for the opener), I don't know who it was, but I've never turned down free drinks and free food in the box before in my life," he jokes.
He also tries to watch the Bolts on TV whenever his schedule allows. And, if not a full game, he'll check out the highlights.
"I do still like watching the game in case you guys ask me something about it or on my new podcast now," he said. "I've got to keep up with the times here."