Following an hour-long morning practice session, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and head coach Jon Cooper spoke together to the assembled media for a half hour. Lightning players were made available at different stations for more than an hour, the team divided in half and each half taking a shift roughly 45 minute shift.
The Blackhawks had their own practice and media session following the Lightning.
Rather than rehashing the same storylines that will be covered ad nauseum by the assembled press corps, we thought it would be fun to focus on the noteworthy sights and sounds from the NHL’s Media Day.
So, here you go, your 2015 NHL Media Day highlights.
- Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper fielded questions about everything from their path to the Stanley Cup Final to Cooper’s time in the American Hockey League to exhibiting patience during the lean seasons of 2012 and 2013. A reporter told Yzerman that an opposing player said Tampa is becoming the best destination to play in the NHL and asked if it has become easier to attract free agents, prompting this exchange.
Yzerman: “Well, I hope that’s true. I’m not sure that’s true. I hope it is.”
Cooper: “The media thinks it is.”
Laughter from media
Yzerman: “We’re trying to run a real good program. We’re trying to bring in real good players but guys with character and want to be a part of a winning program and want to be pushed and challenged. I think we have, number one, have to convince agents, players, everyone that, ‘Hey, they’re for real down there. They run a really good program. It’s somewhere we can be successful.’ And ultimately push the perks of no state taxes and nice warm winters and things like that to maybe push us over the top.”
- Someone asked Yzerman about comparisons to himself and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Yzerman: “He’s bigger, stronger than me. I’m not sure I could even take him in a race either, so probably faster. Just a better hockey player.”
Later, Toews was told of Yzerman’s comments.
Toews: "I think Steve is a very complimentary person. I think everyone here knows that's pretty much untrue.”
- Lightning forward Alex Killorn owns a bachelor of arts degree in government and political science from Harvard University. He said he chose Harvard over Boston University, Boston College and Yale.
“I really liked Boston.”
Reporter: “Did anybody ever ask you, now that you’ve got your Harvard education, what are you doing playing hockey?
Killorn: “Maybe when I was in the minors. Not anymore. I look at what my friends are doing right now, sitting in offices from 5 in the morning until 9 at night. I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing.”
- Killorn was asked to describe the Jekyll and Hyde personality of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who is a bit of a jester off the ice but is all business during games.
“He’s one of those guys that on an off day is probably one of the guys that will be joking around and very, very loose. But on a game day, it’d be hard to talk to him. He’s a focused guy. When you look at him in the locker room, even in pregame skate, he’s in another world.”
- Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov was the final piece of the puzzle to the fabled Triplets line that has been tearing up the NHL this season. Kucherov joined left wing Ondrej Palat and center Tyler Johnson in the Lightning’s eighth regular season game at Winnipeg and has been a fixture with the pair ever since. Kucherov said watching Palat and Johnson’s early success in the NHL fueled his drive to join them while he was in the minors in Syracuse early in the 2013-14 season.
“You look at them and want to be on the same level as them when I was in the minors,” Kucherov said. “So I was trying to work as hard as I can to prove to everyone I can play in the NHL. I got lucky. I got called up last year and got to experience 54 games. It was a huge year for me last year. Johnson and Palat set a huge example for me.”
- Kucherov was asked by a Chicago reporter to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning, leading to this exchange.
Reporter: “Who are the Tampa Bay Lightning?”
Kucherov: “Just a skilled team, smart and hungry to win.”
Reporter: “Like the Blackhawks?”
Kucherov: “Nah, like Tampa Bay.”
- Cooper said there was a moment during the Detroit series when he worried maybe the Lightning would get bounced from the playoffs in the First Round for a second-straight season. His players quickly erased those fears.
Cooper: “The Detroit series when we were staring that 3-2 deficit in the face, it was, ‘Oh wow, this isn’t going to happen to us again?’ You could just see the attitude of the players. It was, ‘Coach, don’t worry about this one. We’ve got this.’ And they did…Every time there’s been that little bit of adversity or we feel like we’re down and out, they come back with a knockout punch.”
- Palat said that he and Johnson and Kucherov have chemistry on the ice because they’re friends off the ice.
“But it’s not like we have to be all together,” Palat said. “…When we go out for dinner (on the road), Kucherov likes room service. He’s a little bit lazier.”
- Lightning defenseman Matt Carle echoed Cooper’s thoughts that the Detroit series may have been the Bolts’ biggest challenge in these 2015 Playoffs.
“I feel like the Detroit series was probably the hardest for us,” Carle said. “I don’t know if it was just because we were trying to get over the hump and trying to win our first series. Detroit played a pretty similar game to us, so it was almost like playing a mirror image of ourselves, which made it tough.”
- Carle was asked if there’s a book to slowing down the Blackhawks’ Toews.
“If there is one, nobody’s written it and nobody knows how to write it,” Carle quipped.
- Lightning captain Steven Stamkos nearly reached the Stanley Cup Final in his third season in the league when the Bolts were one win away but fell in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Boston Bruins. Getting back to this position has driven him ever since.
Said Stamkos: “This is the ultimate dream for me and my team, and we’re going to have some fun and enjoy it.”
- Stamkos said he’s been having trouble sleeping of late but not because of a fear of going up against Chicago All-Star defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Rather, it’s the thought of what potentially lies ahead for the Lightning as the Stanley Cup Final is set to begin Wednesday with Game 1 at Amalie Arena (puck drop 8 p.m.).
“That’s what’s been disrupting my pregame nap this playoffs is that vision of hoisting the Stanley Cup.”