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Inside The Locker Room -- Season Finale

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs season has come to a close so see what the players were saying as they closed up shop for another year.

Tom Fitzgerald

(On his contract expiring ...) No I haven't even spoken with my agent. I dont want to play for anybody else, I know I can still play, and we'll just do what they want to do, and we go from there. I haven't even spoken to (John Ferguson) yet, the shock hasn't even worn off. To think about next year, you know with the uncertainty, who knows, I just want to go along these next few days, just kind of do nothing, and then again maybe mull over my future. (On the impending lockout ...) The most important thing to me is my family, and I have to think of them. If there's no hockey next year, to not have a contract, or to stay, so those are the questions I have to go through with my wife, and what's best for my four children. (On the way the city has been for his family ...) Oh it's been great, I've always said since I've been here that I've enjoyed it, I want it to continue. My kids have adopted this city, and they love it, and my wife's the same, and what better place to play hockey than the city of Toronto.

Photo Ron Francis
(What's next?) Same thing I do every year, I like to get away, take a month or so, and see where I'm at, and kind of go from there. There's a lot of intaginables this year, my contract's up in July, there's the potential CBA next year, there's guys in my situation if there's a lockout it'd be awful for the game and the fans. But if there is then it certainly makes it harder for guys like myself. (On coming to Toronto for a last shot at the Cup ...) I never said that. When I got the phone call certainly I looked at the teams and it was a great opportunity to come here and as I said many times, growing up in the Sault Ste. Marie, having the opportunity to come here and play for the Leafs' organization, it was a great opportunity. To look back, it was a lot of fun and to experience the Leafs Nation, and to play the games in Ottawa and Buffalo and certainly the game in Montreal was incredible, so I'm glad I made the decision to come here and experience it. (The injury last game) I turned my back out, and I was just trying to get it back, I was willing to go, I wasn't going to be 100 per cent, but Pat just felt that they needed a guy to be 100 per cent versus me not being 100 per cent and I respect that. (When injured?) It was back between games three and four against Philadelphia. (On the possibility of going back to Carolina ...) My family and I have made a decision that we're going to settle down, so we'll head back there, see what's going to happen. I'd like to take some time away, see how I'm feeling physically and mentally, and I'm enjoying the game and having fun. If there's an opportunity that comes forward, then certainly, by all means. If my time comes and we have to move on. (Can you still play the game on a high level ...) Yeah I think there isn't any higher level than what we've experience than right from the trade, we had real tough games, a 12-game stretch there, and then Ottawa, who many considered to be the best team in the East going into the first round, then the Flyers in the second, you know touch wood, still being healthy and feel good, we'll see what happens. (Thoughts on this team going forward) As I said going into the playoffs this is such a tough accomplishment to have, because so many things that need to go right, and one of them is health, and it just seemed down the stretch it was one thing after another and that's a huge part, and with the playoffs you need breaks. You need to stay healthy, and I still believe this team, 100 per cent healthy was the team to beat to win the Cup. Anytime you don't it's frustrating, and disappointing, these guys haven't experienced one so it's tough for them, you want them to experience one, they're your teammates, and once you get a taste for one you never want to lose again, you want to keep playing and it's disappointing that we weren't able to accomplish it.

Photo Joe Nieuwendyk
(Have you looked ahead to where you will be in the fall?) No not really, it's too early to start thinking about that, and it's still awfully disappointing, ... what can you do? (One more year?) I feel good, i think i can play as long as i want to in my mind (team uncertainty, significant changes to team?) there could be, there might not be, i think we're one of 6 remaining teams at the end so it's not always the case where you have the 'players for sale' things, realize that we're an older team, but i think we're a very close team too, those decisions will be made. (Will teams be reluctant to sign players this summer?)you're asking the wrong guy, i'm a player, i don't make decisions in that area as far as teams are concerned, i think it'll be business as usual for a lot of teams this summer, the deadlines for players is still July 1, and i think teams will act accordingly. (How was it playing in your home town?) I've had a tremendous time here, it's been a great experience for me and my family, playing for the maple leafs this year, I've certainly enjoyed it, I have great memories of this season, didn't finish the way I wanted it to , but I've had a lot of fun playing with these guys. (Will you be able to get something done before July 1?) Well I'll see how it goes, I haven't even spoken to Pat (Quinn) or John (Ferguson) yet, those decisions will get made over the summer. (How bad is your back?) I missed that game in Ottawa, and that was really the only episode with my back, the three games that I missed in this series, was not my back at all, i had a groin tear, so that was, upper body, lower body, whatever you want to call it, but it wasn't my back at all, my back is fine. (How are the fans here?) It's all part of the experience playing here, I couldn't have asked for anything better than what I went through this year with this organization, and these fans... it was terriffic, growing up in Southern Ontario, you always thought about it, but when you actually are a part of it it's great to see the fans the way they were throughout the year, and especially the playoffs, I have nothing but great things to say about playing here. (On the 'McDonalds Kids') well they became a special little group here for me coming off the ice after warmups, seeing those smiling faces, so that was enjoyable. (Injuries unavoidable at your age?) I don't think it's just guys my age, but now that I've had the chance to sit back and think about it, I really think that's one of the areas that needs to be addressed, the length of the schedule, it's demanding, the players are bigger and stronger, there's no question, but I think the fans will benefit as well, because you get more quality hockey, when you play 4 games in 6 nights, and 10 games in 16 nights with the travel schedule we have I think in some ways the games aren't as competitive as they should be. You want to be out there, it just becomes that much more tough when you're playing a condensed schedule, in a short period of time, that's definately an area i've thought a lot about too. (Did the pounding you take in your back, standing in front of the net while younger, correlate to your problems now?) If I look back at my last few seasons, my years in New Jersey, I played 80 games both years, I had a rib tear at the end of the playoffs there last year... it's a physical sport, and as you get older you may feel it a little more, but I still feel good out there, still move around on the ice pretty well for a 37 year old, I know I missed some time this year with the back, like what we talked about with the scheduling, I think a few games off here and there is beneficial for a guy like me. (You look the same skating as you did at 25) that's a big factor for me, having my legs for me is a big part of my game, I still feel like I can skate pretty well. (When was the groin injury?) Game 7 against Ottawa late in the game, I thought it would be fine, but I aggrevated it further in game 1 versus Philly, and I needed time to recover.

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