NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" will run every Tuesday throughout the 2017-18 season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk:
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It was a minor errand New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was planning to run after practice, except to him it was part of the bigger picture of his new normal.
"I have to go home and pick up my Social Security card to change my license," Shattenkirk said. "I wouldn't be able to do that normally. Little things like that, they're very regular, but they're also great luxuries to have."
Shattenkirk gave himself the luxuries of living closer to home, to his parents, who still are in the same house in New Rochelle, New York, he grew up in, by signing a four-year, $26.5 million contract with the Rangers, his favorite team as a kid, on July 1.
He now lives with his fiancee in an apartment in Manhattan's West Village, which is about 24 miles from New Rochelle. The Rangers' practice facility is in Westchester County, about 14 miles from New Rochelle, which is also in Westchester County. Shattenkirk has family living in various places throughout the tri-state area, in Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Everything is close and comfortable. He's like a kid going home again.
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The timing was perfect too. Shattenkirk said he wouldn't have wanted to make this move earlier in his career, but now he's established, confident and comfortable as an NHL player.
"I think there is a certain maturity you have to live with and be able to carry yourself with to play in New York," he said. "Some of these young guys here have grown through it, but for me to just come here at 22 or 23, especially with my situation being home and having constant friends and everyone asking for this or that, that would have been hard on me. Coming here now, I'm engaged, I'm not the young guy that I used to be, and it makes it a little easier to get used to it."
Shattenkirk talked more about getting used to his new situation as a Rangers defenseman, being a part of the history he so dearly loves, and the pressure that comes with the responsibility he took on in an exclusive interview with NHL.com.
Here are Five Questions with … Kevin Shattenkirk:
I think about the situation you're in, playing now for the team that you grew up rooting for. You're living your dream. You loved Brian Leetch. Now you're a Rangers defenseman just like him. What's it like to live out your childhood dream?
"So far it's been hard to describe and explain. There are moments through camp here where you're going through the standard meetings or whatever it is and you realize that, you know what, I'm going to be wearing a Rangers jersey this year, not a Blues jersey or a Capitals jersey. I think that's when it kind of hits me. It really won't be until the first game of the season, but a few of the 'D' went out to lunch with Brian and that was just an amazing experience. It was him and Adam Graves just kind of telling their stories of when they played here. It was very regular, but at the same time you kind of had to think to yourself, like, 'Look at the guy talking here.' That's just a great feeling for me and something that I think I don't take for granted."
Do you feel pressure that comes with who you are and the contract you signed? Or do you say to yourself, 'Hey, I'm an NHL veteran, why should anything be different for me than it has been in the past?'
"I feel that pressure and I kind of welcome that pressure. That's what I went out to kind of seek this summer, a bigger role, more pressure, the opportunity to play more minutes and perform against the better players in the League. That's what I wanted. That's what I'm trying to challenge myself here in practice to do every day. You have to enjoy that to be able to succeed and to be able to stick around. You want to just keep challenging yourself. For me, that's something I've always tried to do, push myself out of my comfort zone and really just try to feel uncomfortable. You adjust and you learn how to play at that next level and see how far you can push yourself."
Other than winning the Stanley Cup, what do you feel you still have to prove?
"I think I have to prove that I can play against top players in the League and still do what I do best. We don't know what the [defense] pairings are going to be, but there are going to be some nights when I'm going to have to play some bigger minutes than I'm used to. I have to prove I can do that, no doubt. That was something a lot of teams talked to me about this summer. I haven't been given that opportunity yet so it's hard for me to judge if I can do that or not. That's why I came here, because it's an opportunity for me to jump into one of those top-two roles and see if I can do that. That's what I've been pushing myself to do. What I care about most is proving it to myself first. I think I hold myself to a pretty high standard and hold myself very accountable, and when you prove it to yourself, if you're your hardest critic, that goes a long way. I think I'm also the biggest believer in myself. That's important too. It's important to have the confidence in order to do it."
You signed a four-year contract when I think a lot of people thought it would be a seven- or eight-year contract. Did you receive any backlash from anyone about signing for four years only? Did anybody question your decision?
"No. I talked to a former teammate of mine [St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny] who did a similar thing. That's when the offers were coming in. It was weighing it all out. It was you want that, but you're getting this offer. The thing that he told me is what he also said to himself, 'Do you believe in yourself to go out there and get that next big contract after that? If you're a firm enough believer in yourself and what you can do then you shouldn't feel hesitant to take a shorter deal.' Obviously, term and money were important, but it came down to obviously playing at home, to being on a winning team and it came down to the best fit for me. If I'm going to take a deal that is shorter it means it's a shorter chance to succeed. I feel like this is the team I can do it with.
"That's what is exciting for me now, having four years ahead of me to grow with these guys, be a part of it and not worry too much that I could be going elsewhere. It's a comforting feeling."
You have family all around you now. This is a first for you as an NHL player. What has it been like so far to move back near home instead of moving away from home for the start of the season?
"It's made the move a lot easier, that's for sure. It makes it so much easier not having to pack up two cars and drive out west or wherever. This year, moving into an apartment, it was still going through that situation, but for the years to come we're going to have a place in New York City and a summer place out on Long Island. Just that transition will obviously make things a lot easier. And having your family around, being able to go home for a meal if you want to see your parents or see some family on an off day, or they can come into the city to see me, whatever it is, is great. I haven't totally seen it yet. That won't happen until the season starts and, who knows, maybe it'll turn into a burden, but I'm eight years in now and everyone knows the score and everyone is just happy that I'm home."