Getting selected for the NHL All-Star Game rarely is the greatest motivator for a player. It's a good goal to have and certainly an accomplishment if achieved, but it's not what drives a player in the offseason, through training camp, or at the start of the season.
New York Rangers forward Rick Nash is usually no different, except 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend has a unique meaning for him, so the idea of getting there was more intriguing than ever before.
"I don't think I was striving for my play to be top-notch so I could go there, that definitely wasn't the issue, but it's nice," Nash said. "If there is one place where it would be fun to go to the All-Star Game it would be in Columbus."
Columbus is a special place to Nash. He was selected first in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets and spent the next decade of his life helping build a hockey tradition in the market and a home for himself in the city, a home he still maintains.
Nash earned his spot in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, to be played Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), by playing the brand of hockey that fans in Columbus got used to over the years. He has been a factor for the Rangers all season and has 26 goals and 41 points in 42 games. He's been dominant in all areas, including on the penalty kill.
Nash, who will serve as an alternate captain for Team Toews, talked about going back to Columbus as an all-star, his favorite memory with the Blue Jackets, and his life now as a New Yorker:
What are your thoughts about going back to Columbus, to be in a game like the All-Star Game, in that building, in front of those fans?
"It's exciting for me. I think it's a huge thing for Columbus to host that. It's a huge thing for that organization, and something they deserve. It's exciting for me to be part of it."
What does the city of Columbus mean to you?
"Oh, it means a lot to me. I hold that city pretty close to my heart. Being a Blue Jacket was pretty special. I started my career there and I owe a lot to that organization, the fans, ownership, so it's exciting to get a chance to go back for such a milestone event like the All-Star Game."
Fan reaction to you at All-Star Weekend, what do you think it will be like?
"If I had to guess, I would guess boos, same as when I go back there with the Rangers. That would be my guess."
Does that bother you when they boo you?
"I don't think I would expect anything different. I played there and it wasn't the cleanest of the ways out. It's understandable. I'm the enemy now and they're passionate about their sports, so I kind of expect it."
What is your best memory of your time in Columbus?
"We scored a tying goal to send it into overtime in Chicago (on April 8, 2009) and that got us into the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs, that clinched a playoff spot. That was the first time ever for the franchise, the city, and my career too."
Think about this year for you: You get to the Stanley Cup Final, your son was born, and now you're having this All-Star season. What has this ride been like for you?
"Well none of it compares to the birth of my son. That's on a whole different pedestal. That's been the best thing in the world. When you get a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, that's pretty amazing in the hockey world. I think the more exciting thing is the way we've been playing as a team. It's fun to win and it's fun to know when you're bringing your best every night."
How has the birth of your son changed your life?
"I think it just put things into perspective on what really matters at the end of the day. Your family comes before everything."
When you were traded, what did you look forward to about New York, what scared you about New York, and what has been one or two things that you have found cool about New York?
"The cool thing is the Broadway shows. I love the Broadway shows. The biggest difference is it's gone from 10 minutes to the rink to 50 minutes or almost an hour to get out here [Rangers suburban practice facility]. The thing that intimidated me was I think the traffic and I thought everyone lived in Times Square. I thought that's how the living arrangements were because that's where you stay when you come in as a visiting team. You don't see much else of the city. I think the best thing is just going out to the restaurants, the fans, the energy and life of the city, and playing for an organization like this. It's unbelievable."
Do you take the subway to games?
"I have taken the subway. Usually a few of us will carpool, but I have taken the subway. It's just different. It's just a different lifestyle. It's one of those things that you wish everybody could experience playing for a city like this. It's really cool."