NHL MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan, NHL Offensive Player of the Week Oct. 10-16, 2005
October 17, 2005
DAVID KEON: Welcome, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's conference call. Our guest is Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan. Thanks to Steve for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to Ken Anderson of the Predators media relations department for setting up the call.
Today we're trying something a little different in that we're putting Player of the Week on the conference call the same day we make that announcement. Earlier today we announced Steve was selected National Hockey League's Offensive Player of the Week after leading Nashville to three road victories.
In the 5-4 win over Colorado, Steve notched a goal and two assists. He tallied two goals and an assist in a 5-4 shootout win in Phoenix and finished the week with one goal in a 4-1 victory over divisional rival St. Louis.
His 10 points tie him for the overall National Hockey League scoring race with Simon Gagne and Peter Forsberg of Philadelphia. Nashville leads the Central Division in the Western Conference with a record of 5-0-0, and along with the Ottawa Senators, one of only two teams in the National Hockey League to have an undefeated record.
Since being traded to Nashville in February of 2004, the Timmins, Ontario native has tallied 13 goals, 27 assists for 40 points in 29 regular-season games. Again, we thank Steve for joining us today on short notice.
We'll take questions now.
Q. Can you talk about playing for Nashville versus Chicago, because you seem to have found a great new home there, with a speedy team that suits your style very well. Also maybe how underrated the Predators were going into the season.
STEVE SULLIVAN: Well, like you said, I think I found a niche here. I think the style of play that we play here, a very aggressive forechecking, just a lot of players that are very fast skating, just really suits my style.
I think that us being underrated depends who you talk to. I think there was a very wide range of some people thinking we mig ht not make the playoffs and some other reporters thinking that we could finish top five in the League.
The new rules have definitely helped our hockey club. We're a very fast-skating, skilled hockey club. I think that hopefully they will continue to call the games the way they have because it's definitely to our advantage the way David Poile has built this hockey team.
Q. Are you optimistic they will call the rules this way all year?
STEVE SULLIVAN: I think so. I think it's the most exciting the NHL has been in a long time. I think the fans are very happy with the way the game is going. There's a lot of scoring chances. I think, I'm not sure, but scoring has got to be up. It's up at our end.
Yeah, we're very happy with the way things have been going so far.
Q. Would you say that when the Leafs put you on waivers a few years ago, in the long run it helped rekindle your career? Do you feel perhaps your size was a detriment then? And how do you feel now, today's NHL when small players are really doing well?
STEVE SULLIVAN: Well, yeah, I think that back when the Leafs let me go, I think it was a factor of the team trying to become bigger, and I think that was to my detriment. But, like the way the rules are being called now, yeah, there's going to be a lot more smaller skilled players making the NHL because there's more room.
If you're able to skate, you can't get held up, you're going to have a lot more opportunities offensively and even defensively. You don't have to pin anybody down low; you can use your skating abilities as an asset. I think, yeah, it's going to be great.
Q. When is the last time you led the National Hockey League in scoring? When will teams around the League start taking Nashville a little more seriously? Still early in the season, but Nashville, it made the playoffs last time. At what point does Nashville come into the other teams' buildings, and the fans, if nothing else say, "That's a pretty good team"?
STEVE SULLIVAN: First question, I don't think I've ever come anywhere near leading the League in scoring.
Second of all, I think teams are going to start to take us more seriously now. I think making the playoffs the last time we played, in the 03-04 season was huge for our organization. But I think with the new rules and the way our team is built, us signing a Paul Kariya put a name to our organization. I think when we go into buildings now, the teams are going to be a little bit wary and know that we are a competitor and know on any given night we can win hockey games.
Q. What is it like playing with Paul?
STEVE SULLIVAN: It's great. I've never met anybody who is more determined at making himself better every single day. He gives a hundred percent every single day, practice, games. He's just very dedicated to the game of hockey. I think it's rubbing off on all of us.
Q. I want to ask you about winning on the road. Is it more important in the new NHL than it ever has been before, being with the new schedule alignment with you playing in your conference and within your division more than ever before?
STEVE SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think it is. I think that is very big. Winning on the road is going to be huge. I think you're going to see a lot more third-period comebacks. We've been a team that's been able to do that three times this year already, which is something you really couldn't do before. You really just couldn't sit on the lead going into the third period. You could just kind of clutch and grab your way through, play strong defensively. Now you've got to keep going after it.
I think that being said, you have a chance, even if you're playing away from your own barn, to win a hockey game on the road because as long as you keep your feet moving and play a very energetic hockey game, there's a good chance you're going to get some power-plays and hopefully tie or win hockey games.
Q. From a confidence standpoint, being as you are undefeated so far, a really solid season, you kind of have a swagger to your team and confidence that you can go anywhere, whether it's at home or on the road and win?
STEVE SULLIVAN: I don't know if we have a swagger just yet. I think we just really enjoy our company. I think the guys are just having a lot of fun. We enjoy going to the rink every day. Ever since training camp opened, you just see the guys very energetic and giddy almost. We just really enjoy being around each other, enjoy playing hockey together.
It's really a close-knit bunch of guys who have gotten very close very quickly and I think that's the reason why we're having success so far.
Q. One of the guys today was saying he thought you might have gone undrafted your first year out of juniors. If that's true, how gratifying is a week like you're coming off?
STEVE SULLIVAN: Yeah, I was drafted as a 19-year-old to New Jersey. I went my first ye ar undrafted, I didn't play junior until I was 18 years old.
For me, this is fun. I'm having a great time. Like I've said before, this is -- every day I wake up, I'm living a dream. As long as I can keep playing hockey, I'll be the happiest person in the world. Yeah, this has been great.
Q. Just curious about the atmosphere in Nashville. Typically this time of year with football going strong, I'm curious as to how the fans there have welcomed the team back from the lockout. I'm sure the team's success helps. What are your perceptions of how the fans have welcomed you guys back?
STEVE SULLIVAN: It's been unbelievable. Ever since training camp started, I think our fans have come back probably bigger and stronger than it ever was before. I think Nashville took a huge hit during the lockout from the media, saying that ours was a market that might not be able to make it through a season, the lockout, and that our market might not be a very strong hockey market.
I think that they're wrong. I think the fans here love their hockey. I think we've had a couple home games with 16,000-plus fans. The word around the street, everyone's talking about the Predators. Yeah, we're excited because our community's excited and the fans are back. Even before the success of our early start here, the fans have been very, very helpful at coming back, and even in the preseason they've been to the games. We're really excited about this market.
Q. Have you gotten recognized when you're out doing stuff, grocery shopping or whatever, going out at all?
STEVE SULLIVAN: Ten times more than ever in Chicago.
STEVE SULLIVAN: Seriously, yeah, absolutely. I think it's a very close-knit community here. Everywhere you go you get a tap on the back. They're such friendly people here. They just want to talk hockey. It's great.
Q. Do you have any designs on the Olympic team? When you look and see how the game's going, the fact that Gretzky said the first couple of months would be a real criteria for everybody, in the back of your mind thinking maybe you have a chance at that?
STEVE SULLIVAN: I haven't really thought about it. Obviously, you know, representing your country any time I've had the opportunity, I've been asked, it's been a great thrill, playing a couple of World Championships. But, I mean, Canada has a lot of great players. I think it will take more than a good week to make that hockey team.
But, yeah, I mean, in the back of your mind, you're always thinking about it, for sure, you know, to represent your country at the biggest event outside of the NHL would be an absolute thrill.
Q. Did you sort of feed off that time in Toronto in a motivational way? Were there any hard feelings with the way things happened in Toronto, sort of being let go for nothing?
STEVE SULLIVAN: It was not fun. It was a tough time in my hockey career, not knowing what's going to happen the next 48 hours while you're on waivers, not knowing where your next hockey game is going to be. Is it going to be in the NHL or in St. John's, Newfoundland. It was very tough.
But I think getting the opportunity to go somewhere else, getting a lot of ice time, getting a regular shift that I don't think I really got in Toronto, you know, I was just able to grow as a player and as a person. I think you got to go through some stumbling blocks to be somewhat successful.
Hopefully I was able to do that.
Q. I'd like you to talk about your coach (Barry Trotz), what he's been like for you. Comparing him to some of your other coaches, where does he fit in?
STEVE SULLIVAN: He's a great coach. I think he's a player's coach. Our whole coaching staff, the whole organization, it's somewhat of a culture here. They just don't go and trade players simply for talent. I think you've got to fit the culture and you got to fit the Predators' way of playing.
It starts with them and how they're so committed to the game, how much they prepare for the games, and how much fun they have on the ice with us. I think it just kind of trickles down. Their enthusiasm for the game, like I said, trickles down. We enjoy being around them. And vice versa. I think that's the whole key. You want to go out and play for them because he understands what all the players are going through. He understands all the different personalities, which buttons need to be pushed, which backs need to be tapped on, which butts need to be pushed. I think he has a very good grasp of what kind of person you are and what makes you tick. I think that's what has made him successful and by doing so we are successful.