Scott Gomez found himself skating alongside Jaromir Jagr during his first full practice with the Blueshirts on Friday.
The biggest news of the Rangers' off-season came on July 1, when the team signed centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Both players are now getting their first experience of life with the Blueshirts at the team's training camp at the MSG Training Center.
Gomez, the first player to sign on that memorable July day, didn't have to go far to change teams. After seven seasons across the Hudson River in New Jersey, the former Calder Trophy winner and longtime Devils star is already feeling at home in New York and can't wait to take the ice in his new No. 19 jersey -- the number he chose after losing his former No. 23 to Drury in a coin flip.
At his first full practice on Friday, Gomez found himself centering Jaromir Jagr and Marcel Hossa in what could be a sign of things to come. Earlier in the week, he sat down for this exclusive five-minute interview with newyorkrangers.com.
Question: During your years with New Jersey, the Devils won four Atlantic Division titles in seven seasons, went to the Stanley Cup Finals three times and captured the Cup twice. What would you describe as the key to that run of success?
Gomez: It was just the character of guys we had. It was always about the win. If you're up 2-1 in the third, you're going to give yourself the best chance to win. You're maybe not going to pinch or do stuff like that. Everyone bought into it, and you just really learn how to win over there. That was the main thing. One thing about that organization is that they'll do whatever it takes to win. And that's why I wanted to come here. I see a lot of that here, and it's pretty neat.
Question: You'll likely face your former Devils teammates for the first time in the preseason. If that happens, will it help you feel more comfortable about the first regular-season meeting on Oct. 25?
Gomez: It won't be the same in preseason. It will be just like scrimmaging. But I think when the regular season starts I'm going to feel it. I went from a raised kid in the Devils system to Public Enemy No. 1. It will be different, but I'm still friends with all of those guys. I had dinner with some of them last week. It's a business. It's the nature of the beast. I had eight wonderful years there and made friends forever. But at the end of the day it was time to go.
Question: Have you talked to any former Devils players about the experience of leaving the team and then having to face them for the first time?
Gomez: Yes. Bobby Holik is one of my best friends. Bobby was very instrumental in me coming here. I know the Rangers didn't have success when he was here, but at the same time, he says you get over the booing (in New Jersey). It's going to be weird at first, because everyone boos you and this and that, but it's just the nature of the beast. You couldn't come to a better organization, I think, than the New York Rangers. That's just the way it is.
Question: Are you at all worried that some Rangers fans might initially have trouble embracing you after all of your years playing for a major rival?
Gomez: No, hey, I know what I bring every night. I've always had a great time playing in the Garden, and I think I've always had a great relationship with the Rangers fans. Obviously, I'm going to have to prove that to them. But I think that's true with anything when you come to New York. You've got to earn your wings and earn your stripes. I've always gotten along with the New York fans and that was another reason why I wanted to come here. Because I think they're some of the greatest fans in sports and I understand the mentality, because it's mine, too.
Question: You didn't need to find a new home when you changed teams, but you chose to move into Manhattan on a full-time basis. What motivated that decision?
Gomez: I wanted to get the whole atmosphere. The whole New York City vibe. Playing at the Garden and the whole Original Six thing. This (hockey) only lasts so long, and I've always been excited and infatuated with New York City. I've always felt something special about it, even when I was a kid. And so there was only one place for me and that was to move into the city.
Question: You were one of the first unrestricted free agents to sign with a new team on July 1. Did you consider signing with anyone else?
Gomez: It came down to probably L.A. and New York. Montreal was in it and Philadelphia, too, but I knew I wanted to come here. I wanted the pressure. I think there's no other place than New York.
Question: When you were playing for the Devils, did it ever bother you that the Rangers seem to get so much attention from local hockey fans and in the New York media?
Gomez: Well, that's common knowledge. That's just the way it is. It didn't bother us. It fueled us, but hey it's New York City. If anything, we were kind of upset in the beginning that New York wasn't more competitive with us. For my first four or five years, and maybe more, it was one-sided. I mean, you always heard about the Rangers-Devils rivalry, but I remember in my first year I didn't get any feeling for that because we'd always beat them.
Question: Did your sense of the Rangers' impact on the Tri-State hockey landscape motivate you to cross the river?
Gomez: No, I just wanted to play at MSG. I think this organization is great and I think the team is ready to win. That's what I said last year. I want to be a part of that, and hopefully I can help out.
Question: You signed on the same day as Chris Drury, and it was obvious you were happy to have him a teammate. How long have you known each other?
Gomez: My best friend is Jay Pandolfo. He played college hockey with Chris. I also knew about Chris from USA Hockey and stuff, but I got to meet him during my rookie year when we (the Devils) went to Colorado. Jay and I went over to his house to hang out. I could tell right away he was a great guy and has a great personality.
Question: Did Drury's decision to come to the Rangers influence yours?
Gomez: No, I signed before him, and I didn't even know they were talking to him. Neither one of us knew. Then, when I talked to him, yeah. I mean, I was very excited that day anyway, but then when I heard Chris was going to sign, it just made me even more pumped.
Question: Are you worried about having to face any specific former teammates when the Rangers play the Devils?
Gomez: No, I guess I'll find out if I am. It's not something I've really been thinking about. It will be a lot of fun. I'm going to give it my all, and they're going to give it their all. They're not going to want me to score, so we'll see what happens.
Question: Will it be more emotional for you to face them for the first two times in New York or the third scheduled game in New Jersey on Nov. 14?
Gomez: It will definitely be more in New Jersey. It will be different. I'm sure every time I touch the puck that place is going to go crazy. So, we'll just see what happens.