Twenty five years ago, Sharks right wing Claude Lemieux was drafted by the Montreal Candiens. That same year, Marcel Goc and Tomas Plihal were born and six other Sharks players were still just a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.
That is part of what makes 43-year-old Lemieux’s comeback to the NHL so inspirational. The 6-foot-1 215 pound native of Buckingham, Quebec is holding his own among players half his age. But Lemieux’s reasoning behind his return is not to prove a point. But to do what he loves.
When SJSHARKS.com sat down with the four-time Stanley Cup winner following morning skate on Thursday, it became clear that Lemieux lives for the game of hockey. His comeback wasn’t difficult for him. Being away from the game was.
1. What’s the hardest thing about coming back to the NHL? – Mike Nothing has been hard because I missed playing so much. There is really nothing that could get in the way or make this hard for me. So probably being away from the game was the hardest part. But nothing that I do on a day-to-day basis is hard because it’s all fun.
2. How did you keep yourself in shape over the past five-and-a-half years in order to re-enter the game of hockey? – Joshua Carey I took some time off, but I didn’t want to let myself go past a certain weight. Whenever I would reach that certain number, I would always start working out again and drop a few pounds. I tried to do something -- whether it was running biking or hiking – to be active and not shut my body down.
3. Is playing in the NHL different for you now then it was five years ago when you retired? - Jacob Crater Yea, the game has changed. There is much more open ice which allows the skaters to skate and the skilled players to use their skills. That’s probably the biggest change. There’s less obstruction, holding, grabbing and interference. That frees you up to skate. I wish there weren’t as many penalties, but until players flush out their bad habits, there will always be penalties called.
4. I have read that you have been called the 'peskiest" player in the NHL in years past. How did/do you like having that title? – Alex Well, I guess I earned it. You wouldn’t have that many people feeling that way unless I really got under their skin. I’ve always been a physical player so it’s a big part of my game. I have to, even to this day, still play the same way.
You know when certain players are out on the ice, they’re going to play hard. That alone is no fun to play against. You know when they’re on the ice and you’re open, you’re going to get hit. And then if you’re capable of making plays and scoring big goals and participating in that regard, then that it makes it even worse to play against that player.
5. Did you have to "coax" your wife and family about entering the League again? – Marge Parker It wasn’t too hard. The kids were easy. My wife didn’t think I was serious at first. Then she realized I was really serious about it and she’s been very supportive.
It’s been hard. I’ve had some long periods of time that I didn’t get to spend time with her and the kids, but so far everybody is very excited and everyone feels like we did the right thing. It was a family decision and we made the right choice.
6. How do you like playing on the same line as Jody Shelley? I’d rather play with him than against him (laughs). He’s no schoolboy. He’s a tough guy and he gets a lot of respect out there. Whenever our line is out there, we create a lot of space and a lot of energy.
7. Since joining the Sharks what younger player(s) have you taken an interest in teaching/showing them new things, tips or shots? Who will be the next great player for the sharks with time and experience in your view?? – Mark M. It’s not really like that. I think the right approach is to do what I can do when I’m on the ice. Then hopefully that draws whoever needs help.
When I was a young player, I worked well with older players. You use them when you need them, so to speak, and when you’re looking for advice, their presence is there and I’ve only been here a couple weeks so I’ve got to break in slowly and make sure I get to know everyone first.