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A Growing Leader

by Dallas Stars Staff / Dallas Stars

Steve Ott is through with baby steps.

Ott is coming off an impressive 2007-08 season in which the numbers do not tell the entire story. He scored a career-high 11 goals and matched a career-high with 22 points. But Ott’s contribution to the Stars last season was nothing less than huge.

“Otter is an important member of this team,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “He does whatever it takes to win and that’s the kind of attitude we want on everyone in this dressing room.”

Injuries limited Ott to just 19 games the previous season, right when it looked like he was on the verge of busting out and becoming a large contributor. Last year at this time, Ott and the Stars coaches knew that 2007-08 would be a big season for him. Everyone knew he had the tools to step up and take on a bigger role.

Ott accepted the challenge and made a difference.

“Every season prior to last year was different for me,” Ott said. “I was healthy two years ago but then had the ankle issues. This past season was one in which I grew a lot of confidence and really found my role. Before, I was out there playing in all the games and contributing in a small factor but this season I had more responsibility on the ice and was more of a key factor in the dressing room and on the ice. I had a lot bigger picture for myself. Now I have something I can build on and grow on where as before I just had to keep coming in and keep working for a spot. Now I want to expand my role and keep the momentum I have created.”

Ott knows what his role is. He’s not being looked upon to lead the team in goals or points, but to always be a factor in the game. Ott has mastered the art of annoyance, and getting under the skin of the other team has become his forte.

And of course, he can score the big goal when given the opportunity. His tip to give Dallas an early 1-0 lead in the first playoff game at Anaheim this past April was gigantic and set the tone for the rest of the game and the series.

“I just want to be one of the players that contribute toward the team; that has never changed for me,” he said. “I think I’m a player that contribute defensively and a little bit offensively. I want to expand on that this coming season. I still think last season was a stepping stone to getting to where this team needs me to be as a player in the future as my role.”

Ott was one of several players who stepped up and had good years last season.

“Team-wise, it was a huge step for a lot of us on the roster. There were 10 or 15 guys on the team that made strides in their individual games to help the team be better on the ice. I was just fortunate to be one of those guys that made that kind of a jump.”

Ott’s impact on the team has grown over the last few years and he sees himself right in the middle of a talented roster with leadership with many of the young players.

“When I first came in it was Derian Hather and Richard Matvichuk, and some of the older guys who were the leaders in the room,” he said. “This last season, the tide has kind of turned. Brenden Morrow and Marty Turco are at the forefront of the leadership but I’m now one of the guys who can speak up and help those guys. I want to be looked upon as a leader on our team. You have to lead by example. You can’t take games off you have to carry yourself well off the ice too. That is something I take pride in, trying to help the leadership on our team because it is so young. If we’re all pulling on the same rope it definitely translates on the ice.”

Summer for Ott happens just north of Detroit, outside of Windsor, Canada. There he has been able to spend a little time with his wife Candice and one-year-old daughter Layna.

“It’s been a pretty good summer,” he said. “It’s been short and sweet but very enjoyable.”

NHL Productions was just in town to film a player feature on Ott, who took them out on the lake for “a little Sea Doo’ing and a little water skiing with some tubing.”

A professional hockey player can’t afford to take too much time away from keeping in shape, something that Ott has had little trouble with.

“My goal and the team’s goal is to win a Stanley Cup,” Ott said. “It didn’t happen this year but the motivation remains. I took a couple of weeks off and got right back up to speed with conditioning once I got my batteries recharged from the playoff run.

“I started skating a couple of weeks ago. I play with a bunch of other guys about twice a week and its great to keep your hands and feet in hockey-mode but it’s not too demanding. Once I get back to Dallas it will be more towards getting ready for camp.”

Mike Weber, a young defenseman with the Sabres, is living with the Otts this summer and he is one of the pro hockey players who play several times a week. Others include Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason (one of Ott’s best friends), Carolina goalie Mike Leighton, Dallas defenseman Dan Jancevski, and retired veterans like Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel.

“We have a lot of fun out there,” Ott said. “There are also a lot of semi-pros that live nearby who are friends and they play with us a lot.”

But summer is about family and Ott has cherished the valuable time he has gotten with daughter Layna.

“There is not a better time to be a father,” Ott said. “This past season was so busy and it was difficult to be around her all the time. Now to have the time that I have had with her this summer – it has just been a thrill, especially the last little while. She is starting to talk a bit now and she learns new words every day. She likes to run around and play and it’s been a great summer.”

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