By David Amber
Special to ESPN.com
A week after Patrick Marleau was drafted into the NHL, his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan, threw a party. Since then, Aneroid has had plenty more to celebrate as the 27-year-old center has become one of the game's best players and most respected leaders.
In this week's Facing Off, the San Jose captain talks about how he's evolved into a playoff sniper, why Sharks players better beware if Joe Thornton is knocking on their door and what message the Western Conference was sending to Sid the Kid and Alexander the Great at the All-Star Game.
Question from David Amber: I read you had 167 points in 53 games one season in minor hockey in Saskatchewan. At what point did you know you would one day be an NHL player?
Answer from Patrick Marleau: Well, I always dreamed about being one, but it didn't really hit home until my second year of Junior, when everyone starts to talk about you getting drafted. People started saying I was going to get drafted high. So then, when it happened, I was thinking, "Wow, I'm actually going to play in the NHL."
Q: You played your Junior with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Why doesn't Seattle have an NHL team?
A: I don't know. They have a pretty strong hockey following there. I remember our rivals from Portland used to get 18,000 fans a game, so there are definitely hockey fans in that part of the country.
Q: How did last season's arrival of Joe Thornton impact your game?
A: It helped me so much. Just seeing how he approaches the game, he really wants to be the best player in the league. He works hard every game. He is always creating things on the ice for his teammates, so I appreciate him.
Q: You're the captain. Does that mean you don't have to room with anyone on the road?
A: No, I think I have a choice and actually my roommate has a choice, too. But we both like company, so we room together.
Q: So who do you room with?
A: It's Joe.
Q: What kinds of pranks do you guys pull?
A: We've done a few of the "leaners" to some of the guys; you know, the garbage pail full of water. We knock on the door and when they open it, their room gets soaked. Joe has also been known to get some toothpaste on the doorknobs and that sort of stuff. Some guys think it's funny. Some guys get mad.
Q: Who on the Sharks would make the best president?
A: Probably Curtis Brown or Mike Grier. Brownie likes to talk a lot; he has a lot of strong opinions. Grier is a really smart guy. So, either of those two would do well.
Q: On days off, away from the rink, living in California, what do you do?
A: Well, we have a four-month old son, Landon, so our lives have changed. But my wife and I still go to the mall. In San Jose, there are outdoor malls, which are cool. We still try to go to the movies and just hang out. Most the guys on the team love to golf on off days.
Q: So, I guess you are also changing diapers on your off days?
A: Yeah, a lot of them. Yesterday I changed a whole bunch. We go on long road trips almost every month, so I try to help out when I'm home and get all the Landon I can get before I leave on the road. It's tough to go. I miss him so much.
Q: San Jose doesn't have an NBA, MLB or NFL team. How are the NHL players treated in the community?
A: If you run into a Sharks fan, they are really passionate. They know everything that is going on in the league and they want to talk to you about the team. We do a lot of charity stuff in the community, so the fans appreciate that. We have really good attendance at our games. It's a perfect spot for a hockey team because there is a fan base to support it.
Q: In your last 28 playoff games, you have scored 17 goals. How different is it to play with your season on the line in April and May?
A: I just enjoy the intensity of that hockey. You can really tell the difference in the playoffs. During the regular season, everyone wants to win; but in the playoffs, it's even more intense.
Q: Describe the rivalry that has developed with Anaheim.
A: Nobody wants to concede to the other. All season, we have been separated by just a few points. We both realize getting to the Stanley Cup means either going through Anaheim or going through San Jose, so we are both trying to get that edge during the regular season that can continue during the playoffs.
Q: The Ducks lead the league in fighting majors and have built a reputation as a team that will bully its opponent. Looking at the Sharks' roster, there's not a single player under 6-feet and most players are listed at 220 pounds or more. Come playoff time, are we gearing up for an old-time hockey showdown?
A: We have played them five times this year, and every time, it's a total battle. We are one of the biggest and one of the youngest teams in the league, so we can handle ourselves. Things seem to always get heated when we play the Ducks, so it will definitely get interesting if we meet in the playoffs.
Q: Looking around the league, right now, which team is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup?
A: If I had to pick a team other than us, I would say Buffalo. The Sabres seem to be on the same page. When they get a team down, they don't sit back, they bury them. They have a killer instinct that I think a lot of teams, including us, can learn from.
Q: Last season, you were one of the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy. Do you see a time when fighting won't be a part of the game?
A: No, I don't think so. I think it will always be part of the game. I don't think they should ban it. Players sometimes need to fight when they hit a breaking point with a guy on the other team. I don't think it hurts the game if two guys want to fight.
Q: As the Sharks captain, if the team is going through a funk, are you the type of guy to call players out and make sure everyone is accountable?
A: Not all the time. We have had team meetings this year where things have been said, but for the most part, we have lots of leaders on this team. We have Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan to take care of the defense and we have Joe and Mike Grier up front. So, if someone misses something, it won't go unnoticed and someone will say something.
Q: You just played in your second All-Star Game. How seriously do the players take the game itself?
A: I think it was taken more seriously than in past years. We wanted to put on a good show and I think it was better. Guys were really skating and trying defensively. Even though there were a lot of goals scored, the pace was a lot better than in the past.
Q: With Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin getting most of the media attention around the league, did you Western Conference guys want to make a point to the East that, "Hey, we have some stars here, too?"
A: Yeah, definitely. The league has picked those two guys to build the NHL around. I think they are both superstars that handle themselves really well, so it makes sense. But we did want to let people know there are great players in the West, too.
Q: If you win the Stanley Cup as the captain, you get top billing. So, when you're done appearing on talk shows, what are you going to do with the most prized piece of hardware in sports?
A: I'll probably have to take it back to the farm in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, or maybe to Swift Current, where there are more people. But I definitely have to bring it home to my parents.
Q: What about your wife? She's a California girl. Her family probably wants some time with the Cup, too.
A: [Laughs] Yeah, they'll have to fly out there to see it I guess. And my son will definitely have a nice seat in the Cup, if we win. That would be a dream come true.
Giggy looks to avoid injuries, Souray slap shots
By David Amber
Special to ESPN.com
A few seasons ago, Jean-Sebastien Giguere shocked the hockey world by taking an overmatched Anaheim team within one win of the Stanley Cup.
This season, Giguere and the Ducks are among the favorites to win it all. In this week's Facing Off, the former playoff MVP discusses why he's relieved to not be playing in his hometown of Montreal, what it's like to hang out at the Playboy Mansion and why Sheldon Souray won't be getting a Christmas card from him anytime soon.
Question from Amber: You were drafted by the now-defunct Hartford Whalers. What do you remember most about your first NHL game?
Answer from Giguere: It was against the Flyers. They had a great team at the time. [Eric] Lindros was in his prime and facing him was really intimidating. I didn't feel ready at all. I knew I wasn't ready to play in the NHL yet, but once the game started, the butterflies went away. So I felt OK, but we still lost the game and Lindros scored on me.
Q: Why do you think an NHL team didn't work in Hartford, where there is a strong core of hockey fans?
A: The team was just bad for a long time. They didn't make the playoffs for a long time, and at the end of the day, they needed a new building. The arena didn't have luxury boxes and I think that's why it failed. If there was a new arena there, I think hockey could work in Hartford.
Q: Speaking of teams possibly moving, Pittsburgh may lose their team. If you were NHL commissioner and had to choose a new destination for the Penguins, where would it be?
A: I like it the way it is, but if they're leaving, I think Kansas City could be nice. Maybe Vegas is something the NHL could try, seeing as there is no other professional team there. I would like for a team to move back to Canada, but I don't know if it is feasible. I don't know if Winnipeg or Quebec City are big enough cities to support the economics of an NHL team.
Q: I read that your body has difficulty taking in fluids when you sweat, so you once lost 19 pounds in a game. Is that true?
A: Yeah, it was in Albany, N.Y., when I was in the AHL. I lost 19 pounds. The arena was really hot and I just kept sweating. Now, on average, I lose about 10 pounds per game. This summer, I went to the [Gatorade Sports Science Institute] near Chicago and did some tests and it helped. I haven't been dehydrated in a game so far this year.
Q: Still, losing 10 pounds a game sounds crazy.
A: It's tough. The game finishes at 10 at night and then you wake up and have to practice in the morning. I'd show up to practice with my muscles all dried up and tired, they didn't recover from the game yet, so it was really tough. Playing back-to-back games was almost impossible for me a few years ago.
Q: Before the season started, four of seven ESPN hockey experts picked the Ducks to win the Cup, myself included. What is it like going into the season as the Stanley Cup favorite?
A: It's kind of nice that you guys think we have a good team, but we know that it doesn't mean much. If you look back at past years and see what predictions you guys have made, there aren't many that have actually won the Cup [laughs].
Q: Thanks! For your sake, let's hope we are right this time. Anaheim and San Jose are not traditional hockey markets, but how has the rivalry evolved in the last few years?
A: It's been great. San Jose has a really strong team. It is so tough to beat them in their building. Whenever we play there, it is packed and the fans are going nuts. Same thing when they come here. They seem to have a hard time at the Honda Center. It has become a fun rivalry.
Q: In your first career playoff game back in 2003, you stopped 63 shots against a stacked Detroit club. You won 2-1 in triple overtime. At that point, did you know you were starting something special for you and your team?
A: Not really. Going into the playoffs, I just wanted to learn really. I had nothing to lose. We were the eighth-seeded team and nobody would have picked us to win any games. I just took it as a great chance to learn. There was no pressure and things just started to roll from there.
Q: What was going through your mind when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is awarding you the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP on the same night he is handing out the Stanley Cup to the team that just beat you, the New Jersey Devils?
A: It was a bittersweet feeling. Everything in hockey is team-related, so yes, I was happy to get the Conn Smythe Trophy. It was something I am proud of, but it's not something I can really share with my teammates, and they were as much a part of that playoff run as I was. That team didn't have a lot of talent, so we needed everybody to play their best to be successful and everybody did.
Q: After that incredible run to the Stanley Cup finals, when you became a household name to hockey fans, what was the coolest thing that you got to see or do?
A: I think the coolest thing was actually getting to the finals and getting to Game 7, even though we lost. The feeling was unbelievable to have everyone involved in hockey watching you, and all the media and the atmosphere during the finals. It was really amazing. There were some other things, too. I got to go on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" a couple of times, I went to the ESPY Awards, the Playboy Mansion.
Q: What was the Playboy Mansion like?
A: It was OK. It was part of the ESPY Awards ceremony. There was a boxing match featured there. It wasn't one of [Hugh Hefner's] parties. I was there with my wife, so it was fun [laughs].
Q: So, you didn't go into the famous "grotto" while you were there?
A: [Laughs] I went with my wife to check it out. It's cool.
Q: You are known as a really laid-back guy, but about a year ago, you had that one game vs. the Oilers when you picked up 16 minutes in penalties. Do you have a little of the Ron Hextall mean streak in you?
A: I got a little Giguere in me [laughs]. It's part of my family I guess. You know what, I try to stay calm, but every once and a while, I just lose it and it's hard for me to hold back. This year, I am very proud of the fact I haven't broken a stick yet, in practice or a game. I used to smash sticks all the time. It's a bad habit to have, but I'm working to stay calm.
Q: That night, you were furious with Ryan Smyth. Is there any other player out there who is notorious for getting in a goalie's face and causing trouble?
A: Yeah, there are a bunch of guys like that. [Sean] Avery in Los Angeles is always stirring things up. [Tomas] Holmstrom in Detroit is pretty good at getting to the net, but he's good at staying out of the crease.
Q: If you could play in any other city besides Anaheim, where would you want to play?
A: I don't know. That's tough. I would play anywhere that I was traded to. I'm not one of those players that refuses to play in certain cities. There are things I like about every city.
Q: Oh, come on. You have to have a favorite city. I thought you would say Montreal because it's your hometown?
A: Do you really want to be a French Canadian goalie in Montreal? I don't know if I would want to. The last two French Canadian goalies in Montreal were superstars, and they got beat up so bad, why would you want to go through that? I love Montreal. I live there in the summer and it's my favorite city in the world, but playing there is something different. Those fans are tough.
Q: You've been fighting a groin injury, but I want to know about the other injuries goalies get. What happens when a shot somehow finds that area where there is no protection?
A: It sucks. We've all been through it. Sometimes, you're late getting into position, so the puck catches you in a bad spot and sometimes it just gets you where you have no padding. It really hurts, but in the heat of the game, you don't worry about it.
Q: When you see a Sheldon Souray winding up, heading toward the slot, is there ever any fear in your mind?
A: Well, last summer, I was skating with Souray and some other guys in Montreal. He walks in past the blue line, skates in past the hash mark with his stick up, and shoots it as hard as he can just past my head. I'm not kidding. As hard as he could. And I just look at him and say "What are you thinking here, it's August?" Everyone in the rink went "Ooohhh" when he shot it. As he was winding up, everyone on the ice moved away to let him shoot. I couldn't believe it [laughs].
Q: What was he trying to do?
A: I don't know. I think he was trying to score, but he almost killed me. We know each other, we're kind of friends, but I don't know what he was doing there.
Q: You are helping the next wave of great goalies hone their skills. What should we know about your goalie shop in Nova Scotia, where you played Junior?
A: A partner and I run a hockey store and school in Sackville Sportsplex Arena near Halifax. We have a hockey school that is a year-round, 12-month program. We also sell equipment just for goalies. It's a small boutique shop. We custom fit all the equipment because it is so important, especially for goalies, to feel comfortable in their equipment. We also have an artificial ice rink at the store where we give one-on-one training to goalies. My partner does the training all year, and during the summer, I go back for a week and run a hockey school.
Q: Business will surely pick up if you win a Stanley Cup. On a veteran team like Anaheim, who is the one main leader on your team?
A: I think our captain is unbelievable. Scott Niedermayer has won everything that needs to be won -- three Stanley Cups, Memorial Cup, Norris Trophy, and everything else. He knows what it takes to win, and when we're struggling, he is always the guy who shows up the right way. He's just a great leader who leads by example.
Q: Teemu Selanne and Niedermayer are known as two of the nicest guys in the league. Who wins a fight between them if they drop the gloves on the ice?
A: [Laughs] I don't know. That would be a fun fight to see, though. It would be a finesse fight. Not a lot of punches thrown, just some slapping!