Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Henrik Lundqvist are all known to be great leaders in the dressing room. During their recent roundtable chat with George Stroumboulopoulos, they talked about the difficulties of the role, and much more.
What scares you on the ice?
Sidney Crosby: Probably missing a chance. You want to score, you want to create. I would say that scares me. I don’t like doing that.
Jonathan Toews: The first thing that comes to mind is being in those big games and making defensive mistakes. I think that’s the type of thing that takes away your offensive confidence a little bit and really makes you second-guess everything you do after that.
What about a Shea Weber slapshot?
SC: That’ll scare you.
SC: Get out of the way.
JT: Yeah, it’s not pretty. In 2010, we were up in the series, but it was game six against Nashville. We ended up closing out the series in that game but we had three, four, five penalties in the third period and we were protecting a one-goal lead. They had a five-on-three power play—and we all know where the puck’s going in that case. I lost the faceoff in our zone, and all I could hear was Brent Sopel screaming, “I got Weber!” So I got the heck out of the lane, and I think [Weber] must have teed up three or four, and how one of them didn’t go in, I don’t know. I think Sopel might have blocked three of them. He had ice bags everywhere after that game, but that was his thing; he loved to block shots. Thank God I was out there with him, because it might have been me and I might not be sitting here today.
Is it smart for every player to block a shot?
Henrik Lundqvist: Well, it’s a technique. The guys who are good at it, they don’t get hurt as much, maybe.
SC: You know what? I’m kind of split because when I played junior, my coach always told me he didn’t want me blocking shots. He’s like, “That’s why we have a goalie,” you know?
HL: Makes sense!
SC: But now it’s different. I think knowing the time and situation, knowing if you have help there, and just letting your goalie see it. If it’s a shot he’s going to be able to see, you don’t really need to put your foot in the lane and risk missing a month. But you also don’t want to be the guy flamingoing if you need a big block, either. But I don’t think it was until I got to the NHL that I started focusing on that a little bit more.
What’s it like when you get out there with some of the rookies?
SC: Junior to the NHL used to seem like it was such a big step—or college to the NHL. Now it just seems like another step. Just the way they train and the way they know the game, they’re so much further ahead.
HL: When I run a goalie camp back in Sweden you can see already when they’re 11, 12 years old, they’re so aware of how to play the game. When I was 13, 14, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I was just playing. But they watch a lot of Internet and highlights, and they get an understanding of what it takes and how to play.
Do you know, walking into the rink, if you’re going to have a good game?
SC: Oh, yeah. I think on the real good nights you have a pretty good feeling that the legs feel good or you’ve had some days off and you’re pretty eager. When you’re playing
three and four back-to-back games, you know that it might be a bit of a grind that night and you’re going to have to find a way. It might look a little different than a great game does.
How has the culture of the game changed since you started?
JT: I remember my rookie year, I was kind of in the same boat with Patrick Kane. Whether it was playing on the same line, promoting the Hawks, whatever it was, we were always in the same boat. We played for Denis Savard that year and we got tons of opportunity, we played a lot of minutes and we heard it all the time from older players. The joke was they always called it the “New NHL,” where a lot of young guys are given the opportunity to make mistakes without having to beat themselves up coming off the ice. Whereas, back in the day that would have been a little bit different. You didn’t see as many young guys coming in, and the ones who did make it through maybe had a tougher road to becoming a star player than nowadays. So there’s much more emphasis on the young guys who are coming in there in their first contract, I think.
There will come a time when there’s an openly gay player in the league. Do you think that’s an important part of the evolution of that culture?
JT: Things like that happen and at first it might seem like a shock. Then we progress, we move past it and we look back and wonder what took us so long to get there. If we can tailor the game to all sorts of people watching—especially in the U.S.—and grow our game, that doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s great for hockey; it’s great for us. There’s no downside.