TORONTO – The great downfall of mangling Drew Doughty’s words would be his ceasing to provide them.
“Out in Vancouver, guys twisted my words. Pissing me off. I just want to go play and win games,” said Doughty.
One of hockey’s most accomplished stars is also the one of the sport’s most colourful quotes, but he is making a concerted effort to stay out of the headlines during his annual work trip back to his home province of Ontario.
The Canucks snatched a phrase Doughty used during post-loss frustration on Oct. 9, turning it into bulletin-board material for their players, desktop wallpaper for their fans, and now — with a friendly nudge from that “Bunch of Jerks” in Carolina — a $30 T-shirt.
Here’s the post-game quote that has carried on a life four weeks later:
“I mean, I ain’t going to park it. It’s f—— just embarrassing,” Doughty told reporters in Vancouver. “A team like that should not be beating a team like ours 8-2. There’s absolutely no way.”
The Canucks caught wind of the comment after it made the rounds, flipping it into a little inspiration ahead of their 5-3 victory in L.A. on Oct. 30.
that would look good on a shirt
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 31, 2019
Captain Bo Horvat said the players were “absolutely” aware of what he perceived as a slight by Doughty.
“We look at that stuff. If it’s on social media, somebody’s going to find it and someone’s going to tell us,” Horvat said. “I think we’ve proven to him and we’ll keep proving we’re a great hockey team.”
Already in the Calgary spotlight due to his feud with Matthew Tkachuk, Doughty wants to keep the focus on the ice.
And yet, he can’t help but take issue with the Canucks’ using him in a similar way the underdog Hurricanes used Don Cherry, who ripped their Storm Surge on Hockey Night in Canada last season.
“The guy’s an idiot that made all that happen,” Doughty said Tuesday, when asked about Vancouver’s “Team Like That” catchphrase.
“What I was trying to say there is they’re a young team, we’re an old team, and we lost the game like 8-1 or something like that. And that’s just ridiculous for a veteran to lose that bad to any team in the league — not only a young team. That’s what I meant by those comments. Just standard people making it run.”
On Monday, without a camera around, we asked Doughty to explain the “pretty true story” (his words) that has made the rounds about his nearly missing the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game because he slept in.
“I’ll tell it another day,” he sighed. “I don’t want to cause any s— today in Toronto.”
This is the conundrum. We want our athletes to provide detail, to flash personality, to give us anecdotes and emotions over clichés. Yet when a juicy quote gains traction, they can feel an urge to retreat.
“Exactly,” Doughty said Tuesday ahead of the Kings’ game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Like, if you guys want us to be able to say things and be honest with you, and then you’re going to go run with it and just get attacked by it, we’re just gonna stop talking.”
For the sake of the sport, we hope heart-on-his-sleeve Doughty never makes good on that threat.
“He’s emotional, good and bad,” says King-turned-Leaf Jake Muzzin, a close friend of Doughty’s. “But it helps to play with emotion. I think it brings the best out of players and people. But he also likes to have fun.
“As a young guy coming up, I was obviously nervous, but to watch him having fun on the ice and enjoying it, it kinda helped a lot when I was younger.”
A future Hall of Famer with two gold medals, two Stanley Cup rings and a bank full of screw-you money, Doughty finds himself in an intriguing position at age 29.
He’s in the first season of an eight-year, $88-million contract that should see him walking into the rink in flip-flops for the rest of his career, should he so choose.
But he’s also logging heavy minutes for a rebuilding team, coming off a career-worst minus-34 season, and is making more noise for his spats than his stats.
“He’s pressing to be perfect, and that’s hard to be in this league. But he’s a proud player and wants to improve in every facet,” new coach Todd McLellan says. “He also understands where we’re at in the evolution of our team. Some nights are tougher than others. And he still seems to get the job done.”
Doughty, who will have “tons” of family and friends in attendance Tuesday, admits he psyched himself up too much last fall during the Kings’ trip to Toronto. He was a minus-two in a 4-1 loss.
“Usually I play really well in here, but last year I kind of played like s— and I think I was just too amped up for the game and knowing I was gonna have a matchup against [Auston] Matthews,” he explains. “So I’m going to come into the game a little more calm.”
Muzzin has seen that side before.
“That’s Drew taking it personal and playing with that emotion and having that desire to shut down a guy like that,” Muzzin says.
Doughty swears he wants to settle things down on the ice and off, even if it means fighting against his natural instincts.
“When you get too amped up, you don’t play as well, I find,” Doughty says.
“I just want to stop being on the ice for goals. That’s all I’m thinking about now.”