Visited Campbell River a couple weeks back to attend a Bruins alumni charity game. My marching orders from work were to track down Ray Bourque and talk to him. But the guy I really wanted to corner was Andrew Raycroft.
Raycroft was a member of the Canucks for just 21 games during the 2009-10 season, but he delivered one of the highlights of that campaign. Andrew has moved to the dark side now, working in TV, and chatting with him was a ton of fun.
Watching NESN, you look super comfortable in front of the camera. Did you always feel that way?
It was easier for sure when you’re a player. You can dictate a bit more. You can take as long or as less as you want with questions. After a game it always wasn’t the easiest thing, but I always felt obligated to stand in there and answer the questions and I always respected the guys that did that.
Was broadcasting something you thought of as a post-career job?
It wasn’t something I was thinking about doing after my career to be honest. I just went in and did a few auditions with NESN. I had been home for a couple of years and kind of struggling, wondering what am I going to do? It was a challenge at first. I wasn’t that good at it right away. But once I did it and kind of thought about it, I’ve been chasing it since then for sure.
Being around you briefly, I could tell you had a great personality and fun sense of humour. Do you wish you could have shown that more during your playing days?
Yeah I do. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Just watching how guys are able to act and dress and have a bit of a brand, I think it’s great for the game.
Even during warm up, guys flipping pucks over and taking selfies at the glass. Having the ability to do that. That was unheard of. There’s no way I was allowed to do that stuff when we were younger. You had to be dead serious all the time. Especially in the Toronto market, I was more serious than I actually am because I felt like I needed to be.
Did you like hockey when you retired or were you ready to get away from it for a bit?
It was hard for me. You like it, but it was really hard for me still seeing guys playing that were my age. I’ve gotten to the point now where basically all my friends are done. For the most part guys that I started with are now long gone so that’s made it easier to feel like my time is officially over. There is no way I can play now.
At the same time, I was burnt out. It was a grind for me the last three, four, five years bouncing around a bit. I didn’t hate hockey, but I was glad to be away from it for a little bit.
Tell me something about your time in Italy. (Raycroft played for Milan in 2012-13)
When I played in Milan, the Inter-Milan Ultras were our fans as well. These guys would take bus trips to all of our games. We would have 200 people chanting at every one of our road games, it was crazy. It was 100 per cent football culture and that was amazing.
Also, every arena has a bar and restaurant in it. So after every one of our road games we go and have three or four beers with the visiting fans before we got on the bus back to Milan.
OK, let’s talk about January 30, 2010. What do you remember about that night?
It was 3-0 after the first and Luongo didn’t get the hook very much, so being a Saturday night it didn’t feel like one of those games that he was going to get it. But AV (Alain Vigneault) grabbed me heading towards the room and said ‘you’re going in.’
I hadn’t played much at all (Raycroft played 10:28 in relief on January 13 and his last start was December 5, 2009) but I had been working super hard with Ian Clark.
Early in the second I remember there was a pass across and Ian White was all alone in front and I made a save that I had been making in practice for like a month and I just felt so happy that the work had paid off. I felt like a little kid, it was such a weird thing.
I did the interview after and I wanted to cry. Obviously part of it was a Toronto thing, but more so that I had put a ton of work in to get my game better over the month and to have it pay off was a big deal to me and it carried through the whole rest of the season. And the guys were just awesome. They were so happy for me, you know Burrows, Kes, the twins, OB and Luongo. So it was special for all those others things on top of beating Toronto.
The Leafs had bought out the final year of your contract, so technically Toronto was paying you to beat them.
(laughs) The alternative is probably better, but if you’re getting two paycheques and it’s Saturday night in Toronto and the way it ended there and just how much they hate the Canucks and how good we were and all of those things was just fantastic, but the real pleasure I got was just the work paying off.
So January of this year I heard you almost made your NHL comeback. An an emergency goalie?
I’ve been on the Bruins’ list ever since I came back to the Boston area. And there are like seven of us on this list. In this case, I was actually in the building doing the game, so they knew exactly where I was. Tuukka got run over in the first and it was obvious he was done.
Right away there were interns in the studio getting the address to head to my home so they could grab my equipment. In a snowstorm I might add. So that’s when the sweats started. This is a problem. And I’m on TV so I’m trying to keep it together and form sentences. My heart was beating until the second intermission and then I felt that no matter what, Halak could get through the final period.
How is your relationship with Rask?
It’s great. We live like 7-10 minutes away from each other here. Our kids went to the same pre-school. Whenever I see him it’s good. We’re very similar low-key guys and he’s a great guy, he’s awesome.
Just bound by a little bit of history, right?
Yeah, of course. He knows it too, but it never really comes up. It’s just one of those things. We just kind of look at each other and smile.
Thanks to Andrew for taking the time. Now on to the mailbag…
Well there has never been any serious hazing luckily. But you’re right about Bertuzzi. When I used to do the show open from the ice he would skate by and slash the back of my legs or rear end every time. Mason Raymond would also skate by and yell “HI MURPH” at the top of his lungs.
Also one time in Pittsburgh the Sedins set me up. I asked for Henrik and Daniel came out to talk. He conducted the interview as if he was his brother and I had no clue until we got on to the plane to fly home. And yes, I can tell them apart. This was very early in their careers. When it comes to being a pain in the butt, however, Kevin Bieksa takes the cake.
This one is easy. Bad breath. And I’m sure I’ve victimized others as well. But when you’re crammed into a tight space, and face to face with a bunch of folks who have already crushed a couple of cups of coffee, the results can be devastating.
What did zero say to eight?
Which current player has the most interesting personality? Or interests? I’m not talking golf, Tom Brady, video games, etc. I mean actually interesting interests. Or unexpected ones. Bonus points if you can find a metal head!
— Novalis (@YoungMorgoth) September 30, 2019
I went with Thatcher Demko on this one.
He’s set to graduate from Boston College in December (Applied Psychology in Human Development with a minor in Philosophy). He was originally in communications, but when it was clear he was going fail French (a language class was mandatory) his teacher told him to drop it. He did and then changed majors.
He has just one elective left to get his degree and he’s currently taking it while playing for the Canucks. The class is Natural Disasters and Catastrophes. Demko, like many, is fascinated by earthquakes and tornadoes and how those types of events shape the world.
When he reads, it’s philosophy books over novels.
“The books I’m attracted to are philosophy ones with ethical questions or morality,” he said.
That said, he’d prefer to be entertained by having a conversation with someone or watching a show.
“Oddly enough I just finished watching Mindhunter which is a big psychology show,” he said. “I like the movies that make you think. Like Inception or Shutter Island. Shows that make you think about something that might not be a reality right now.”
Finally, Demko is not a metalhead but he is a big music guy. All genres. His dad raised him on rock. His mom raised him on musicians like Stevie Wonder. And his favourite artist right now is J. Cole because “he talks about things many in the industry don’t.”
BFG is, of course, Nikita Tryamkin, who the Canucks selected with the 66th pick in 2014. Tryamkin played 79 games for Vancouver before bolting back to Russia for a number of reasons. But the biggest beef seemed to be a lack of ice time under Willie Desjardins.
Tryamkin’s KHL deal is up after this year and both he and the Canucks have stated they’d be open to a reunion.
I don’t think there is any doubt he’s improved as a player the past couple of seasons. He is a top pairing D for Yekaterinburg, plays in all situations and often leads his team in ice time. We know he’s massive (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) and skates extremely will for his size. I believe he could step in and be an NHL player, but I have my doubts he’s a top-four guy. And that’s where things get tricky.
If Tryamkin wants good coin to come back to North America you better be sure he can at least play on your second pair, because as we know in this market, paying a fifth or sixth defenceman north of $3 million prunes per season is not a great strategy. That said, it would be a lot of fun to see what the big dude is capable of. Canucks fans are still obsessed with him and I don’t think there is any question he would be excellent TV.