Q&A: Barclay Goodrow ‘extremely motivated’ for new challenge with Rangers

Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow (19). (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The sun beat down on Machell Park in the heart of Aurora, Ont. It’s late August and the balmy conditions don’t stop members of the community from congregating.

Picnic tables and umbrellas spread throughout the park. Attendees converse while staying hydrated and sampling some Uncle Sam’s BBQ ribs and pulled pork. Several junior hockey teams are in attendance, including the Aurora Tigers, where kids practice their shots on the grass. There are even fans sporting Tampa Bay Lightning jerseys, with Stamkos and Lecavalier sprawled on the back.

Barclay Goodrow with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Aurora, Ontario. (Zach Lawton/The Country Day School)

Suddenly, a motorcade approaches the park. The crowd gathers towards the stage. They are here to see Barclay Goodrow, an Aurora native and winner of back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goodrow is on the cargo bed of a pickup truck, cradling his most prized hockey possession: The Stanley Cup. With AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blaring in the background, spectators cheer as Goodrow raises the Cup.

This off-season was busy for Goodrow. After winning the Cup, the Lightning traded the 28-year-old forward to the New York Rangers on July 17. Five days later, Goodrow signed a six-year, $21.85-million contract with the Rangers.

Goodrow personifies the “bet on yourself” mantra, going from undrafted to a lengthy contract with an Original Six franchise. Before the 2021-22 NHL season began, Sportsnet.ca caught up with Goodrow to discuss that special day with the Cup in Aurora, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, the wild off-season, his lessons learned in Tampa, and his excitement about playing in New York.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

Goodrow lifting the Stanley Cup in his hometown celebration event in Aurora, Ont. (Zach Lawton/The Country Day School)

Sportsnet: A month ago you brought the Stanley Cup to your hometown of Aurora, Ont. for a celebration. Can you describe the feelings of that day?

Barclay Goodrow: Yeah, it was really cool. It was something that we didn’t get to do last year after winning the first time so it was cool to finally get up to Aurora. I got to go to Southlake Hospital, which was the most memorable part of the day. I think seeing kids — who were struggling, going through treatment, and very sick — have a smile on their face was a very rewarding feeling. Even to see the nurses and the doctors who have just been grinding for 18 months due to COVID. So, it was cool to see their faces when they saw the Cup, which brightened up their day a little bit. And then to bring the Cup to Aurora, visiting with minor hockey, Aurora Tigers kids who would’ve been my age when I started. It was cool.

SN: You are coming off winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning. How do you think those teams will be remembered, given the adversity you all overcame over back-to-back seasons?

BG: We proved that we were the best. The first year (2019-20) wasn’t easy. There were many challenges to come through and win in that year. I know a lot of people were saying it’s a lot easier to win when there is no need to go into nasty away environments or there’s no travel, there’s no other stuff. For us to be able to follow it up and win the next year in normal circumstances says a lot. We just proved how deep and how good our team actually was.

SN: Winning one Stanley Cup is difficult. Winning in consecutive years is even more challenging. How did you and your teammates find the motivation and drive to repeat?

BG: When you get a chance to lift the Stanley Cup the first time, it’s like a drug. You just want to do it more and more. You just realize how good that feeling is. You’re on top of the world. Once we did that the first time — and then we pretty much had the whole team return for the next year — we realized we have a special opportunity to be able to go back to back. We knew what we had to do to put ourselves in a good position to not only make the playoffs but to have our game in order.

We had a veteran group. We knew what our game looked like, where our team was successful in how we planned everything. It was pretty cool to cap it off on home ice in front of the fans.

SN: One of the most memorable moments in last year’s Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens was you blocking Shea Weber’s shot. Take me through what memories you have from that moment?

BG: You’re in the Finals. You’re going to do what it takes for the team. It’s that kind of shot where you make sure it doesn’t get into the net. It caught me on the outside of the knee. It’s that spot that makes your leg go numb for a bit. I was trying to get the feel back in my legs to finish out the game. We had seven, eight minutes to go. I had one more TV timeout to get a grip of it and I felt good for the rest of the game.

SN: There’s a video on the ice after the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, where your former head coach Jon Cooper described you guys as ‘warriors’ and said: ‘Who blocks Shea Weber’s shot? Barclay Goodrow does.’ Do you pride yourself on being that absolute warrior on the ice?

BG: I like to be relied on. I take a lot of pride in my defensive game. I like being counted on to take faceoffs, depending on the game. When I first got traded to Tampa, I was brought there for a reason. I was told to just play my game. That’s what I’ve stuck to the whole time. You can tell how deep that team is. You didn’t need another guy to score 30 goals, you needed guys to win faceoffs, be on the penalty kill and be a physical player. I tried to embrace that role and our line played that same style.

SN: Celebrating with your family and teammates, hoisting the Stanley Cup. Describe the emotions in those moments?

BG: Those were moments you’ll never forget. When we won the first year my parents were in the bubble for a little bit. It was more a celebration with the guys. We were in the bubble for 65 days so we became very close. The second time, all the family was there. Everyone’s having a great time. It’s very special. Like I said before, the family members have played a massive role in getting you to the NHL. Whether it’s driving you everywhere, across the province, across the country, buying the equipment, all that stuff. When you’re able to win, it’s a reflection of who helps to get you there.

SN: You go from winning the Stanley Cup to the off-season, which consisted of getting traded and then signed in free agency by the New York Rangers. How did you navigate those days from getting traded to eventually signing a contract?

BG: It was a busy off-season. The guys who were free agents knew about the salary cap situation. We knew the team would not be the same the following year. That’s why we had a few ‘players only’ meetings before certain games. One in particular, against the Islanders we sat down said, ‘Hey listen, we know how good this hockey team is and it probably won’t be the same next year, given the salaries. We absolutely need to make the most of this opportunity.’

I think it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t be back the following season. But it was something that I didn’t think about at all. I was focusing on the task at hand but once the season ended, it’s like ‘Okay, what’s going to happen next?”

The process was pretty quick. I was very fortunate to be traded to the Rangers and then sign a contract with them. It was a quick deal. I couldn’t be more excited for the Rangers to trade for my rights and see what we can do.

SN: When you get the call from your agent that the Rangers offered you six years, $21.85-million contract, what goes through your mind?

BG: It was crazy. Every kid in Canada who is playing junior in the OHL dreams of playing in the NHL, lifting the Stanley Cup, and having the chance to make some money. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling when that contract did get done. And especially with an organization like the Rangers. Very excited to be coming to New York, starting a new chapter with an Original Six team. Hopefully, they’ll be good for a long time.

SN: What have you been working on during the offseason and training camp as it pertains to your game?

BG: It was pretty short, especially after two long playoff runs. For me, it was just getting my body back to how it needs to feel to go through the grind of another 82-game season. It was a lot of recovery stuff and then getting the strength and skating back to where it needs to be. It was a quick turnaround. But then, getting to New York, meeting the guys, starting training camp lit a new fire within me.

I’m excited to get the season started. Our team is very balanced. We’re very deep, especially with the new guys that they brought in during the off-season. It’s a very close-knit group. We did a team bonding trip to Rhode Island. I think it was very beneficial for us to just become more comfortable with each other. To be honest, I feel like I’ve been a part of this group for a lot longer than three or four weeks.

SN: What lessons will you take from Tampa and apply as you settle into a new environment with the Rangers?

BG: Whenever you can have a voice of someone who knows what it takes to get to the playoffs, get to the finals, and have your name on the Cup, I think it’s good to have someone who’s been there. Also, to relay the other things that you need to be doing, the sacrifices you make, or the little things you work on, whether it’s your skating or shooting pucks. All the stuff you put into your game. Over time, you get a lot better and when you eventually end up winning the Cup, you realize all that extra time spent working on your craft was worth it. So, it’s important to appreciate the time you put in and realize that it was worthwhile.

SN: This is the longest contract of your career. How motivated are you for this upcoming season to match or even exceed the expectations that are placed after signing a long-term deal, while continuing to show that you can be a high impact player?

BG: I’m extremely motivated. I feel like I’m more motivated than I ever have been. Being on a new team, in a new city, you have a lot to prove. Not only to the fans but to your teammates that the team brought me here for a reason and you want to show them your value and what you can add. To be able to contribute to a winning team in New York would be amazing. I think I can be a good teammate that can do some damage for many years.

SN: Your career began with the York Simcoe Express and has taken you through Brampton, North Bay, Worcester, San Jose, Tampa, and now New York. How have those obstacles along the way defined you as a player and person?

BG: It’s been a journey. Right from going undrafted to the OHL was the first blip in the road. I would say I was a pretty good minor hockey player and going first round in the OHL, I figured the road would keep on going. Not getting drafted (to the NHL) was the first step back. I think that moulded me into the player I am today.

I have a very motivated mindset to always keep proving people wrong, and prove myself each and every day. I think the journey makes you the player you are. For me, I’m not ever going to take a game for granted. I know many kids who are also on the same journey would love the opportunity to be in the position we all are in. It keeps me motivated and like I said before, once you have a chance to lift the Cup the first time it motivates you even more to have that feeling again.


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