Q&A with Bryan McCabe
Last June, Bryan McCabe turned 30, not young by NHL standards.
So far, the All-Star defenseman hasn't suffered a midcareer crisis, especially this season. Thriving under the new NHL rules, McCabe has his sights on a Norris Trophy, an Olympic gold medal and, of course, a Stanley Cup.
In this edition of Facing Off, McCabe talks about his family lineage in baseball, why he isn't an NHL "tough guy" and why he no longer sports a Mohawk.
Question from David Amber: You started skating at 2 years old; what do you remember most about that?
Answer from Bryan McCabe: I played street hockey every day with my older brother. I started skating at 2 and playing ice hockey at 5; it was so much fun. All I ever wanted to do was be a hockey player, and I'm still living the dream. Going to the rink is the best part of the day.
Q: There was a Stan McCabe who played for the Detroit Cougars and Falcons and the Montreal Maroons in the 1920s and '30s. Any relation to you?
A: I don't think so. My great grandpa, Ralph McCabe, pitched one game in the majors for the Cleveland Indians (in 1946), from what I'm told. But no hockey blood in the NHL.
Q: There is a Bryan McCabe fan Web site. Have you been there?
A: No, I haven't [laughs]. I'm not super-Internet-friendly . I can check e-mail and that's about it. It's great to have fans follow you and appreciate what you do on the ice.
• Leads NHL defensemen in goals, assists, points and power-play goals.
• On Oct. 2, 2000, he was traded from the Blackhawks to the Maple Leafs for Alexander Karpovtsev and a fourth-round draft pick.
• Represented Canada at the World Juniors in 1994 and '95, winning gold medals both years.
• Scored first NHL goal against Mark Fitzpatrick of the Florida Panthers on Oct. 31, 1995.
• During the 2003-04 season, he was named to the NHL All-Star second team, becoming the first Maple Leafs defenseman since Borje Salming in 1979-80 to have that honor.
Q: You were traded four times in five years at the beginning of your career. What was the hardest part of that process?
A: When you're traded, your confidence gets diminished; you feel like nobody wants you when you bounce around so many times at a young age. The first trade was the hardest; I didn't expect it, it was a shocker, but after that it has worked out well for me.
Q: You were named captain of the New York Islanders when you were just 22 years old. Why didn't that work?
A: We were a young team. My first three years there, we were out of the playoff hunt by Christmas. It was a tough situation, being that young and being captain, and then I got traded. Mike Milbury was there to name me captain and then he was there six months later to trade me [laughs]. So, it was the good and the bad.
A: Yeah, I have seen him a few times. He's a good friend. We came into the league together. He made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. He's not that kind of player, he never has been. I felt bad for him. And of course, we feel for Steve, as well. I have known Bert for a long time and I know he's not that kind of person, so I'm glad we have all moved on.
Q: How is playing in Toronto different than other NHL cities?
A: It's the best hockey city in the world, bar none. It's the hockey mecca. We're sold out every night. People live and die with the Leafs, so obviously it's the best place in the world to play.
Q: How have you had to adjust your game with these new NHL rules?
A: It's been tough, I won't lie. You can't put a stick on a guy anymore in front of the net. You can't block a guy out down low, all you can do is get in front of the puck and hope for the best.
Q: Describe the art of the hip check, which you're known for.
Toronto Maple Leafs
A: You need to weigh 230 pounds-plus [laughs]. I used to do a little thing called the can opener, but they changed the rules, so I can't do that. It's tough because guys are getting bigger and quicker and don't put themselves in a position to get hit anymore, but once in a while, I get a chance to lay a guy out.
Q: Perennially, you are among the league leaders in hits, so how banged up is your body at the end of the season?
A: Once the playoffs roll around, it's a whole different game. Everyone is hurting. You lose five to 10 pounds every game. Everyone is battling, everyone is finishing checks; 82 games is a long season, and once the playoffs get going, that's what takes a toll on your body.
Q: You've had 54 career NHL fights. Who would say is the toughest guy you have fought in the NHL?
A: Troy Crowder beat the snot out of me my first year in the league. He put my nose on the other side of my face. I learned in a hurry that I wasn't a tough guy [laughs].
Q: Why would you fight a heavyweight like Troy Crowder?
A: I don't know. He hit one of our good players and I just happened to be on the ice. I was young and dumb. Out of my 54 fights, I might have two wins [laughs]. That's not a good average.
Q: A couple of years ago, you were rocking a blue Mohawk during the playoffs. Where do you get your style tips?
A: My wife. She pushed me into the Mohawk. I liked it actually, I would have kept it for a while, but Mohawks started popping out all over the place and it was out before it was in. Now, I'm a little bald, so there is nothing left that I can do.
A: Travis has to sleep with the TV on. It's the most annoying habit ever. It's 4 in the morning and the TV is still on while I'm trying to sleep. Rooming with Darcy, I get to run the remote, and the television goes off when it's bedtime.
Q: You lead the league in points by defenseman. How would you characterize your style of play?
A: I still consider myself a slug [laughs]. I have the best D partner in the league in Tomas Kaberle -- he skates with the puck and makes me look good. I'm more of a shooter than a passer. I work hard. I'm just fortunate to play with Tomas and get on the ice on the power play with all the skill players we have.
Q: Have you been called on for a shootout yet?
A: [Laughs] No, not yet. Unless we get into a 15th round, I don't expect to hear my name. We work on breakaways in practice. You have to now, because every shootout is worth a point.
Q: Give me an honest answer here. At this point in the season, who deserves to win the Norris Trophy?
A: Chris Pronger.
Q: Why not Bryan McCabe?
A: I can't talk about myself. I'm not one of those people. I think Pronger is a great defenseman; he has logged a lot of minutes over the years. He's in a new place, making that team good. He's a good leader who makes the players around him better, and he's a good choice for the Norris Trophy.
Q: Have you talked to Pat Quinn about the possibility of representing Canada at the Olympics?
A: No, it's never come up. Right now, my job is to play for the Maple Leafs and do the best job I can. I've spent many years worrying about that stuff; I really haven't thought about it this year. We'll just have to see what happens. The bottom line is there are so many good players in Canada, they can make up three teams to go to the Olympics, so I can't worry about it.
David Amber is an ESPN anchor and a contributor to ESPN.com.
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