Q&A with Rick Nash
Although Columbus' Rick Nash has yet to find team success in the NHL, he has already captured a championship in Switzerland. Next month, the 21-year-old pure goal scorer will once again cross the Atlantic, this time searching for gold with Team Canada at the Olympics.
In this week's Facing Off, Nash explains how the only luck he has is good luck, why the Blue Jackets want to prey on the Predators and why he could meet his true love on a television set near you.
Question from David Amber: On your draft day in 2000, everyone thought you were going first overall to Florida, then Columbus got into the mix. What was that day like for you?
Answer from Nash: It was pretty cool, especially leading up to the actual announcement. I knew Columbus kind of wanted me, but I didn't know they were going to trade up for me. A couple of minutes before the draft was about to begin, a reporter told me the first overall pick had been traded. It was an honor going first, and luckily, I didn't have to wait around -- that was nice.
Q: You made the jump straight from junior hockey to the NHL, what was the toughest part of that?
A: The speed and the size of the players. In junior, you could hold the puck for a few seconds and then make the play; in the NHL, guys are on you right away, you have to know your next move when the puck hits your stick.
Q: What do you remember most about your first goal?
A: Thankfully, I scored in my first NHL game. We were playing Chicago, Mike Sillinger took the shot, the rebound came out and I backhanded it in past Jocelyn Thibault. I was so excited to have scored and it felt great especially since we won the game. The puck is in my bedroom back home at my mom's place in Brampton, Ontario.
Q: Have you kept your old bedroom pretty much the same from before you were in the NHL?
A: Yeah, everything is still the same. There's still a picture of Bart Simpson on the wall, that's probably the weirdest thing you will find [laughs].
• Won Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy in 2004 for scoring the most goals in the NHL (shared with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk).
• Was named to NHL All-Star team in 2004.
• Selected first overall in 2002 NHL entry draft.
• His 41 goals in 2003-04 season made Nash the first teenager since Eric Lindros (1991-92) to score at least 40 goals in one NHL season.
• Signed a five-year contract extension for $27 million last August.
• Member of Canada's 2002 silver-medal world junior team and Canada's 2005 silver-medal world championship team.
Q: How is Columbus as a hockey town?
A: It's great, it's coming along every year. We have loyal fans and a great arena and the city really supports us. We know we owe them a lot, and if we can make the playoffs or make a little run here, I think it will become an even better hockey city.
Q: Which team is your biggest rival?
A: I'd say Nashville. They came into the NHL around the same time as us and we're in the same conference and our success is compared to theirs. They have been to the playoffs and are having a good season this year, while we had a setback. So we consider them our biggest rivals.
Q: Compared to Ohio State football players, how recognizable are you as a sports figure in Columbus?
A: I am nothing compared to them. Their sport is No. 1 here, but the good thing is, their season ends in November then everyone follows the Blue Jackets till their bowl game. It's perfect here, there's not as much attention as there would be in a place like Toronto. Here you can slide under the radar, which is good for a young guy.
Q: Which NHL player inspires your style of play?
A: I'd say John LeClair. He's a big guy who goes to the net and finishes his checks. I've tried to pattern my game around him all the way since junior. I try to take the puck to the net as much as possible and make plays to create scoring chances.
Q: Individually, how do you measure success in a season?
A: For me, it's mostly based on goals and how many goals I've scored. But goals come and go, sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not. I'd much rather score 10 goals in a season and go to the playoffs than score 50 and not make the playoffs.
Q: What if I told you that coming into this season, you had scored more NHL goals than every other first-round draft pick from your 2002 draft combined?
A: Seriously? No way. That's unbelievable. I had no idea about that. Wow. I've been lucky to have the chance to play more games than most young guys. I guess when you get the chance you have to jump all over it.
Q: During the lockout, you played in the Swiss Elite League on a team with Joe Thornton. What was that experience like?
A: It was great to play with a guy who has been in the same shoes I'm in. He taught me things on the ice and off the ice on how to handle myself. When it kicked in that there was going to be a lockout, everyone realized we had to scramble. At the time, I didn't want to leave Columbus to go to Switzerland, but looking back now, it is something that I wouldn't trade for anything, it was a great experience.
Q: Did you talk to Joe after he was traded?
A: Yeah, I talked to Joe. Obviously, he was a bit upset, he really liked Boston, but I guess it was just a time for a change and a new start for him.
Q: What was it like living in Switzerland?
A: We lucked out. We lived in a resort town tucked in the mountains. We went up the mountains a lot and hung out at the chalets. You could sit up there in a T-shirt and enjoy the sun. There were hot tubs up there, it was kind of like a vacation after you got out of practice hanging out at the top of the mountain.
Q: Why did you comeback?
A: [Laughs] I don't know why. I've been asking myself that for five months now.
Q: When you were named to the Canadian Olympic team, you had played only six games this season, what was your reaction?
A: I was relieved when I made it. I was worried having only played six games and not having good numbers either, but I had a good orientation camp and played well at the World Championships. Luckily enough, Gretzky and all the Team Canada guys showed confidence in me, and now I have to show them that I deserve to be there.
Q: Some hockey experts said Sidney Crosby deserved to make the team ahead of you. How do you react to that?
A: It doesn't bother me at all. The deal is done and I'm on the team. He's a great player and he will be representing Canada for years to come, and hopefully I will be, too. I feel I did deserve a spot on the team. I can't decide when I'm going to be injured and when I'm not going to be injured. Now that I'm back, I'll be fully healthy in February.
Q: What do you think your role is on the Olympic team?
A: To create offense and scoring chances. At the World Championships, I played with Joe Thornton and Simon Gagne, and we were expected to score goals. This time, I don't know if I will be playing with them. At the Olympics, I don't think you'll have one role, everyone will be expected to score goals, play defense and make hits.
Q: You're 21. What's the biggest downside to having a real job?
A: Missing out on all the college parties that all my buddies are going to. I call my friends on a Friday night and they're going out to some big kegger and I'm going to bed at 9 o'clock because we have a pregame skate early Saturday. That's not fun, but there is way more upside than downside for me.
Q: What music do you listen to?
A: I listen to pretty much everything, a lot of country, a lot of punk and alternative. At the bars, I listen to hip-hop and club music.
Q: When you're at the clubs, are you dancing a lot?
A: No way. A big, tall, lanky guy like me on the dance floor would look really awkward. I just tuck myself in the corner. That would not be a pretty sight [laughs].
Q: So you're pretty superstitious. What kind of stuff do you do?
A: Yeah, I got some superstitions. I always put my left equipment on first. Whether it's my skate, shin pad, glove, elbow pad, whatever it is, left goes on before the right. I'm always first on the ice in warm-ups and I always take the same amount of shots in warm-ups. I can't tell you everything, that's all I'm going to say [laughs].
Q: I know you love reality TV. Professional football player Jesse Palmer went on "The Bachelor." What do you think of Rick Nash as the next Bachelor?
A: Yeah, I'd love to. I don't see anything wrong with it. [Laughs] I'd love to go on "The Bachelor" that would be great. I would get heckled a lot, but it would be worth it.
Q: Before this season, you signed a five-year, $27 million dollar deal, so you are a pretty eligible bachelor. What was that like for you signing that deal and really putting an exclamation mark on your childhood dream?
A: I never would have thought of money like that. Growing up in an ordinary family, I never even dreamed about it. As a kid in Toronto, going to hockey practice four times a week, you never think it could lead to this. I feel pretty lucky and privileged since I played against thousands of kids, and I can't think of even one that has made it, so I know I'm lucky.
David Amber is an ESPN anchor and a contributor to ESPN.com.
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