Ward talks Bettis, bonuses and bachelor parties
So you think your summer was busy? Imagine spending the last three months as a newly crowned Stanley Cup champion and playoff MVP.
Cam Ward went from absolute anonymity to a man welcomed by the Hollywood A-crowd. In this return edition of "Facing Off," the 22-year-old Carolina goaltender tells David Amber what it's been like living out his childhood dream, why he missed his own bachelor party and who this season's surprise team will be.
Question from David Amber: You're a 22-year-old rookie. You won the Stanley Cup. You're named the playoff MVP. What are you going to do for an encore?
Answer from Cam Ward: [Laughs.] Yeah, I was very fortunate with the success that we had last season, but my regular season could have been a lot better. What I'm looking for is to get off to a much better start and really improve my consistency throughout the regular season. I need to play as well in October as I do in April.
Q: You were married in July. What's more nerve-wracking, playing in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals or walking down the aisle at your wedding?
• Selected by Hurricanes in first round, 25th overall, in 2002 entry draft
• Became just the fourth rookie goaltender to lead his team to a Stanley Cup (Frank McCool 1945, Ken Dryden 1971, Patrick Roy 1986 are the others).
• Allowed just 16 goals in seven games of Stanley Cup finals.
• First rookie goalie to win the Conn Smythe Trophy since Ron Hextall with the Flyers in 1987.
• Coming into this season, Ward has 14 NHL regular-season wins and 15 NHL playoff wins.
A: Definitely walking down the aisle. [Laughs.] You know, I've been dating my wife for the last five years, so the wedding was something we have been looking forward to. To win the Stanley Cup in the same summer has been just a blessing for the both of us.
Q: Did you have the Cup with you at the wedding?
A: No, but I did have the Conn Smythe Trophy at the wedding. I figured the Stanley Cup would draw too much attention away from the bride on her special day, although the Conn Smythe was a bit of a distraction. I look at the wedding photos now and most of them were taken with the trophy and not with us. But it was cool, it was the first time I was able to see my name engraved on the trophy, so it was neat to have everybody there to share that with me.
Q: Did any of your Hurricanes teammates come to the wedding?
Q: Did you have a bachelor party?
A: That's a funny story. We had a bachelor party all set up. My best man did a great job of setting it up during the season. It was scheduled to happen the week after the Stanley Cup finals. Of course, when he set it up, he didn't know and probably didn't think we would win the Stanley Cup, but we did, and then things got crazy. After the final, I got a request to go to Vancouver for the NHL postseason award show, and then I was asked to go to New York to do some publicity events, so the bottom line is I had to miss my own bachelor party.
Q: You're kidding me?
A: You know what, all my buddies still went anyway and they had a great time. They would tell everyone when they were partying that they were at my bachelor party even though the bachelor wasn't there. They went to Canmore, Alberta, had four condos rented out. They went white-water rafting and had a good time. I might be the only guy ever to miss his own bachelor party. So, I have to make it up to my friends at some point.
Q: Every player gets to keep the Stanley Cup for a day. What did you do on your day?
A: Mike Bolt [the keeper of the Cup] dropped the Cup at our house in Sherwood Park, Alberta, in the morning. My wife and I started the day by eating cereal out of the Cup, that's something we had talked about doing for a long time. From there, we went by my grandma's seniors home where she resides and where my grandpa used to reside. He passed away a couple of years ago. So it was meaningful for myself and my family to have it down there, it was really neat to see how excited the people were to see the Cup. Then, my family took up a bunch of lanes and went bowling with the Cup. After that, we went to the arena where I grew up playing in Sherwood Park. The fans were great, even though most the pictures taken with the Cup were by fans wearing Edmonton Oilers jerseys. Then, we had a private party to end the day with close friends and family at a local golf club.
Q: Who is the coolest person you've had a chance to meet as a Stanley Cup champ?
A: One big event I got to do this summer was to go down to The ESPY Awards in L.A., that's the pinnacle of sports celebrities. It was exciting to rub elbows with guys I always see on TV. I talked with Cuba Gooding Jr., he's a huge hockey fan. He was actually in our dressing room after we won Game 7. I got to see him down in L.A. again. He was a great guy, really into hockey. I also talked to Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they were all fired up. It was cool to talk to them knowing they had won the championship and we had won the championship, so we had something in common to talk about. I remember Bettis was calling me "champ" all night at the after party at the ESPYS. That was neat to have him calling me that.
Q: The ESPYS are pretty cool. Any other big media events you were a part of, now with your newfound celebrity?
A: Eric Staal and I went to New York to do a little skit on VH1 for the Top 20 Countdown. We also did an FHM photo shoot and we got invited by Jerry Bruckheimer himself to a private screening of "Pirates of the Caribbean 2." That was amazing. He is a huge hockey fan and it was neat to see the producer of these big shows and movies invite us to his private show. Tom Hanks was two rows in front of us. Regis Philbin was there, too. It was really cool.
Q: So, it's official -- you have hit VIP status now. But you always hear about the dreaded sophomore jinx. What do you think about that?
A: [Laughs.] To tell you the truth, I don't think about that at all. I just want to go out and earn that No. 1 job. Just because we had success last season doesn't mean the job will be handed to me. I don't want to get complacent, I need to improve every day, and that's what I plan to do.
A: I'm thinking, how cool is this? People always say how much pressure there must be in the Stanley Cup playoffs or facing Mario in a shootout, but I have a different approach to it. I just think this is an unbelievable opportunity, and no matter what, I'm going to try and enjoy the moment and make the best of it. To stop Lemieux and then Crosby, and then win the game, that to this day was still one of the best games of my life.
Q: I imagine things have changed a bit for you in your everyday life in Carolina. How different are things now from a year ago?
A: Well, it's kind of funny. Last year during the season, I could have gone anywhere and not even a single person would know me, not by appearance or by name. It's amazing to see how much that has changed. Now, you can't go anywhere without being noticed and getting congratulated. We as players appreciate the fans and hope the support continues.
Q: How many autographs did you sign this summer?
A: I guess you could say that the hand has been well-conditioned. [Laughs.] Lots of autographs, but I remember when I was a kid meeting one of my idols and getting an autograph, how special that was for me. So, kids coming up to me and wanting me to be a role model, it's a role that I don't mind being a part of.
Q: Did you get a car or a truck for winning the Conn Smythe?
A: No, all I got was a mini-replica trophy. If you've got any cars, let me know, I might be missing out on something.
Q: Oh, that's right, that's All-Star Game MVP. So what are you driving now?
A: I got a new Escalade and a BMW M3. So I'm lucky to be driving my dream cars at the young age of 22.
Q: Last season, the Hurricanes came out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup. This season, give us a team that fans should keep an eye that could make some noise.
A: You know, we played them this preseason, the Nashville Predators look like a team that can do some damage. You look at their lineup and there's a lot of talent and great balance. That's a team that definitely could be trouble come April.
David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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