Cammalleri talks on ups (goals) and downs (Michigan) of his NHL season
With every game-winning goal and every "SportsCenter" highlight, Michael Cammalleri is making a name for himself around the NHL.
Cammalleri's Quick Facts
• He was selected in the second round (49th overall) of the 2001 NHL draft.
• During the lockout, he was awarded the Willie Marshall Award for leading the AHL in goals (46) while playing for the Manchester Monarchs.
• He led the Kings in scoring last season (34 goals, 80 points).
• He helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships.
In this season-debut edition of Facing Off, the 25-year-old Los Angeles Kings forward tells us what it was like making history in Europe, how he is coping after getting the royal treatment from the Kings' brass and which celebrity had him starstruck in La-La Land.
Question from Amber: Earlier this season, you scored the first NHL regular-season goal in Europe. What was that like?
Answer from Cammalleri: It was a good way to start the season. I didn't realize the meaning of it until after the game when people kept asking me about scoring the first goal. Any time you put your name on something like that, it's cool to have, so it's nice. More importantly, it was big for us to get off to that start and win that game against Anaheim.
Q: What was the atmosphere like in London?
A: It was pretty cool. Just like during the soccer games over there, the fans were into it. They were doing the wave and stuff. It was pretty neat. Of course, when there was a fight between Scott Thornton and George Parros, it got the most attention (laughs). That's what they wanted to see. Overall, it was a good experience.
Q: Why did you choose to play college hockey at Michigan?
A: It was an easy decision for me. I was thinking of playing Junior, then I went and visited some schools I was interested in going to. I went to Michigan and Michigan State. I went and saw a game at Michigan and they were playing at the regionals against North Dakota. Michigan was losing 3-1, but then came back to win the game. It was the most crazy hockey experience I have ever seen. The building was electric. I remember turning to my dad and saying, "I want to play here."
Q: So, as a Michigan guy, maybe you can explain what happened against Appalachian State in football?
A: (Laughs) Man, that ruined my college football season! That was disheartening for me. I got a lot of text messages and took a lot of heat for that one.
Q: Is there a kinship among former Michigan players in the NHL?
A: Yeah, there is. We all know who played there. I played with like five or six guys at Michigan who are now in the NHL. It's a pretty cool bond knowing we have all gone through the same stuff, even though Marty Turco punched me in the head [the] last game (laughs). I'll have to bury a couple on him next time.
Q: You put up some sick numbers during the lockout when you were playing with Manchester in the AHL. How did that help prepare you for your breakout in the NHL?
A: Going into that lockout year, there were probably four to six guys on every American League team that were going to play in the NHL the following year, so it was a really good league. It became our NHL. It was the best league you could play in. It was good for me because I played under Bruce Boudreau and he was a great influence on my career.
Q: And now you're leading the NHL in goals. How do you explain it?
A: I don't know. My teammates are playing well and getting me chances to score. It's the consummate team sport, so any time you get individual success, it has a lot to do with your team.
Q: True, but what about for you personally? Do you notice the league is finally taking notice of Mike Cammalleri?
A: I heard the comments that the coach in Vancouver made the other night. I had a couple of whacks at a chance in front, and after the game in the press conference, he said, "We can't let the league's leading scorer get three chances in front of our net. That just can't happen." So, that comment caught my attention a little.
Q: You're a pretty low-key guy, but this summer, I'm flipping channels, and there you are on "MTV Cribs." How did you get chosen for that?
A: They just called me up. They wanted to do it. So far, it has only been played in Canada. I guess they need to fill up their Canadian content. I'm Canadian, so it worked out for them.
Q: So, did you go out and rent some Bentleys so you could look like a serious roller?
A: (Laughs) No, I did it "au naturale." That's my real house. It would look the same if you came by today. I still have that one same car and that's the way it is. I'm not like Sean Avery, who borrowed Pavol Demitra's Bentley and pretended it was his.
Q: (Laughs) Did he really do that?
A: Oops. Did I say that in the press? Yeah, he borrowed Demitra's Bentley for the show. You can print that. (Laughs) Sean and I are buddies; we get along, we still have a good friendship. He called me two days ago. He didn't call me back for a while the last time I called him, so I'm going to make him wait a little longer.
Q: You live in L.A. where there are Hollywood stars and famous people everywhere. Have you ever had a star sighting where you were like, "Wow! That's cool"?
A: You know who I was the most starstruck with? This is kind of a weird one, but I saw the golfer Freddie Couples after a game. Jeremy Roenick introduced us and that was the most starstruck I have ever been. I've been a huge Freddie Couples fan my whole life. He asked me what kind of clubs I use and I couldn't believe he was talking golf with me. I was totally tongue-tied. I know that's not the answer you were looking for, but that was definitely the most starstruck I have been.
Q: You're right. That was not the answer I was looking for (laughs). You play a lot of golf?
A: About four or fives times a week. I'm getting it pretty low.
Q: What's your best round?
A: 67. 68 in a tournament round. I'm always ready for a game.
Q: You went through a nasty arbitration with the Kings this past offseason. [Cammalleri was awarded a two-year deal worth a total of $6.7 million. He was seeking $6 million per season.] What was the toughest part of that?
A: (Pause) It was what it was. I really don't have too much on that to be honest with you. I knew what I was getting into and it was what it was.
Q: You are going to be an unrestricted free agent in 2009. What you went through in arbitration, which was obviously difficult, does it have an impact on whether you will ultimately stay in L.A.?
A: I really haven't thought that far ahead. There's a lot to happen between now and then, and I'm excited about our team. So, it won't affect the way I play the game, that's for sure.
Q: The Cup going to Anaheim, has that changed hockey culture in California at all?
A: I think so. It's tough on us. The Kings have been here awhile and have a longer hockey tradition here. So, for the Ducks to get the Cup before us, it's not the right order. But I think it can also give Kings fans hope that it can happen here. It's not impossible to win a Cup in California.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.