Commentary

Comrie talks about his transition on Long Island ... and 'Milary'

Updated: November 6, 2007, 3:38 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

The New York Islanders made major changes this past offseason. Gone were big-name scorers like Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake and Ryan Smyth, and in came Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin.

With four goals in his first two games, Comrie has paid instant dividends for the Isles.

Comrie's Quick Facts

• Comrie was born in Edmonton, Alberta.

• He is a four-time 20-goal scorer.

• He was selected in the third round (91st overall) in the 1999 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers.

• He played two seasons at the University of Michigan.

In this edition of Facing Off, the team's leading scorer tells us why his former team stumbled in last season's Cup finals, who is the next superstar on his NHL fight card and what it's like to date a Hollywood starlet.

Question from David Amber: During the 2006-07 season, you were traded to Ottawa. What was that playoff run with the Senators like?

Answer from Comrie: It was such an amazing experience to be part of such a great team. It was unfortunate that we didn't win the Cup, but to go through what we went through, especially in a hockey city like Ottawa, was great for us as players.

Q: What happened to the Senators in the finals?

A: There were nine days off between the last game of the Eastern Conference finals and the start of the Cup finals. We kind of lost a bit of our rhythm and it snowballed. I don't think we ever felt comfortable in that series. Obviously, Anaheim has a tremendous team and they played us so well. They didn't give us a whole lot.

Q: I read your father is a season-ticket holder with the Anaheim Ducks. So what was that like for you during the finals?

A: Well, he grew up in Canada and he's a huge hockey fan. My dad, stepmom and two brothers live in Newport, Calif., so they want to see some hockey, so they have tickets. It actually made things easier for me. They had a box for each game, so it saved me some money, getting friends to the games.

Q: How bummed were you that Ottawa said they wanted you back this season, but ultimately said they couldn't afford to keep you?

A: That's part of our profession; it's part of the game. The salary cap makes it tough to keep everyone you want and they had a lot of restricted free agents, so they were still figuring out where they wanted to spend their money. I felt I had to make a quick decision because of the opportunities that were presented. … I had fun and I liked being part of the team, but, at the same time, I'm having fun in this new experience playing in New York for the Islanders.

[+] EnlargeHilary Duff and Mike Comrie
Arnaldo Magnani/Getty ImagesMike Comrie, right, said he bought girlfriend Hilary Duff an SUV for her birthday.

Q: Why did you choose the Islanders, a team that just lost its top offensive players in Ryan Smyth, Alexei Yashin and Jason Blake?

A: I spoke with [coach] Ted Nolan and [GM] Garth Snow, and, at the time, they were both very adamant that they wanted me to be one of the go-to guys on the team. As a player, to have that, to hear that from management, it's exciting. Once I made my decision that I wanted to be part of the Islanders, I spoke to Ted again and it was refreshing that he made me feel special. He told me he wants me to play a lot of minutes and play in key situations and win hockey games.

Q: Why did you sign only a one-year deal?

A: I wanted to see how I fit in on the top line and to see if I enjoyed playing in the New York area. It's better to see that it works for me and works for them, then we can move forward.

Q: So, how has it been so far?

A: I like it here. We have a great group of guys. We have to win games by everyone chipping in. We don't have a $10 million player on this team. Everyone has to come and play hard every night.

Q: So, if they were to offer you a contract extension right now and the money and terms were right, what would you do?

A: [Laughs] We'll see. You're trying to hurt my future negotiations [laughs]. We're actually not allowed to talk until after January because of the new collective bargaining agreement. So, that's my excuse right now [laughs]. Q: When the Islanders signed you, they said they loved your talent and your grit as a smaller player. When you do fight, it makes headlines. You have fought both Daniel Briere and Ilya Kovalchuk. What other star player would you like to take on?

A: [Laughs] Oh, man! If I say someone, then I'm going to have to fight them.

Q: Of course [laughs].

A: I don't know, that's a tough question. To be honest with you, most of the times I have fought, there has been a reason. Briere speared me; Kovalchuk skated past our bench in Edmonton and lipped off our bench because he scored a goal. Then, I kneed him, and at the end of the game, we had a fight. The last fight I had was because our coaches were all over us, so there's always been a reason. So, I don't know. I'll get back to you on that.

Q: Nolan has a reputation as a players' coach. What's your first impression?

A: When I first learned that the Islanders were interested in me, the first thing I did was call some of my friends who were playing here and everyone spoke so highly of Ted. Just the way he handles his practices to the way he handles his bench, I think he understands the players well. He gets the most out of us and he wants everyone to work hard and pay attention when you're at the rink; but, when you're away from the rink, he wants you to enjoy your life and that's important. We're not only hockey players. A lot of guys have families and girlfriends. You can't just think about hockey 24-7. Ted not only talks about the game, he talks about life, as well.

Q: Speaking of girlfriends, "People" had an article last month saying you bought your girlfriend, actress Hilary Duff, a Mercedes-Benz SUV for her birthday. Way to set the bar so low. What are you going to do now for Christmas?

A: [Laughs] Oh my goodness. I don't know what to do. We'll see. I knew she needed a new car and her birthday was coming up, so I just did it [laughs].

Q: What about your teammates? Some of these guys are probably cheapskates, giving their girlfriends flowers for their birthday. You must have made some enemies.

A: [Laughs] I just don't think we usually read what guys get their wives or girlfriends for their birthdays. I wasn't expecting "People" to find out about the car.

Q: Get used to it. You're under the microscope now. What is this like for you, having little privacy because of your relationship?

A: It doesn't really affect my life one way or another. I realize her fans want to see what she's doing and what's going on in her life, but I'm not too concerned about people taking pictures or people writing things. I can't worry about that.

Q: A few Web sites are referring to you and Hilary as "Milary," kind of like how Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get called "Brangelina." Are you on the cusp of becoming the new power couple?

A: [Laughs] "Milary"? What the heck? I didn't know that -- that's news to me. I wouldn't go that far. We're just a normal couple. But her fans are really active; they have been watching her since she was a kid. So, if some of them start watching hockey, that's cool.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.