HF: Comparing yourself now, to the Sheldon Keefe we saw two years ago in the
Memorial Cup Finals, there is a huge difference. You seem to have matured
tremendously. Do you feel that?
SK: I don’t know if I would say it’s maturity. It’s such a different atmosphere. In this
game it’s not so much… I guess I can say in junior, little things always made big
things. To be around this atmosphere makes everyone much more mature. All the
guys here have wives and kids. I am twenty-one living the live of a 35-year old.
Is that good or bad?
I think it is good. I am a very independent person, I have been on my own since I
was 16. It makes me a better person not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. I
grew up a lot quicker then most people my age out of hockey, and even a lot of
people in hockey. A lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to be where I am and it
has definitely made me a better person.
You and Brad seemed to have a good bit of animosity during that tournament,
how are things now?
Brad and I never had any animosity. It was Brad and a couple of my teammates.
I always had a tremendous amount of respect for Brad. Him and I, we accomplished
a lot of the same things. It was never a big deal. Right after that we had the Rookie
tournament in Hull and Brad and I roomed together and we became pretty good
friends right away. We had a few good laughs about it.
You and Vinny seem to click very well. Do you feel comfortable playing with
Yea I do. I enjoy it. I mean obviously playing with a player of that skill you are
going to get your chances. The other team is going to key on him and are going to
forget about me . I have been put with Vinny here and there and we have had some
good chances togther. Vinny hasn’t had as good of a year as he has wanted, but
I am glad I was on his line. I try to help him, and I want to be a part of him
becoming the player that everyone wants him to be and he wants to be. It also
helps me grow too. He is the same age as me, but he has four years in this league.
That is one of the good things about this team, we have a lot of young players.
There is myself, Brad Richards, Vinny, Jimmie, Nikita, Martin Cibak, then Mathieu
Biron was here, not a lot of NHL clubs could say that and I think we have competed
pretty well. It helps a lot in the locker room having so many young guys. You don’t
feel out of place. You know, sometimes the older players abuse the young guys.
Comparing your play before your knee injury in January and after your return,
you seem to be playing with a lot more confidence, do you feel better?
I noticed ever since I got back here in December, I was put on a line getting a lot
more ice time and I was getting a lot of confidence early. I felt better the first
game I played here this year than 50 I played last year. I started with my
confidence level up that high. I thought I was playing pretty well before. I got a lot
of chances, I wasn’t scoring on them, but I was still getting the chances and I knew
eventually I would. After the injury it seemed my bad luck turned into good luck
and they started going in for me.
Is there more a sense of belonging?
There seems to be more of a team concept..
My first year, last year, I was playing somewhere around 4-5-6 minutes a night.
When you do that, you feel like a part of the team because you are with the guys
every day, but you don’t get into the games as much, your sitting a lot and it’s hard
to get involved. This year I feel like I am supplying something for the team,
helping the team win games. That does a lot for me. The Coach has shown
confidence in me when I am out on the ice and that makes me feel that much
better. It makes you feel more involved and more like you are a part of the team.
It’s a pretty good feeling.
Do you relish your role on the ice as much as it looks like you do?
I have always felt that I was brought in and pretty much put in a checking role as
a defensive player. I am a hard working guy. I never really played that role. I
scored, I think, everything I got offensively was a part of that hard work. It wasn’t
easy for me to jump into a different role. I’ve been playing center for a few weeks.
That was something I had never done. I had never played center before and I
thought I played pretty well. To start playing center at this level is a pretty big
thing and it has made me a better all around player. Coming up through that
checking role and to be put in that role helped me. Now my offensive is starting to
come and I feel as I can play in offensive situations more as I was in junior, but at
the same time I still feel like I could be put done in an defensive checking role play
that as well. It just makes me a better player.
I want to know what was going through your mind when you were pushing and
shoving with Hal Gill in the Boston game.
I sit back here now and say wow. No matter how you look at it, it is still a game
and there is a lot of mental things in your mind when you are on the ice. You can’t
get intimidated, or say I’m not gonna stand up to him. I’m gonna fight for my ice.
I mean obviously he is bigger and stronger than me, but I am gonna be right there
fighting with him. He’s going to be playing again me again and that is important
at this level especially just coming in the league to establish yourself.
What do you think about the constant comparisons to Tucker & Fluery?
I like it. Those are two player I watched closely growing up, Fluery especially.
Tucker is just coming into his own and Fluery is someone when I was younger I
watched. I read his book, and I have done a lot of things to kind of emulate my
game on him. I mean I’ve got a couple of inches on him, but the things that he has
accomplished on the ice. Obviously, he has gone through some problems lately. But
the things has done and the intensity he plays with on the ice is unmatched in this
league. And Tucker, he is not a fun guy to play against and that is something I
want to be. Tucker is another guy and the same with Fluery, they were big scorers
in junior, smaller guys, they play hard, finish their checks.
They tend to push it sometimes is that important to you, to push it as far as you
can push it without actually going over the line?
At times I think it is. They go a little overboard sometimes, both of them, but you
can’t argue with the things they have done. Like I said there are a lot of mind
games that are played out there. Fluery does a lot of things, like I just talked
about, to let those guys know that he is going to be there and Tucker is the same
way. I like to think that I am my own player and have my own style, but there are
definitely players out there that I look to and still today. When they are playing I
watch them closely. And not just them, there is Marty St.Louis here. I watch him
play a lot. He is a smaller guy. He’s not as fiery as those guys, but there are ways
that he compensates for his size using his quick feet in the corners and things like
that. I watch close. Especially when I was injured, before Marty got hurt, I watched
from upstairs. I think you can never stop when playing in this league, you have
to continue to learn and I will never stop learning until I am done playing.