Q&A with Steve Spencer

By Holly Gunning





Spencer

Steve Spencer was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the
ninth round in 2002. Unsigned by them out of camp this season, he signed with
an ECHL team, the South Carolina Stingrays. 
In 30 games with the Stingrays, the 21-year-old rookie has four assists,
is +2, and has 115 penalty minutes.  The
6’3” 216-pound physical defenseman played his junior hockey in the WHL with the
Swift Current Broncos. 

 

Hockey’s Future spoke to Spencer following the team’s 6-2
loss to the Columbus Cottonmouths on Saturday. 

 

HF: How do you think your season is going so far?

SS: Up and down.  I
just got back from almost season-ending wrist surgery.  I missed 33 games and coming back I’ve been
playing really well.  Tonight I was
exhausted out there, three in three nights. 
It’s been up and down, up right now, hopefully it stays up so we can get
into the playoffs and go for a long run. 

 

HF: You guys are really fighting for it right now.

SS: Oh, huge.  It’s
an absolute war right now.  I think
there’s a total of three points that separates second place from fifth place,
so if you lose like we did tonight, you could be out of a playoff spot.  We’ve got four games left and we’ve just got
to make sure we battle hard and try to win them all. 

 

HF: What exactly happened with your wrist injury?

SS: I got a triangular fibral cartilage complex.  It’s this little triangular thing that
connects your pinky and third finger to your wrist bone.  I tore it clean off.  I had to get a surgery done to fix it.  It was two and a half months in a cast and
then a couple weeks rehabbing. I’m not 100 percent, I’m wearing a brace out
there when I play.  It’s a long process
and hopefully I can get through the end of the season without any
repercussions.

 

HF: How exactly did it happen, in a game?

SS: Yeah, December 20th we were in Augusta and I
was just battling in front of the net and I whacked a guy and my wrist just
buckled funny and basically just pinched it right off the bone.  It was one of those freak things that just
kind of happened. 

 

HF: How did you think the adjustment from junior to pro
hockey went for you, was it pretty smooth?

SS: Actually it wasn’t that bad.  I thought it would be a lot harder than it was.  I mean obviously the first couple of
games.  The speed of the game is a
little bit more than juniors, but it’s not so much the speed as it’s the
brains.  Everybody knows what they’re
supposed to be doing.  That’s one thing
I had to make sure I was caught up on. 
That was a big transition, making sure I was in the right position and
wasn’t getting caught. 

 

HF: A lot of guys say part of the adjustment is to playing
with bigger, stronger players.  But
being one of the bigger, stronger players yourself, you probably don’t notice
that.

SS: No, my role is to be a physical presence out there, I
finish every check that I can and I’m not afraid to mix it up a little bit with
the fisticuffs.  So that wasn’t so much
of a transition as it was with the speed of the puckhandling and making sure I
made smart plays.  That was the biggest
transition for me.

 

HF: You described your game a bit, but can you put a finer
point on it?

SS: I’m a stay-at-home defenseman, I battle hard from the
post to the corners and in front of the net. 
If you come in my area, you’re going to get hit.  I just have to make sure I make the first
pass, and keep it simple.  I play a very
physical, straightforward game and if you come down my side of the ice, you’re
going to get body contact and that’s how I have to play.

 

HF: Do you feel like you’ve improved a lot this season,
despite the setback with the wrist?

SS: Oh yeah, I’m way ahead of where I was.  Even during the time I was out, I was really
working a lot on fundamentals, my foot speed, running stairs, making sure I
kept my cardio up, my balance, all that kind of stuff.  As I came back, it wasn’t that hard of a
transition to jump right back into the lineup and the schedule.  I think I have improved a lot and the coach
has been giving me a ton of ice time as a 21-year-old.  I think I was the youngest guy to be given
an assistant captaincy before I got hurt. 
It was a great honor to have, and I just have to make sure I keep going.

 

HF: What do you feel you still need to work on?

SS: Every day is an ongoing process.  I have to make sure I keep working on my
skating, keep working on my puckhanding, keep working on my passing.  I’ve got a great bunch of guys around me,
and a great coaching staff who keeps pushing me, and the training staff who
keeps pushing me.  My friends and family
are all supportive, so it’s definitely an attainable goal, I’ve just got to
make sure I keep my head down and keeping bearing forward.

 

HF: You were with Power tonight, is he your usual partner?

SS: Well, we’ve sustained some injuries right now, but Aaron
Power has been playing a lot with me lately, we’ve been matched up against a
lot of the other teams’ top lines.  Last
night we played against Tim Smith, the leading goal scorer in the league right
now and shut him down for the most part. 
I enjoy playing with him, he moves the puck very well and is very offensive
minded, plays very strong defensively, whereas I’m the physical banger guy, go
in the corners and dig it out.  So I
think we complement each other very well out there.

 

HF: You play on the PK, do you ever get any power play time?

SS: No, you won’t see me on the power play (laughing).  If I was the last guy on the bench you
wouldn’t see me on the power play.

 

HF: Do you really enjoy the penalty kill?

SS: Any time you’re 21 years old and a rookie and get put in
situation like that, that could have the game on the line, shows a lot of trust
that the coaches have in me.  It’s a
great feeling at the end of the game to know you’ve gone out there and you’ve
killed two or three penalties off and you got a W on the board.  Any time you’re looked upon to be a special
teams player, it’s an honor. 

 

HF: What camps were you at before you got to South Carolina
this year?

SS: I was in Nashville twice, once during the summer and
once during main camp, then I went to Milwaukee Admirals camp.  And then it was up in the air between a
couple teams.  Coach Fitzsimmons told me
a couple times over the summer he wanted me to come down here, and that was the
main reason I wanted to come, because he made the effort to kind of touch base
with me, and I got the opportunity once those camps were over to come to South
Carolina.

 

HF: Did those camps help you with anything in particular
in your game, anything you picked up from NHL players?

SS: No doubt. When you go to a camp, it’s important to keep
your eyes open and listen to anything anyone has to say to you. The reason
they’re there is because they are the elite. 
When you’re lined up with someone like a Bill Houlder for example, as I
was in my first NHL camp as my D partner, you pay attention anything he says
because it’s only going to be helpful in the long run. 

 

HF: What’s your goal for next season?

SS: I’m not looking forward to that right away, we have to
make sure we finish the season strong, make the playoffs.  But if I had to look ahead right now, it
would obviously be to get an opportunity in an NHL camp, make a good impression
up there, and hopefully sign a contract, an American League contract, and play
up there, if not up and down all year, and if I have to come back, I’d love to
come back to South Carolina and play in the league again, it’s great hockey
here.