Q&A with Chris Durno

By Holly Gunning

Q&A with Chris Durno

Chris Durno is a 6’4” 215-pound forward with the ECHL Gwinnett
Gladiators. He spent four years with
Michigan Tech of the WCHA and attended 2003 training camp with the Milwaukee
Admirals. So far this season with the
Gladiators, the 23-year-old has 10 goals and 13 assists, 34 penalty minutes,
and is +7 in 47 games. Six of those points have been scored in the past week as
he’s gone on a bit of a hot streak.

HF: What’s gotten into you lately?
Why do you think you’re suddenly scoring?

CD: All
season we’ve been focusing on defense and doing the little things. Lately our line was reunited about two or
three weeks ago and everything started to click. We’ve been putting the puck on the net and
the puck’s been going in. It hasn’t been
that we’ve been doing anything amazing with the puck, deking
guys. We’ve been getting a lot of dirty
goals in front of the net, just keeping it simple in our own zone.

HF: So really nothing’s changed then.

CD: Just
being back together as a line. We were
split up for a while. Being back
together, we all really like to play together.
We work the puck well low together.
I haven’t changed anything in terms of preparation or anything like
that. I’m maybe just getting comfortable as we’ve gone along here.

HF: Overall, how do you think your
season’s been going?

CD: I think
it’s been going pretty good, there’s definitely been
some ups and downs. We started the
season really hot, we came in, 12 rookies this year and no one really knew what
to expect. We came out real strong. We played well at the start of the year and
other teams were trying to keep up with us.

And then we kind of went through a lull around Christmas time and hit a
skid. It seems we’re back on track now.
We don’t consider ourselves rookies.
We’ve played 50 games now and if we don’t know what we’re doing by now,
we’re never going to know. So, hopefully
everything will come together here at the end of the season and have a little
run at the playoffs.

HF: How do you think your transition
from college to pro hockey has gone?

didn’t really know what to expect coming out of college. I went to camp in
Milwaukee [AHL] and I had a good camp. I thought I played well. But coming to the Coast I wasn’t sure what to
expect, but when I got here it was excellent hockey. It’s a different style of hockey from
college. College is kind of run and gun,
you have four lines and it runs through everybody. You come here and you have three lines and
you’re going almost every other shift. I
think the biggest transition is playing all these games. We play 72 games compared to 35 games, twice
as many. You have to learn to be ready
every night.

HF: Do you find it more draining

CD: I don’t
think so. I feel better now because in
college you’re always running around with school. We had days from
8 am to 11 at night, and never had five
minutes all day to sit down. Now you
have practice in the morning and have the afternoon to relax, keep your body
healthy and get some proper food in you and whatnot. I think it’s a little easier in terms of that

HF: Were there any surprises turning

didn’t expect the team I was coming to with a bunch of young guys to be as good
as we are. We’re definitely one of the
best teams in the league if we come out and play every night. I didn’t expect this building here that we
play in to be as nice as it was. This is
definitely the best building I’ve seen so far this year. In terms of the game, I don’t think there’s been many surprises.

It’s just more of a controlled game.
You have to play better defensively and smarter all around hockey. [Coach]
Jeff [Pyle]’s made sure we all know the systems and that each guy knows what
he’s doing each time he steps on the ice.
He wants to make sure everyone is on the same page and I think it shows, how well we’ve done this year.

HF: Another player I interviewed
said that Gwinnett has the deepest team in the league. Is that a source of pride for you and your

CD: We take
a lot of pride, whether you’re on the first line, second line, third, you still
have to do the same job. You have to
play defense and try to chip in a few goals here and there. I guess it’s a nice compliment. We try to go out there and be the best line
no matter who we’re playing against, no matter what we consider ourselves. I don’t think we usually put ‘third line’ on
it, we just go out and try to do our job every night.

HF: Can you talk about your linemates and what each guy’s strengths are?

CD: I think
all three of us play pretty well down low with the puck. Usually when Goody [Kris Goodjohn]
ends up with the puck down low, Steve [Slonina] or I
will try to crash the net. Kris is good
at finding us with the puck. He’ll get
behind the defenders once in a while and have a breakaway or create a 2 on 1
opportunity. I try to be physical, I try
to take the puck and just do the little things, chip it off the boards to the
guys. They both have great speed. We’re all real close the three of us and
everything’s just been clicking with us lately.

Hopefully it continues to do so.

HF: You seem very willing to stand
in front of the net.

CD: If
we’re working the puck in the corner, I have confidence in Steve and Goody that
the puck’s going to get to the net eventually.
I don’t always have to go to the corner.
One of them will get the puck and bring it to the net one way or
another. So me

being there creates that screen or a rebound.

HF: Would you say that ‘power
forward’ is a good categorization of your game?

CD: I think
that’s a good categorization. I’d like
to be more of a power forward, I don’t think I play
physical enough every night. Sometimes I
get away from that. When I’m playing
physical that’s when I play my best hockey.

I just have to continue to reinforce that in my head,
I have to go out there and make a couple hits every shift, create a
couple turnovers, my linemates that way.

HF: You’ve been getting more power
play time lately.

CD: Yeah,
probably about a week ago Phil [Lewandowski] got hurt, and the power play just
hadn’t been clicking for whatever reason.

I got an opportunity and we ended up scoring the first time I stepped on
the ice. Jeff said to try it again
because it hadn’t been working and I scored about 10 or 15 seconds into that
shift. So I’ve been getting some
opportunities since then, scored another goal or two on the power play, but you
know it could change from day to day.
You have to keep producing.

HF: You got into a fight the other
night as well.

CD: It’s
something that being a big guy I definitely need to bring into my game
more. I guess just making this
transition to pro hockey, it’s been a little
different. It’s something I have to
do. I think it will come more as the
season goes along. I don’t go looking
for fights every night, but I’m not going to back down if someone challenges

HF: What would you say your
weaknesses are?

CD: I think
one thing I could definitely work on is my speed. Being a big guy, being quicker gives you that
much more of an advantage over your defenders.
I can always work on my shot.
Just my quickness in general I think.

HF: Have you ever taken power
skating courses?

CD: When I was younger. When I came to college my skating was my
weakest thing and I got a lot better in college. Being a bigger guy, it’s tough sometimes to
get your feet moving. You have to keep
your head trained to keep your feet moving.
I think I’ve gotten better, it’s just something
I need to keep working on.

HF: When did you reach your full

CD: I think
it was Grade 11. I was this height but I
was real light. When I went to school I
probably weighed 185 maybe. When I came
out of school I was 215 pounds. That was
one thing college was great for, it taught you to get in the weight room and
train and get big in the summer and do a lot of the little things. That’s one thing I really respect about the
college game. It helps you, you’re not getting banged up every night. It gives you the opportunity to get bigger
and stronger in the four years you’re there.

HF: Did you ever think you were
going to get drafted when you were 18?

CD: It
wasn’t really something I thought.
During the season I talked to a couple people, but nothing was really
happening. It wasn’t a big deal for
me. I kind of was a late bloomer I
guess, after I started to gain weight I got better out there, a bit more of a
power forward I guess you could say. It
wasn’t a big deal for me not getting drafted.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing hockey in four years. I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing. It didn’t really matter to me at that point I

HF: How did you end up at Michigan Tech?

talked to a couple other schools before I chose Michigan Tech. The WCHA is one of the best conferences in
the country. I thought it was the best
opportunity for me to come in and start playing. The hockey is great out there, the crowds are
great. It’s a good place to play. I didn’t know many people out there. I got to meet a lot of people.

HF: What did you major in?

Marketing and Management.

HF: How did you end up in Gwinnett?

CD: Jeff
played up at
close to Michigan Tech. He got put onto
me, I’m not sure who through, but he started calling me this summer. Right from the start Jeff was real up front
with me, he was real honest, and I liked everything he was saying. I came down here and I worked hard. And
things worked out. At the start of the
year I wasn’t playing much, at one point I got put on waivers. I got lucky, I got
another opportunity to come back here.

It was just something he had to do, it was a numbers game. It worked out, I got back in the lineup and I
didn’t want to lose my spot from that point on.
It was a second chance for me. I
wasn’t playing my best hockey. That really
forced me to play better or I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

HF: What have you done different
this time?

CD: When I
came back I wanted to be more physical, to be a presence on the ice one way or
another. If I wasn’t scoring goals, I
have to do something to get ice time, whether it was getting in a fight, or
throwing a big hit or just playing solid defensively. Slowly everything just came together and
things started working for me. Jeff
responded by giving me more ice time and showing confidence in me as the
season’s progressed.

HF: I noticed you down on the bench
alone before the game, is that something that you do a lot to get away from
everybody for a while?

CD: I’ve
only done it the last couple games. Just
get a feel for my stick. Come out and
talk to the kids. It gives me a little
break. They like to blast the music in
there and I need a break from that every few minutes because it rocks my head.

HF: What kind of music is played in
the lockerroom?

CD: There’s
a lot of rock, a lot of heavy metal.
Usually when the heavy metal comes on I take a few minutes and go
outside. I can’t deal with it all the
time. Everyone takes turns bringing
music in, no one is too picky about what we listen to.

HF: Why do you wear #*8?

CD: I grew
up wearing #8 all along. When I went to
juniors, and into college I switched to #25 and #26. I came down here and Blue [Bennefield] had #26. I decided to go back to #8, I didn’t want to step on any toes. I definitely wasn’t going to take #26 off

HF: What would make a successful
season for you?

CD: Before
the season started we had a goal of making the playoffs. But as the season went along, we realized
we’re a better team than just making the playoffs. If I didn’t go deep into the playoffs this
year, I think I’d be upset because we have the talent to do it here. We have a
great group of guys. Just getting to the
first round wouldn’t be good enough for me or for anyone on this team. We want to go deep in the playoffs and that’s
how I’m going to measure it this season.