On Wednesday, Mike Knuble spent over 10 minutes speaking to reporters about his upcoming achievement of 1,000 career NHL games. Here’s the full transcript of that conversation:
On 1,000 games
Knuble: “I was trying to make my way. I was just trying to make the ‘04 lockout – 400 games. I think that was a pretty good milestone. Back in the day, that used to be like a different pension level, so that was the big goal – get to 400 games. It’s changed since then. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to the last probably couple years. You try and stay healthy and you never know with your contract status and all that.
“You get up there a little bit in the high [800s] and you start to think it’s a possibility. You have to stay healthy and have good fortune and be in the right situation. I don’t know. It’s good. It’s going to be like unwrapping a birthday present, kind of. And then the day after you’ll be like, ‘Huh.’ Now you’ve just got to keep going.”
Hard to think about early in career?
“You don’t. You spent so long – you spend the first four or five years of your career trying to lock up a spot in the league and try to prove to everybody that you can play and that you’re worthy of them getting you another contract and worthy of them investing time and energy into you. That’s enough of a battle. Once you get over that hump and you’ve proved you can play, then it’s a question of just being able to play that long and staying healthy. You play with great teammates that help you stay in the game and play well on the ice but keep you entertained off the ice and keep you fresh coming to the rink every day.”
“I don’t know. I think as a player you can go in a cycle with your coach. You can say, ‘Well, give me the opportunity and I’ll play well.’ And the coach says, ‘Well, play well and I’ll give you the opportunity.’ You just go around in a circle like that. It’s kind of a combination of both. I think I ended up getting an opportunity when somebody [Sergei Samsonov] was injured in Boston and I clicked with some guys. I don’t know. I guess I never really lost confidence as a player, but things lined up and you take off from there. I think after you do it once, they really want to see if you’re going to be a flash in the pan. But suddenly you find yourself in better positions to succeed: You play with better linemates, your leash gets longer and you get more time on the power play and this and that. So you get put in situations to succeed and I think coaches, for the most part, since then have done that. They’ve put me in a situation with good linemates, good power-play groups and a chance to succeed and I’ve been able to come through for that.”
Remember first season in Boston and who you played with?
“Yeah, it was Joe Thornton and Glen Murray and they changed my career. And even then it was a healthy scratch sometimes. If they didn’t score in 2½ periods, then I was the one going to get benched and they’re going to put somebody else out there. You could say that leash was always right around your neck and you’re going to get jerked. It was just a magic year. I’m reminded every time in the summer. They have like a fan voting thing and I won myself a Jeep from the fans. They voted me what they call the seventh player award in Boston. I remember it every day in the summer – it’s a nice Jeep; I drive around all summer. It was like night and day. I’ve lived two different careers throughout all this.”
Almost had breakthrough one year with Rangers?
“That was my first year – I don’t like talking about myself and all this. [Laughs] If you’ve got time, I guess I can talk. I don’t know what you want to hear, but…
“That was when I went from Detroit to New York and I played every game. I got a decent chance to play – we weren’t a playoff team. And then the next year the Rangers spent crazy money and brought in Theo Fleury and … a few other guys, then suddenly you kind of got buried.”
Kind of have to start over?
“You kind of got knocked back down. I got a leash on life in Boston. I got traded there and Rob DiMaio, who I was traded for, they told him who he got traded for. They said my name and he said, ‘Who else?’ They were like, ‘No, that’s it, Rob. Sorry.’ Straight up.
“I heard it from the guys in Boston. They were in Carolina and they told him on the bus. They said, ‘Hey, you got traded to New York.’ Yeah, who else? But I bought his town home.”
Model yourself after someone?
“I think you take bits and pieces as you go. Obviously being drafted by Detroit, I was coming in ‘95, ‘96, ‘97, in there. There was just a lot of Hall of Fame-type guys there. So you learn to kind of kept your mouth shut and your eyes open and learned how they played on the ice and learned how they took care of themselves off the ice. It was great guys to be around – you learn how hard you had to work and how hard they did; even though they were playing every night they’d be in the gym working out. This was new when guys were working out after games. People couldn’t believe it at first – you go out and play a game and lift weights after. They would be doing that. It was just great experience for a young player.
“Then you go to New York and a guy like Adam Graves there and John MacLean – veteran guys. Adam Graves was a guy who was always hanging around the net: 50 goals a couple times hanging around the net. He’s not going to dazzle you going down the ice, but he could shoot the puck when he could. You learn from him to be around the net, doing little things around net. Johnny MacLean, he would shoot the puck from anywhere. That was his big thing: shoot it from anywhere. Every team there were a few guys I think you could take something from. Even coaches along the way – little bits and pieces as you go and you try and just catalogue it and take it all in.”
Any injury was career threatening?
“No, not at all. Everything’s been above the waist. Probably seven or eight surgeries above the waist – just repairs more or less. That’s the little things. You look at all the players who ended prematurely, whether it was a knee, a shoulder or something. A head. So many things have to go right to be around that long. I’m very thankful for that. I appreciate it. I’m very aware of it. I’ve been around long enough where you can appreciate that. As a young kid, you’re just so far down the road and going through it all. I do appreciate it and I understand it. It’s been a good road. It’s been a fun road.”
How far do you think ahead about next year/how long you want to play?
“I never want to … I think you do. As long as you feel like my body feels good and that. I think it would have to be the right situation for everybody. Your role’s probably a little bit different than it would’ve been a couple years ago. I still physically feel good and mentally still interested in playing. You never want to make statements one way or another, but I’d be very interested in playing again.”
What was it like having Scotty Bowman as coach as rookie on veteran Red Wings team?
“More specifically my very first game was Detroit-Colorado and goalies were fighting and there was a brawl. And you think, ‘I thought I just left the American League.’ You get a little bit bonkers, you know? You’re down 5-2, 5-3 in the game and they win in overtime. Looking back after they won the Cup, they felt like that was the game that propelled them. It was a lot of fun. I think when you come up you try and get your first goal out of the way, which I got at Maple Leaf Gardens, which was on Saturday night, which was huge.
“But as far as playing for Scotty, man, I don’t know. I didn’t talk to him – maybe two sentences the whole time. His daughter went to to Michigan; I used to give his daughter rides down to games to go see him, and I probably talked to him more then than when I played for him. When I was a prospect I talked to him more. That was just a well-oiled machine that just ran itself. The players ran it and they knew what they were doing. They were all veteran guys. It was a great way to come in and be associated with it. I’d like to think it probably helped me out at times being associated with that group a little bit being a young player.”