ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Getzlaf, captain of the Anaheim Ducks, just celebrated his 30th birthday on May 10. There were the prerequisite jokes about getting him a rocking chair, some gray hairs or whether Getzlaf would be happy with any hair as a present (he suggested this would be the case). But at the end of that day, Getzlaf got something he hadn’t had since 2007: a trip back to the conference finals.
On Sunday, Getzlaf, the 19th overall pick in the storied 2003 draft, will lead the Ducks onto the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals in the balance. Getzlaf, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Stanley Cup winner in 2007, took some time Friday to chat with ESPN.com about the journey thus far.
Burnside: What’s it like to be in the final four again for the first time since 2007?
Getzlaf: It’s good. It’s an exciting time of year when you get the opportunity to be back here. Like you said, I think when you get there, I was there twice in my first two years (in 2006, 2007), you get that feeling that we have a good organization, we have good things around us. But you start to learn how lucky you are and how hard it is to get back there again.
Burnside: Do you remember the first time you met Corey Perry?
Getzlaf: No. It would have been draft day. No. that’s not true. I met him at World Juniors or Under-18s, maybe before that. We were drafted the same year. We were both first-round picks. We both came on the team at the same time.
Burnside: Was there ever sort of a moment where you, either collectively or by yourself, where you thought, he and I are probably going to spend a lot of time together?
Getzlaf: You can call that draft day, too. We’re not dumb kids. When we got drafted and they picked me at 19 and then they traded up to pick a right-winger it was kind of, you know at that moment, I was pretty sure they had a plan in the works in bringing us up together. Our styles of play meshed well together, those kinds of things. So from there it was just a built-in relationship kind of. They forced us to do everything together and luckily enough we clicked. That could have easily have went the other way at some point but it didn’t.
Burnside: Sometimes it’s a real connection between young teammates and sometimes it’s just two guys who are on the same team. What’s your relationship with Corey off the ice?
Getzlaf: It’s good. Our relationship’s been great. We spent a lot of time together when we were young. Our lives have taken a little different paths now. I’m married and three kids and he’s now engaged this year. So the last few years it’s been a little bit different than it had been in the past but we still go out for dinner every night on the road. We’re a version of best friends I’d guess you’d call it.
Burnside: Does he come over to your house, have dinner?
Getzlaf: Not so much anymore.
Burnside: How old are your kids?
Getzlaf: I have 4, 2 and a year. So he doesn’t want to come over. (Getzlaf chuckles.) When we were young, we spent a lot of time (together), we lived together for a little while. We used to have dinner together every night. We went through everything together as young players. When you get married, you have kids and stuff, I tend to stay more away from the team when I’m at home, spend time with the kids and those things.
Burnside: Did you imagine when you came here and you were drafted and you were made captain, did you think, 'Hey, this could be my hockey home?' It doesn’t happen to a lot of people but the way you and Corey have gone, the way the contracts have gone, it’s possible this could be your hockey home. Do you ever think of it in those terms?
Getzlaf: I thought about that a lot. In junior I only played for one team, I never moved. I always envisioned myself as playing in one organization when they drafted me here. I love the organization, the people around, the city is awesome obviously. I think at that point I always envisioned myself, I liked the idea of playing for one team, leaving a legacy somewhere and accomplishing things along the way.
Burnside: Obviously your family likes it here?
Getzlaf: My wife is from here and obviously my kids are here now. It’s a sense of pride I think to deliver for a team that drafts you, brings you up, it’s a way of giving back to them as well. The fact that we’re not out hunting money down to try and make every last every dollar we can. We (Perry and Getzlaf) discussed contracts with Murph (GM Bob Murray) in both our deals and made sure there was enough room for other guys to do it as well and to make sure they could operate as a winning team.
Burnside: Since 2007 there’s sort of been an evolution in your role as a leader. When you don’t get it done do you feel a personal responsibility? Like last season against Los Angeles or against Detroit, at the end of it do you sort of go, ‘That’s on me?' Do you take that home with you?
Getzlaf: Oh yeah. Yeah. I wear a lot of things in this organization, I feel responsible for. I think when you’re anywhere long enough you start to feel that sense of ownership to the organization and what we want to do here. I think it’s my job to portray the way this organization wants to run. It’s not necessarily my choice of the way things are running, it’s collectively what we’ve grown into over the last few years. (Pause) But do I feel individually responsible for losing in the playoffs? No.
Burnside: I’m not blaming you, for the record.
Getzlaf: No. No, but I do understand being a leader, being a top offensive player, it’s our responsibility to do certain things and we’re looked upon for it. And I’ll do everything that I can.
Burnside: What’s your favorite memory from 2007?
Getzlaf: I mean the whole run was pretty fun. Going into late overtimes, the whole excitement of it was pretty cool. I would say the best memory to date is probably being in the locker room after. Just the excitement that everything’s going on, that you finally accomplished it. That was pretty cool. Seeing the looks on all your teammates’ faces.
Burnside: When you go into that locker room Sunday and know that you’re now in the final four, a lot of the guys will not have been there, will you think about 2007, does it come up or is it one of those things that you have to push to the side?
Getzlaf: I think about what got us there. I draw back on ’07 all the time. Every story is either before the Cup or after the Cup. I think when you’re talking about playoffs, playoff runs, you always draw back on experience like that where you’re thinking about what it took to win. What we did differently than we did other years. And you draw back and you think about them. I try and use some of that information to share with the guys and other information I just save for myself.
Burnside: What’s the best thing about being the captain of this team?
Getzlaf: Oh, the pride. Being a captain is a tremendous honor in the NHL. It doesn’t happen to everybody. It’s not just given to you. It’s a sense of accomplishment. You’ve earned it. Sense of a pride. I think the whole thing is based on what you do as an individual, how you carry yourself and a good responsibility to have.
Burnside: My sense is the relationship for all you guys who won Olympic gold both in Vancouver and Sochi is like winning a Cup, no one will ever take that away. That’s something that will be forever for you guys. Is that true and will it be weird playing against these guys (Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook) at this level?
Getzlaf: No, not at all. The one thing I learned in hockey is once we step on the ice, you play the game and you play it hard. It doesn’t really matter who’s sitting across from you. I think when you go to those championships, and the Olympics and Worlds, all that stuff, it’s like a totally different world, a different game. When we come back we have to play them the next day maybe when we get back from Russia. You put that stuff aside. Recognize the challenge -- and I do have a lot of respect for those guys -- and we’re going to go out and play them hard.