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February 07, 2003

Outtakes with Paul Kariya

Dan Patrick watches "Star Wars" with Paul Kariya

UNCUT OUTTAKES: A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Anaheim Mighty Ducks left wing Paul Kariya appears in the Jan. 6 edition of ESPN The Magazine

Paul Kariya
Paul Kariya is among the first Asian-Americans to take to the ice in the NHL.
DP: You scorers are very sensitive. We tried to get Mike Modano on the radio the other day when we were in Dallas. We called up and he was sleeping.
PK: Come on!
DP: He said, "Oh, I can't. I'm taking a nap." My vision of hockey players just went down the drain. I mean, my 4-year-old needs a nap.
PK: Hey, rest is a weapon.

DP: Do you walk around proudly and say you're a Maine Black Bear?
PK: Yes.
DP: You do?
PK: Every day.
DP: Do you?
PK: Yeah. Keith Carney, a defenseman on our team, played for Maine. He left the year before I got there, so we always joke about how all we need is one more Black Bear, and we're guaranteed to win a Stanley Cup.

DP: Yeah, but don't you wish you would have gone to an Ivy League school or something?
PK: What are you saying?
DP: I just ...
PK: The University of Maine isn't the same as Harvard?
DP: Well, it could be. You know, for what hockey players probably took, your curriculum, maybe it's about the same.
PK: Hey, I know guys who went to Harvard, and they said it was a joke.
DP: As far as their education?
PK: Yeah. If you take rinky-dink courses at Harvard, you're going to get the same education as you do if you take rinky-dink courses at Maine. Basket weaving is basket weaving. It doesn't matter where you take it.

DP: Yeah, but they have ivy-covered walls. It's the charm. Plus, if you go up to a woman and say, "Hey, I went to Harvard," it's different than saying, "I went to Maine."
PK: You know, the business school's accredited there. I didn't take any rinky-dink courses.
DP: What was the toughest course you took at Maine?
PK: Probably a calculus course I took my second year. I forget the exact number.
DP: And that was just to tabulate your goals?
PK: Yes.
DP: Yeah, I know what you're doing. You're doing your plus/minus, and that's why you needed calculus.

DPDo you feel any pressure because of the Anaheim Angels' World Series win?
PK: Not pressure, but I think it helped us get off to a good start, having that momentum and enthusiasm within the community. There seems to be a different atmosphere this year than last. The changes that were made on our team have a lot to do with that, but so does the success the Angels had.
DP: I asked you this before, but I'll ask it again. Could Darin Erstad be a hockey player? Of all the Angels, do you see him as a guy who has that hockey mentality?
PK: Oh, yeah. He plays the outfield like a linebacker. I don't even think you can compare him to a hockey player.

DP: Are you considered a pretty boy?
PK: Well, I do have a couple of Lady Byng trophies, which my buddy Teemu Selanne keeps talking to me about.
DP: Selanne wants it back?
PK: Some players would rather have their leg chopped off than win a Lady Byng.
DP: But don't you have to be a pretty boy to win the Lady Byng?
PK: The Lady Byng is somewhat of an image award, but you have to be a good player to win it. I mean, you don't see guys who are just hanging on in the league and not getting any penalty minutes winning just for that. Good players win the award. But at the same time, I'm getting into fights and being called in by Colin Campbell.

DP: There aren't many guys with stitches and broken noses who win the Lady Byng.
PK: Well, the second year I won the award, I lost all my front teeth. That counts for something, man.
DP: Explain the play where you lost all your teeth.
PK: It was a play in the neutral zone, we were fighting for the puck, and my height puts me at the stick level of most players. The guy turned and smacked me and I didn't wear a mouth guard at that time. The stick caught me flush and four or five teeth were just chopped in half. But I finished the game and scored the game-winner.

DP: But there's a part of the history of the game that says you can't come out unless you're dying.
PK: Correct.
DP:Does that work against you sometimes when you say, "Man, I'm really hurt. I'd like to come out."
PK: Yeah. There's pressure from teammates and it goes up to management. I mean, part of being a good player is being able to play through injuries.
DP: Do you have a Lady Byng incentive clause in your contract?
PK: No.
DP: You may want to put one in there.
PK: I don't think they would give me that.

DP: Why are there no bald hockey players?
PK: There are bald hockey players.
DP: Who?
PK: Well, we've got four or five guys on our team. I'm one of them. I'm starting to lose some hair on top. Are you talking about completely bald?
DP: Yeah. Like basketball players who shave their head.
PK: Guys on our team that are going bald will go high and tight, as we call it. You know, like a number one on the buzzer. Would you consider that bald?
DP: No. No, I'm talking about Michael Jordan bald.
PK: Like absolutely no hair on the top of your head?
DP: Yeah.
PK: No, there's not a lot. Hockey players like to keep a little bit, just to say "I had hair."

DP: Would you ever do Hair Club for Men?
PK: No, I would not.
DP: Hockey players love to have the flowing mane coming out of their helmet, don't they?
PK: Some do.
DP: What is it called? A mullet? Did you ever have a mullet?
PK: Yeah. See, I have Japanese hair, and it's very straight. Right?
DP: Yeah.
PK: So my idol growing up was Wayne Gretzky, and he used to have the locks flowing flowing out of his JOFA helmet. I wanted to copy him so I grew my hair out. It came straight down like a cape, so I tried to blow dry it to get a little wave in it.
DP: Couldn't you get a perm?
PK: I thought about that, but it's Oriental hair. It just didn't work.

DP: You're part Japanese, but I can hear a Canadian "aboot" in your voice. You're a skating United Nations.
PK: I'm all over the map.
DP: Yeah. You're all over the world.
PK: Well, I'm not from Japan, but my father was Japanese. I can't speak Japanese.
DP: But your dad could.
PK: Yes.
DP: You never thought about taking that up?
PK: I did. I took Japanese for two years when I was five. But I forgot everything. My grandmother thought it was important that my sister and I learn some Japanese, so we went to Japanese school every Saturday. That didn't last very long.
DP: All you want to do is understand the curse words, so you can say...
PK: All I wanted to do was order at a Japanese restaurant. That's the important thing. You want to know what dishes to order.

DP: Do any celebrities frequent The Pond?
PK: Yes, but it's not like a Lakers game. We get some golfers. I think Freddie Couples tried to come down to the locker room a couple years ago, and he got denied. That's how celebrity-friendly our club is.
DP: Wow! Mighty Ducks, the hockey movie that you think captures this sport.

PK: Have you seen my movie, Mighty Ducks 3?
DP: How would you rate your acting?
PK: If there was an Oscar for athletes, I thought I should have been up for it.
DP: But you didn't cry.
PK: No, but I played my part beautifully. I played myself. The director said, "Can't you show some emotion? Can't you just smile?" And I said, "This is how I give an interview. I'm doing it exactly how I would in real life." There was a scene where I was being interviewed by this kid during the game, and I did it exactly the way I would real life. You can't get any better than that.

DP: How was Russell Crowe in Mystery, Alaska?
PK: I never saw Mystery, Alaska.
DP: Barry Melrose was in it. How could you not see that?
PK: Never saw it.
DP: Yeah. I didn't, either. It's one of those movies that's always on HBO, and I'll watch it for just a little while and say, "I have to do something better with my life than this."
PK: The only hockey movies I've watched are Youngblood and Slap Shot.

DP: Was Rob Lowe in Youngblood?
PK: Yeah.
DP: How was Rob Lowe as a hockey player?
PK: You could tell he couldn't skate.
DP: Yeah, that can be a problem.
PK: You know who else was in that? Patrick Swayze.
DP: How was Patrick Swayze as a hockey player?
PK: He looked more realistic.
DP: Well, he's a gymnast, so maybe a little more athletic.
PK: Yeah.

DP: And then of course, Slap Shot. You can't get any better than that, can you?
PK: One of the all-time greats. I think it's one of the only movies that Siskel and Ebert took back their thumbs-down from. That's a tribute.They initially gave it a thumbs-down, and years later they watched a game and then gave them a thumbs-up.
DP: Wow! Well, I give them credit for going back and modifying. It was probably due to peer pressure.
PK: Well, I mean, what a phenomenal movie.

DP: But have you ever met guys like the Hanson brothers? Have you run into people who are actually like that?
PK: That play hockey that way? No. Our tough guys have been some of the brightest guys, like Kenny Baumgartner, who went go back to get his degree at Harvard. Stu Grimson, the same way, a really smart guy off the ice. Those guys weren't playing with trains. The scorers were playing with trains, and the tough guys that were reading the books.

DP: What's the dumbest rule in hockey?
PK: The dumbest rule in hockey is the touch-up rule on icing calls, because it never, ever affects the play. You lose the time off the clock that it takes for a defenseman to go back there, and he's risking injury.
DP: Yeah, well, you're a scorer so ...
PK: No, I'm protecting the defensemen.

DP: Could you see Robert De Niro as a hockey player? Would he be a Tie Domi-like guy.
PK: De Niro would be like a Doug Gilmour-type guy.
DP: Meaning?
PK: Meaning that he's skilled, but very tough. Like Gilmour when he was playing in Toronto, playing 30 minutes a game, no teeth. but he had skill. De Niro's got skills.

DP: Are you one of those nerdy Star Wars guys?
PK: Oh, yeah. I just go the DVD from the last one.
DP: Who's Yoda in the NHL?
PK: Yoda in the NHL ... see, I don't know if Yoda could be a player.
DP: Why?
PK: Yoda might be a coach, because in five movies, he's only had one action scene.
DP: Is there a coach who is Yoda-like?
PK: You might throw Scotty Bowman in there.
DP: What about Darth Vader?
PK: Darth Vader? That's a tough one.
DP: Is it a guy who is tough on the exterior but inside is really not that tough?
PK: Well, Eric Lindros is very tough, a skilled, physical player, but he's one of the nicest guys I've met in hockey.
DP: So he could be a Darth Vader-esque player.
PK: Somewhat.
DP: And what about Luke?
PK: I kind of see Mike Modano as Luke Skywalker.
DP: He's got the hair.
PK: Great with a stick. Light-saber analogy.

DP: Do you ever sympathize with goalies?
PK: Never.
DP: Never?
PK: Never. They're over-padded. I mean, they have it made right now. The pads keep getting bigger and bigger and the puck and the net stay the same. Watch a game from 1985, or even the early 90s, and look at a game now. It's a ridiculous change.
DP: I think what you're saying is Gretzky's stats are inflated.
PK: Only you could hear that.

DP: Were you tongue-tied when you met Gretzky? Because a lot of people don't want to meet their idol. When you met him did you know what to say?
PK: The first time I met him was on a college recruiting trip to Boston University. They brought me to a game. Boston was playing L.A, and Rogie Vachon's son, Nick, played at BU and he got us down to the dressing room. I got a stick from him, but I can't remember what I said to him.
DP: Did he know who you were?
PK: No. I don't believe so.
DP: He knows who you are now, though?
PK: Oh, yeah. I just played for him at the Olympics.

DP: Have you ever bought anything after watching an infomercial?
PK: Never.
DP: Thought about it?
PK: Never. Who watches infomercials?
DP: Well, you're up late on the road.
PK: I'm never up late. We have quiet time in our room. We have reading, a lot of reading goes on in our room.
DP: That's very nice.

DP: The biggest misconception about hockey players is what?
PK: Misconception? I don't know.
DP: Do people come up to you and say, "Wow, you're well-spoken for a hockey player," or "You're not as big as I thought"?
PK: Yeah, people think we're bigger than we actually are. People will see me in street clothes and be like "You play a professional sport?" If you see the game down close, with the gear on, guys look huge. I sometimes think the goalies are a lot bigger than they actually are. Dominik Hasek looked like he was 6-3, 240 pounds, but really he's just a skinny rake.

DP: They've certainly kept an eye on the padding with these guys, but do you think there are guys now who have padding that is illegal?
PK: Oh, for sure.
DP: But they get away with it, don't they?
PK: Yeah.
DP: Well, how can you cheat?
PK: Well, guys can use illegal curves on their sticks. But we can be checked for that during the game. A coach can call for a measurement, and you're penalized and you look like an idiot if you get called for it. There are teams that fire the equipment manager if you get caught with an illegal stick. And that's as severe a penalty I've ever seen.

DP: Your pregame ritual? Are you a creature of habit?
PK: Oh, yeah, big time.
DP: Same meal?
PK: Same meal. At home I get the same meal: chicken, pasta, vegetables. I nap at the same time, it's routine. A lot of people would say it's superstition, but I like to call it routine. Once I get to the rink, it's the same. Putting on gear, stretching, everything is done in the routine.

DP: Your first job was in construction, wasn't it?
PK: Baby-sitting.
DP: Baby-sitting?
PK: Come on, you can't be laughing. I babysat for our next-door neighbor's baby when I was 12-13, somewhere around there.
DP: How did that affect you?
PK: Well, what about the responsibility at that young age?
DP: Oh.
PK: Getting a baby at that age. What does that say?
DP: That you were pretty responsible as a 12-year-old.
PK: I was responsible, yeah.
DP: Either that or there were some pretty dumb parents out there. Were you scarred after being a baby sitter?
PK: Well, I don't want to have kids (laughter). I don't know if that had a lot to do with it or not.

DP: Your first real job was construction, though.
PK: I did construction for a summer, but I also worked in retail. When I was in juniors the coach and general manager of the team had a clothing store, and I worked there.
DP: Did you ever steal anything?
PK: No.
DP: Oh, please. Everybody steals something.
PK: In my lifetime, yes. I think it might have been some Gummi Bears at a convenience store.
DP: Was that just last week?
PK: I took a couple grapes at the grocery store a few days ago.

DP: If you're commissioner for a day, what are you doing?
PK: I'm putting the goal line back to where it was, and I'm increasing the space in the neutral zone.
DP: And how will that affect the game?
PK: That would open up the game tremendously. More end-to-end scoring.
DP: But why wouldn't Bettman listen to something like that? What would be the negative of that?
PK: There is no negative. I don't think they even know why the rule was changed in the first place. Wayne Gretzky, the greatest behind-the-net player of all time, was baffled when they put more room behind the net. Why would you put more room in an area you can't score from? It just doesn't make sense.
DP: They were worried about traffic flow, I think.
PK: Mario Lemieux scores, like, twice a year from behind the net on a bank, but I don't know anyone else who scores goals from behind the goal line. If you're trying to increase scoring, why would you not want as much space as possible in front of the net?
DP: I agree. I have a problem in that I don't know who's great anymore because I don't think the game allows greatness to shine through.
PK: Exactly.
DP: And defensemen and goalies seem to be the best players in the game.
PK: Right.
DP: That hurts the game. I don't want to see inflated scoring, but I do want to see the ability to have free skating. If you get popped, you get popped, but I like an end-to-end rush, I'd like a little bit more freedom there. I went to see Dallas play Columbus, and it was just so cluttered.
PK: That's because there's no room in the neutral zone. Cycling the puck in the corner is the only way we create offense now. You dump the puck in and you try to beat the defense to the net to score. You never see any three-on-two goals or two-on-ones. That makes the defensemen that much better because they can stand up and play more aggressively since they know the only space is behind them. And the talent level in the league right now is higher than it's ever been.
DP: It definitely is.
PK: There are so many great players and the talent from top to bottom is good. There are no guys anymore who can't skate. When I first came into a league I looked at a team's defensemen and checked off this guy, this guy and this guy, saying, "He can't turn." In a one-on-one with him, I'm going to blow by him. But you can't do that anymore. The bottom-tier guys are so much better.
DP: But you'd never know it.
PK: The person who's watching hockey on TV for the first time is definitely not going to know that.

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With the NHL season starting, Paul Kariya spreads the love to the Anaheim Angels.
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Paul Kariya's dump pass takes a weird carom off the glass and catches Ed Belfour out of the net.
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Paul Kariya goes top-shelf for the game-winner with 1:04 left in regulation.
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