A middleweight by NHL-standards, but a heavyweight bei DEL-standards. In a total of 569 games in the best league in the world he collected 1059 penalty-minutes, also due to a pretty decent fighting record. But the wild days are over. A lot has changed in Marshall’s game. In this interview he talks about things that happened, things that will never happen again und things yet to come.
How much fun was the game against Duisburg?
It was fun! I mean, after a certain amount of goals I kind of started to feel bad for the other team. But I think it was something that we needed as a team to start scoring some goals and enjoying the game a little bit. Hopefully we can keep it going on both of those points.
Was it also important to see that keeping the game simple worked out that well?
Yeah, that’s a great point. That is exactly what was probably the most important thing in that game. Obviously the other team had a tough night, but at the same time I think we did a lot of good things, smart things. I think there is a tendency that when things don’t go well to try harder and maybe do a little bit too much, where if you just simplify things and do little things it actually becomes more easy and the goals come. So, it was a good lesson. We can look at that and build on that.
When you joined the team you brought in tons of leadership. The team was already packed with leaders. Looks like there is a lot of chiefs, not that many indians. Does that have the potential to become an issue at some point?
There is a lot of guys with a lot of experience, but at the same time I think the team did a great job bringing in the right type of guys. There is a tendency for that to happen if there is too many guys, too many egos. But all the guys are really great guys. Dave McLlwain, he is an older guy but he has been in the league for a long time and he just helps everybody out. He says the right things, and he wants to win, and he is not like “Give me respect!”. He goes out there and plays every night, he just leads on the ice and off the ice. It just goes up and down our roster. Even like Lüdemann, Julien, Lindsy, Renzi – all those guys, they are just great character guys, so it is just an advantage for us to have all that experience and all that leadership.
But is there a hierarchie?
I don’t know. There has been talk about a hierarchie and obviously there is a small part of that in every team, but I don’t know how important it is. I think, the play should dictate the order. Some guys might get a little more opportunities and stuff, but at the same time I think how a person’s playing is where he should be in the order. It’s a long season and it changes everyday. I think it’s healthy for a team to have that competition and that kind of energy.
All the former NHLers who came to Germany said, the toughest thing to realize is that there’s most likely no way back. How did you feel about that?
You know, I was really lucky with my career. I was in the Minors for a while and then I got a chance to play in the NHL. I stayed there for a lot longer than I ever thought possible. This is kind of a new experience. I’ve always wanted to do it. You know, I’m an older player now, so I don’t have any illusions I’m going back there. I’m enjoying this time and this experience with my family. I was ready. I was definitely ready. I’ve been there long enough. I was happy to have the opportunity to come here.
You know Bill Lindsay from your Junior years and played with Alex Hicks in Anaheim and Baltimore. Did you talk to them before you decided to come here?
(smiles) Billy started calling me in the springtime, when we were still in the playoffs. He was telling me all about Cologne. I have lots of friends that have come over and play in the DEL. I guess the first one that comes to mind is Ted Drury. His family always comes to California in the summers. I’ve known them for a long time. They’ve been over here for five or six years now. So I’ve always talked to them. And another one would be Sean Pronger, who is a good friend of mine. His family lives right beside us in California. So I had a lot of people to talk to and a lot of things to help me prepare for coming over here. That has been very helpful. (smiles) One of my best friends at home married a girl from Germany, so I heard a lot of positive things. Alex [Hicks] and his wive helped us out tremendously. We moved into their place. So my wife and Alex’s wife were emailing back and forth. She was telling us about their neighbourhood and the people we live beside, and what to bring and what not to bring. That was great.
You seem to have calmed down a lot compared to the preseason games. Is that only on the outside, but inside it’s still boiling?
(laughs) No, no, no! You know what I think? Well, it actually took my wife to kind of point out that I’ve always struggled in preseason. So, she was like: “What’s the matter with you?”, and I’m telling her like: “You know, I’m really frustrated. I’m not really doing well.” And she was like: “You know, you’re always like this in preseason.” So that way I kind of found out, yeah, she’s right. I was just frustrated with my play specifically. I never really thought that I would have trouble adjusting, because when I first got here everthing was new and I liked it. And then a couple of weeks into it, when you’re not happy with your playing and you’re disappointed with that, kind of everything seems to be a little greyer, so to speak. So, it was just a combination of preseason and just trying to get back on this many things. I know I did some foolish things on the ice, that I was even embarrassed of after the game, so that made me even more mad at myself. So, it’s a little bit of adjustment with the rules and the style and the stuff that I’m used to. Someone asked me, what is the difference between the NHL and the German league. There is big things but there’s a lot of little things, that I don’t think anyone can really understand unless they played there. It’s really small stuff, that’s not even really that interesting, but there is a lot of different things, a lot of subtle things, that I just had to forget about.
There is one habit you kept up from preseason, and that is to skate by the opponents penalty box, when someone took a seat there. What kind of things are you telling those guys?
(grins) I don’t know. (laughs) No, that’s another thing that embarrasses me. I am emotional on the ice, but it’s really quick. You know, I get, well, not angry, but I get emotional or excited, and then like fifteen seconds later I’m like: “Oh, you’re an idiot.” So, all the stuff I say, I don’t even remember.
By the way, are you looking forward to playing Iserlohn and meeting your “old friend” Jimmy Roy again?
You know what? No, I’m not. Because I think, in this league – I don’t know how to say that. Well, in Northamerica there is kind of an accountability a bit. If you play in a certain way and you talk and you say stuff, then sometimes you’re gonna have to pay the price for it a little bit. But obviously with the rules and stuff it’s different in this league, you know, the refereeing is a little bit different, so you can do that stuff and you never really have to answer for it. So, I mean, I had some runnings with Jimmy Roy in the past. He is an agitator. We could kind of sort it out, but here you can’t really do that or you get suspended. I mean, he is a great player, he does a good job at what he does, and he has skill. So, for me, I just have to stay away. That’s something I’ve learned in the last seven or eight games. You can’t get involved in that stuff, because it doesn’t go anywhere positive. It just gets yourself into trouble and you’re just mad all over again. So, it’s kind of pointless.
This is not your first time in Europe. During the lockout season you joined HC Plzen of the Czech Extra League. Was it a lot different to the DEL? Did that experience help you to adjust your game here?
I’m not sure. (laughs) That’s a good question. I don’t know if it helped me or if it didn’t help me. The refereeing was a little bit different. It seemed to be a little more physical in the Czech league. Like, you could hit a guy and it wouldn’t be a penalty. The system and skillwise it is comparable. They had a little different structure on the ice, different plays and stuff. But as far as hockey stuff it’s pretty similar.
At that time your friend Pavel Trnka was on that team in Plzen. Would you have joined the team, if he wouldn’t have been there?
(smiles) Probably not. You know what, I was sitting at home in California and I wanted to play somewhere. Obviously there were so many guys that wanted to play that I was way down on the packing order, I guess. So all of a sudden I got a call from some agent in Czech, and he said: “Would you like to come and play?”. The only place I knew of in Czech was Plzen and Pavel Trnka, so it all happened in like a day. I honestly still don’t know how I got there or who threw my name in there or something. It was an opportunity. It was in January. Late January. There was still talk that there was going to be a season. So, I thought, well, I could go over there and play for a month or two, and it would help me to get ready for the remainder of the season if they did save the season. I don’t really know, how it happened. It was all like happening in a day. And then I was on the plane the next day. It helped definitely for Pavel to be there, because I was lost there a little bit. With the language it was harder, and I was the only Northamerican there. But it was great. The people were super. I had a great experience.
You have been a stay at home d-man in Northamerica. Here your role is completely different. Was that a big adjustment? Is it fun for you to play an offensive role here?
It is fun, yeah. It is a lot of fun to play and play a lot and play different situations. Everybody wants that. So, it’s new for me. I mean, I did a little bit here and there but never like this, so I’m learning again and trying to get comfortable, trying to get used to certain situations. I’m enjoying it. I’m really happy with the opportunity. It’s nice to have a different role. I had a hard time adjusting. I mean, I played a little bit of powerplay in the NHL, but never that much. I was never like a big powerplay person. So, to have the poison and the patience and the stuff that you need on the powerplay – you know, it’s kind of a different rhythm when you’re on a powerplay. Each game I’m trying to like relax a little bit and try to settle it down and try to use whatever skill I have left to try to do that stuff. (laughs) As you said, for the longest time I was a defensive defenseman and if I didn’t get scored on that was great. I was happy to get a shot on net, let alone a goal or an assist. It’s been a lot of fun here.
You are almost not allowed to use your physical abilities here. As you can’t throw hits in this league here like you did in Northamerica, how big is the impact on your game?
Yeah, it is part of the adjustment. I mean, in the NHL there’s lots of different roles. There’s scorers and there’s checkers and hitters and all that stuff. It seems here everybody is expected to score und use their skills and stuff like that. So, it is an adjustment for me, because hitting and playing physical is a big part of my game. I mean, that’s how I stayed in the league. When I first got here I tried to hit guys, and I was getting penalties and charging. Honestly, I was doubting whether I could play and enjoy it and help the team and stuff, because the stuff that I did for a lot of years is basically out the door. There was a time, when I was younger, I had to play a lot and I had a different role. So, I guess I just have to find that again. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out. (grins) You know, sometimes after all those years of just doing that thing and feeling good about “I had a good game, I had some good hits, I played hard and I battled this guy”, now I can’t do that. So, sometimes I’m like “Ok, what did I do out there?” Sometimes it’s hard to find a satisfaction.
Did you ever talk about that with Bill Lindsay? I mean, he’s not your size but almost the same type of player, so he is in the same situation.
Yeah, he played hard, man. I remember playing against him a lot. I think, this is just one of these things you don’t really have to talk about. I mean, the guys just say, you gotta change your game. And they could tell you a lot of different times. I heard all my friends, you know. Ted Drury and Sean Pronger, they were like: “Oh, you’re gonna get a million penalty-minutes! You’re gonna hit a guy, that’s gonna be a penalty, even if it’s a clean hit!” And I was like: “Oh, come on!” You just don’t now until you played here. So, you just kind of figure it out. I mean, you talk a little bit, but you kind of gotta let the guy figure it out. That stuff, that we did in the NHL? It’s over. So we don’t really need to talk about it anymore, I think.
In 1989 you were a first round draft pick, ninth overall. That same year a Nicklas Lidström was a third rounder, Pavel Bure a sixth rounder. Seems like you caught a lot of attention in your Junior years. Is that true?
You know, I don’t think so. I think at that age, at eighteen, it’s hard to pick players. I mean, I’ve seen so many players in my career that have been unbelievable when they were younger and then kind of tailed off. Or some players were average and then they just keep climbing and then all of a sudden they’re stars. So, I don’t know if they peak at different times or for whatever reason, different variables, confidence, coaching, there’s just so many factors that I think when you’re eighteen it’s kind of a crap shoot. There are good players out there but to say that this person is going to be a star, that’s – I mean, there is a few guys you know, where you have a pretty good idea, but for the rest it can go either way. So, I think I wasn’t any better than those guys obviously. I don’t know. It’s just the way it happens. They were definitely playing over here, and I don’t know if they were scouting as much back then.
But you became a member of Team Canada that year. So there must have been something about you at that time.
You know, (smiles) it’s hard to say.
You have been a Western Conference guy throughout your career. There was one opportunity to head east, when the Rangers signed you in August 2004. But three weeks after you signed Gary Bettman announced the lockout. Where were you when you got the news?
When I was in California, we were told that the season wasn’t going to start anyway. It came as no surprise that they locked us out. You know, I was really disappointed. Honestly, I still don’t really know which side won. I was really excited to go to New York. We didn’t get to play there that much as we go out there only once a year. I went out at the end of August with my wife. She has never been to New York. We looked at the city and we kind of tried to look, where we were going to live. We were really excited to play there. But unfortunately it never happened. But that’s just the way it goes. (smiles) I mean there’s probably like 700 other players with the same story. So, no Madison Square Garden. My family was so fired up. I was really looking forward to that. I know quite a few people there. I was really looking forward to the opportunity to live in a city. California is beautiful and the weather is great, but it’s not really a city. I mean, San Francisco is a city, but where we live in Southern California it’s not really a city living.
During the lockout you along with five other players hired a private coach to stay in shape. Does that say something about your work-ethic or was that just a common thing to do at that time?
I think, it was pretty common. Everybody was doing it. I mean, it wasn’t anything special. The guys all had fitness programs and coaches. You know, it just kind of happened. It was actually one of our old coaches. He was helping us out. He would skate with us anyway, so we got him to give us some drills. (laughs) Yeah, but it sounds good! But i was just going out like three times a week or twice a week and just doing drills.
You won the Turner Cup in 1991 with the Peoria Rivermen of the IHL. Peoria brought you in for their playoff run, just like the San Jose Sharks did 12 years later. To what degree does the postseason change your game?
I love the postseason. It’s the best time of the year to play hockey. I mean, in the NHL you play 82 games or 80 games or whatever it is, and it’s such a long season. But as soon as the playoffs come it’s like a brand new season. It’s like a brand new day. And you’re fired up. Every game matters, every shift. Every play can make a difference. I love it. I just love those games. I mean, I’ve always wanted to do well in the playoffs. If you’re going to play good, that’s the best time to do it. For me it’s just been fun. It’s a great reward for a long season to be in the playoffs and you want to stay in there as long as you can.
You played the Western Conference Finals in two consecutive years, 2003 with Minnesota, 2004 with San Jose. How tough to swallow is it to be that close to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in a row and not making it?
It’s disappointing, but at the same time you’re so happy that you made it that far. I mean, you’re tired, you’re exhausted, and you just came up a little short, the other team was better both times. There was really nothing we could have done. I mean, you’re satisfied with the fact that you played the best you could. So, I concentrate more on that part than wishing I was going to the finals, but – (smiles) it would have been nice.
You said, every shift is important in a playoff game. Do you remember your first shift in the second game of the series against Calgary in 2004? The first Flames goal?
(grins) Yeah, it went off my skate. I do remember that moment. A guy [Marcus Nilson] took a shot, it hit my partner’s leg [Scott Hannan], and I was going to the net with a guy and then it went right off my skate and into the net. You know, when I was younger, that would have wrecked me for the whole game. I would have been devastated, blaming myself, thinking all the bad things. I would have had a terrible game. But when you get older, (grins) I don’t know if you’re just learning denial or rationalize things more, but it’s just one of these things. It happens. Obviously I didn’t want it to happen like that, but I kind of just tried to forget about it as fast as I could. It was early in the game.
20 seconds into the first period…
Yeah. I needed to play well for the rest of the game. I had to deal with it.
Despite the fact that you’ve been a physical player throughout your career, you never suffered any major injuries. (Knock on wood!) But it seems fate decided early last season to at least rearrange your face. It started with a fight against Ken Belanger in a preseason game against the Kings, which earned you four stitches under your right eye…
You know what? He’s a big guy. I mean, he is way bigger than me. It was right at the start of the game and he wanted to fight me. And I was like: “Hey, go grab somebody bigger. I don’t wanna fight. Really.” I was getting older, you know, I wanted to save it. So instead of protecting myself I kind of backed up and I was talking. He hit me a couple of times and broke my zygomatic. I hit the ice with my face. I don’t know, I could be mad at him, because if you looked at it, it wasn’t really the right thing to do from his side. I mean, there’s other guys he could fight. I don’t know. You could stay mad for a long time or you could just forget about it. I remember (laughs), I was getting x-rays and stitches in the dressing room, and then he came in and said: “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m trying to get a contract.” He was on a try-out. So I could see, where he was coming from. He was trying to do whatever he can to make the team. Stuff like that happens. It’s some stitches. That stuff heals.
Well, he made the Kings’ team, but had to face the consequences of that fight in the first regular season game against Anaheim…
Yeah, all our tough guys [Kipp Brennan, Travis Moen, Todd Fedoruk] were after him. I mean, it’s nice. But at the same time you’re kind of embarrassed because of those guys sticking up for you. But that is what a good team does. It was funny, because I had a drive with Fedoruk and Kipp Brennan, and they said: “Oh, we’re gonna get that guy for you.” It’s nice. It’s a sign of a good team. I appreciate the thought of that. And I think, when you protect your teammates or do things for eachother, that’s a great thing.
Only four weeks after your eye-injury you took the next serious hit in the face…
Yeah, I got a shot. The puck hit me right on the nose. (grins) Yeah, that wasn’t really good. It was broken in a lot of places. It was a mess. I got some more stitches. I phoned my wife and told her I was coming home and that it wasn’t going to be pretty, but you know, you go in and they put it back together. (grins) But it could have been worse. This is just my nose. It could have been the eye or something.
After that injury you missed only two games, returned playing with a full shield. Your coach Randy Carlyle said, he didn’t want to risk playing you with that injury, but then decided to put you on the 4th line right wing. Did he think, it was less dangerous to play you as a forward than as a d-man?
Honestly, I don’t know. I had a tough year last year. I sat out for over half of the season. So, I played at the start and then I didn’t really get to play at all after that. Honestly, I don’t know what he wanted and what he was thinking. You know, he told me to play right wing, so I tried to do the best I could. I played a little bit of wing in Minnesota with Jacques Lemaire. If that’s where they wanted me to play, that’s what I would do.
So, if we’re ever short on forwards here, you would be an option?
(laughs) Oh, no, no, no. I wasn’t a very good forward there. And I don’t think I would be very good here either. I would just dump it in and try to hit guys and stuff. I don’t know if that would work here.
You were involved in developing “NHL 2K6”. You were among the players used for motion capture to make the game players look real. What was that like?
It was great! It was really interesting. It was long days. We had to put on these suits with little reflectors all over us. And they had all these special cameras. It was kind of funny. The first day we did like a lot of the skating and the shooting. And then the next couple of days it was almost like acting. We had to pretend that we got a bad penalty, and we had to do certain reactions, and then we had to pretend to fight, pretend we won the Stanley Cup – you know, we did skate around and we held a garbage can. (laughs) It was great! The people there were really nice. We had fun. They had Marty Turco coming in. They wanted him to do some goalie stuff. They had a couple of guys coming in. I’ve actually never seen the game. They said they were going to send us a copy of the game. I never got one. I don’t have a system for it anyway, but I kind of wanted to see us guys skating around.
Your choice of jersey numbers over the years seems pretty random. Do they have any particular meaning to you?
No, there’s no real significance. I’ve worn probably – I don’t know – five or six different numbers.
You’ve worn at least seven different numbers… [2, 3, 6, 7, 23, 25, 28]
Really? Oh. I didn’t know. Well, I’ve worn #2 before. Once, I think, when I was in Junior. I don’t really have a favourite number, that I’d have to have.
So, does that mean you’re not supersticious?
I wish I was not supersticious, but unfortunately I am. (smiles)
Looking back at your career so far, what was your favorite hockey moment?
Oh, wow. (thinks) Favorite hockey moment…. (thinks) As a player…. (thinks) That’s tough. (smiles) It’s tough to pick only one. (laughs) Well, obviously my first NHL-goal was exciting. First game, you’re so nervous. That was a special moment, I think. And then, you know, winning a championship right out of Junior. I was probably too young and too stupid to realize, how lucky I was, because I haven’t won anything since. (smiles) That’s a special time. And playing in the playoffs for the first time is a special thing.
I know it’s probably too early in the season to talk about expectations, but anyway. What’s your feeling about the outcome?
Well, it is early. I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey. In fact, I know we can play a lot better. I don’t think we’ve really shown everything that we can do. There is a lot of talent, there is a lot of leadership, like you said. But I think we still have ways to go to come together and have that special chemistry and a winning attitude, a winning mentality, to really march into the postseason and dominate teams. So, I mean, all the ingredients are there and I think it’s just a matter of practicing and and playing games as a team. And I don’t see why not, why we wouldn’t have that endresult. I’m excited about the team. I’m still waiting for everything to come together. But it’s early. You know, people can make predictions from day one, saying this team is the best on paper. There is a lot of surprises at the end. Even after all these years of playing I still don’t know. You just hope for the best, and that’s what I’m kind of doing.
We would like to thank Jason Marshall for this informative and kind interview!