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June 19, 1999

Ken Hitchcock


Q. Ken, you describe both teams being entrenched in a defensive position. This might seem like a strange question but for a civil war, but what battle would you equate this series to?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't know that we are entrenched in a defensive battle. I think what we are entrenched -- this is one where we are taking turns at throwing everything over the top and they are defending and then they are coming back at us. I don't know if I can even think of that. I just think you have got, to me, I -- when you play defensive hockey it means that you play with passion and both teams play with passion. Both these groups are in the hockey term we call "real teams." Buffalo is much better than the sum of their parts. They are a real team and so are we. That is what you got. When you have two real teams going at it then you get that passionate defensive play where it is all-out sacrifice. I have seen players, players on their team, playing better than I have seen them play in their lives and I am sure they have seen the same for people on our team. But it just comes from that passionate play.

Q. Have you seen any kind of a different mentality around your team this morning knowing it is one win away from a Stanley Cup victory?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah. In the meetings there was not a lot of talk from the coaches because there is yet tonight, so we kept it short and brief as we did the pre-game skate, not a lot of thinking. Let them get to tonight, but we saw yesterday we get two cracks at this thing but I think our focus is we want to play our best game today and our players talked about that last night. We just want to play our best game and then let it fall where it goes. But we don't want to come in here and play with the attitude that we hope that Buffalo is going to play poorly because we know they are not. So our players recognized that yesterday and that is what we talked about.

Q. Given the short deadlines, trade deadlines and protective list deadlines after the Final is over, how does it affect the team or feel on a team to realize that somebody is likely to be gone within 48 or 72 hours after?

KEN HITCHCOCK: It really is a surreal feeling when you recognize that the NHL Draft is next week, the Expansion Draft is right away. Everybody is going to have players who are going to go from a jubilant time to a sad time. But in fairness to the players, I think both teams have been able to stay in the moment and even when you look at some of the reporters, I have talked to guys like Roman Turek and Roman is not even interested in thinking about the future and I think what has happened is that the last Expansion Draft with Nashville got the players thinking that, especially with the way Detroit was able to bring back their players, that anything is possible, that you don't have to necessarily lose your players, there are a lot of variations that can happen. I think that that is what a lot of players are hoping; that they don't leave and that the teams, if you have success can make a deal and you can stay and things like that. So I don't even think any players think about the possibility of leaving. I think they are more thinking of management might find a way for them to stay. I think even Roman is in that state too.

Q. Hitch, back to tonight, given the way the game ended the other night and some of the things that were said yesterday, is there a fear at all that this thing might really degenerate early into a blood bath tonight?

KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I don't think anybody can take that chance. No team can afford to take an opportunity to do something extra because I feel like the stakes are high right now for both groups and you don't want to be the person or the player that is responsible for a poor penalty at this stage. I think as high as emotions are, I think that we have seen in all of these games that we have been involved in that there are no extra stuff that happens after the whistle. It is pretty well put in place and anything that you have done from an image standpoint gets magnified as you are getting closer to the end and I think both teams recognize that.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about -- you have several players on your team that have won the Stanley Cup and been in the Finals. Could you talk about what having that luxury means on a day like this?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think the luxury is less about the day like today and more the buildup to it. I think that where I have seen our players at their best was after Game 4 here. I thought that we got refocused really well because of veteran leadership. I think that the veterans said, you know, look, this isn't the end of the world. We can get refocused and as long as we stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of ourselves, we will be okay. We just need to get this thing back on track again. I think that is where they help. They are as excited and energetic as anybody in that dressing room right now but their job is already done. They know they have to play tonight and play well, but they did their job after Game 4 to get us to this state where we have got a chance to win.

Q. Do you make a conscious effort tonight to go after Shannon on his first shift knowing that he hasn't played in a couple of months?

KEN HITCHCOCK: We don't have a scouter report on him. (laughs). Not really. I think that he is such a highly respected player by our players because he is an older player that has paid his dues and we look at the impact that Cunneyworth has had on their team, it has been very positive-and we feel Shannon - Warrener is a real good player, he has really developed into a good player and he has played a lot of minutes in this series - but Shannon is a guy that, you know, that our players feel that he will play a confident role and he will play like Lidster; he will play confident, without flare, and he will have an impact by not having seen -- not being seen. But I think our view, the cracks in each team are there now and it is the attitude of who can exploit those cracks quicker and I think from our standpoint, we view him more as a steady player than anything. And I think he will be solid tonight and we are going to have to get beyond his play because there is other -- there are other defensemen that are going to have a higher impact in this game that we need to take advantage of.

Q. Could you just talk about your team's future for a second? This team has been built for the now. What about next season; what does the future hold?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think the future was told by what Bob did at the trade deadline. I think both of us, coach and general manager, and scouts feel that this organization has a terrific opportunity to have a smooth transition over the next two or three years. We, like everybody else, could have been in the sweepstakes that were involved in some of those impact players, but it would have meant giving up some real good young hockey players that are either -- that either would have been with us now or in the future. Bob made the decision, which we fully endorsed, that these are going to be good players for us in a short period of time here and we could have a smooth transition and be a competitive hockey club for a longer period of time if we just stood pat. That is why when we made the moves. They were minor moves rather than the major ones, but they were done with the aspect that we have a real opportunity. We had a great team in Kalamazoo, we have four, five great younger players and we are looking forward having those players play for us. We have got a couple of players who were either put back in Europe and played there or have played in Europe that really have a chance to come back and help us; not just be players but come back and help us. We look at this thing as our team really evolves around the Modano's and the Hatcher's and the Matvichuk's and the Sydor's and Zubov's and Nieuwendyk's; that is the impact - Lehtinen is in there too - that is the impact. Those are core players but our role players and our younger players are going to come into this end next couple of years and we feel confident our transition is going to be very smooth.

Q. Would you talk for a moment about your own personal feelings now that you are kind of on the verge of doing this?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I was thinking about this this morning. Thank God that the U.S. Open is on at 12:30 because I would be a nut case. I got something to do. I don't know, you live and stay in the moment so much I think that you are very guarded at this time to think about anything more than the first shift or the puck drop because I don't think that you want to get too far ahead of yourself because your biggest fear as a coach is if you project the end in your own personality that the players will not play to win, rather than expect to win. I think there is a big difference. What we have asked our players to do all year is play like champions; play like winners, act like winners, and then that will take care of itself at the end. I think as a coach I have to do the same thing. I have to come and expect to be a good coach tonight and have impact from the start to the end and let the end take care of itself.

Q. You mean to say at all -- just to take that a step further, you are not going to be sitting around thinking this has been thought about since I was little kid with my dad; especially for a Canadian, it goes back that far, you must be -- it is like Christmas Eve?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think what it is though, it is guarded emotion. I think we all do that. We have -- coaches are like ducks. We are calm on top, but we are paddling like hell underneath. I tell, you from our standpoint, I am paddling like hell underneath, but ain't going to find out nothing 'til the end year. I mean, from our standpoint we have to do that, but believe me, there is a lot of leg movement going on right now.

End of FastScripts....

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