May 29, 2000
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY: Practice Day
Q. Give us an idea what do you expect in Game 1 and what do you expect generally in
COACH KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think that from our standpoint this is a different
scenario for our group. We haven't faced this scenario for a little while starting on the
road. I think that trying to win road games knowing that that is the only way you can keep
the series alive is a big challenge for us. So I think the sense of urgency from our group
is important. I think we are going to have to right it off the bat.
Q. What do you expect in Game 1?
COACH KEN HITCHCOCK: I think both teams are going to recognize that that -- there is a
lot of similarities with the teams. I think we expect that both teams are going to play a
strong positional game. I don't think that -- I think both teams have got here because of
their positional play and I don't see that changing.
Q. We hear in the East that this series was ended - that the Playoffs ended with
Colorado and Dallas; that this is just an afterthought; what about that?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, you have probably been watching the wrong media presentation
than I have. I said this before that as a team one of the games that did the biggest
damage to our team was the 2-1 overtime win early in the season because. I think our
players recognize the level that was out there and we maybe thought it would be a little
bit easier. That game did a lot of damage to us because we felt that after that game we
had a big drop. We played a great game but we had a big drop after that and I think that
that game in particular showed us the level of commitment that New Jersey had and we both
went through ups and downs as organizations, but we knew at that time how good that team
was. I don't think where they are surprises anybody. I think we should be the favorites
because we are the defending champions. That is what makes us the favorites, but that all
goes out the way in the first period when two teams compete against each other.
Q. How about the goaltenders; can you compare them?
COACH HITCHCOCK: They are similar and they are different. They play a little bit
different style, but they are both very good at moving the puck. Brodeur moves the puck
more distances than Eddie does. He is able to eliminate pressure because of the way he
moves it, but Martin moves it a lot from himself to forwards whereas Eddie does a lot of
interchanges with him and the defensemen.
Q. Your team has been through so much this year; overcome so much adversity; all the
injuries. First of all, how difficult has that been just to get back to this point and are
you a little surprised that this team has overcome as much as it has?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I thought until the new year, the season was going, like I am sure the
players felt the same way, the season was going forever. It is just that October,
November, December seemed like such a long period of time for our team. We had so much
adversity we were going through. It was a big struggle. Since then the group has really
come together. It has been a lot of fun. The Playoffs themselves, we have not felt the
burden of emotion that we did last year. Last year we carried it because had a lot of
people: Can you win; the Belfour situation; can you win there; can Modano win; can Hull
win. We carried that with us from the start to the end, but we didn't carry that this year
so I think right now we are fresher mentally. We are fresher than we have ever been and
really looking forward to it.
Q. Did you feel like a Stanley Cup Defending Champion? A lot of attention was paid to
Colorado, Detroit even after two years. Do you feel the same recognition of Stanley Cup
Champion as past teams?
COACH KEN HITCHCOCK: Not really. I think that our situation is really unique because we
have got teams like Detroit and Colorado who are past champions who are right in our
conference. And so there was a lot attention paid to those two teams but it really got
tilted towards Colorado when Bourque and Andreychuk came. It just seemed that everything
was tilted towards Colorado and there was the win one for Ray; then Andreychuk situation
came in there and their team all of a sudden got on a huge roll. It seemed that when we
started the Playoffs there was little or no attention paid to our group because it was all
put on that Colorado situation and in St. Louis I was involved in that side too. Then when
Detroit and Colorado played each other, little or no attention was again paid to our
quarterfinal. But I think our series with Colorado really gave us a lot of confidence. I
think that we gained a lot of confidence as the series went on, that emotionally we could
play for the same reasons, you know, with Manson and Cote and our situation - wanted to
win one for those guys. I thought we got better as it went on.
Q. As you mentioned, you struggled a little bit early in the season. Was there one
thing that turned the year around or bringing in some of those other veteran guys, did
that contribute to the team's turnaround?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't think there was one thing that turned it around for us. There
was a lot of situations. I think something that really helped was when we added Muller and
Thornton and Manson and Cote. They were great adds. Everybody talks about the Bourque
situation in Colorado and Andreychuk, but there isn't enough attention, I don't think,
that was paid to what Bob did for our team. What he did for our team was give us four
great players to really add that depth that we needed to compete at a high level.
Q. It's actually for Hitch and Brett Hull. Can you talk about your relationship with
Brett, how you got him to buy into the system, it is a work in progress; does it continue
to be a work in progress? I'd like to hear Brett's answer to that?
BRETT HULL: I am still working on it.
COACH HITCHCOCK: We have no relationship. Our situation is that Brett is one of the
most unique people I have ever met in my life. I like the music that he likes. I like that
he is great at crossword puzzles. We still pretty much disagree on everything hockey-wise,
yeah, pretty much disagree everything on hockey-wise. He is like me; he wants to win, so
he has got -- plus I am the last guy that puts him on the ice, so, he either plays my way
or doesn't go on the ice and he knows that.
Q. Did you say you tamed him?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Tamed Brett Hull? No. Not at all. The only time that you tame Hull --
he is at his best when he is scoring because he is quiet. He is at his worst when he is
not scoring because then he is all over the map, and I like his opinions pretty much on
everything. We are a little bit different on some areas of the game, but he has got great
opinions on the game. They're a little bit strong at times. And I like the way he chirps.
He has got a great sense of humor, just comes out all the time, that is the problem.
Q. Both these teams were built on defense and the prominent defensive players in the
series, Scott Stevens and Derian Hatcher; could you talk a little bit about the two games,
do they compare and what Derian does for you compared to Scott?
COACH HITCHCOCK: The two teams are similar, their defensive philosophy but I think we
differ a little bit in the way that we move the puck. There is little differences in the
way each team moves the puck and does those things. I think that both teams are committed
to positional play with and without the puck. I think that is one of the strengths of both
organizations. Both organizations are very determined to be not only strong without it but
strong with it, and when you see a team like New Jersey who changes the series in
Philadelphia just by what they did with the puck, you can see that they have the attention
to detail. We have learned our lessons along the way and we have -- you can talk about
this 'til you are blue in the face but until you go through processes, like our series
against Edmonton a few years back where mistakes were made that they capitalized on by
what we did with the puck, you have to go through some of those hardships. Both
organizations have gone through it and learned from it and I think we are both better
because of it.
Q. Mike, you took an incredible hit in Game 6. A lot of us were surprised to see you
come back. Could you tell us what you went through if you think you have answered people
who ever questioned your toughness?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I think it's always and ongoing battle with peoples' opinions about
how I play and how it's come full circle, I think, when I first came in the League. You
have certain perceptions people make about you and those are hard to change. It's taken a
long time to do that. I have grown to enjoy the physical part of the game and know that
it's coming every game that I play in because people are keying in on certain individuals.
I know I am probably one of them and that is going to come. I just have to deal with it
and work through it. It's made it more enjoyable knowing that I can get through it and
still play my game. (inaudible). Kind of had a stick got me in the jaw a little bit. I was
a bit stunned. I needed some time to get off the ice and get regrouped and once I got in
the locker room kind of settled down a little. I felt better.
Q. Could each of the players talk about how you see the matchup and in particular what
it is that concerns you most about the Devils?
DERIEN HATCHER: As defensemen I guess the size and the speed they have up front. They
have a lot of big players that can handle the puck and skate. They like to hit too. Seems
like the "D" men are always in there going to get the puck in the corner and
(inaudible) there is a lot of physical punishment.
BRETT HULL: We just as a group are focusing on what we have to do and if we play our
game and do the right things that we have to do just like Hitch said with the puck,
without the puck, and stay at a good emotional level, not too up; not too down, I think we
are going to be fine. I think your success comes from worrying about yourselves and not
the other team.
MIKE MODANO: I think the teams in general are very similar. I think they both play a
similar style as far as the trap. They both rely on good forecheck and a lot of one-on-one
play defensively. Our special teams has gotten stronger as the Playoffs has gone on.
Hopefully that continues. But as both teams we rely on causing a lot of turnovers as far
as their forecheck and both teams are very strong positionally.
ED BELFOUR: I also think the same things what the guys have been saying, tough
defensive team with a lot of big forwards. They work hard just like us. We have always had
real competitive games against them in the past and I don't think it is going to be any
Q. Eddie, comparison with Martin Brodeur how you see him stylewise and in his
ED BELFOUR: I think Marty places the puck a lot for his defense and he was also a
student of Tretiak and plays butterfly style also. I think he is a key player for their
Q. Could you talk a little bit about playing with Mike as your center? You have had
great success in the past. Why do you guys fit so well together?
BRETT HULL: I think it's got a lot to do with just the overall philosophy on the game
and the way you see the game and think the game. And just sitting on the bench together we
find ourselves saying the same things as the play is going, move it there, then when you
are on the ice together you kind of know where you are going to be. You look to an area
that you would go to. Usually the other guy is there because that is the spot when you
think alike. But I have been very fortunate over my career, you know, through Adam Oates
and even the short time I got to play with Wayne, but nobody in the overall game can hold
a candle to Mike from the offensive part right through to his defensive responsibilities
he is -- when I first got here last year having played with him in Team USA, but not ever
on his line, just watching, but when you finally get a chance to play with him you take so
much for granted and it is a joy to be out there with him all the time. Makes my job very
Q. You always talk about how you play the game a little differently, the stealth mode
and circling back like that, do you find he is able to read you better than a lot of
BRETT HULL: Well, it is hard because it is hard to keep up to him he is so fast. So it
helps me because I am always coming in late anyway but -- yeah, he passes as good or
better than anyone I have ever played with and sees the ice and because of his speed and
quickness and stronger than anyone gives him credit for that, he creates a lot of open ice
for not only me but himself and everyone else.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about playing with Hull, have you figured him out yet?
MIKE MODANO: I don't spend a lot of time trying. But like he said being around him
since when the days in St. Louis and being in Minnesota I think we always had a good feel
for one another as far as our thought process on the ice, you know, like he said, we think
an awful a lot alike when we are on the ice. I think it's been a real thrill playing with
him. His ability to shoot the puck from anywhere and get it off and get it on the net,
playing against him when he was in St. Louis and we were in Minnesota, the World Cups and
the Olympics, but never having the chance to play with him I think now that once we got
together in Vale two years ago it just was -- felt like it was meant to be everything else
just kind of came together. We had a great year and it's been a real thrill. I think it
has been -- you know, you don't have the opportunity to play with great players throughout
your career and in Minnesota and Dallas we really didn't have that type of nucleus to
surround us around great players. Now we have had the last four, five years just a
phenomenal group of talented players. When we all play our system and thinking defense and
creating on the offense, it's been a lot of fun.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of penalty killing; why both teams
seem to be good at it?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Personnel is one issue - I think every team in the NHL that enters the
Playoffs has good personnel. I think it is the intangibles that make good penalty killing
and the pride factor. Both teams have tremendous pride in their ability to kill penalties.
It is the attitude that the four guys are better than the five guys that are on the
powerplay. Both teams make the powerplay work so hard for quality opportunities that they
really take pride in discouraging the skilled players that go on the powerplay. When you
look at our situation in particular with our defensemen, they really defend that second
shot tremendously. People like Matty and Hatch and, in particular, Zubov just are able to
read angles and lanes as well as anybody in the NHL. I think when you look at New Jersey's
situation, they really center that thing around Stevens and he plays a lot. He plays
sometimes both minutes and I think that they feed off his passion to defend and it really
boils down to pride.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about Eddie's play in the Colorado series and Eddie,
when the other day when the crowd is chanting "Belfour is better," what did that
mean to you and I mean Patrick Roy is known as the money goalie supposedly but do you --
did you need to hear that -- was it good hear that to be -- to prevail over Patrick Roy?
ED BELFOUR: Well, I think fans have always been behind me 100% in Dallas and it's
always a real good feeling to hear them chanting my name. That was a new chant that they
made up. I kind of wished they would have waited until that last maybe 20 or 30 seconds -
little too soon. I am glad they quit after the second goal. (Laughter.)
COACH HITCHCOCK: From our standpoint Ed is a leader and he is a big part of our team.
He has a tremendous responsibility, not only as a goaltender but as a leader and I knew at
the start of the series that for us to win Ed would have to be a game star a lot of nights
because we knew that the roll that Colorado was on, he had to do some extraordinary things
and he got it done. I think that his play early in the series gave us a chance to really
bring our game to a new level later in the series and I think that he held us together
when he had to and then as things moved along, we started to play better and better in
front of him.
Q. How much of an advantage is your team's experience going into this series?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I have always said that experience is only useful if you have the
product on the ice to perform. We have the experience of knowing how important it is for
this organization from a respect factor to want that second Cup. There is a certain status
that goes with teams that have won two Cups especially two in a row and we want that
status badly. But the experience that we have is more on the emotional side of things. We
know the level out there emotionally that you have to compete at. Never mind your talent,
never mind your skill level, but there is a really, really high emotional level that you
have to play with on and on going basis and I think our players understand that commitment
and hopefully we are willing to make it again.