June 7, 1999
DALLAS, TEXAS: Practice Day
Q. I have a question for Bob Gainey. Can you talk about Michael Peca as a Selke Trophy winner and maybe you see the classic type of Selke Trophy winner or compare him to your playing career?
BOB GAINEY: I think Mike Peca, the fact that he has won
the Selke Trophy and he has been nominated at least one other time, sort of there is a consistency there. He is what he is. He does it very well. Honestly, I don't know him as a player probably as well as I should. He is playing in the other conference. We see him a couple times a year. But when his name keeps coming up at the Awards Dinner, you take note and I think he is probably there because he deserves to be there.
Q. Speaking of Peca, Mike Modano, talk about the matchup on your line.....
MIKE MODANO: We haven't really discussed that too much right now. But I am assuming that maybe the matchup they want, especially on the road with the last change. But that may be a matchup we want at home. We will figure that out, I am sure, tomorrow, but he is a pretty gritty player. He can score and check and he does all the areas of the game very well. He is a real catalyst to their team and when he seems to be playing at the top of their game, everybody seems to follow right behind him.
Q. Gainey and Mike Modano, can you talk about what it has been like to be a part of this organization, how it has been built and what it would mean to this organization to win a Stanley Cup?
MIKE MODANO: Well, it has been like I said, eight years since we have been back here and it has been -- sometimes you think it seems short and sometimes it seems forever since we have been back. That year, 1991 was kind of a Cinderella year. We walked in as eighth seed and upset some great teams that year on our way to the Finals. Being young you really don't realize how hard it is to get there to the Finals until you get a little older and right now I am having that -- I am learning that right now. It is tough. It is really like everybody says the hardest championship in pro sports to win. We have had a great team last couple of years put in our positions to play well in the Playoffs and it has been a great honor to be here for this long and to go through the ups and downs and to come out on the other side.
BOB GAINEY: Unlike Mike I have had a couple of different positions with our organization over the nine years that I have been with the North Stars and the Dallas Stars. Our goal has always been the same like it is for any other NHL team and that is to win the Stanley Cup and to participate for it and to be a very competitive team every year. We worked at it everyday and today is our day. We get a chance to participate in the Finals and I am looking forward to it.
Q. Eddie Belfour, you and Dominik Hasek were teammates in Chicago. What kind of relationship did you have as teammates and the relationship you have had since you have grown apart and aren't teammates?
ED BELFOUR: We had a good relationship in Chicago. In practice we competed against each other and worked hard against each other and I think it was an overall positive relationship for both of us.
Q. Question for Ed, what are some of your fondest memories of being on the same team with Dominik back in Chicago?
ED BELFOUR: Fondest memories? Well, just that he is a competitive player and so am I and we worked closely with Vladislav Tretiak which I think helped both of us tremendously. It made both of us better being that we are both competitive like that because I think we did compete against each other in practices.
Q. Derian Hatcher, you are the captain of this team. With so many veterans and guys that won Cups before, talk about that as your role as a leader?
DERIAN HATCHER: Makes it easier tell you that much. I have never been to this point the Stanley Cup Finals and I think when we have the players that we have, it just takes a lot of pressure off me and I can concentrate on the day more. It has been like that throughout the course of the last couple of seasons. All those guys take a lot of pressure off me. If ever I have a problem or don't know what to do in certain situations, you know, I can go up to any of them and ask for advice and they are always willing to help.
Q. Another question for Derian, your opponents refer to you your playing style sometimes they use the word scary, dangerous intimidating. Do you take these words as a compliment and should they be a little bit worried when you are on the ice?
DERIAN HATCHER: Well, I would have to take them as a compliment, but you know, I have played the same way for a long time and I am a physical player and I don't know if guys should be scared when they are out there, but if they are, I guess I am doing my job.
Q. Question for Mike Modano: Mike, there was a little uproar in Buffalo, comments made in Friday's paper best teams in the east have been knocked out and you haven't been paying much attention to the Eastern Conference since then. Are you aware of that uproar and do you still feel that way, maybe the Sabres don't measure up with some of the better teams in the east?
MIKE MODANO: What I said was never meant to take anything away from Buffalo. I think as far as we are concerned they deserve to be here. They went through some of the best teams and they were one of the best teams all season long until the end of the year; they tailed off a little bit, but again, they were able to get their game really back into order and played phenomenal through the Playoffs. You know, I think a lot of people were discussing a letdown because of the Finals of because of what our conference Finals was against Colorado. They figured everything was going to be a letdown and we never felt that way. I think everybody else was feeling that way. I think everybody else wanted, you know, the top teams to be in the Finals, but you do have the top two teams. You have the best two teams playing in both conferences, Buffalo has got some great character guys, they are young and they are energetic, very disciplined. What I said was never meant to take anything away from those guys. I think it was -- some of it was taken out of context a little bit what I said. But it was nothing to indicate light a fire under them. I don't want to get into a war of words here, but I just want to go out there and play hard and play well and grade me the way I play; not the way I talk.
Q. Derian Hatcher, the Sabres and the Stars for two years now for whatever reason seemed to have a tough rivalry. I know you only played twice, but I remembered the games there were a lot of brawls, hitting, are have you developed a small rivalry with Buffalo even though you played them so little?
DERIAN HATCHER: I don't know if we have developed a rivalry but some of the games have been very physical. I think it just stems from the fact that we are both very similarly styled teams and especially Buffalo, you know, I think one of the incidents was basically we just cranked up and they were a little frustrated. It was two teams that were working hard and we are both physical teams, but I really don't think there is anything there.
Q. Ed, you and Dominik have pretty much identical numbers in the Playoffs. Is there any more pressure on him, do you think, though because of winning the Gold Medal and because of his reputation as the best goalie in the world of hockey, anymore pressure on him because of all that hype?
ED BELFOUR: I don't know; maybe there is. It is whatever pressure he puts on himself and how he takes all the media. I don't think Dominik -- Dominik is a pretty calm going kind of Guy. I don't think he is going to do that to himself. He is a great goaltender. He is going to play hard.
Q. Eddie, you know, I know you are from Chicago. We have heard a lot over the last year or two about how you changed since you were in Chicago to coming to Dallas. Can you have you really changed that much and if so what has changed about you in the last couple of years?
ED BELFOUR: I don't know, I think I am still, you know, as competitive as ever and I think probably one of the biggest differences is that I am on a much better team. They play hard in front of me every night and that makes my job that much easier and I can be a lot more composed and focus on just stopping the puck.
Q. Coach Hitchcock, when you look at this Buffalo team, how do you expect them to play? How do you play them to deal with their speed?
KEN HITCHOCK: Well, I think Buffalo uses their speed differently than Colorado. Buffalo's quickness is in playing defensive hockey. So I think if we were looking at a type of series it is probably going to end up being a lot similar to the way that the series with St. Louis was and that is that both teams played very disciplined and very hard without the puck. Buffalo's strength is that their forwards really back up their defensemen and allow their defensemen to take chances. Both teams play defensive passionately and I think that it will be a game that will be the critical areas on the ice in front of both goals in the corners; it will be fought very hard and I think the difference in the series for either side will be each team's ability to defend those critical areas, game by game.
Q. Another question for Coach Hitchock. Are you concerned at all after the emotional seven games against Colorado about a possible let-down, especially with the perception that maybe the eastern representative isn't as strong as what you have seen so far?
KEN HITCHOCK: No, not at all. I think that our team has been able to watch Buffalo play a lot. It seemed that whenever we had team meals on the road the game, they would be put on while the players were eating was the Buffalo game. We have been able to watch Buffalo play a lot. I think what they are doing is not a surprise because of our experience in the two games we have played against them and especially the game that we got beat pretty badly in Buffalo. I think our players left that game feeling like the only team that had kicked us that hard was New Jersey here and we felt leaving that game that they were the best two teams that personally we played against. I think if you view it and our players view it this way is that where your team is at the start, middle, doesn't matter. It is where you are at the end. I think every player in that dressing room knows how much Buffalo has improved, not only during the season, but more importantly during the Playoffs. They are a much better team than they were playing against Ottawa and they drilled Ottawa pretty good. I think because we were fortunate enough to watch all of the games against Toronto, we were able to see just how well they were playing and how disciplined they were playing and they have got a lot of elements going. I don't think that -- there is going to be no let-down. There is going to be no excuses. There is not going to be any over-confidence. Our team is ready to play. We recognize how difficult it is going to be, but we are looking forward to it and we know that Buffalo is too.
Q. Since 1996 you have made a number of really key free agent signings. Can you talk about how you built this club, you know, with people like Verbeek and Eddie, Skrudland and Keane, guys you picked up each summer?
BOB GAINEY: Well, the ability to put a player on your team without any conditions attached to him has only been alive in the NHL for four, five years at the most unrestricted free agency. Early on we tried to participate in it unsuccessfully. We either didn't make the right pitch or, for some reason, we weren't able to connect, but we have viewed it as a way to improve our team, as a source of adding players to our roster along with the draft, along with exchanging players and all the different ways that you can get good players onto your team. I think the players that have been here have made a great contribution to our club and in most cases I think - in all cases really, I can't think of one that hasn't turned out well for both the player and the team.
Q. Coach, can you talk about how you have worked Brett Hull into your philosophies and how he has worked on your team?
KEN HITCHOCK: Well, when we first signed Brett, the decision to play him with Modano was made with the long-term prospects of playing in the Playoffs and there has been some strong adjustments that Brett has had to make. The biggest adjustment he has had to make is to fit into that line. That line doesn't carry the tag of being an offensive line. It carries a tag of being a two-way line. We looked this as a six or seven-month experiment with Hull. And we felt that if we can nurture him along and make him more accountable defensively, make him a better consistent player and make him play in the tough areas and not go on and play the game looking for space but being willing to fight his own space on the ice and willing to go into the ugly areas to score and also be able to do it defensively that we could have a player that could not only compliment Mike and Jere but he could be a force in his own way because we felt that if you have skilled players and are hard working and competitive shift in shift out, then it makes you a great team and we started in September with Hull to make him a player for the Playoffs. We didn't look at it as a month or two months experiment. We looked at it as a full season. He's made great strides. He has become a consistent player for us. He is not just a scorer, by has opened up ice for Mike and Jere. He has been very accountable defensively throughout these Playoffs and he has gone out and had to sacrifice some offensive production to shut down great lines. Last series we pretty much used him most of the time against Forsberg and Lemieux and Kamensky and that was a very tough line and Brett did more than hold his own. Our goal was to make him a two-way player. It is always a challenge when you have a player that is set in his ways like Brett is and like a lot of offensive players are. He has made good adjustment. He has been a real good add to us right now.
Q. Coach Hitchock, you talked with both these teams being passionate defensive teams. Do you anticipate that this will be aesthetically pleasing thing and do you care?
KEN HITCHOCK: Look, this isn't going to be a series made for television. So if you are looking for Champions on Ice, you are watching the wrong game. This is going to be a hard fought passionate contest where ice is going to be defended very tough. We have people that play like that. They have people that play like that and it is going to be a series, in my opinion, that is going to have both teams wills getting extended to the max because when you have two teams that are as committed to physical play to defending, to second and third shots, to sacrifice in front of both goals, it is going to make for very emotional hockey. I don't know if that is going to go across television, but if you are in the building you are going to see two teams passionately go at each other like no other series.
Q. Coach, you didn't have the benefit of having Joe Nieuwendyk last year; only played one game before getting hurt. Would you talk about having him the added dimension he gives you and the pressure he takes off Mike's line?
KEN HITCHOCK: Well, I don't know that he takes pressure off of Mike's line. He might take pressure in the aspect that Mike doesn't feel or Brett or Jere that they have to score every night for us to win. What Joe does is he gives everybody confidence. He is a player that when we are playing and a game we know that we are one shot away from scoring a goal when he is on the ice. We know that he can score from a distance. He doesn't need to be on top of the goaltenders to score and we know that we use the term in his wheelhouse that when he gets the puck in his wheelhouse that there is a good chance it is going to go in the net. The thing that has been impressive for us as coaches and as management is his competitiveness from the start to the end. Not only has he been a good player, he has been a very competitive player on a shift-by-shift basis. It has just given us so much confidence right through our lineup.
Q. Ken, does Hasek get into team's heads and do you have -- if so, do you have to address that before this series? I mean psychologically, can't beat him....
KEN HITCHOCK: I think he can if you are weak; if you are not prepared to fight through that, then, yeah, he can get into your head. But to me, we have already learned that lesson. We learned that lesson two years ago with Joseph. We allowed ourselves to get discouraged and to me, if you allow a goaltender to outwork you out battle you then you are not doing the job. I think that there is a lot of great goalies in the League. He is one of them and it is our job to out work him. It doesn't matter how many chances we get, if we didn't get enough to score we got to get more; if we need more traffic, we will get more traffic. We just have to find a way and there can be no excuses. I think when you use the attitude that a goaltender beats you, you have got the wrong attitude because, to me, you have just allowed yourself to get discouraged.
FRANK BROWN: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Gentlemen, thank you very much. The Sabres will be available at about 3:15.
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