Home Sports Sammy Blais talks Rangers transition, his hockey crossroads

Sammy Blais talks Rangers transition, his hockey crossroads

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Left winger Sammy Blais, who was traded by the Blues to the Rangers in July, takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: When you think back to your Game 7 win with the Blues over the Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup finals, what was that experience like?

A: When you’re a hockey player when you’re young, you dream of playing in the Stanley Cup Final, and for me it was one of the best moments of my life. Being a Stanley Cup champion forever is something that nobody is going to be able to take away from me.

Q: Describe skating around the ice holding the Cup over your head.

A: My whole family was in the stands, and for me, I was a big, big fan of hockey when I was young. For me it was sleep, play hockey and eat. My parents knew how hard I worked to get in the NHL. It was an unreal feeling for me to put that big trophy on top of my head with my arms. It was something I’ll remember my whole life and just having my family there [at TD Garden] with me was something really special.

Q: What was it like bringing the Cup home to Montmagny, Quebec?

A: I just wanted to bring it back to the people that have always supported me when I was young. They were just all happy for me and just happy to celebrate that day with me.

Q: Why did you have to scrub the inside of the Cup?

A: ’Cause I put some cereal in it, so I had to like clean it a little bit.

Q: You ate cereal out of the Cup?

A: Yeah I had cereal in there and in Quebec poutine is like a big thing too, like French fry with cheese curds and gravy, so I put that in there, too. It was just memories that will last forever that day.

Q: So you had breakfast out of the Cup at home?

A: Yeah, yeah, I had cereal in the morning in the Cup, and then later at night everyone had like poutine in the Cup and stuff, so it was good.

Sammy Blais
Sammy Blais (r.) celebrates winning the Stanley Cup with the Blues.
Getty Images

Q: There was a parade.

A: After the breakfast and stuff when I first got the Cup, I had a parade in like the downtown of my small town. There was close to like 10,000 people there, so it was something special and something I’ll remember my whole life.

Q: That was the St. Louis Blues’ first Stanley Cup championship. Could you imagine what it would be like winning a Cup in New York?

A: That’s my dream now. I’m gonna do everything in my power, and I know we have a nice group here, a group that wants to win, a group that’s very hungry to win, and I think we have all the assets to bring back a Cup in New York, that’s for sure.

Q: What drives you?

A: Just getting better every day. I’ve been playing hockey since I [was] 4 years old. I just want to prove people wrong every day, people who never believed in me, and people that said I should never play in the NHL or wherever. I just want to prove people wrong and get better every day. I play hockey ’cause I love hockey. I won a Cup in St. Louis, and I just want to bring one back in New York and hopefully I can be a New York Ranger for many years to come.

Q: Why didn’t people think you would make it?

A: I don’t know, when I was younger I got cut by my midget team like twice in a row, and then I almost stopped playing hockey when I was 16.

Q: You almost gave it up?

A: Not give it up, but I almost went to play in my hometown with my friends, like minor hockey. I was like done with competitive hockey. It was probably the lowest point of my career to be honest. It was nothing like that bad, it was just me tired of working hard for nothing. … I just kept getting better and better, and then I’m here right now playing in the NHL for the New York Rangers.

Q: What is it like playing under the New York microscope with all the pressure?

A: Pressure never really bothered me, to be honest. When I go to the rink, I have a job to do and I just try to do it my best. I don’t really think about the outside world when I’m at the rink, I just play my game and try to help my team win.

Q: Describe your on-ice mentality.

A: When I was younger, I think I was just more of like an offensive-minded player. I wanted to score goals and I wanted to have points, but when I came into pro hockey, my first pro coach which was Craig Berube, he told me that I had to bring something else to the table. I just started playing hard and being a hard player playing against and being physical, and I did that and it worked out good and I liked doing it.

Rangers
Sammy Blais checks Christopher Tanev of the flames.
Getty Images

Q: Does being physical help get you into the flow of the game faster?

A: Yeah, when I go into the game, my first shift I always try to go hard and have a good hit or something.

Q: What was it like being on that St. Louis-San Antonio Express that year you won the Cup?

A: It was a crazy year that year. … It was hard mentally, to be honest. I thought I was good enough to always stay up there, but we had a lot of good players in St. Louis and I was still a prospect, so [GM Doug Amrstrong] had to send me down a couple of times even though I was not agreeing for being sent down, but it is what it is. I’m just happy they gave me my chance to play in the NHL, and to win a Stanley Cup with them is something I’ll remember my whole life.

Q: What was the low point emotionally that year?

A: I didn’t really have a low point that much. I still loved the game so much. I knew I had to get better and I had to prove stuff, but I just kept working hard and I knew they loved me in St. Louis, and it was just a matter of time for me to be a regular there.

Q: The following year was your wrist injury.

A: I was out for 28 games. I was not really happy about that injury, to be honest.

Q: How would you compare Rangers coach Gerard Gallant with Blues coach Craig Berube?

A: I see a lot of similarities. They don’t really scream at you in front of everyone. When you see that in a person, you just know that you have to respect them ’cause, for me, the way they played the game and they both played for a long time in the NHL. … Just trying to make me a better player every day. Berube in St. Louis was really important for me in my career, and I have nothing bad to say about him and just want to say thank you to him for everything he did. Gerard has been really, really good with me and he’s really important for a team, he’s good with the young guys, and I think everyone in the locker room has a lot of trust in him. Just really happy to be here in New York and have a coach like that is really huge for sure.

Q: In what way is he good with the young guys?

A: Making them comfortable, and that making a mistake is OK, and then you still have a chance to go back out there and prove that your mistake was not that bad. I just think that he gives a lot of players the confidence and just go out there and play your game — like, you’re in the NHL, you’re a good player, so just go do your thing and everything’s gonna work out.

Q: Have you ever watched clips of him when he played?

A: Some fights yeah on YouTube, but not like clips of him playing games, no.

Q: Why did you watch his fights on YouTube?

A: I don’t know, I just put his name on and that’s what I saw (chuckle).

Q: Whatever comes to mind: the most amazing thing you’ve seen Artemi Panarin do on the ice.

A: Just the way he handles the puck, just unreal hands and the hockey IQ he has is just on top of the list for sure.

Q: Mika Zibanejad.

A: One of the best 200-foot players I’ve seen play the game in a long time. The amount of skill he has and just how good he is defensively too, he plays [penalty kill], he plays [power play], he plays the game the right way.

Q: Adam Fox.

A: You can see it every day in practice and in games that he’s one of the best defensemen in the league and no one should ever doubt that.

Q: Kaapo Kakko.

A: Big kid with a lot of skills. Just an amazing kid, he loves the game and he wants to get better every day, and I think he’s gonna be a huge, huge player for us this year.

Q: Chris Kreider.

A: One of the best skaters I’ve seen in the league, I would say like fastest skater, works hard, plays the game hard and goes to the net and obviously a big leader for us.

Q: Igor Shesterkin.

A: Unreal goalie, to be honest. Just really calm in front of his net. When he’s in the net, the confidence we have in him is really great, and he’s gonna be a big part of us winning hockey games this year.

Q: What is it like playing in front of Rangers fans?

A: Pretty amazing, to be honest.

Q: If you could have a breakaway against any goaltender in NHL history, who would it be?

A: Carey Price, for sure. I scored him once on a breakaway, so I would love to do it again for sure.

NHL
Sammy Blais
Corey Sipkin

Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in NHL history?

A: Either Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby.

Q: Describe Laurie-Anne, who has Morquio syndrome, a rare disorder that means she won’t grow any more.

A: She’s from close to my hometown, and she’s a big fan of hockey but she couldn’t really play hockey. When I won the Cup, I invited her over to my house to come see the Cup quick, and I had a couple of drinks of orange juice in the Cup to give her. It was just something special for me to give back to kids like that, it’s just something that I look forward to.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, LeBron James.

Q: Favorite movie”

A: “American Sniper.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Liam Neeson.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: Luke Bryan.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Pasta.

Q: Personal goals?

A: Just prove to people I’m not just only a physical player, I can play an offensive game, I have some good skill, and I just want to show people that I can be a power forward with skill that can put up points for sure.

Q: What part of your game do you think needs the most work?

A: Keep getting better defensively. I’ve made huge progress over the years, I’ve worked hard on it. Keep growing my game, keeping working hard, and then good things are gonna happen I’m sure.

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