Recently I was able to engage in a little “word association” exercise with Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay. I gave the name of a specific player and he then responded with a brief description of said player based upon his initial thoughts.
Here’s a sampling of how things went…
Evander Kane: “Speed…and shot. I just saw him the other day just fire one and it was quite impressive. I love the way he just gets around the ice”.
Zach Bogosian: “Strong…shot”
Chris Mason: “Steady…and just a good person. I liked him when I met him and I just like the way he is a solid goalie and a solid person”.
Nik Antropov: “Big, strong…I think he can do more for us. I think this kid can be a good solid two-way player. Really dominate”.
Dustin Byfuglien: “Potential…talented. For a big man he has great hands. He can shoot and he can handle the puck. And he’s a pretty impressive character when you look at him. His potential is limited to only what he’s willing to do”.
Jimmy Slater: “Hustle…grind…work”.
Ron Hainsey: “Stick…good stick. Poise. I think he has poise on the ice. I really see a nice upside to him”.
Rich Peverley: “Quickness…offense”.
Brent Sopel: “Shot blocking…position…steady. I think he’s going to bring a lot to this defense. I don’t [have any concerns] that he comes to play. He’s willing to block shots and he’s a guy that willing to help other guys be better”.
Bryan Little: “Very tricky…I like the way that he’s ‘nifty’. He’s got good hands. We need him to score, but he will make people around him better”.
I wrapped up the exercise not with a player’s name, but with an event…winning the Stanley Cup in 2004 as the associate coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning
“It’s amazing”, he said. “It’s really an amazing event when you finally win that”.
He was then quick to explain that he is not the only member of the Ramsay family that had won the Cup. Two of his two sons have also been a part of a Cup-winning team. “One was with Pittsburgh when they won and my other son scouts for the Blackhawks, so we’ve won three in the past few years”.
He then explained how his day with the Stanley Cup was spent in Fort Erie, Ontario on August 1 of 2004. Dave Andreychuk had it in Buffalo the day before and then brought it across the bridge to him. They were part owners of the Fort Erie Golf Club at the time and Ramsay played a round with the Cup and his three sons Travis, Jad and Brendon.
He told his boys that they would then honor the memory of his late grandfather by drinking a beer prior to the second shot of the first hole.
On the eighth hole, Ramsay sank a 40-foot putt for birdie and he credited to Cup for the effort. He also lamented that of all the film being shot that day of him with the Stanley Cup, that was the one time the cameras were not filming.
Then Ramsay took it to his the house of Jad’s future father-in-law to surprise him with it. They say the Cup on his front porch and phoned him to come outside.
“He didn’t know it was coming”. Ramsay recalled. “They just called him up, had him come out and there it was. He got a chance to sit with it for about an hour and a half while neighbors came by to have their picture taken with it”.
Later in the evening the Stanley Cup was taken back to the golf club where it was used to raise funds for cancer research in memory of Ramsay’s friend Roger Neilson.
Finally, I asked the coach what his plans might be for the Cup after he wins it again as the Thrashers coach. He smiled as he responded in a matter of fact fashion, as if the idea wasn’t that far-fetched.
”I might just keep it right here [in Atlanta]”, he said gesturing with his arms out. “I haven’t really decided just yet…we’ll wait and see”.