Turner Stevenson was drafted 12th overall by his favorite team, The Montreal Canadiens. Stevenson finished his career playing 644 games in the NHL, amassing 190 points and 969 PIM during his 644 games. After 9 years with Montreal, Turner was picked up by Columbus in the 2000 Expansion Draft but quickly traded to the New Jersey Devils. It was a blessing in disguise as Turner went onto reaches the finals twice and finally being able to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2003. He was a hard-working and versatile winger and there is no better time to share our little interview with all of you!
TURNER (TS): Well, I think anything you do in life it comes down to hard work. You need to work hard and there is no other option, especially in athletics. Look at the Crosby’s and Toews’ in the world; they are the hardest working guys on and off the ice. For the guys who made it to the NHL and even the ones who were close, it came down to their work ethic. Same applies to all aspects of life like school. The guy who stays in and studies will outperform the guys who go out every night to party. Hard work is meaningful.
(TS): For sure, especially when people bring it up or when I occasionally wear my ring. I still remember the loss we had a few years back in my first year with the Devils. But, its great to have that second chance because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. The best memories are the celebrations afterwards. I remember the party after the game and getting a week with The Cup. Bringing it to your hometown. The Cup means a lot to those people and seeing their reactions was pretty cool.
(TS): You always remember the loss more. But that feeling kind of goes away when you get a second chance and get to wash it away. No one really remembers the losers but it’s a great accomplishment just to make it that far. Even today you can see how close the competition is.
(TS): Growing up I was a big fan of the Canadiens, especially in the 70’s. So when I was drafted by Montreal it was a dream come true. It was a franchise I always loved and I still love today. I do not regret not having played for any other team. However, I always enjoyed playing in Madison Square Garden. It was my favorite building to play in. Playing in New Jersey was great, 20 minutes from the city, it was a great experience as well.
(TS): Well it’s a 24/7 job. When I first got into the NHL it was not exactly like that but we did work hard. Training camp was a time to get in shape whereas now you have to arrive in shape. Back then it was more about having a bigger bench press and who looked good on the beach. Yet, in the early 90’s we got to see how the European players trained and we realized how their training was more quality. So we started to follow their routines. Players nowadays have all that information and more. Its all about the legs and the core. The legs are the engine and I try to teach that to the kids I coach today. Just being on the ice is not enough.
Especially in the NHL for the guys who go on deep into the playoffs every year and have to play an extra 20-30 games. By the third year you have already played an extra full season! It’s about training your body to prepare it for the long haul.
(TS) I always wanted to get into coaching but I took a year off to be with the family. I played with Seattle in my junior days and practiced with them during the lockout. When I retired I was asked to join on as an assistant coach and so I did to share my knowledge and experiences. The 4 years there was a great experience. Then my wife got into real estate and I decided to stay home with the family and take care of the kids. Now I coach my kids at the youth level and help them with whatever path they wish to go on.
(TS) Yes I do. I do not think people realize how big the hockey market is here. They have the biggest men’s league in the US. We are up north, near Canada and a lot of guys with deep pockets. It’s a huge market! Plus we are not far at all from Vancouver. We can easily get a lot of guys from there to become season ticket holders. It’s very difficult now to get on the season ticket holder list in Vancouver and we can tap into that. It’s a big sports market, its also the 8th or 9th biggest media market. It would be great!
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(TS) Yea I coach or help out the teams in anyway I could. It is fun and keeps me close to the game. It has actually been a great experience especially if I want to get back into coaching at the junior or professional level. Rather than just being a former player I get to learn about this generation and see the modern game development. My lifestyle was different than theirs and this is a great tool to learn to communicate with them better.
(TS) We do a lot with USA hockey but like to implement our own things. We play a lot of games in Canada and I like to get the best of both worlds. It is a lot of one on ones, a lot of hard work and the one who wants it more will be successful.
(TS) I started in my junior days. Back then it was just something that just happened and not something you really hope for. I was not the biggest guy but I was one of them and I played hard. I do not go out there to just fight but when you play hard it kind of comes your way. The game back then had a calling for it too and you could make a living on it. I was not the toughest and I took pride in my ability to skate and play the game but I did whatever job the team needed.
(TS) I was not really the guy whose job was to fight. I played the game hard and sometimes fights happened. So you could never really prepare for it you just had to be ready.
(TS) The players today are so much faster. The salary cap really does not allow teams to carry guys who cannot play and it leads to less fighting. I do not think it’s something the NHL just says goodbye to but it’s just part of the game today. Back in the day you had 1-2 guys who could not really skate but were heavy weights and that was fine. Today you cannot waste the cap on those guys. Everyone must be able to contribute.
Also the NHL has created rules to protect its players. I loved the Scott Stevens of the world but you can’t throw those hits without sometimes a consequence. If one day we can prove that the blows to the head are the reason for head problems later than the NHL is just protecting itself and the players who play the game.
The cool thing now is seeing the big guys who can play the game. That kid on Tampa who played in New York for example! I love seeing that.
(TS) Yes. I think it is faster. These kids are stronger, bigger and faster. The ability has grown, the skill has evolved and the tempo has increased! Especially the teams that can roll 3-4 good lines, very fast game going on today.
Well in MTL I played with Koivu (Saku) and Savage. Really skilled guys and it was really fun. Yet in my final few years in Jersey I played with John Madden and Zac Pandolfo and we had great chemistry. We played strong defense and loved going up against the other team’s best players.
Turner it was a pleasant time to sit down and talk to you about hockey. Hope we can do it again!
- Mark Lisica