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Hey Stay Young and Invincible

Stay Young and Invincible…Come What May We’re Unstoppable

Cos’ We Know Just What We Are

Stay Young- Oasis The Master Plan 1998

Funny thing about St Louis Blues’ Right Wing Cam Janssen, him and I? We are just about reverse of each other. See he was born under the Arch, not that I’m jealous or anything. Then he found himself in New Jersey.. New Jersey..? Yeah. New Jersey. Playing for the Devils for two seasons. Whereas I just moved to the Arch from that side of the Gateway to the west (Brooklyn, NY to be exact and Eureka, Mo to be exact).. and don’t plan on moving back. Lucky thing for Janssen, he did get to come back…

Now now, don’t go come flying down the turnpike after anyone yet. Janssen’s love for home does not preclude how grateful he is for time spent in New Jersey- culturally and with the Devils as an organization. And just ask me. All affection for the tri-state area aside (I did go to Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ)… Nothing beats the Arch.. St. Louis, once it’s your home, it stays your home.

“Living in New jersey; it was a different world, an experience. The traffic, the people.. I loved it and I got used to it; but being from St. Louis where it is so laid back…” Janssen looked for a second seeming to pause in appreciation. ” I would lie if I didn’t admit to smiling in silent agreement and as he then continued, “Growing up here, knowing the people and the streets. Knowing where to go and what to do? Yeah. It’s nice being home.”

Let’s talk NHL culture, then. That’s quite the coup for a rookie? Landing in the lap of the New Jersey Devils organization, no? Simply put, this isn’t your father’s Mickey Mouse Organization. “I think it’s a great organization to come up through at an early age. Lou Lamoriello runs a tight ship. He does it his way and he’s successful ” Janssen played with multiple Stanley Cup Champions, and one of the best goalies to ever play the game in Martin Brodeur.

“You learn the ropes, learn the right way, do the right things. You learn how to play hockey the right way because it’s a winning organization and franchise.” But when the Arch knocked, what was a hometown boy to do?

“That was a rough time for me. I was injured and hadn’t played that much. I was anxious to get on the ice but I didn’t want to leave my friends there, as much as I wanted to come home, too.” In reflection, you can see some regret come across his face. A twinge of remorse.

“I remember how excited I was when I did an interview and I was talking and I was so excited to go home and then I thought about it. Wow. I had a great time there, I started in New Jersey, I learned a lot there and he gave me the chance and I’m excited to go home, not to leave there.”

Now you are back at my second home..heh. I know how I’m treated and feel. Even when the Kings are in town, I have a blast. Scottrade is a microcosm of St. Louis. It is a welcoming atmosphere that know their hockey, will give CardsNation a run for its money; and know how to have a good time.

Thanks to New York Ranger goalie turned announcer turned General Manager (Houdini, he is) John Davidson plus the likes of TJ Oshie, David Backes, and Erik Johnson; the Blues have become hotter on the ice then St Louis Cardinals Third-baseman David Freese, on the field.

<ahem> Speaking of Freese and it just seems like such an appropriate name for a hockey player, doesn’t it? <I’m gonna go Sophia Patrillo on everyone now>..

Picture it: St Louis, Missouri, July 2 2010. It was a picture perfect Friday afternoon, on a fourth of July weekend. Hometown hockey hero Cam Janssen is throwing out the first pitch and our troops from all over the world are watching the game and being honored at the game. It is a sold-out crowd, his friends from the team cheering him on… <cloud bursts>

“Everyone is going to boo me.” Janssen says, swinging his arm around. Meanwhile, if I wasn’t in public, I’d hit the ground for fear of being accidentally smacked in the face. Boo you?? Boo you?? They are not.

“This means a lot. I’ve been a Cardinals fan my whole life, too. It’s gonna be packed. And it’s gonna be a little intimidating, actually.” Say what? Intimidating? Cam Janssen.. intimidated by CardsNation.. get outtahere…

“I’m gonna go out there and throw a baseball, which I’ve never done. I’m gonna throw it as hard as  I can and whatever happens, happens… ” he stops short. Real  short and looks at his agent, Scott Norton, President of Norton Sports and grimaced and looked back at me… “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” I giggled and then said… don’t hit Molina, please don’t hurt Yadi.

“If they are smart,” Janssen responded, “they’ll put in their back-up catcher.” Trying to kill the visual violation of of Yadis head being smashed by a baseball now firmly planted in my mind, we went back to prettier pictures.. After all he is apart CardsNation.. <And I’m happy to report Molina is fine>

“This city really backs you up and really loves its hometown guys. To have actually made it and played in the city you are from is rare. I’m very fortunate for that.” Janssen is starting to pop like a kid at Christmas at this point. If I didn’t have a tape-recorder, my hand would have fallen off. “So things like this really mean a lot to me, and go a long way for me and my family. I have to thank my agent for that.”

How is that then? You have not just the hometown crowd but the family, friends. “When you feel that rush you get an extra step and it helps you take it to the next level.” Janssen said of the home crowds. Add to that the familiar faces? “When you look up and see your family, friends, it’s just a cool experience.”

So about hometown crowds… and rivalries. And that little city to the north… <deep breath>.

How about those Chicago Blackhawks? <ahem> Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks? Oh I mean… is it really so bad? Or is it just a fan thing? A city thing? An imaginary thing that I wasted damn good verbiage on… oh no says Janssen.. oh no. “That’s been going on for a long time. When I was a kid you never wanted to miss the Blackhawks game because there was always something going on there.”

Discussing the games this year, we agreed on the word bloodbath. Fantastic! Then, as the conversation progressed. Something odd happened. Janssen #threwthedagger… yeah. That dagger.. Chelsea Dagger Pay attention kids…

“Yeah.. for selfish reasons, I wanted them <Blackhawks> to win the Cup.” And within seconds.. milli-seconds, even.. the 6’0 210lb enforcer of the St Louis Blues is reduced to a red-faced 4 year-old who just smeared fudge batter on the wall.

“I wanted to play the Stanley Cup Champions 6 times a year,” he admitted. “That’s going to enhance that ten-fold. Its gonna be good.” And with that the shame was gone.. and I the look on Janssen’s face said nothing of a guilty 4-year old. Oh no. There was no guilt in that devil-may-care attitude .. heh. It was all.. let’s go. Right now. Unfortunately for us, it’s July.

Now that the Blues have JD,  and Davis Payne has gone from Interim to permanent coach; replacing Murray, part I from Los Angeles (Andy Murray, that is) one more piece has fallen into a cosmic collision featuring the tri-state area, LA and the Arch. As only the Hockey Gods could write it, Dave Taylor (who, I’m pretty sure has done everything for the Kings from wash their uniforms to wearing them to choosing who wears them) was named director of player personnel, on July 1st. I’d say that foundation is getting there.

“I remember playing in my first game against the Blues, with the Devils. There were maybe 9,000 people in the stands.” Hey look, it takes time. Solidification comes with time. Any good Kings’ fan can tell you that. “Now it’s sold-out almost every night. He <John Davidson> has a lot to do with that.”

With JD have come other integral pieces to the puzzle, like Payne. “He’s really a player’s coach and easy to talk to,” Janssen said of Payne. At 39 years old, Payne is the youngest coach in the league. “He can understand little things. Not just stuff on the ice, but off the ice. He’s been there and he’s gone through it. So yeah, he’s gonna do well here.”

Concur. The Blues had a rough going this year with injuries, a mid-season coaching change and the lingering effects of Sarah Palin. Now those things are bygones. So, yay! But wait. There is another bygone … Keith Tkachuk. He was a big part of changing those crowds and bringing up a team almost all under 30. Now what?

“I’m ready to take that next step up in my game. It is time to take it up to the next level. I want to pop in a few goals. I’ve conquered the art of fighting and intimidation.” Sure you have, as long as you aren’t in a baseball stadium, in front of 40,000 home fans. You didn’t kill Yadi…

“Now it’s time to throw in a little more offense and play making so I can get more ice time. I do bring leadership, I always keep the guys excited.” And the Blues will need that without Tkachuk there this year. “He was a great leader. We’ll definitely need that guy who’s going to talk and keep everyone up and keep everyone motivated.”

Janssen, believe it or not from this hour long dissertation of sports life in St. Louis, does live and breathe outside the parameters of sports. As much as he loves the city he’s grown up in and feels grateful enough to be back in, he’s looking for more ways to pay it forward, as well.

“I do a lot of charity work but I really want to start something of my own. Maybe something in Eureka, something having to do with Veterans. What they do is beyond anything I can imagine.” Immediately Janssen dropped the rest of the conversation for a nightly Blues ritual.

“Every night we salute the Marines, Army, anyone has been there; we always stop and give them an ovation, anytime they are there. We always love..” he trailed off and restarted. “All the guys on the team always love doing it.”  Must be a common thread that Scott Norton looks for because, another client of his that I interviewed, Captain of the Kings, Dustin Brown also expressed a great deal of respect for the troops and their leadership.

Riddle me this, Batman:  A hometown boy who likes to fight, wants to step up, and show what he’s got in a city that for all its mid-west laid-Backnes. HA.. I made a grammar joke on purpose you fools; likes its hockey tough. Remember Scott Stevens once played here. And with Chicago just a straight shot up Route 55N (more on the Hawks in a minute).. they like their hockey tough. And he brings it. In spades. Well whaddaya got? EUREKA! A perfect fit.

“Wouldn’t you want somebody to back you up when you are skating? Now you take the instigator rule out and you have fighting all over the place and that’s fiiiiine,” then with shaking head, “but really it’s not. You don’t want that either. That’s where it has to be the ref’s decision.” BUT WHAT?? SAY WHAT? You played in New Jersey.. Home of one of my favorite chants… I’m blind, I’m deaf.. I wanna be a ref… A rope, a tree.. to hang the referee!

“If something happens and you come over and you are gonna give the guy a chance and you say, ‘You’re looking at me? Ok we’re going…. ” And he insists that these stripe-shirt wearing ref people are capable of making these decisions! Well, I never!

“Look, if somebody just hits someone and I just went and started pounding him, then yeah I should get a penalty for it.” And as his body language changed,  and the conversation progressed, it was clear that as a player, there was a balance that needed to be struck in thoughts and actions.

Whatever you might think of Janssen; whether based on the style of his play, one play you might have seen, story you might have read or an overall your reputation precedes you kind of theory, it is probably not a complete picture.

*So at this point two words flash across my hockey fool brain. Sean Avery. I looked down looked up.. silence that seemed longer then the time it takes for Toronto to decide on the validity of a goal. But I went there… So what do you do with someone that tics you off the whole game and then turtles on you (yeah I said “turtles” and have it on tape).

“See that’s where I’m coming from.” It is? Because seriously.. I asked the question and waited for the blackout. “He’ll go out, he’ll hit and he’ll cross-check somebody. And then he’ll egg you on; and once he does that it should be full-on, we’re fighting. And even if you don’t drop your gloves, if you egg me on enough; well that’s where the ref should have that decision to say, ‘No. That’s fine. That’s fair.'”

Makes sense to me. Now about those refs…  “Should be the referees decision, if they feel you gave the other guy a fair chance and definitely if he’s been egging you on the whole game… should not be an instigator penalty.”

So when the time comes and its all on the line.. whether it is Sean Avery playing One-Mississippi  in front of Brodeur and then cracking on the state of your girlfriend’s underwear on face-offs or it’s a constant state of face-washing gone a little too far at the end of a game; when do you put it on the line and go. Or not?

“You gotta look at where the game is at. Is it the third period? Is it a tie game? Are you down by one? Is this a rough game? Has this guy been doing this the whole game? You have to take that all into perspective.”

Now see and this is where the additional insight lies again. We all talk about what constitutes bad and good penalties and we all scream and yell at the TV and twitter until it kicks us off, but again, Janssen has been there more than most.

Because, admittedly, there are times, no matter the context.. a job has to be done. “If it is a hit from behind and it is pretty brutal? I’m grabbin’  the guy and we’re going and if you get a penalty, the boys are gonna kill that one off.”

Clean hit? Same situation..? No way. No how. “Late in the game, time game, good game. Then you might want to go over there and give the guy a chance <to scrum, talk..> but if he doesn’t do it, you’ve gotta just suck it up and skate away.” For a dance that usually seems to not have any rhyme or reason to it, there are in fact, quite a few logical steps.

At this our conversation, an hour-long almost, started to come to a close and he started warming up his shoulder, again. Does he have to do that with me across table with glasses on them? However, we discussed a mention of a full tribute to the Blues by the St Louis Cardinals, closer to the season. The Cardinals had this for the Rams and all their draft picks. According to Cardinals Community Relations Rep Mark Taylor, it had been a great success. I swear at the mention Janssen’s eyes got as big as saucers and he went all giddy. I guess, again, like me, wearing the Canada Kicks Ass t-shirt under the Cardinals Jersey says it all. Is there a better mix of Hockey and Baseball? Hey there is that one special time of year when you have Hockey, Baseball and Football rolling all at the same time. Now my eyes are getting as big as the fireworks I hear.

Is it October yet?

  1. July 3, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    ::applauds:: fantastic write up. good to know Cam doesn’t have any ill will inside of him for any organization. Seemed like an awesome, fun experience. Color me jealous.

  2. kittypets
    July 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Hey Anthony! Thank you! It was a great experience. I definitely didn’t get that sense at all. At this point, I think he’s just ready to become a more well-rounded part of the Blues. It would be fantastic with them coming around the bend now, to have him do that.

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