For Episode 13 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we return to Ontario for a visit with a player who was not on the roster until last April. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who is getting ready to drive south for the Dallas Stars training camp. Below are just some of the highlights of our conversation with the Stars blue-liner, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
We are now just a couple weeks away from the start of NHL training camp in Dallas. Does it seem as though the summer is quickly evaporating?
It definitely does. At the start of the summer, you look at the couple of months that you have and you think you have all the time in the world. But as it comes down to crunch time here, you really start to realize how little time you actually had at home. Now it’s at the point where you’re sick of the gym and you want to start playing games.
You were a restricted free agent this summer and had your first contract negotiation as a pro, since signing your entry level deal with Colorado. Were you pleased with the way things went?
Initially I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with it, because as you said, it was the first time I was going through it. And with the GM in Mr. Nill, who I’m kind of unfamiliar with, I didn’t really know how it was going to go as I had only had one conversation with him. So I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go or what to even expect in terms of figures. So it was definitely a learning experience. There wasn’t much in terms of negotiating going on, we kind of knew with the season I had last year where I’d be at. So I think both sides were able to walk away thinking that they got what they wanted.
Was it difficult for you to get settled with the Stars last season, particularly because you had such a small window from the day you were traded to the beginning of the playoffs?
Well it was tough. Obviously getting traded, having to come into this team, I was very excited because it meant right away playoffs. But like you said, they had a strong team there and the last thing I wanted to do was ruffle any feathers by coming in and taking a spot away from a guy or upset the team chemistry. So I kind of just kept my head down and worked hard for the first little bit, tried to be seen and not heard around the room. I think once I was kind of able to let my personality show through a bit I think I was able to fit in well with the guys. It also really helps having a guy like Luke Gazdic around, who I knew previously. He helped me out exponentially by not only the first day coming and picking me up and introducing me to a bunch of our teammates at a dinner, but also lending me his car before I was able to rent one and kind of showing me a few things here and there, introducing me to people; that really helped! I think guys on the team seeing that, someone they know who they’re friends with, sees me as a friend, I think it makes it easier for them to kind of open themselves up in a way to me. So I think that really helped.
I keep hearing from each player we interview this summer, many times unprompted, about how much of an influence Luke Gazdic has on this team. In your opinion, why is he such an important part of the team and why can he help turn it into a championship caliber team?
I think off the ice what Luke brings to the team is just someone who is able to bring everyone together. He’s someone who talks to everyone in the room, makes everyone feel welcome. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, so you know if something is not going well he’ll say it or if something’s going well, he’s more than happy to compliment someone on the team and show positive light. I think Luke does a great job of making sure, like I said before, everyone feels included, which is a big part of a hockey team. Hockey teams that I’ve been around or I’ve heard about, sometimes turn into kind of cliques where there are a couple groups of guys who hang out and a couple groups of guys who don’t. So I think what Luke’s able to do is kind of bring everyone together and that’s very big for a hockey team and the chemistry.
Was it helpful to you to have Kevin Connauton going through the same situation you were at the same time, being traded to the Stars and then playing together as defensive partners?
Yeah I think so. Kevin actually roomed with a couple of my close friends when he was in Chicago and when he was in Manitoba before that. So I kind of knew him through other people and then also my brother being a part of the Vancouver organization, again I heard a couple things through there. So I kind of knew a bit about him as a person and then meeting him, we kind of lived together at the hotel and then played together on the team. I think by going with someone new and a new d-partner there’s no preconceived notions and we were both kind of learning as it went on. So whatever he learned, I also learned at the same time. There wasn’t going to be the case on the ice where he would make a play and then I wouldn’t know what he was doing and then we’d come to the bench and he’d say “hey, well, how come you didn’t understand that?” There was none of that, because we were learning all the same things together. So I think that really helped and I felt our games complimented each other well. He’s a very offensive, very skilled player and I tend to shade a bit more towards the defensive side of the puck. So I think we were able to complement each other very well in that sense.
Your younger brother Brendan was drafted higher than you were. You were taken in the second round in 2008, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. Was that an incredibly exciting moment for you and your family?
Oh yeah it was great! I feel like I still to this day, I feel more excitement and more joy when he’s able to achieve something than when I do. Case in point at the draft we were all very excited for him. Of course we had heard different things about when he was going to be drafted. There was a possibility that Dallas was going take him at, I think they were at 13 there, when they ended up taking [Radek] Faksa. But there was a possibility it might be to him. Buffalo and a couple other teams were debating it, but we hadn’t heard anything about Vancouver. So when Boston had made their pick at, I think it was 24, we were kind of getting nervous that maybe he wasn’t going to be picked in the first round. So when he was picked by Vancouver, there was, I think, as much excitement as there was relief in that he got drafted [laughs] and that everyone didn’t bring a second day’s worth of nice clothes to go to the second day of the draft. [Laughs again] So I think that was big relief for everyone as well.
You two are far enough apart in age that you wouldn’t play on the same hockey teams growing up. Did you have much hockey competition in the backyard with your brother?
We shared mainly road hockey, we didn’t play much on the ice together. Only a couple years ago was really the first time we really started practicing together, just because of the age difference. But we participated in every sport possible against each other, really, and due to our competitive nature everything turned into a very heated competition.
You made you NHL debut with Colorado on February 12, 2011 at Nashville and then scored your first NHL goal four days later against Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh. Which was more exciting?
I think the first game. The goal, to tell you the truth, I didn’t even know I had scored at the time; I thought it was tipped in. So it was I think that much excitement. But I think the first game, it didn’t kick in until the middle of the first period what was actually going on. And also the cool thing was my first game was Peter Forsberg’s last game. He made a two-game return and we played a back-to-back in Columbus and Nashville. So his last game was my first, which was pretty cool, meeting him and meeting a couple of the other guys who I had met in training camp, but had never played with. It was also Mike Fisher’s first game in Nashville, so at almost every whistle, they would show Carrie Underwood on the big screen and the place would be cheering from whistle to whistle.
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