Andrew Peters' Swedish odyssey
Here's the link to my story from today. Depending on how busy things get, I should be able to get the transcript up here in the next few hours.
Sure, he's not a big name in the league, but Peters' story is an interesting one. A 6-foot-4, 250 pound enforcer playing in a non-fighting Swedish league?
"I just didn't want to fight," he told me last week. Stay tuned.
UPDATE Here is the transcript in all of its glory. Well, with snippets that were in the article taken out, but aside from that, most of the glory is still there. This is going to be very long, but as I don't have time to edit through it right now, I'm just going to post the raw copy and edit it later on.
Andrew was a really great guy to interview, and he was pretty excited about doing the story (he said his parents subscribe to the Post). These are the pieces of the interview that I didn't use in my story, but I hope what follows still proves interesting. I reached him at his house in Boden, Sweden, one evening last week.
I just got off the phone with your coach, and he said you were a little big when you first got there...
"He said what?"
Well, he sort of said you were a little overweight.
"When I first came here I was heavier than I am now I wasn't overweight. For playing in the NHL I was the right size. I wasnt overweight... dont print that."
He said you were too big for Swedish hockey... think thats true?
"Theres a lot more skating because its a bigger ice surface, so you gotta be quicker. I hired a personal trainer over the summer to work on speed."
Well, when did you know you going to Europe?
"I knew in the middle of the summer that I was going but I didn't say anything, I just kept it quiet. In case something happened with the lockout, I just didn't want anyone to know that I had plans to go anywhere."
But why Bodens and not go back to the AHL?
"I guess I could have gone to the AHL, but I signed a one-way deal, like I was officially locked out. I could have done what a few guys have done and signed an AHL deal.
"I just thought I would have got challenged every night by younger guys and its an experience to go over and see Europe and, you know, Ive never been to Sweden."
What's the experience been like, going to a foreign country and all that? Was not knowing anyone over there hard?
"The people here speak very good English, it's not like I'm in Russia where I'm the only North American in Russia and no one speaks English. I don't find it's that difficult to get along here."
I was reading the other day a piece on Georges Laraque, and he said that no one really likes to fight in the NHL. Is that your feeling on what you do?
"The famous saying is do whatever you got to get there, and if that's what gets you there, that's what you gotta do. But I don't know that anyone in the world enjoys getting punched in the face.
"I never really started fighting until I got to junior. We didn't have a tough guy on my team in Oshawa and I was a big, young kid and so I took the role on. And you know what, I'm pretty happy that I did, because if I didn't I don't know that I'd be where I am today."
What did the Sabres think about you going to Sweden? Would they rather you go to Rochester?
"They thought it was an opportunity for me to maybe put the fighting aside and work on the hockey part of it. There's a lot more to the game than fighting, you have to be able to skate and shoot and pass. And with coming here it's really going to help, not that I couldn't do it before, but a little fine tuning, working on skating on the big rink. I'm in great shape right now. I think it's been a great experience. I don't think I'd be playing more in the American Hockey League than here actually. I'm happy I'm here. I'm happy I made the decision to come back after I healed my injury."
What kind of a role are you playing with Bodens? Your coach said he liked to stick you in front of the net [on the powerplay] like a Tomas Holmstrom.
"Well, I'm 6-4, 240, so I don't think they want me on the half-wall handling the puck. Their plan is just to play me in front of the net and make it tough to move me in front of the net, give their defense a hard time."
Are there other big guys over there that give you a hard time?
"I'm definitely the biggest guy in our league... but there's definitely some big boys in this league."
Why all of the penalties with Bodens?
"Well, you know what, [Richard] Jackman, hes over here and he was getting a lot of penalties too. I dont know if its the North American style of game or what it is... they're not used to us the way we play and I'm not used to the way they play. So its kinda like both sides stepping on each others toes... I was doing things they didn't like and they were calling things that I didn't agree with so it was a lose-lose situation."
Whats the quality of hockey like in your league?
"Since the lockout has began and all the NHL guys joined the elite league, its created a trickle down effect in talent. The talent level in our league is very, very good. The talent is very good. There are some guys here that can play in the NHL."
Are you worried at all that by not going to Rochester this year that someone else can take your enforcers spot there?
"You know I fought for three years in the AHL and fought all last year in the NHL, and Ive definitely proved that I can do that, so by coming here and being a better player when I come back it's going to help me more than it's going to hurt me.
"When you fight for so long its kinda hard to lose your role. When you do it for so long you just become accustomed to it. You know maybe I'll become a better player."
What do the fans in Sweden think of you?
"It's different, a big physical player coming to Sweden is kinda like a Sergei Fedorov coming to North America. You know, when Fedorov first came... no, this is a bad example. Comparing me to Fedorov is not the way I'm trying to go here so don't misunderstand me by saying that. But it's kinda like a shock to the system.
"To see a guy going around and hitting and getting involved physically in the corners, you know they don't really see that too often, and it's always been an exciting part of the game, I've always thought. Similar to a guy coming to North America and stickhandling through 12 guys, you know what I mean?
"I think the fans have taken a liking to me."
And how about the Swedish media? Did they get on your case about the penalties?
"They were all over me when I first got here, as far as the penalties and everything, but since I came back theyve really laid off and I've just kinda played the game I came here to play.
They were very critical of the penalties. I never cost my team the game with the penalties... it was kinda like... it's really hard to explain what they thought because I can't read the paper here. I just get it translated for me, so when you have it translated I'm not sure that everyone who's translating it uses the proper words. You know, sometimes it was positive when you'd only get a two minute minor, but then you go out and get 36 minutes and they are really negative towards you."
OK, yea, so whats with all the penalties?
"I've definitely improved on that since I've been back (Peters returned to Canada for a month in December due to an abdominal injury). It's tough here to do that every game in and game out you're skating so much more, you're skating so much further to finish checks. It really wears you down... [I've been] just toning it down a little bit, and I dont say anything to the referees anymore, I gave up on that. It's brutal... you know how back home you can say something to the ref and they'll just tell you to shutup? Here, they'll just throw you out of the game... they don't put up with anything.
"My first game here I got a penalty for boarding — which was just a clean hit — and then I got one cause a guy ducked, and I hit his head into the boards. Like, I don't intentionally hurt anyone, and I got 23 minutes for headchecking and a 10 minute personal penalty, so I just turned to the ref and told him to take a hike — [to put it] in nicer terms — and he just gave me a game misconduct. So, 37 minutes in penalties that night."
So, things have been different the second time around?
"I approached things totally differently. The first time I came I didn't know what to expect hockey wise, I found adjusting to the style of game was tough... and I didnt know how long I was going to be here because of the lockout. But this time I'm just going [with the mindset] that I'll be here the rest of the year."
OK, so I guess since you brought it up, I'll ask you a lockout question. What's your take on whats happened?
"You've got to give our guys credit with the offers weve made. [Linden] goes out of his way to bring the NHL, you know, out of the shadows to put them on the spot and try to get the deal done. You really have to give [the PA] credit for how they've handled everything.
"I'm starting to prepare for next January [for the season's start]. If nothing's settled now you know I'm going to try to come back next year. I just can't see anything get settled in the summer. If they cancel the season, it's going to go until at least next January.
"My heart is in Buffalo, I really want to be back in the NHL. I mean, there's nothing wrong with a career here or a career in the minor leagues, but you work so hard to make it and then you get shutout. There's no place in the world I'd rather be right now than Buffalo. This is a process, and its one where we're sticking to our guns. We all believe that what were doing is right."
So you wouldn't be a replacement player?
"I don't want to be a replacement player. I don't want to be in a replacement NHL. When I play I want to play against—I want to be good enough to play against Sundin and Forsberg and Sakic, you know. Are people going to want to watch #21 for the Avalanche Joe Smith? Maybe they'll be interested for a week or so. But are people going to really want to watch Joe Smith lead the NHL? No, I don't want to play in a replacement NHL, I want to play in the NHL."
So that's a pretty resounding no, even though you're a low guy on the payscale?
"I've never even considered it. Ive never even thought about it — seriously. I can only think about how I'd be a target if I did cross the line. Not only that but our player rep Jay McKee really broke it down to me what a cap does. And it's not fair. I dont think it's fair that we as the product should be capped."
JM — For the rest of the interview and the full story, see the Tuesday, Feb. 8, edition of the National Post.
Look for the Dan Blackburn story and interview in a day or two. And I'll have at least one more before I finish my tenure at the Post in the next week or so.