Saturday, June 10, 2006

Duhatschek names his "MVT"

It's a fact of life when you're interviewing professional athletes: Some guys are simply better to talk to than others. And those who are known for interesting quotes and good conversations quickly become media darlings.

Back in July of last year, when some 200-plus NHLers all gathered in Toronto for an NHLPA meeting to vote on the new CBA, I was there lurking around and talking to a few players. From what I saw, you could definitely get a sense of who the savvy beat reporters would seek out as guys they could mine a good quote from — and it wasn't always the obvious candidates.

Veteran Toronto Star reporter Ken Campbell, for instance, went straight for one player — a short, stocky fellow with long, dark hair that I recognized but couldn't place — and was obviously pleased with whatever was said to him. (The quote ended up leading his story the next day.)

That player, as it turns out, was the Calgary Flames Andrew Ference — a guy who had gained a reputation during the 2004 playoffs for riding Harleys and speaking his mind.

This year's 'most valuable talker' (as The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek dubs him)? The Carolina Hurricanes Aaron Ward.
Two years later, the part of Andrew Ference is being played by Carolina Hurricanes' defenceman Aaron Ward, part of the team's no-name defence corps that has done a good job of bottling up the Edmonton Oilers' attack.

Ward is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings of 1997 and 1998, and so has been around long enough to understand how these things work. If he wanted to, Ward could fall back on tried-and-true cliché-ridden answers spilling out of the mouths of his teammates, but no. He was there again, the other day, giving thoughtful responses to any number of questions that came his way.
What all that means is that Ward's face will be a whole lot more recognizable than it was at this time last year.

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