Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Ryan McDonagh on sweet spots: BP, travel and maybe, Sochi
“I hit the fence at 365, it bugs me that I couldn’t hit one out,” said Ryan McDonagh, full-time defenseman and former high school college slugger, talking ruefully today about BP at Target Field. “(Twins skipper) Ron Gardenhire is a big hockey fan and he’s had some of the Minnesota Wild guys out and a few of us went last week” to hit and shag flies. “I haven’t used a wooden bat in six years.”
During an interview today in a locker room at the Capitals practice complex in Arlington, Va., the site of Team USA’s orientation camp, his eyes lit up when I suggested that maybe he could take a few swings at Yankee Stadium, if the weather allowed. “Yeah, short porch. That would favor me as a lefty.”
It’ll be far too cold during the Winter Classic in late January, but maybe if the Yanks aren’t playing in October. Memo to exec Lonn Trost…
McDonagh, 24, who has had quite the summer, signing a six-year, $28.2 million contract, and marrying his girlfriend since high school (“didn’t have any hiccups, everything went off on time”), honeymooning in Hawaii before the series of shark attacks (“right after we left”), has played in NHL playoff games and international hockey tourneys, but the 2014 Olympics, now that’s special.
“This would top them all by a long shot,” he said on the first day of camp here, where the activity was limited to videos and coaches’ meetings---the cost of insuring players kept them off the ice. “You watch the 1980 team, the 1960 team, the way they won the gold medal it makes you want to do what they did, represent your country, it’s the highest honor, you don’t get to do that very often as a hockey player, so when you get that opportunity you want to make everybody proud…It’s going to be hard not to kinda think about it, but the way I’m going to approach it is, I’ll think about it, process where I’m at, but ultimately, my job is with the Rangers, helping to try them win, and that’ll be my focus.”
McDonagh has a legit shot to be among the eight defensemen expected to travel to Sochi, given his wheels and smarts. Team USA GM David Poile and coach Dan Bylsma repeatedly affirmed today that skating and speed will be critical on the larger international surface.
“There’s positives with big ice,” said McDonagh. “If you get beat out of the corner you might have a little extra time to get back out to the front of the net, it helps guys with speed and skating ability and it’s obviously fun hockey for fans to watch with the creativity and skill…And as a defenseman, you get the chance to take a couple steps more forward in your end in transition rather than sideways.”
But the first task is adjusting to a new coaching staff, led by Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault. “We chatted once on the phone, he said he’s watched a lot of our games,” McDonagh said, “and wants to get together before camp. It’s sounds like he’s really excited about a fresh start.”
With another long West Coast trip to start the season, “the good thing is I’ve done it two years ago, and we had a good run,” McDonagh said of the 2011-12 climb to the Eastern Conference Finals. “We came together fast.”