With the Anaheim Ducks getting ready to face the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night, being near the epicenter of east coast American media allowed defenseman Cam Fowler to appear on NHL Network's 'NHL Live' show earlier this afternoon. Here's a transcript of the Ducks defender's visit before a national television audience:
Luftman: Obviously it's been a tough season for the Ducks to this point, three straight division titles and now the team finds itself in last place. What's it been like for you?
Fowler: It certainly has been a challenging season so far. Obviously a lot of expectations for our team, so to go through this right now has been very difficult. You look at it, we're still in a decent position in our division, but we have to get this thing turned around quickly and that's our focus right now.
Hradek: I'll ask you the question you probably have no answer for- why not more goals? You guys have a terrific lineup, great defense like yourself back there to move the puck up, Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, on and on, but you're not scoring. Any idea why?
Fowler: That's a great question. It's one of those things that, if we had the answer, would probably be fixed by now. The main thing is we're trying to simplify things as much as we can. We consider ourself a pretty gritty team, and we're not going to score the pretty tic-tac-toe goals, so we have to get more pucks to the net, cliches, bodies in front, that's the only way that we're going to score more goals.
Luftman: There's been an adjustment obviously in personnel. How does this year's team chemistry match up with the previous years?
Fowler: For me it's one of the best locker rooms I've been a part of, we have a great mix of older veteran guys with some young players who have experience in the league so the camaraderie is there, it's just we're trying to put it together on the ice now. But we certainly lost some good players, Palmieri, Beleskey, those guys from last season, but added some great players as well so, feel like the pieces are all in place and we're just trying to find a combination to put them all together now.
Hradek: Going to the bigger picture for you, you get drafted into the National Hockey League, you grow up in Michigan, you get to go to southern California, pretty nice setup. (Fowler: Yep) You've been there for several years now, how has that whole experience been for you now that you've had some time to live there and be part of that community for a while?
Fowler: It's been incredible, especially I've noticed a huge growth in the support of our team since I've been there and with the Kings having some success the last previous years, you just feel like there's a buzz in southern California about hockey. It's a great place to live, you walk outside your door it's 70 degrees and sunny, and you get to head to the rink and play hockey, so there's not many better setups in the league and I'm very thankful to be where I am. I'm enjoying every minute of it.
Luftman: I've enjoyed every minute of watching you as a USA Hockey player. I see you and I think 'Cam America', gold in the World Juniors, played on the 2014 Olympic team. What's it been like to represent this country in those kinds of competitions?
Fowler: It's been incredible, and just another reason I'm so thankful to be in that position. To get to represent your country is an incredible thing and I've had the opportunity to do it in multiple tournaments, and obviously no bigger than the Olympics. Just the experience I take with me now, with what I've learned in the Olympics, has really helped me grow as a player, especially my mentality and my confidence. So very lucky to have been able to do that and obviously would love to represent the USA in the future if I do get that opportunity.
Hradek: You may get it again, the World Cup of Hockey is coming up just down the road so that could be a chance for you. The World Junior Championships are right around the corner, we're going to have those right here on the NHL Network, Team USA games and other selected games as well. You were part of a gold medal winning junior team, only the second gold medal winner for Team USA, there's three of them now you were the middle one there. What do you remember about that, what was that experience because that was a wild finish, I believe it was John Carlson who ended up winning that game in overtime for you?
Fowler: Yeah, that was an incredible tournament and we were just talking about it earlier. You look at the roster of not only our team but team Canada and just the talent that was on the ice at one time. Both games that we had in that tournament will go down I think as some of the best hockey games ever at the World Juniors and obviously Carlson's golden goal and the reaction after that. We were speaking earlier too about the environment and, as a young kid playing in front of people like that with all that passion and the noise in the building, it's something that I still think about from time to time. I'll be cheering our boys on in this tournament and hopefully we'll have that same success.
Luftman: What do you do with the gold medal?
Fowler: Everything's at home, my parent's house. They've got the jersey framed and have the gold medal in my room, so it's all in a safe spot and I get a chance to look at it when I go home and visit my folks.
Hradek: You were a kid that probably could've gone a lot of different ways in terms of playing college hockey, junior hockey. You decided to play junior in Windsor, you were on a terrific team there. (Fowler: Yep) What was that decision like for you, because I always feel like for every player it's a little different. Different needs, different things you're looking for. What went in to that decision for you?
Fowler: That was a personal, incredibly hard decision for me. I was committed to Notre Dame, but the main thing for me was I had realized at that point that my goal was to someday play in the NHL, and I didn't want to do anything else. With a year to play still before I got drafted, my main focus wanted to be on hockey. I'm sure if I went to Notre Dame too maybe things would've worked out, but I had the opportunity to go to a great team in Windsor who had won a Memorial Cup the year before with a great coaching staff, and I just felt like that was the best opportunity for me to prepare to play in the NHL. It turned out to work out, so I'm very thankful for that experience in Windsor, and those coaches were a big part of me getting to where I am now.
Luftman: Early in your NHL career you lived with Scott Niedermayer and his family, and it broke my heart because you used to eat junk food and he tried to wean you off of that. (Big smile on Fowler's face) What's the status on that now?
Fowler: Well it worked, he did a good job of that. Looking back on it I certainly had some bad habits that I'm glad that he was able to get rid of. Y'know just have a sweet tooth every now and then, which is fine. But in all seriousness, Scotty was able to prepare me to mature and grow up as an NHL player, so to be able to live with his family and not have to worry about where my meals were coming from, I was just able to focus on hockey. That was awesome for them to do that for me, to open their home. I haven't seen Scotty recently, but we're still in touch every now and then, and any knowledge I can get from him I try and use to the best of my advantage.
*Hradek puts a bow on the hockey discussion, mentioning Fowler's baseball fandom and that the NHL Network studios now share facilities with MLB Network*
Hradek: So you got to come and check out some of the studios and we had John Smoltz (Fowler: Yes sir) throwing some whiffle balls to you over in the other studio here. What was that like, because Smoltz looks like he was still bringing it out there?
Fowler: Yeah (laughing) He certainly was. I was a little embarrassed at the start (video of Smoltz throwing to Fowler is shown), he was throwing some junk to me, so my first few swings weren't too pretty to be honest, but I was able to get one off him that went off the wall, so I'm happy with that... I'm a huge baseball fan like you said, big, big Detroit Tigers fan. Was obviously able to watch him pitch growing up, so what a cool experience for me to be able to do that, it was pretty cool.
Hradek: Bounce back year for the Tigers next year?
Fowler: I sure hope so, that's what we're looking for.
Luftman: Two Michiganders, Smoltz and Cam. (Hradek: There you go, producing a lot of good players there in all sports.) Absolutely, we appreciate you coming in, good luck the rest of the way.
Fowler: Thanks for having me guys, I appreciate it.
Fowler continues to show his maturity as a media presence off the ice, fitting the 'humble, appreciative, team-first' hockey player standard to a T. Nothing earth-shattering to come from the interview, but interesting to see how and who was specifically mentioned in the question about the change to team makeup. Also neat to hear in particular some of the thought process behind his early career decision to play Canadian Major Junior as opposed to NCAA hockey.