Hub, Meet Marc Savard...
Savvy's gonna make ya wanna, jump, jump! (Getty Images)
UPDATED 12.17: Story time with Marc Savard:
Savvy Stories: Savvy talks about skating on the frozen Rideau Canal
Savvy Stories: Savvy gets a hint from his coach during his rookie year
Savvy Stories: Savvy tells about his final road trip with The Great One
Savvy Stories: Savvy spills the beans about a Thrilling road trip trick
Everyone knows Boston Bruins center Marc Savard -- even if you have never "met" the guy. He's …
- the boy on the elementary school playground that everyone wanted on their team and hated to play against when he wasn't.
- the fastest guy in the high school gym, who could play all of the games better than anyone, yet laugh about it when he fell on his can. Which, of course, made all the girls love him even more and all the guys secretly want to kill him.
- the guy in your homeroom class who could joke with the teacher without getting in trouble -- most of the time.
- the guy on your little league team that you wanted in the batter's box for last ups -- and if someone else struck out in that situation, Marc is the guy who met him at the dugout steps to console him.
- the guy who would need to be threatened by his mom (the only person who could intimidate him) to come in from a street hockey/Whiffle Ball/touch football game for dinner. He then, in one motion, bolted his dinner, hit the street and then, using only the dim glow of the broken streetlight, channeled Marcel Dionne and scored on you -- again, and again, and again...
- And he's the guy who used to practice his signature all over his phonics notebook in English class, and doesn't fail to use that same signature now that he's often asked for it, simply because he remembers when.
Just by watching Savard you can see he loves the game of hockey. He takes great pleasure putting on his uniform and is usually the first man in the locker room on game days.
And by the way, he truly enjoys being a member of the Bruins.
Recently, I confirmed all of that when I took Marc to a favorite dinner spot where, over plates of pasta, we talked about the game, his life, and his place in the Hub of Hockey. And although I thought I knew the man pretty well, as usual, Savard had a few surprises up his sleeve.
Still just 30-years old, Savvy is a true showman -- an artist, if you will.
He was made, not just to play hockey, but also to invent hockey. Those spin moves and sweet passes and picked corners are pure unabashed talent. His canvas is ice and twine. His tools are stick and puck.
Savard, who was born in Ottawa, absolutely lives for the day when he and his teammates take the Duckboat ride around the city to show off Lord Stanley to the Hub of Hockey. He lives for the day that he takes the microphone from the mayor and does the dance with the Dropkick Murphys on the jumbotron in City Hall Plaza.
Savvy wants to sign your t-shirt. He wants to kiss your baby. And after he retires, he wants to come back to Boston and tell fun stories again, and again, and again. Savard very much wants the chance to prove to you (and to himself, it seems), that he belongs in the team's long pantheon of great players.
But unfortunately, Savard has not had a chance to prove his mettle when it counts most -- the playoffs.
MS: "When I was growing up, my parents put me into hockey to keep me out of trouble.
"It was just something that would keep me from hanging out at convenience stores and stuff like that. So I think that is how it all started and it grew from there.
"Obviously, I idolized Wayne Gretzky growing up. I watched him play all the time and my parents got me videos about him and getting a chance to play with him was amazing.
"Nowadays (hockey means) being around the guys everyday. When you think about it, that's what you're going to miss when it's done, so right now you have to enjoy it.
"Right now, that is the reason I love hockey, being around the guys."
|Jump! Boston Bruins Marc Savard (91) leaps to avoid a shot on Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price which was blocked by defenseman Ryan O'Byrne (3). (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)|
"No, not really -- I never thought of it like that.
"I am a guy that likes to distribute the puck and I'd rather set up a teammate than score myself…but I don't think I look at it like being an artist, no."
How hard was it to learn to play in the NHL?
"I think that once I hit junior hockey, I thought I could play in the NHL (JB note: Marc was only the third player in OHL history to win two scoring titles and had a 132-281-413 line in 239 games)…I knew that's what I wanted to do.
"And I think that when I got to the NHL (as the New York Rangers third pick, 91st overall in 1995), a lot of guys noticed a big difference, and I didn't feel like there was a huge difference.
"After I played my first few games in the NHL, there was a coaching change and I went down to the American League and I found that a lot easier.
"That's when I thought that I could really stick in the NHL."
Did you get any good advice during that time?
"What (Ranger legend) Adam Graves always told me was that a lot of guys change their game when they get to the League…and he said you always have to use what you came with; what got you here.
"I see it in someone like Matt Hunwick, and I told him the other day -- don't be hesitant to jump into the play if that is what you do well in the minor leagues, because that is what is going to get you here, permanently, what you do well down there.
Talk about playing for that powerful Rangers team.
"When I got to the league, the Rangers had just won a Stanley Cup…it was quite a way to walk into the league. I remember (Madison Square Garden) being such a big place (especially) being a young kid, just 19-years old, and just walking in to the building, it was scary.
"New York is the biggest downtown in the whole world, pretty much, and it was a real eye opener, (but) it was (also) a great place to play. The fans just bled the red, white and blue. They just loved it and it was special.
|The Great One. (Getty)|
"Just to start there, and be around the people that I was around --with Gretz being my idol -- and to get to play with him. I remember him telling me to act normal around him, because you tend to act scared and quiet when you get around him because he has that much of an influence around hockey…to watch (Gretzky) everyday and see how he handled himself was a special thing and something I'll never forget."
Do you realize that some people may act shy in front of you?
"I don't know about that. (Chuckles) I am different though. I am an easygoing guy and try to make everyone feel welcome. Not that Gretz didn't -- he did -- but I am always joking with every single guy whether he is the first guy called up or the oldest guy on the team.
"I have a lot of fun, so I hope guys don't feel that way around me."
After being traded from New York to Calgary and then to Atlanta, what did the Thrashers experience teach you?
"When I came into Altanta (JB note: Marc was recently named as the 5th best player in Atlanta team history by The Hockey News), Bob Hartley had just taken over and he became one of the best coaches I have ever had.
"From the first day I came in, he knew what I could do, because I had played against him when he was with Colorado and I was with Calgary.
"Hartley knew the player that I could be and he basically told me, 'Listen, you've bounced around a couple of times and this is your chance, and I am going to give you every chance to play.'
"He really gave me a chance to play hockey and I owe a lot to him.
"When I was in Calgary, I was satisfied (with my production), but deep down I knew there was more to give and he knew that, too.
"He taught me a lot…and he was one of the reasons that my career (took off)."
|Savard makes Hamrlik jump. (AP Photo)|
Do you take pride in being a pain to play against?
"It's just part of my game. And for me to be in a hockey game, I feel like I have to be adding those little things to be on my game. It gets me into the game.
"For instance, if I am playing the Islanders and Brendan Witt's out there and I give him a little poke and he's hitting me in the corner every shift, I am in the game…it's a little thing that helps me play better.
"That's the way I have to do it, and that is probably different from the Lemeuixs and Sakics, who seem to quietly go about their business…it's just part of what makes me, me, I guess."
"I really enjoy coming to the rink everyday. We are a lucky bunch and I think a lot of the guys realize that. What with the money we make these days and being able to hang around with your buddies all the time, we are a lucky few.
"Believe it or not, I am an intense guy. When it is time to play, I am intense. But I try to keep it loose in the dressing room because I think it helps to the guys…before the games I try to keep the atmosphere loose…but as soon as that puck drops, I do get vocal and can be in your face."
"Ever since you were a kid playing street hockey…winning Cups in a best of seven.
"It's something that you always dream about and one day hope comes true…and you want to keep working until it does.
"This year, we have a good situation. We have some great goaltending, some good defensemen and a bunch of hardworking forwards, too, that are improving every night.
"Right now, we are in every hockey game…so I am excited to see what happens throughout the rest of the season."
|Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard makes the Boston faithful jump for joy! AP Photo/Charles Krupa)|
Where do personal accomplishments come into the picture?
"I never set the All-Star game as a goal -- the playoffs are though.
"But I think going to the All-Star game, should that happen, would be huge. I've worked hard the last couple of years…and it's something that would be nice -- especially with it being in Atlanta this year.
"And for my kids (Zachary, Tyler and Isabella), who knows if they'll ever be able to experience that personally, so it's something that it would be nice to have them participate in, too. Let them hang around with me, see everything and have some fun.
"But, obviously, making the playoffs is my number one goal. More than anything, more than the All-Star game, it's to make those playoffs (JB note: Savard has not played an NHL playoff game) and have the crowd in Boston just roaring.
"It would be an unbelievable feeling.
"But when we do make it to the playoffs, it's not just getting in that will make me happy. We want to go as far as we can and, hopefully, raise the Stanley Cup."
For a guy who swears he's not an artist, he paints quite a picture. No? And don't forget to vote for Marc to make the All-Star Game at votebruins.com. JB