A cleanly shaven Brooks Laich (Lou Lamoriello’s policy) stepped onto the Verizon Center ice for the first time as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and after a brief skate with his teammates, he spoke with more than a dozen media members outside the visiting locker room.
In the first of two parts, here is a transcript of Laich’s interview:
On how he’s approaching his return to Verizon Center:
Obviously, it’s a pretty unique situation, but I don’t think it’s really something you can prepare for. I think for myself I just have to focus that it’s a red jersey and not focus on the other names. I know there’s going to be maybe a few emotions but I can’t let that get to me. I can’t run around. I can’t be too hyped up. I’ve got to conserve some energy and just use my hockey sense and play the game.
On how he learned he’d been traded:
I actually had my phone off when Brian (MacLellan) phoned. I was watching the Oscars with my fiancé (actress Julianne Hough). I just got his voicemail, but I gave him a call back and left him a voicemail. But I haven’t spoken with him yet.
On his emotions when he receives that voicemail:
The first one is, you’re taken back a little bit. You’re surprised. You’re shocked. I had never asked for a trade. I had conveyed my thoughts to him. I spoke with him. I spoke with the coaching staff and said I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to make a Cup run. So, it was definitely surprising to me. My fiancé was amazing through it. She was by my side when we found out. The notification actually came on my phone because mine was off. She gets the Caps updates on her phone, so she was the one that broke it to me. Just to be able to go through it together, I was very thankful she was there with me.
On the frustration of not being able to see it through in Washington:
Yeah, I mean, really the sense we had with this year’s team was that there was something very special in the works. Like I said, I had conversations with management and told them I wanted to be a part of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out but I can’t sit here and dwell on it. I can’t let it hang over my head. It’s tough to close that chapter but hopefully tonight will help me do that. I know we’re back here pretty quick but run towards the fire, right? I want to try to have some fun tonight, try to win a hockey game and really enjoy my teammates. The city of Toronto, the people of Toronto, the staff, the players, have really, really welcomed me with open arms and made me feel extremely welcome and I’m having a lot of fun with this group of guys.
On what he remembers about George McPhee greeting him at Verizon Center following his trade to Washington 12 years ago:
That was the first face I saw when I walked into the Capitals locker room, George McPhee. He shook my hand and said, “Welcome to D.C. I hope you’re here for 15 years.” It was a very special moment for myself to feel like you’re part of the National Hockey League and you have a home with an organization. I made it 12 (years) and that’s longer than most make it, so I’m very thankful for the people of D.C., my teammates, the organization, the staff, my friends in the community, my neighbors -- a huge impact in my life. I can’t thank everybody enough. The media -- you guys were great to work with -- and the people in the city I hold to the highest regard, I really do.
On the emotions surrounding tonight’s game:
First and foremost I’m a competitor. Winning means a lot to me, always has, regardless the circumstance. That’s something I’m not too worried about. There might be a moment here or there, but I’m still here to do a job. I have a responsibility to my teammates and my coaching staff and winning really means a lot to me and that’s the ultimate goal for tonight -- get the win and try to leave with a smile on my face and have some fun with my teammates.
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