About to embark on his 15th NHL season and his first with the Capitals, three-time Stanley Cup winner Justin Williams sat down with Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley to discuss his thoughts on his new team and his intimate relationship with Lord Stanley’s Cup.
So, it’s been a few weeks since you and your family arrived in town. How are things going with everyone?
It’s been pretty easy so far. The kids are both in school, they started this week. Jaxon (7) is in Grade 1 and Jade (4) started Pre-K. My wife (Kelly) and I got the home pretty much settled and we settled into a routine. Just another hockey season.
We talked with Barry Trotz the other day and he said the one thing teammates really want to know from you is what you did with the Cup. So, what did you do?
The first time I won (with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006) I was young (24) and I think I was very naïve to the fact I’d just win a couple more. It took me 10 years to eventually win another one. The first time I brought it back to my hometown of Cobourg (Ontario) and we took it out in Toronto, me and a couple friends.
What kind of reaction did you get?
‘That’s not the real one, is it?’ That type of thing. People would walk in dumbfounded, like, ‘No, that’s not what I think it is!’ It becomes a little bit of a sideshow. That’s why after that (when he won with the Kings in 2012 and 2014) I just kept it local and kind of to myself. You give it out for a little bit during the day because really, your day with the Cup is all about everybody else, to be honest with you. Everyone else wants a piece of it. But at night time you want some me time.
So, did you tuck it in next to you?
I did. (Big smile)
You slept with it?
I slept with it. (Another big smile)
So how can you describe to someone who hasn’t won a Cup what it takes to win one?
I think the ride and the lead-up and the hard work it takes to attain it makes it all worthwhile. The war you go through with all your friends and teammates and the guys you care about, and reaching the pinnacle of everybody’s hockey career together is just a special feeling and that’s what makes it so special as well.
Can you ever know in September if a team can win it all in June?
No, absolutely not. You can’t, unless you’ve done it before together as a team. You don’t really learn about anybody as a player and what they’re made of in October and November. March, April, May, June, it’s those months when you’ve really gotta dig deep. When everybody’s tired and everybody wants it, that’s when you learn more about what kind of player you are and what kind of player others are.
A lot of people talk about this team being Stanley Cup ready and how Ovi is in his prime and the window may be closing. Do you feel players need to reach a point in their careers where they’re mature enough to win the Cup?
I don’t think so. Guys experience winning at 18 years old and continue to win. Guys experience it at a young age and then forget how hard they worked to actually get there. It’s hard to say, but it’s extremely gratifying to see a guy who’s been around for a long time attain his goal. I was able to do that in Carolina with a lot of the older guys on that team. It was something special to see the emotion they had because they were in their late 30s. Roddy Brind’Amour, Bret Hedican, Glen Wesley, Ray Whitney. Guys who weren’t able to get there and did and it’s cool to share it with them.
I guess coaches can fall into that category, too, right? Barry Trotz is a guy who has put in his time and hasn’t won it. Do guys around the league root for coaches like Barry?
Absolutely. He’s another guy who – certainly this is a long way in the distant future – but you can envision yourself celebrating that with him. Listen, I feel that all the pieces are here, but it’s September and it’s way too early to even start thinking about that. The hardest part is just getting into the playoffs every year and you have to get in before we can even talk about any of this stuff.