7 февраля 2007
Karlis Skrastins Conference Call // nhl.com
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of
the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like
to welcome you to today's call.
Our guest is Colorado Avalanche defenseman, Karlis Skrastins.
Thanks to Karlis for taking the time today to answer your questions, and
thanks to Damen Zier of the Avalanche public relations department for arranging
the call. In last night's 5-4 overtime win over the Florida Panthers,
Karlis played in his 486th consecutive regular-season game, tying Tim Horton
for the NHL's longest streak by a defenseman. Since beginning the
current streak as a rookie with Nashville on February 21, 2000, the native
of Riga, Latvia has averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game over the seven
seasons it has taken to break the record Horton set in the 1960s while
playing with Toronto. The record will be set tomorrow night as the
Avalanche host the Atlanta Thrashers.
With a record of 26-23-4 for 56 points, Colorado trails Minnesota by
six points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Thanks to Karlis for joining us. We'll open it up to questions now.
Q. I just wondered if you could just sort of first just
talk about this record and what it means to you, and then sort of explain
how you've been able to do this, what is the secret to your durability?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Of course, the record it means a lot
to me. You know, it's one of those things that I can be proud about
myself. I'm not a big goal scorer or I'm not getting a lot of points,
but, you know, the record, it's going to -- like tomorrow's game is going
to be one of those games that I'm going to remember for all of my life.
It's going to be in my memories for all of my life. It means really
a lot to me, you know, and I am very proud about this.
Q. And what's the secret to your durability?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: I don't have a big secret. Maybe
just hard work and a lot of effort. It's just -- I'm just getting
ready and try to keep my focus on every game, every shift and I'm not counting
the games, just getting ready for one game at a time and just keep going
and keep going.
Q. Congratulations on an amazing streak. My first
question for you, on top of the consecutive NHL games you've played in,
since that streak began, you've played in four world championships for
Latvia and two Olympics for Latvia. That's a lot of games when you
add the international hockey, too. Is it tough some years to go overseas?
And I know how proud you guys are, as Latvians, I've seen it firsthand
at the Worlds, but are there years where you felt like your body might
need a break?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: You know, it's almost like every year,
it's the same feeling. But when it's coming closer to the World Championships,
you know, it's hard to say no. Because I know for Latvia, the national
team means a lot. Hockey, it's the No. 1 sport in Latvia. We
don't have a lot of NHL hockey players who can help our team. So
if I have a chance, and I feel good and I am healthy, always I am glad
and excited to play for the national team.
Q. As a follow-up, you've only missed one NHL game, right
before the streak, you missed that one game against St. Louis with a shoulder
injury. Looking back, do you wish you had tried to play through it?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: I don't know, now I'm kind of like yeah,
I was thinking about that. Maybe I wouldn't have gone so far.
I've had a lot of injuries during the streak, too. Almost
every year I have something. But you know, if I can be sure I can
play my game which I usually play when I'm healthy, I'm going to play in
the game, because pain is kind of part of our game. But if I can
get through the pain and I feel all right, I'm going to play.
But I think, yeah, the injury with the shoulder, it was too serious
for me. I remember I was skating the morning skate and I didn't feel
good. That's why I didn't play that game.
Q. I wanted to know, what was the worst injury you ever
played through the streak that gave you the most problems?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: It was one year, the year before the
lockout, it was the end of season, too, I think last ten or 15 games.
I had a broken wrist. My team doctors and trainers, they did a big,
big job. They made a nice wrist guard for me and I played one game,
I played the second game, and I was feeling good. Of course there
was a lot of pain but it didn't bother me to play my game. If I would
be a forward, I don't know if I would be able to play that game with that
But the type of game I play, be good defensively, I could get
through that, and in the end, like, two, three, five games, it was really
tough for me, but pain is kind of part of our job.
Q. What made you want to play through it, because you could
have easily taken a seat.
KARLIS SKRASTINS: But hockey, it's my job. It's what
I like to do and I like to be in the game and I like to play. I was
feeling, you know, one practice, second practice, I was feeling not really
good. But I was feeling all right and I could do all of the things
I had to do on the ice, so I keep playing. In the future if I can
play and if I can help the team, I'm going to be ready for those games.
Q. You also blocked a lot of shots, and you're putting yourself
in harm's way all the time, does it hurt every single time you try to block
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Not every time. Not like I'm going
to try to block every shot. But if I can see I can help the goalie
and I can stop the puck, I will block the shot.
I have a lot of protection, I have a lot of good gear on my body.
So it not like every shot is getting through and I feel pain. It's
my part, my style of the game and I'm used to it already. After the
games, I have a lot of ice packs on my body, but it's what I do.
Q. You're breaking the record of Tim Horton, who is held
in the highest possible regard by everybody in hockey, and I called a couple
of people that played with Tim Horton and I asked them how he was able
to get through it, and I talked to your coach Joel Quenneville, and the
answer is the same: High threshold of pain, just you can go out there
when you're hurting.
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Yeah, maybe yeah. But those pains
-- if it's pain, I'm not going to jeopardize my health if it's something
really, really serious or big. But if I feel I can keep playing or
keep practicing, I'm going to do this. I love what I do, and like
I'm saying, pain is part of our hockey game and you have to get through
Q. Joel said you were not a guy that likes a lot of attention,
you don't try to go for attention, and here you are getting a lot of attention,
being compared to one of the greatest players in the history of the NHL.
You have to have a feeling of satisfaction when you hear your name being
compared to a guy like Tim Horton.
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Of course, it's an exciting moment for
me. A lot of people are talking about that. It means a lot
to me. I'm not a guy who is scoring a lot of goals or getting a lot
of points. So the streak, record, you know, it's really special for
me. Yesterday's game and tomorrow's game is going to be one of those
games that I'm going to remember for all of my life. You know, I'm
kind of proud of myself.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, is this something that you
always had, this durability, going back to when you were a younger player
or is it something that's evolved when you became a pro?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: You mean about the streak?
Q. No, the durability, the ability to play with pain.
KARLIS SKRASTINS: No, it's kind of -- I don't remember
if I miss some games when I played for juniors. Yeah, I played like
three years in Finland (TPS Turku) before I came to America. There,
too, I didn't have a lot of injuries; I don't know, maybe I don't feel
the pain like other people. I don't know, it's how I'm saying, it's
my job and it's what I like to do. If I can keep going, I just want
to, because everything I've got, it's hard work and it's a lot of effort.
I don't like to do nothing, you know, during a season. So for me,
it's better even if I have some small injury or stuff like that, I just
Q. In your travels to Canada, have you been to a Tom Horton's
KARLIS SKRASTINS: I already said, yeah, every time I'm
in Canada, it's kind of my favourite coffee shop where to go. Every
time when I'm there, you know, I try to get some coffee because I
love coffee. And in America I drink Starbucks, but when I'm in Canada,
I always go to Tim Horton's to get some coffee from there.
Q. You've always got time for Tim Horton it sounds like.
Are you aware of his legacy; as you got closer to this record have you
read more about what he meant to the National Hockey League?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Yeah, I heard about him a lot.
Tomorrow is going to be the game when I'm going to break this record and
after that I kind of promised myself, I want to find out more about him
and I'm going to read something about him.
Right now, I just know he was a good defenseman and he played
for Toronto Maple Leafs and he played until he was 44 years old.
So it's amazing, you know, so I heard he was really tough and good defenseman.
I would love to know about him more.
Q. And far as getting a win last night, just turning to
the divisional race, your team is really fighting for a playoff spot and
Colorado has never missed a playoff since moving from Quebec City, how
do you assess your chances of making it? You're not in the top eight
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Basically we had a couple of tough losses,
and yesterday's win was a really big win for us. We hope it's going
to build on, we have to keep going and every game for us is a must-win
game. We just have to keep believing, and keep working hard and try
to win as many games as we can.
We were talking yesterday and I think we were talking every day
about that. We have to believe it and we still have the chance to
make the playoffs.
Q. Your nickname apparently is Scratch, but you've never
been scratched from the lineup.
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Yeah, it sounds funny but yeah.
It's what guys are calling me, Scratch.
Q. Have you ever played despite the doctor's or trainer's
advice that you take some time off?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Yeah, I said I had one year before the
lockout, I had a broken wrist and the doctors were asking, if you are ready,
you can play; if not, you don't have to play. I said I practiced
once, I practiced two, and I played one game. I was feeling all right
and of course I had like -- I was feeling the pain in my wrist, but the
doctors, they did a big job. They made a nice wrist guard for me
and I was getting through those pains, so I would keep playing.
Q. As you get ready to break the record, what's the biggest
injury hurting you right now?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: Right now I'm feeling pretty well.
Almost every game I get some small bruises, but it's part of my game and
I kind of just keep going. Right now I'm feeling really good and
I hope it's going to stay the same way until the end of the season.
Q. Everybody I talk to about just the characteristics and
what it takes to keep a streak like this, they mention off-season conditioning
and just hard work off the ice. What do you do in the off-season
to kind of keep yourself in shape and make sure your body is ready to handle
KARLIS SKRASTINS: I have had the same program that I do
for the last, I don't know, five, six years. It is just doing the
work -- I'm not like a crazy work like everybody thinks. But
I have the program that I do regularly from June till the end of August
when I'm coming back to training camp. I don't do nothing special,
you know, everything any guy has to do during the summer break, ride the
bike and do some workout in the gym, stuff like that. You know, nothing
really unusual or nothing really special.
Q. I may be stretching this too far, but I'm wondering,
some of the best stories I've heard over the years from Arturs Irbe who
would talk about those years where the Latvians were fighting for their
independence from the Soviets and the stories that Archie would tell about
the tanks rolling into Riga, and I'm just wondering if those experiences
for yourself and growing up, in Soviet-occupied territory and fighting
for your nation, do you think there's any link of that to the mental toughness
you seem to have about playing the game?
KARLIS SKRASTINS: I don't know if it's come from that.
I think that the work ethic, it comes more from my parents, from my dad
and from my mom. And of course, maybe it comes from those times when,
you know, if you wanted to get something from life you had to work hard.
Like my mom, she was working in two jobs.
It's what I learn from my dad and from my mom just to be hard
worker. It's how I got my goals and how I got my dreams, if I want
to, you know, to get something, you have to work really hard. It's
what I tried to do.