SHOW STOPPERS - MARK FLOOD
Defenseman shares his first experiences of playing in the NHL
Wednesday, 05.19.2010 / 5:39 PM ET / News
New York Islanders
I dressed in a game on Wednesday night with the Sound Tigers against the Syracuse Crunch and won 5-2 so guys were lingering around the room more than you would after a loss. I showered up after game and before I left Cappy (Sound Tigers head coach Jack Capuano) grabbed me. He told me that I was called up, shook my hand and that I had to be in Long Island the next morning at 10 a.m. for pregame meetings. I drove down the next morning and was a bit nervous because there was traffic that held me up. Right when I got around Exit 3 around Greenwich on I-95, things started to back up. I was afraid that I was going to be late but was able to make it in time for the meeting.
We did not have a skate because the Islanders played night before at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. I could tell that the coaching staff wasn’t too happy after the lop-sided loss at Garden. We had our video session and I tried to take in as much as possible. After the video, I got in a good stretch, rode the bike and then went to the Marriott for a pre-game meal and nap. It was nice that Trevor Gillies and his wife were also staying there because it was a familiar, friendly face. We ate our pregame meal and it was nice because Gillies treated me. After a quick nap, we met in the lobby and I walked over with Gillies to the rink.
When I arrived at the rink I got my gear together and just tried to make everything as normal as possible as far as preparing. While I was getting dressed in the room I looked around and saw guys like Mark Streit and Marty Biron and it was just incredible. Jon Sim and Richard Park were two of the guys that really welcomed me into the room and told me to enjoy myself.
During warm-ups, I started stretching and looked over at the other side of the ice and saw guys like Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester. Seeing those guys was cool but then I knew to turn off the shock factor when the puck dropped. I also remember talking to Boggsie (Scott Boggs – Equipment Manager) in the stick room and then Iginla walked by and it was surreal.
Any players in Bridgeport give you advice throughout the season on how to prepare for the moment you played your first game?
Mark Wotton is a phenomenal guy. All year he was great keeping our team together in Bridgeport. He is the glue that keeps it running for the Sound Tigers. I also kept in touch with A-Mac (Andrew MacDonald) and Kohnner (Dustin Kohn) who helped me out. Gillies was really good to ease me into it as well. He is definitely the guy that took me under his wing once I got to the Islanders on a day-to-day basis. He is the nicest guy…OFF THE ICE you’ll ever meet. Having the piece of mind that he was there was great. It was also nice because I came to Long Island with my girlfriend and he was there with his wife so they were able to hang around together which helped me to know that she was taken care of as well.
You’d seen other defenseman including Andrew MacDonald and Dustin Kohn get the call, what did you learn from their experiences?
A-Mac went up pretty early in the year but Dustin and I became pretty good friends from our time in Bridgeport. When Kohnner was called up I was really happy for him and we kept in touch the whole time he was up. Back in Bridgeport, we had the hockey package at our place and then also at the rink so we were able to watch all the games. It’s really exciting to see your teammates get called up so we definitely keep tabs on one another. When I was finally called up, to have him there, knowing that he had just gone through the same experiences I’d had made things easier for me.
What was your welcome to the NHL moment?
Walking into the room and seeing all the guys right when I arrived from Bridgeport was pretty amazing. I’d met them at Training Camp but this was different because now I had earned my chance to really play alongside each one of them. Also, pulling on the Islander crest was great.
How much of a difference is there between the levels of skill that the forwards have in the NHL compared to the AHL?
It is a big adjustment. Each team has two to three top-level players whether its Jarome Iginla Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. These guys have an extra step that not everybody has. Nothing against the top guys in the AHL but these guys are top notch. They’re poised with the puck, can fire a shot from anywhere to hit any corner and they never throw the puck away. It was a cool experience to see those guys when they’re on TV and then to line up against them. I did find that in the first couple of games I was giving too much gap/respect/space but that’s only normal in your first few games. When I would make the first breakout pass out of the zone, I learned to put a little extra into it and you realize that two to three hard strides are no longer an option but mandatory to close gaps and be prepared for turnovers.
You played in your final game of the season with the Islanders against the Montreal Canadiens. As a native of PEI, being a fan growing up and being drafted by Montreal, how exciting was it for you to line up against the crest?
Lots of people from Prince Edward Island are 'Habs fans. To be drafted and play against them was really special. I had a lot of family and friends watching back home. My ultimate dream would have to be playing against the Canadiens in Montreal.
What have you been doing this summer to take your mind off of hockey?
On my way home my girlfriend and I visited family and friends. We do not have a set vacation planned, just taking it easy over the summer. I’ve played some golf but it’s really impossible to get away from the game because you always have people asking about my experiences in the game.
When do you start to prepare for the upcoming season both on the ice and off?
I started working out in the gym last week. This week I’m going hard once again, back to the grind. In the gym I’m Monday through Friday. On the weekend I will try to do some kind of activity as far as golf, tennis or jogging. I may skate a couple of times in June but most likely will not hit the ice until July.
You tallied your first career NHL point against the Rangers. Describe the play and the feeling.
I came around the net and made a breakout pass to Comeau who sent it deep into the zone. Bergenheim beat his man into the corner and fed a pass to Comeau in the slot who one-timed the puck through Lundqvist. Unfortunately it wasn’t a bang/bang play but I’ll take it. Having all the Islander/Ranger fans cheering at the Coliseum was exciting. I got a picture with the puck after the game as well.
Any players with the Islanders that went out of their way to show you what it takes to play in the NHL?
Mark Streit without question. He is a world-class player in every sense of the word. Fun to watch and fun to play with. He is so poised with the puck. It was a privilege to watch his preparation for games and how he is such a pro both on and off the ice. Even when he was in Montreal, he was a really good player and I followed him for a while. When I was partnered with him on defense and he’d offer some advice, I was definitely listening, trying to soak up everything he offered.