SHOW STOPPERS: MICHEAL HALEY
Islander tough guy takes us through his first NHL experience
Tuesday, 05.25.2010 / 11:00 AM / News
By Alex Silverman
Well, they called. I woke up. We had played the night before so I didn’t get home until late. I woke up around 9 a.m. and saw that [Jack] Capuano had sent me a text to call him when I woke up. I called him and he told me the good news. I hung up and I called my brother. He went to book a flight, but they were too expensive so he started driving. I went through the normal day until pregame when my fiancé and I took off for New Jersey. Actually, when I got to the rink, they wouldn’t allow me to park in the player’s lot so I had to park in a public parking deck and carry my bag and suit into the rink.
What kind of advice did you get from the guys in Bridgeport?
I actually didn’t get to see anyone beforehand. We didn’t have a morning skate that day because we had gotten in late after playing the night prior. It was just everybody sending me text messages wishing me good luck.
What were you feeling as you stepped out onto the NHL ice for the first time?
I guess I was a little nervous, but mainly the same thing as any other game. I was excited and a little nervous but it was alright once the first few shifts were out of the way.
You had your first fight against Rod Pelley in the second period. Take us through what took place leading up to the fight, during the fight, and your feelings afterwards.
Well I was trying to find somebody, but obviously with them being in the playoffs and me being a call-up it was hard to find someone to go. I just figured if I went after him long enough he’d finally agree and he did. It was a good fight. It’s definitely exciting when thousands of people stand up and cheer you. There was some pretty good adrenaline going.
What was your “Welcome to the NHL” moment when you realized that you were playing on the big stage?
When you look up in that arena in New Jersey and you see how many people are there, how loud it is, and that Marty Brodeur’s in net. Stuff like that. Just the overall amount of intensity in the arena.
How noticeable was the difference in the speed of the NHL game as compared to the pace of the AHL?
Oh yeah, definitely. More people are going to where they should be going without any hesitation. With guys like Crosby you can tell that they’re at the best level they can be.
Your second NHL game was at home against the Penguins. How did it feel to play in front of the home crowd at the Coliseum for the first time?
It was good. We had our playoffs there the year before with the Sound Tigers so it was a little more familiar there. It was fun to play in front of the home crowd. It was a little bit easier and to play my second game there took away a lot of the jitters.
Did your first NHL stint live up to your expectations? Did anything catch you by surprise?
Oh yeah, it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s a great feeling to get your first one out of the way. To play a home game and a road game was good too. My brother was able to travel to the game and watch me play so that was really special. It was a dream. It was everything I could’ve expected. Obviously we would’ve liked some wins though.
Were there any Islanders that went out of their way to show you the ropes of playing in the NHL?
For the most part I’m actually pretty familiar with the guys. Most of the guys I played with in Bridgeport over the past three seasons or have been in camps with the last few years. It wasn’t too much getting to know the guys. I know most of them pretty well.
What have you been up to so far this offseason and when do you start preparing for the season ahead?
I had surgery on my hand at the end of the year so now I’m just waiting to get this cast off and start rehabbing. Right now I’m letting everything heal and then in June probably get back to some harder training. Then when the hand gets good, I’ll be going full force.
With toughness being such a big part of your game, was there ever a point when you realized that you might have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with hockey’s best fighters?
I’ve been fighting since I was young. A lot of the guys in the NHL I fought in juniors. So coming up through the different leagues, that’s always been a part of my game. There wasn’t ever really a particular moment. I’ve been fighting for too long.
What are your goals coming into Training Camp and how do you see yourself fitting in with the Islanders in the future?
Hopefully this offseason I can get a little leaner and gain some more speed. Obviously I still have to bring the toughness, but I’m hoping this year I can put up some more of those points in “Bridgey” (Bridgeport). Toughness and agitating is where I would see myself contributing in the organization. I’ll try and play the role of the agitator but also keeping players honest.