November 26, 2010
Currently fourth in the rookie scoring race with 12 points in 20 games, the time zone differences as a Western Conference player and a Guelph, Ont. native can make keeping in touch with loved ones a bit of a marathon -- especially when his parents will stay up late to watch his games.
"They're staying up sometimes to 2:30 or 3 a.m., and I get out of the rink and give them a call and they're still up. They have to go to work in the morning," he said.
We spoke with Couture this week about the rookie scoring race; life with the Sharks and as a 21-year-old NHL player; his first NHL fight this season; the All-Star Game format; and his participation in Movember, the facial-hair sprouting campaign for men's health awareness that's swept the NHL.
Q. What inspired you to get involved in Movember?
COUTURE: I knew some guys on my junior team did it a couple of years ago, and people in my life have been affected by cancer. I just started to be able to grow decent facial hair, so I decided if I could raise awareness in any way -- obviously, with us being on TV and being in the spotlight -- people could support the cause.
How many Sharks are participating?
I think it's about four or five.
And how does your facial hair compare at this point?
Dead last, by far. It's not even close.
You have the curse of the fair-haired.
My facial hair is thin, and long and it probably looks like I'm 12.
I used to, actually, in junior, when I was having a tough time growing facial hair. Jamie McGinn(notes) and I would go buy Just For Me and dye our beards. Or whatever you'd call them. But I haven't decided to cheat. [Laughs]
What's the learning curve been like for you in the NHL?
I learned a lot last year in the playoffs, learning how to play in this league every day. I learned what to expect coming into this year, night in and night out. It's my first full year here. It's a tough League. You have to bring your best every night, and if you don't there are players who can make you look pretty stupid out there.
Not that this has happened, but has anyone made you look stupid yet?
I remember against Pavel Datsyuk(notes) last year in the playoffs, getting caught out there in a long shift, the way he can stickhandle is unbelievable. To have him stickhandle through your legs or your stick ... it's one of the most special players I've played against.
It's been good. We've had a couple games where we created a lot of offense. Clowe's a big body down low and is a really underrated playmaker I think. He's one of the top playmakers on our team, and in the League. He doesn't get enough recognition for that. And Joe Pavelski's also an underrated player in the League.
You qualified for the Calder Trophy race by one game. You keeping tabs on it at all?
I actually didn't know that until a couple games into the year, when I was reading one of those media packets and mine said I was still eligible for the Calder. I didn't even realize that.
I haven't looked at the race. I've been putting up some points lately, but that's not really my main focus. This year, I wanted to play up with this team for the full year. If I play my game, points will come. I'm not too worried about how many goals or assists I have.
Do you appreciate the way the Sharks brought you along vs. the way some of these teams have rushed prospects from junior to the NHL?
Last year, I went down to the American League and spent some 40 games down there, got an opportunity to be successful down there. We had a great team in Worcester last year, which helped. I had a chance to play in the All-Star Game, had an opportunity to be the go-to guy. Had I been up here, I wouldn't have had the opportunity.
Then I came up here for about 20 games and then the full playoffs. It worked out great last year.
Being a rookie, you're eligible to be one of the rookie selections for the NHL All-Star Game. As a hockey fan, what's your take on the new format?
I actually haven't looked at it too much. I just heard some guys talking about it, with the captains picking. But I really didn't follow it at all. I'll be fun. I think some feelings could be hurt.
[Laughs] I don't know ... that's a tough pick. I wouldn't want to have to make he pick.
I wouldn't really call it a fight. That was right after Perron was hit by [Thornton]. I know Petro from world junior champs and stuff like that. We're friends off the ice. He was following Jumbo around and gave him a slash in the leg. I didn't know if Jumbo saw him or not, so I jumped in. Next thing I knew, the gloves where off. It wasn't much, but I'll take the five minutes.
Is having your first NHL fight something in the back of you mind as a young player?
The only reason I fought was because he was following Jumbo around. I know how to fight, just a little bit from growing up. My father would tell me that if I ever got into a fight, to just protect myself first. So I protected myself, made sure I didn't take any big shots.
Was your dad a player?
He just played low Double Junior. But he was a ref in the National Lacrosse League, and he just retired this year.
Is growing up with a dad who's a ref like growing up with a father who's a preacher?
Yeah, he's always saying to be polite to the refs. If you're nice to them, maybe they'll go easy on you. I try to go that as much as I can. When they make a good call, I'll tell them. When I don't agree with the call, I'll keep my mouth shut.
Was there any trickledown from the Colin Campbell stuff in the Sharks room?
Only time I heard about it was on TSN. It didn't involve anyone in the room, so there wasn't really a word said about it.
So in general, what's
life like for a 21 year old in the NHL?
It's pretty cool.
Well, that goes without saying.
[Laughs] Yeah ... I grew up watching this League, and wanted to do this. To do it at such a young age is pretty special.
There are nights, like when you get shutout, that you go home and think about the game and what we did wrong, and you get pretty upset. But then you think, 'You're 21, you're playing in the NHL, you really don't want to switch places with anyone.'
You don't have a whole hell of a lot of young players in the room, do you? Is that weird?
Ah, no. A lot of these guys played in this league at a young age. They know what it's like. And when they come to the rink, they'll act like they're 21.
Finally, we ask this of everyone we interview: Your adult beverage of choice sir?
Oof ... a Coors Light. Or a whiskey and Diet Coke.