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Jarret Stoll wants to make very clear that he’s not retired.
He still believes he has a lot to offer an NHL team, even at the age of 34 as the game has continued to get younger across the board.
“If something happens with a certain team injury-wise and they need a guy like me I would definitely want to continue to play,” Stoll said. “There’s no question there. I think I can still play and I’d like to still play but I understand the situation and it’s tough out there.”
Stoll added that his ability to win key faceoffs – he won 55.3 percent in his NHL career – and his penalty killing savvy are still as sharp as ever.
“I know I’m in great shape. I know I can still skate, I know I can keep up with the new NHL as they call it,” Stoll said. “My faceoffs, that’s not going anywhere. I know I can still win a big faceoff and be out there in those key situations. I’ve been on the penalty kill as long as I can remember.”
But Stoll, a veteran of 872 games and an important part of the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams, has tried to cover his bases if playing again in the NHL doesn’t quite work out as planned. He had a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets before the season, but didn’t make the team.
Last year between the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, Stoll had nine points in 80 games while winning over 57 percent of his faceoffs and seeing large PK roles with both squads.
In the summer of 2015, Stoll was arrested and eventually charged with felony drug possession (cocaine) at a Las Vegas pool – a charge that was reduced to misdemeanors as part of a plea agreement. He has said he was done addressing this and has taken steps to move on.
Stoll was a member with the Kings from 2008-09 through 2014-15, and people there often spoke fondly of him. In a return to Los Angeles last season as a member of the Wild, Stoll received a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd. Overall, a return to the Kings made sense at some point eventually.
This season, Stoll has been around the the Kings, helping out with player development. He also took the initiative to ask Los Angeles if it would be OK for him to jump into the broadcast booth. They obliged, and he has given analysis between periods during several recent home games.
Fortunately for Stoll, he has quite a teacher to help give him tips for TV work – his fiancée, Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews.
We spoke with Stoll about what he’s up to, his future and whether he is shocked by the Blue Jackets’ success based on what he saw in training camp.
Q: How do your nerves feel when you go on air for television vs. say … a playoff game?
STOLL: (laughs) They’re totally two different things. It’s just something you’ve never done before. There’s always going to be some nervous energy. It’s live and you want to try to say the right things and say the smart thing I guess is a better way to put it. But it’s a little nervous but those guys (host Patrick O’Neal and analyst Sean O’Donnell) are great at what they do and they make anybody comfortable up there. They do a great job and it’s fun working with this guys.
Did you approach the Kings on this? Did they approach you? Did you think this would be a good thing to dabble in as you try to figure out the next steps in your life?
Yeah, I thought I would enjoy it. I love watching hockey and I love pointing things out. My fiancée Erin was like – every time we watch hockey or something I’m always pointing stuff out, and then two seconds later the commentator points it out. She just thought I would be good at it. I thought I would enjoy it. I contacted Mike Altieri (Kings vice president of communications and broadcast) and he made a couple of introductions and they said, ‘yeah, come on for a couple of games and see how you like it and figure it out a little bit and see how it works.’ It was kind of easier than I thought it would be to kind of get on there and get organized in that way, but I’m glad they gave me the opportunity to try it.
Does it help that your fiancée is in the business? Does she help you with tips and such for broadcasts? Do you both watch your TV hits together?
Yeah, actually we do. There’s little tips she gave me and just hearing the producer in your ear, keeping your points short, to the point and short, not go rambling, talk clear, talk slow, those types of things. We actually played them back when we got home and watched the pre-game and post-game. Obviously very constructive criticism but she was very positive and thought I did great job, so it was great to hear that from her.
When did the broadcast thing first start to cross your mind? Was it in the summer when it was tough to find a contract?
Even three or four years ago I thought about it a lot and what I wanted to do when I was done playing. It wasn’t like I thought of it last year or more the year before. Every once in a while I thought of it. I watched the guys on TV and how they are and what they do on the desk and stuff like that and training camp and being around those development coaches and the coaching staff a lot. They’re both fun gigs I think and they’re both gigs I would enjoy doing, but I didn’t think of it, I wouldn’t say a lot more last year or the year before. It’s just something I thought about occasionally.
So beyond broadcasting, what else are you up to right now?
It’s kind of a little bit development job, going down to the minors and working with the kids (in the Kings system) on faceoffs. There are some guys down there that need to improve on faceoffs and if they can do that, then I think some of these kids have a better shot of making it up here and getting a call-up, but yeah just stuff like that. I go on the ice for some of their practices and going to some of their games and just being around the team and getting to know some of the prospects. I didn’t know a lot of these guys that were drafted or that are playing for the (AHL’s) Ontario Reign so it’s good to get to know these guys and the types of players they are, the types of people they are and go from there.
How did you start working with the Kings again?
(Kings general manager) Dean (Lombardi) approached me. He just asked like ‘hey, I have a project for you if you want it, if you want to go down there and hang out with some of these guys and teach what you know’ and that was about it. It happened pretty quickly.
Around when did this happen?
Did it take any thinking on your part or did you pretty much agree right away?
It didn’t take much thinking. The two things I wanted to do when I was done playing is I definitely wanted to do some kind of development work and still be around the game, still hang out with players and teach whatever I can and then also the media side of things to whatever it is, be a commentator or analyst or just be on the desk or whatever. Those are the two things I wanted to do and I’m kind of trying them both out right now. It’s good, it’s very fortunate to have both of these opportunities.
Have you officially closed the door on playing?
No, no, I want to make sure that’s clear as well. If something happens with a certain team injury-wise and they need a guy like me I would definitely want to continue to play. There’s no question there. I think I can still play and I’d like to still play but I understand the situation and it’s tough out there. If things don’t materialize that way, I think there’s a couple good things I would like to do.
What do you think you can still offer an NHL team? Pretend I’m a GM or coach. Sell me on who you are and what you can do.
I know I’m in great shape. I know I can still skate, I know I can keep up with the new NHL as they call it. My faceoffs, that’s not going anywhere. I know I can still win a big faceoff and be out there in those key situations. I’ve been on the penalty kill as long as I can remember and I think I know what it takes – different power plays, what they show at you different penalty kills, sacrificing myself for anything, any kind of role to help the team. I’m a very selfless player I think and then a lot of experience to bring to the young guys. Every team has so many guys, so many young kids on the team 20, 21, some 19 year olds so I think I can bring a lot to young guys on the team that are trying to find their way and trying to make it and stick in the NHL.
You had a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets and spent training camp with them. Are you surprised by what they are doing this season?
I think it’s surprising everybody, but I saw a lot of good things in camp. I saw a lot of skill, a lot of speed and a lot of youth. I don’t know if I expected this type of record or the 16-game winning streak. You could tell there’s a lot of confidence there. They’re a really close group. They look like they had a lot of fun together and training camp – that was definitely tough. Everybody battling and working through that. I think that makes you tighter as a group of guys as well. They had a lot of things going. It’s tough during the preseason. It’s always tough to read a team in the preseason. I don’t think in Columbus the record was very good during the preseason, so it was hard to get a read that way. But looking at the types of players they had, a guy like Cam Atkinson or Brandon Saad or Boone Jenner – I hadn’t really known a lot about these guys in the past and geez they really impressed me with how good players they are and how complete players they are. I’m surprised a little bit, I think like everybody is, but I’m not totally surprised.
Their training camp was considered pretty heavy from a skating and conditioning perspective. Was it tough to push yourself through that style of camp and not make the team?
It’s satisfying as well. It’s satisfying going through that. A lot of times – something that tough. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent enjoyable but it’s good to battle through that kind of stuff and push your body. Obviously it would have been nice to make the team, but I didn’t think about it too much about the training camp – what was going on during training camp as opposed to kind of the disappointment for not making the team.
Are you still working out? Skating? What’s your regimen like right now?
I’m actually skating two-to-three times per-week and working out probably three-to-four days per-week. I’m still in good shape. I’m not skating with an AHL team or a lot of NHL players at all but we have some good scrimmages and it’s good to be out on the ice and have some fun.
Who are you skating with?
Just a bunch of local guys – a couple of guys who played like Derek Armstrong, Jaroslav Modry, he’s out there every day. And a lot of the coaches from the junior Kings, some of these guys I don’t know where they played or what but they’re good players. We have fun out there just enjoying the game.
There’s a pretty big alumni base from the Kings out in LA, which I assume certainly helps your staying in shape?
A lot of the guys are actually on the development team, like O’Donnell, Nelson Emerson, Glen Murray and then you have Armstrong, Modry and Kyle Calder. There’s a lot of guys out here that are around. You see them once in a while and I see Armstrong at every game pretty much. He’s there hanging out and then I see the development guys a lot. It’s good to still have those guys around to talk with and hang out.
Last season seemed a bit crazy – at least externally. Is it nice to take a break and reassess your options after that nuttiness?
Well, I wouldn’t call it nuttiness. I was still playing. I was in the league, I was having fun. I was enjoying myself. Obviously (now) it’s different. You wake up and there are a lot of days where you don’t have anything to do. There’s nothing on the schedule. There’s no meetings to go to, there’s no plane to catch or no bus to catch. It’s a lot different that way. You try to keep busy any way you can and then you start thinking of what you want to do and your second career, second part of your life, next chapter type of thing and slowly working on that, but no – I don’t know how I would explain it from being so busy all the time every day, the season to having a lot of free time. I didn’t like it, I don’t like it. I like to stay busy, but it’s just a lot different.
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