July 17, 2009
He helped lead the franchise to its first playoff berth, before a hasty exit at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. Then came a brief but intense negotiation with the Jackets' management on a contract extension, one that saw Nash candidly dismiss the team's initial offer with the Columbus Dispatch. The endgame was a blockbuster eight-year, $62.4 million contract extension that will keep Nash out of the free-agent pool next summer.
One of the reasons Nash re-signed was a commitment to the city of Columbus, where he's been involved with several charitable efforts. That charity extended to the offseason and back to his home in Ontario, as Nash took part in The 6th Annual Jake's House Golf Classic this week in Toronto as the honorary chairman. Jake's House is a grassroots organization that seeks to connect families affected by Autism. The tournament benefitted the Jake's House Legends program, which provides "a friend where one is needed to children, youth and families living with Autism."
Nash, a Brampton, Ontario native, said he got involved four years ago as a spokesman. He said charity work has been a part of his life as a professional athlete.
"I grew up in a pretty average family. My parents did a lot just to get by. Now I'm at this point, at this stage where it's important to give back," he said. "I'm lucky enough to be able to do so."
We spoke with Nash this week about the 62.4 million new reasons why he's lucky, as well as about the very public negotiation of his contract, the future of the Blue Jackets, avoiding the siren's song of free agency ... as well as golf, movies, summer without hockey and his blissful ignorance of Darius Rucker's Burger King commercials.
Here's Nash ...
NASH: That's pretty sick. And awesome for 2K to get the best player in the game.
So you're playing some golf for charity?
Just about to tee off now. I'm probably about a 12 handicap. It's more just a hobby, just for fun. Nothing serious.
Do you play video game golf?
Yeah. "Tiger Woods."
Do you believe that makes you a better golfer?
You strike us as a guy who might be better at mini-golf.
(Laughs) That's right. I need that gorilla, a windmill and a 2-by-4 swinging in front of the hole for me to be good.
Alright, let's talk about this contract. When you find out you're making $62.4 million over the next eight years, does the mind of a 25 year old start racing? Are you going to put a bowling alley in your house? Or perhaps your own Hooters franchise?
Both sound like good ideas.
Ah, you know, I'm a pretty chill, laidback guy. I'm more interested in getting the things I need and then helping my family, helping the people around me. I find myself very lucky to make that amount of money; privileged. That doesn't go unnoticed by me.
You had a pretty public negotiation this summer with the Blue Jackets, and were really candid with the Columbus Dispatch about it. Was that it more an honest reaction to their first offer, and do you think your comments jump-started the negotiations?
I wouldn't say they jumpstarted the process. I think it was going to get done either way. To the media, I've always been honest. I've never led them the wrong way, or lied to them. [Reporter] Aaron Portzline asked me the question and I answered him honestly. That's the way it goes sometimes. They weren't offended by it. And everything got done at the end of the day.
I think the reaction from our readers was that you had a strong pimp hand. I think everyone had their eyes opened up when you came back so strong.
Yeah, I just thought [the offer] was unfair. We got there pretty quick after that.
(Ed. Note: It occurs to us here that the term "pimp hand" is an American colloquialism that may not translate well for an Ontario boy and/or a player who competes in Columbus, Ohio. Any suggestions for the Canadian and/or Central Ohio equivalent of "pimp hand" are welcome, so as to avoid this sort of confusion in the future.)
As a captain, did you feel extra responsibly to take this contract situation out of the locker room for next season by getting a deal done?
Yeah. It would have been a huge distraction during the season. Now it's not going to be an issue. That's the stuff that can destroy a dressing room if handled the wrong way, and for everyone to know that the captain's locked up for the next while eliminates that distraction.
When you're at your lake house watching the free-agent frenzy this summer, did some of the contracts encourage you to get a deal done now?
It didn't matter to me. I could wait. I left the ball in their court. Once [GM Scott Howson] came to me and said how much they wanted to get this done, that they wanted me in Columbus ... from that point on, we might as well get it done and not wait 'till next year. I felt the same way.
With the Blue Jackets as a playoff team last year, does your mindset change entering next season? That you're an established playoff team and not clawing to get there for the first time?
Yeah, we're expected to [make the playoffs] now. Before, everyone just hoped. We gotta make the jump now. Our young players are going to be that much better. Everyone's going to be a year more mature.
Alright, non-hockey: Best movie you've seen in the last few months, and the worst.
I didn't like "Don't Mess With the Zohan" or whatever. Didn't really like that one.
Best one ... "The Hangover."
What's on your iPod these days?
A lot of Darius Rucker. The new Green Day CD. Not as good as "American Idiot," but I like a couple different songs on there.
What convinced you to become a Darius Rucker fan? Was it his Burger King commercial?
I haven't seen that.
He plays, like, a rhinestone cowboy singing about meat.
I love country. I like Hootie. So it's perfect.
Where do you stay in the summer? You have a lake house we heard?
I stay in Caledon, Ontario for most of the summer and then I got a spot for the weekends in Muskoka. A little bit of fishing, boating, hanging out with the buddies, campfires and stuff.
So finally, playing off that: During these few weeks between the end of the season and the Canadian Olympic camp, can you disconnect from hockey at all?
It's tough being around Toronto. It's all they talk about here. You're swamped for eight or nine months of a season, so you try to get away from it and hang with your hometown buddies.
But, saying that, it's your life. You always try to follow what's going on.
For more about how you can help Jake's House, visit JakesHouse.ca.