Puck Daddy - NHL

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler(notes) is in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, both as a nominee for the Selke Award against the Detroit Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk(notes) and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Jordan Staal(notes), and also to promote the Nintendo Wii-exclusive NHL 2K11 from 2K Sports.

He's on the cover this year, following Alex Ovechkin(notes) of the Washington Capitals last year. 

Kesler hopped on the phone with us Wednesday to talk about gaming, the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, hanging with showgirls and the Vancouver Canucks' unceremonious elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs (again) by the eventual champs, the Chicago Blackhawks.

He also became the first player we've interviewed that made us feel guilty for not having cast a vote for him in the awards. Here's Kesler:

Q. Have you practiced what face you'll have if you hear your name announced?

KESLER: (Laughs) No, I practiced my face if I don't win. For me, I expect to win it. If I don't, I'll be surprised. I gotta get the not-surprised look off my face.

Is there a part of you that hopes that Pavel Datsyuk wins so he'll have to give a speech and you won't have to?

It's always interesting when he gives a speech. Obviously, English is his second language, and he speaks pretty good English. I know nothing about Russian, so I have a little sympathy for him. I know if I won an award in Russia, I wouldn't even know what to say.

Plus, if you win an award in Russia, they just give you a paper bag full of money.

(Laughs) I've heard that.

Who did you vote for the [Selke] trophy, by the way? I'm flippin' the tables right now.

Actually, I might have voted for a certain Russian candidate for that award.

(Sarcasm) Oh, nice. Appreciate it.

You may have been No. 2 on that list. (Ed. Note: Lies.) I assumed all the support you needed you'd get from the Vancouver media.

Yeah, that probably won't happen.

If it's any consolation, I didn't vote for Henrik Sedin(notes) for the Hart, either.

Oh, c'mon. You're killing me now.

I voted for Ryan Miller(notes).

Oh ... all right.

What's your game of choice in Vegas?

Craps would be my game. I like to bet on myself [rolling]. I rolled for 30 minutes straight one time.

What's the experience like this year vs. last year's experience at the Awards, and has the NHL figure out how to use Vegas to its advantage yet?

Last year, I didn't really know what to expect. I came here looking to have a good time. This year's a little different. I know what to expect. And I know I'm gonna have a good time. 

It's good, relaxing, and hopefully I can bring home a trophy. And if not, I'm up against two pretty good guys and it's an honor to be nominated.

The Palms is doing a great job. It's at the Pearl Theater again, and it's going to be a great show. Even better than last year.

What celebrity are you most looking forward to seeing at the Awards, and/or can you name a celebrity at the Awards?

There are a lot of celebrities coming. Mark Wahlberg, you got Goo Goo Dolls, Snoop Dogg was here yesterday taping a show. It's going to be exciting to see them all.

Will you be bitter not having a chance to see Chaka Khan again?

(Laughs) She really put on a good performance last year. I can't say anything bad about her.

All right, let's talk about the Canucks for a moment. Obviously things didn't end all that well for you guys in the playoffs; there's been a lot of talk about how Vancouver went out the same way in consecutive years to the Chicago Blackhawks. Was it tougher this year than last?

This year was tougher. We expected to go further this year, and it just didn't happen. It's one of those things that you reflect on when the time's right and improve for next year.

Anything you've reflected on specifically?

I haven't really reflected on it yet, to be honest. I just tried to get it out of my head. Let all the emotions work themselves out.

I'm guessing with that answer that you aren't someone that's going to read the postmortems from media and fans on the Canucks' season.

To be honest, I don't read anything that the media writes. No offense. It doesn't do me any good to read any of that stuff. I know how good I play and I know how bad I play.

Is there any part of you that can appreciate the Blackhawks winning the Cup and the joy it brought their fans in Chicago?

Obviously, they're the best team. They won the Cup. For me, the only reaction I got was motivation. I'm motivated to perform even better. I won't be happy unless I win the Cup.

You're the cover guy for NHL 2K11. How are you feeling about the game these days?

It's great; 2K did a great job this year, perfecting the game. It's easy to pick up and play. It's not to hard to master, but it's still tough. But anyone can pick it up and play. It's a fun game. I played it a week ago and had a blast.

What else are you playing these days?

I've been playing NBA 2K10. Been playing Call of Duty, and Red Dead Redemption, which is a great game.

I've heard from 2K that you're being given showgirls tonight for the Awards.

That's what I was told.

Do you know if you're being given Alex Ovechkin's sloppy seconds?

(Laughs) I have no idea.

I'm showing up in a big RV this year. It's all decked out with Wii stuff. You can come on the RV before it if you want to. Even if you did vote for Datsyuk.

Alas, I'm not in Vegas this year. Finally, you guys clearly get decked out for this Awards show. Is there any sort of competition between the players fashion-wise?

No, I don't think it's that big a deal. We all like getting dressed up for the event and it's a great time.

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