I caught up with the two-time Stanley Cup champion last Thursday after the first round of play at Wayne Gretzky’s Celebrity Pro-Am in Thornbury, ON. After battling the extremely high July temperatures, and an aggravated pair of recently replaced hips, the now 47-year-old, former NHL enforcer was kind enough to sit down with me over lunch.
“My body didn’t feel good,” he saidon what he felt was an off opening round. “The last three or four years have been pretty hard. I had one hip replaced in June (2009) and one in November, and just started playing golf again in March.”
McSorely has even found himself back on the ice playing a bit of hockey, something he has missed over the years, “I loved the competition, but over the last five years (in the NHL) I didn’t like the way I was used".
He found himself on teams that were focused primarily on developing younger teams, which turned out to be a bit of a regret for him. “I told Robby Blake, before he left L.A. and signed with San Jose, to go to a really good team, one that needs to put you on the ice and will let the young guys develop on their own.
“That was probably the mistake I made. I was thinking I was going to a team to help with the young guys, but ended up only playing in my own end.”
I also asked McSorely on his recollections of Blake, as well as Scott Niedermayer and Keith Tkachuk, who all retired at the end of the 2009-10 season.
“Robby Blake was a big athletic man, that really moved very very easily, and hit guys hard because he surprised him,” he said on his former teammate.
“Scott Niedermayer’s area of influence on the ice was greater than any other players’. He had an effect on the game in such a huge area. Keith Tkachuk was a strong winger, a talented package in a big box.”
Of course the passing of Bob Probert, just days before, had to come up in the conversation.
“It was a sad day, not just because he was great player,” McSorely said. “Off the ice, he had a great aura. Whenever he walked in a room, and not just the dressing room, everybody was better for it. He was genuinely a good guy.”
A classic battle between Marty McSorely and the late Bob Probert. “I’ve been asked that a lot the last couple days,” McSorely said when questioned as to how often they matched up over the years. “I don’t know how many times it was.”
After thinking back on his battles as a heavyweight in the NHL (bad hips or not, he’s still in great shape and his 6’1” listing is a bit undersized), I elected not to ask whatever happened to his infamous illegal stick from Game Two of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
I do always toss the question to NHLers of naming a player that isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame, that they think should be. “I would have said Dino Ciccarelli up to now,” McSorely said, noting Ciccarelli’s recent 2010 induction announcement. “He was a guy that competed hard and scored a lot of goals.”
Coincidentally, last NHL player to be convicted of assault for an on-ice incident, prior to McSorely’s conviction, was Dino Cicarelli who received a day in jail for hitting a Toronto player over the head with a stick in 1988.
The Cayuga, ON native also gave me a little insight into a hometown project he’s helping to gain support towards building a new arena.
Earlier in the day, some autograph collectors, that were clearly resellers, had inquired about some further signings. “Best thing to do, is contact our organization or the NHL Alumni Association,” he told them. “Send a donation, and I’ll sign anything you want.”
“I have pretty much every card ever made of me, but I was never much of a collector over the years,” McSorley later told me. “Instead of autographs, I always got a picture of me with whoever came down in Los Angeles. Ronald Reagan, Chuck Norris, you name it.”
In light of a rough first day of play, McSorely and his pro partner did manage to make it to the final round. The Anaheim Ducks Corey Perry would end up the celebrity winner for the tournament.