One on One with Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash

Once again this season, The Heritage Stick Co. will bring you behind the scenes and up close with many of the top players/managers and personalities within the Hockey industry. If you have someone who you would like profiled please send us a note and we will do our best to profile that person at some point during the season.

This profile is of Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, the 1st over-all pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and member of Team Canada's National Men's team. At just 23 yrs old "Nasher" a Brampton Ontario native,  has accomplished so much already (2003/04 Rocket Richard Trophy winner - 41 Goals - Tied with Iginla & Kovalchuk)....however getting the Blue Jackets into the play-offs could be his biggest challenge! I sat down with Rick after a recent game and this is what he has to say about life in the NHL, winning in Columbus and off ice fun.

The Blue Jackets are off to a nice start and it seems the youngsters are playing like veterans

Nash - Ya, You know we have a lot of talented young guys in this room, from Zherdev, Russell, Boll, Brule and Tollefsen and a perfect mix of veterans in Fedorov, Foote, Pecca and Jody Shelley. Everyone is buying into Coach Hitchcock's game plan, he knows what he is talking about and we are seeing the rewards early on.

How hard has it been on you a number 1 pick ('02) to carry the expectations of a franchise?

Nash - I honestly have never let expectations effect my game, I was fortunate to be a high pick and with that comes a level of expectations which are understandable. I would like to think my growth here in Columbus has been steady and that we as a franchise have grown to a place where now we are ready to take the next step and make the play-offs this season.

For many outsiders Columbus has been linked with other markets which are failing in the NHL, How would you describe your City and Fans?

Nash - Come to Columbus and see for yourself! I couldn't have asked for a better place to be drafted to, the Fans are amazing, they rally behind us all the time, Win or Loose! The atmosphere in our Rink is one of the best in the NHL and I can't wait until we start winning more so that people will start to realise it from the outside.

You have represented your Country (Canada) on a number of occassions, it must be a huge honor.

Nash  - No question, Anytime you can pull on the Maple Leaf in an International setting it is a very proud moment, not just for me but for my entire family. I have been lucky enough to play for Canada in the Olympics (Turin, Italy) World Juniors and World Championships (Gold in 2007 - Tournament MVP). I hope that my play will continue and that the people at Hockey Canada will continue to ask me to be part of their program including the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Your Junior Trainer (Don "Branks" Brankley) will be retiring after this season with the London Knights (OHL) after 38 years on the job, How important was he to your development?

Nash - When you leave home at 16, a new City, School and Friends is tough on anyone, Branks was there for me and helped me along the way. He was (is still) someone I confide in when I have problems, he has been around long enough and heard all of the problems before that he can help with whatever it is that bothers me. I know that if it weren't for him, I wouldn't have gotten through my 2 years in London as easily as I did, He was like a Father to me then and continues to be a very close friend now.

I understand he saved you from getting hurt by another Former London Knight during your Rookie season?

Nash - (Laughing) Ya, I was playing against the Detroit Red Wings and I guess I got my stick up on Brendan Shanahan during the game and cut him, I think he wanted to rip me apart. After the game he called "Branks" to ask him if I was a dirty player or not, Branks arranged for us all to go to dinner the next time we played so that we could get to know each other. I have so much respect for "Shanny" he is a great player and friend.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a nice start this season, led by the Goaltending of Pascal Leclaire and the new Defensive system of Coach Hitchcock this is a team that will be working hard every night and come Spring will no doubt be knocking on the play-offs door! Thanks to Rick for his time and best of luck for the remainder of the season!



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