By: Hamilton Bulldogs
07/20/2013 8:20 AM -
HAMILTON, ONTARIO – It has been a journey through the American Hockey League for Nick Tarnasky.
After scoring 16 goals and adding 10 assists for 26 points in 74 games with the Rochester Americans last season, the 28-year-old finds himself on home soil, playing with a franchise that takes him back to his childhood.
“Growing up [the Montreal Canadiens were] my dad’s favourite team year in and year out. So it’s exciting for me to have an opportunity to be with the organization that I looked up to and to be part of something that’s ultimately a part of the history of the game is great.”
After sharing his time in junior with the Vancouver Giants, Kelowna Rockets, and Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League, the Rocky Mountain House, Alberta native was drafted in the ninth round, 287th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2003 National Hockey League Entry Draft. However, Tarnasky has yet to play on a team with a history as rich as Montreal’s.
“It’s an accomplishment like none other. You look at the NHL and what it has come from, so to be part of a winning and successful franchise – the Canadiens – it’s a great accomplishment and I’m more than happy.”
The left winger is no stranger to fighting and is known for his tough side, but this season he wants to bring more offence to a team that’s looking to build on the front end.
“I feel I can contribute when five-on-five, but I think I can play on the power play and kill penalties. I think I bring a lot of leadership and that mentality of never backing down; we’re going to do the right thing and play the right way.
“Obviously you’re not going to win 76 games in a season, but I feel that no matter what the situation is, game by game I’m one of those players that holds my teammates accountable and obviously I want to win, so I’m looking to push the guys right to that last minute and striving for success.”
With Zack Stortini recently signing a deal with the Anaheim Ducks, Tarnasky has big shoes to fill. The 6’2”, 230 pounder is known for his on-ice encounters with the former Bulldog, but it isn’t his main focus. In fact, he sees it as motivation.
“I don’t know that there would be any negativity to surround it. I think that from a fan’s perspective, I would always look at it as more exciting instead of the Hamilton and Montreal fans knowing me from fighting against Stortini. To me, putting on that opposite sweater is just as exciting as it should be for the fans to have me wearing it.
“If anything, I think it should be more exciting to have me there. They know me as a guy that’s sticking up for my own teammates and I think for that situation it should be the opposite; they should be happier to see me because they know me.”
Last season’s team-high 138 penalty minutes with Rochester has labeled Tarnasky as a tougher player, but he feels his all-round game has improved over the past few seasons and credits that to his time with Vityaz Chekhov of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League in 2011-2012.
“That was a great experience for me. My overall game has improved quite a bit by playing on that big ice. I was actually given a good opportunity to stay in my role and play power play and penalty kill, handle the puck and try to make plays.
“I think that coming back to North America last year, I showed that my game had improved, even little things, as far as confidence and making smart plays.”
Thrilled to be wearing the jersey of a Canadian organization for the first time in his professional playing career, Tarnasky now looks to the future and has his sights set on success with his new team.
“I think the main thing is that we hold ourselves accountable and we’re going to be there for the fans to enjoy and have an all-round experience for everyone.
“I just want the fans to come to the rink and have fun watching me play. I’m a team guy and I’ll always put the crest on my jersey before the name on my back. So I want those fans to enjoy having me as part of the organization as much as I’m going to enjoy being part of it.”