This past week I was so thrilled to have the Milwaukee Admirals back in town for a home game that I did a ton of work getting more Fifteen interviews done. The Admirals play tomorrow against the Grand Rapids Griffins on FM106/Coors Light Country Music Night. Sadly, just as the Admirals return they’ll be off on the AHL All-Star break Sunday and Monday before shipping out to California for games against the Bakersfield Condors and San Diego Gulls next weekend.
With all that in mind I want to setup the AHL All-Star break with two Fifteen interviews with the Admirals two representatives, Dean Evason and Frédérick Gaudreau. Today we’ll have the ol’ head coach. Monday, the day of the AHL All-Star Classic, I will have Gaudreau’s interview up.
Feel bad to have to wait so long for that follow-up interview with Gaudreau? Fear not, because I felt very bad to let you all hanging last week without an edition of Fifteen so I am officially declaring next week Five Days of Fifteen. There will be an interview posted each day next week. I won’t name names but do trust that I followed all of your suggestions and ran off of the list that I’ve been racing through as you readers continually drop names you want to hear featured next.
Admirals Roundtable: What were your inspirations to play hockey?
Dean Evason: I don’t think there was an inspiration it was just what we did. My mum and dad, we always had a rink in the backyard and my brother and I played. I can’t remember not playing hockey… before school, after school, weekends, that’s all we did. I don’t think there’s an inspiration but there was certainly a motivation to play hockey.
AR: When did you realize that you were going to be doing this for a career?
Evason: Probably in junior. When I started playing in the Western Hockey League I played in Kamloops. Probably the time you get drafted and you’re like, “Well, maybe I can make a living out of playing hockey.” That’s probably the first time.
AR: Who was the first famous player that you met?
Evason: That I met. [pause] Bobby Hull. He came up to Thompson, Manitoba which is 10-hours North of Winnipeg. He came up there for some exhibition thing and autograph signing. I met him in an autograph signing in line.
AR: What is your greatest hockey moment and, for you, as a player or as a coach?
Evason: I always say my greatest hockey moment was playing in the NHL. I mean, just to have that opportunity – that chance – that was the moment. Certainly there’s been ups and downs but to actually play and to be there for sure was that moment as a player. As a coach, I’d likely say the same thing. And my aspirations to get there again as a head coach is still out there. It’s still a dream. As I say an aspiration to something I’m striving for but to be in the NHL as an assistant coach was pretty exciting as well. (AR: What was it like to coach [Alexander Ovechkin] in Washington?) It was fun. It really was. I came in the exact same time that he did. I actually met him in the summer. We were looking for a place to live and went into the dressing room and he was coming in for his press conference deal and I met him. It was fun. I mean, he’s a special athlete -obviously- a special hockey player but he’s a very genuine guy. He really is. He’s gone through a lot in his career so far. He’s had some ups and downs but he’s a really good person. And it was fun to be around him for as much as I was.
AR: What is the most memorable goal that you scored in your playing career?
Evason: Probably… [pause] I probably got two. I scored one hat trick in the NHL. I don’t know the year. It was in Calgary. I think it was ’86, maybe, ’86 – ’87. I scored a hat trick. Got in a fight at the end of the first period – second fight. When you were involved in a second fight, there’s already a fight that’s gone on, and I got in a fight and got kicked out of the game. And it was my father’s Birthday. There’s no TV. There was TV games but not a lot. So I phoned him after the first period after I got undressed and I said, “Happy Birthday.” And he goes, “What the heck are you doing?” And I said, “Well, I scored a hat trick. Got in a fight. And got kicked out.” So, that was very memorable. The other one was probably when I was with the World Championships in ’97. I scored, we beat Sweden in a three-game series and it was the third game – it was the gold medal game. I was able to score in that game. That was fun.
AR: What is the strangest game that you’ve played or coached in?
Evason: Probably a strange one, off the top of my head, was in Quebec City. Again, I’m not 100% sure of the year. There was a bad penalty call and the Quebec fans all went to the bathrooms and grabbed all the toilet paper, from every toilet in the building, and threw them on the ice. So all you could see is just streams of toilet paper coming down on the ice. I think it was something Ulf Samuelsson did that warranted the eruption of it. That was probably pretty strange. As a coach… (AR: Pink Ice Game in Rockford?) That was a long… that was a long session for sure. But, I don’t know if we’ve had one that’s been real crazy or anything like that.
AR: What is your most embarrassing moment, either as a player or even as a coach?
Evason: Anytime you get, as a coach, a bench minor it’s embarrassing. All coaches I think get a little heated on the bench. It’s an area of concern that I’ve had to deal with through my coaching career. I was always a bit of an emotional player and to do that as a coach… I did a lot earlier or a lot more when I was younger. Now I’m, I hope, a little more reserved. But, anytime you get a bench minor it’s a very embarrassing moment for sure and I’ve been suspended a couple times as a coach. Anytime it happens you don’t look very good. Those types of things are embarrassing. As a player, gosh, I don’t know. I had so many embarrassing moments as far as falling down or being on a breakaway and falling down or missing. There’s countless times I think that when you play long enough you go through some embarrassing things on the ice. [gets reluctant] Well I guess I will tell you one. I got in a fight with Keith Tkachuk in Winnipeg and he was just out of college. And I thought I did very well against him – I did do very well. And then the second time we played them it was a few months later and he’d been in the league and honed his skills a little more. He hit me so hard my forehead looked like it had a Coke can sticking out of the side of my temple. I was in Winnipeg and my family was all there – and all my buddies. After the game I went into the shower. I actually showered with my helmet on to try to keep the pressure on it to keep it down. But then I came out, and all my buddies are standing there, and it was a Coke can again. They were looking at me just laughing their butts off. So, that was a little bit embarrassing but that happens in the game as well. (AR: Tkachuk is tough. He had a great career, too.) Yeah, and BIG. Big and strong – and I’m not.
AR: What is your most painful moment of your playing career?
Evason: Broke my nose five times. Every time you get punched in the nose or a puck, which happened a couple times, it’s extremely painful. But likely the most pain I think, and you could probably ask other players, is having a seriously pulled groin. (AR: That goes without saying for anyone.) Yeah, you just can’t do anything. You get massages, it hurts. You put ice on it, it hurts. You skate, you walk, it hurts. Probably the most painful would be a groin injury besides the broken nose. (AR: Any time I see on a bottom line “groin injury” and it’s like, day-to-day or something, I just say that’s me done for a career. I’m out.) We’ve got some great trainers and I had some great trainers. I’ve always had groin problems. To keep you in the game they do a great job for sure.
AR: What are your favorite uniforms in hockey?
Evason: I honestly love our uniforms. I really do. Clearly I have never worn one but I’m a big blue fan – a big baby blue fan. So, when I was first approached to take this job by Nashville I had no idea of the colors. I went online and checked them out and was pretty excited. I really like our colors, no question. I guess the Chicago Blackhawks jersey has always been a special looking jersey. For me, I’ve never been a fan of their team but I like their jerseys. (AR: I don’t have to bail you out for the Nashville fans listening to this now.) It’s just a cool jersey. (AR: Really all the Original Six are nice.) You know what I grew up a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Bobby Clarke was from Flin Flon. I’m from Flin Flon. I don’t particularly like orange but I really enjoyed their uniforms back in the 70’s and the way their teams were put together. Certainly the way that he played. I enjoyed their jerseys.
AR: Funniest players that you’ve either coached or played alongside?
Evason: Funniest? (AR: Funniest.) Well, Scott Ford would be the funniest coach I’ve ever had beside me. It’s not because he’s funny either. He’s just funny to be around. (AR: How many more moments has he had where he’s forgotten that he’s in coach mode where he’s taking a knee with all the players?) Those were funnier earlier in the year. He’s kind of gone past that a little bit but he still has some moments that are lots of fun. As a player there’s so many guys that were funny guys. You know what Ray Ferraro, who I lived with in Binghamton and then went to Hartford and played with him there for several years. We still stay in contact. He is very funny on the ice. Very witty as far as his comebacks to other players. Probably the next guy would be Paul Lawless who I played with in Hartford, as well. Really funny man.
AR: What’s been your favorite part of Milwaukee since you joined?
Evason: You know what. I would say the entire city. When I first came here I didn’t know much about the city. I had been here twice to visit family but I really didn’t know much about the city. I think the whole city.. the restaurants, the entertainment, the sporting events, the golf courses.. I mean I could go on and on. I really have enjoyed my time here both through the season and when I’ve had an opportunity to come back in the summer. It’s a real fun city and I think you don’t recognize it until you’re actually here. (AR: I always liked the way that Scott Ford put it calling it Small-waukee because you can get to so many different places all in the city.) Yeah, but the people are a small town feel because of how genuine and how nice they are but you have all the big city events and big city things that you can do. It has a real nice balance for sure.
AR: What’s your favorite food?
Evason: Favorite food? Oh my gosh. I don’t know I eat a lot of salads. I would probably say shrimp tacos. (AR: That’s out of left field from everyone else I’ve heard so far.) No, I really -you can ask the guys- when we go on the road it’s shrimp tacos for me. I really enjoy it.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey hobby?
Evason: Golf. I play 36 holes a day or more. I’ve played 54 [holes] one day with a buddy of mine in Washington. I would just keep playing and playing until my back gave out.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey memory?
Evason: Probably the birth of all three of my children. As anyone knows that has had kids that’s an extremely special time in anyone’s life.
AR: The last question I usually end on for the players with, “what are your plans for after after hockey?” I think you sort of got that under wraps. So what do you think you’re going to be doing in, say, 10-years?
Evason: I hope I’m doing the exact same thing. Where? I don’t know. I heard a quote, there’s a referee [Ray Scapinello] said find a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life. I truly believe that. I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve played this game for a living and now I’m making a living still in this game coaching. If I can stay in the game I’ll try to stay in it as long as I can. (AR: That quote is something I’ve been living with since college and it’s a reason why I’m usually the last one out of this building writing. It’s not work. It’s fun.) [laughs] It isn’t work. It isn’t. We’re so fortunate to have the ability to come to work and put a pair of skates on, go on the ice, blow a whistle, skate around, and exercise. And have a family without having a family. It’s exciting. Hockey is a great great sport – on the ice that people see – but off the ice it’s a great sport. There’s great great people involved in it. Again, I’m very fortunate to be involved as well. (AR: And, as a coach, it has to be pretty nice to be part of that moment of letting people know that they’re going to the NHL – whether it’s a player as young as a Kevin Fiala or as old as a Mark Van Guilder.) No question. I had never experienced it. I’ve heard coaches talk about it. Stan [Drulia] talked about it when I first got here. To have that experience every time – to see that player’s face – to see it in his eyes when you can sit there and look him in the eyes and say he’s going to play his first NHL game – he’s getting called up – it’s awesome. It really is. There’s no way to describe it. A lot of reactions are different. Some are more excited than others but you can see everyone just in their eyes of what it means to them to get that opportunity. It’s awesome.
As always, a big thank you to Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason for taking the time to do this interview. He deals with me enough on gamedays that it was fun to do something different like this. The list of players you all want to hear from next is starting to run to ground. So, who do you want to have featured in Fifteen next? Please comment down below with your suggestions!