“I’m thrilled with the way the night went and, you know, you get a big win at the end, so it turned out to be a great day.” — Mike Knuble on his 1,000th game.
Sometimes, as a young reporter, it’s best to keep my mouth shut around the rink and just observe or listen (probably should do that more often, I’m sure some players would say). You get a first-rate education in hockey if you pay attention. But the Capitals have made their bread and butter over the last several years as a young team, and occasionally you realize the players are learning right along with you.
That’s why Mike Knuble is so invaluable to this franchise. He’s the prototypical classy veteran, always demonstrating a mature respect for the game and an affable relationship with the media. I can only imagine the example he sets for his fellow teammates.
He doesn’t avoid the locker room media gauntlet after tough losses. He’s not afraid to tell reporters the truth. This guy shared locker rooms with Detroit Red Wings powerhouses, but he’s approachable for even young upstarts like me.
He practices what he preaches. If Knuble has a bad game, it’s not for lack of effort.
He’s a guy at peace with the game. He loves it. He’s given it 110%. But he hasn’t lost the rest of his life in the process.
Perhaps this is what I respect most about Knuble: one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of him is family. It’s not unusual to see his kids around the rink, or at media events. In an industry that requires so much travel and often moving at a moment’s notice, it’s beautiful to see Knuble incorporating his kids into his work life.
Because it’s one of the most basic rules of reporting to remember that the athletes you talk to will leave the rink at the end of the day. They’ll go grocery shopping. They’ll change diapers (hello, Matt Hendricks). They’ll probably even have to wait in traffic like you on I-66 (unless Ovechkin has somehow discovered the Batmobile). They may even change tires.
And as much as you love the game, at one point, the NHL will probably leave you. When you listen to young players talk, you want to hear them say things like what Dan Steinberg chronicled Brooks Laich and Mike Green saying in 2009: if you had one day left to live, you’d get in a game of hockey.
But at some point farther down the road, you hope they answer like Mike Knuble did when Steinberg asked that one-day-to-live question.
“Really?” Mike Knuble said, when we told him what Laich had said. “Really? He’s a lot younger than me. He hasn’t played as long. Yeah, no, probably not, to be honest.”
Coming from a guy who’s hit the NHL ice 1,000 times, it’s a point of view that doesn’t stem from laziness or lack of love for the game. It’s the sign of a healthy relationship with his profession—of keeping things in perspective.