Q&A with Former Blue Tyson Nash
Once an energy forward, Nash is enjoying his career as a broadcaster
Tyson Nash played in 255 games with the Blues, recording 24 goals and 26 assists (50 points). Used mostly in a third / fourth line energy role, Nash became a fan-favorite in St. Louis under Head Coach Joel Quenneville from 1999-2003.
Nash last played in the NHL during the 2005-06 season. He currently serves as the radio color analyst for the Phoenix Coyotes and lives with his wife, Kathy and three children, Maddie, Ty and Georgia.
Nash took a few minutes with stlouisblues.com recently to discuss growing up a hockey fan, his time as a Blue, how a broadcasting job came about and more.
STLOUISBLUES.COM: We talked to another Edmonton-native recently in former Blues goalie Jamie McLennan. Did you also grow up an Oilers fan watching guys like Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier?
Tyson Nash: Yes, without a doubt. I have Wayne Gretzky wallpaper and Wayne Gretzky bed sheets. But Esa Tikkanen was my favorite player. I figured there wasn't a chance I would ever play like Wayne Gretzky, so Esa Tikkanen was a guy I enjoyed watching. He put you on the edge of your seat all the time and obviously put together a good career. That's who I tried to emulate myself after.
BLUES: You play junior hockey in Kamloops and won three Memorial Cups there. Talk about what that experience was like.
TN: When your career is over like mine is now, you look back. During the time (I was in Kamloops), I don't think you appreciate it as much. Now that I'm done playing, the four years I played in Kamloops, to win it three times is pretty special. It says a lot about the leadership we had there, the General Manager Bob Brown, the coaches I went through with Tom Renney, Don Hay, even Ken Hitchcock was a big part of that program before I got there. I feel very privileged to be part of that organization. That organization set the foundation for me as a player. They taught me how to win, they taught me everything about hockey, about being a person, about acting accordingly, about respect for your opponents, what it takes to make it, what it takes to succeed in hockey. Really, when you look at it, besides my parents, I owe a great deal (to them). When you're on a winning team, you get noticed. When you win championships, that means you have every scout in the NHL watching you play. I wasn't a star, but I got noticed because we won hockey games.
BLUES: In your final two seasons with Kamloops, you had 58 points in 65 games and 75 points in 63 games. How did you develop that scoring touch?
TN: Every player when they're young is a scorer and able to put the puck in the net. I was never a banger or crasher when I was a young kid. When you're a rookie at whatever level, I had to come in and play a certain style. I played on good teams so I had to do something special to get in the lineup. That's what I had to do. Darcy Tucker was the same. We were two 16-year-olds that fought in practice all the time, we'd run defenseman into the corners just to get into the lineup. It was no different in the American Hockey League. You had to do whatever it took to get in the lineup, play regularly and earn the trust of your coach in order to get extra ice time, get power play time and to be put on the penalty kill...that was all earned. That was important for me. It wasn't given to me in Kamloops, it wasn't given to me in the American Hockey League...I was never a top draft pick. Everything I did, I had to earn. I think that helped me down the stretch. The NHL was no different. I stayed and played a role and tried to play that role to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, I wish I had worked a little bit more on the skill side of the game and maybe I would have played a few more years, but I'm obviously happy with the way things turned out.
BLUES: Tell us about the transition from junior to the NHL. What was it like to go from a guy expected to contribute offensively to a guy expected to play in an energy role?
TN: I think the biggest thing for me was (Head Coach) Greg Gilbert, the guy we had at the St. Louis farm team in Worcester. He taught me what it was going to take for me to get to the next level. If I was going to get to the NHL, I had to play a certain way. That way was very simple, making sure you got the puck out, got it in deep, work the puck down low and create offensive opportunities. That stuck with me for a long time. It wasn't just a coach trying to teach 20 hockey players how to play a certain way, but it was him reaching out to me individually and saying if you're going to make it, you gotta play this way and this way only. I took that to heart and I think he helped me more than any coach I've ever had. When I got to (the NHL), Joel Quenneville came to me...and said if you could be the most hated player in the NHL, you're going to have a job here for a long time. That was all I wanted. I wanted a role and something I could take pride in. It wasn't part of my personality and it wasn't who I was as a person, but if I had to play that way to play in the NHL, I would do whatever it took to do that. I think there are a lot of players around the NHL today that are just playing and don't really know what their roles are. Good coaches put players in roles, and it's up to those players to do those things.
BLUES: Was the energy / pest role you played with the Blues a good fit for you?
TN: Yeah, I loved it. My coach told me 'this is all we want from you. We don't care whether you score one goal or 10 goals. If you go out there and do your job, you will be rewarded at the end of the year.' For me, that's all that mattered. I would shine their shoes if they wanted me to as long as I didn't have to go back to the American Hockey League, get on that bus and eat those soggy subs. Three games in three nights is misery, and it's a good thing it's misery, because it makes players work to get to the next level.
BLUES: When you think back about your time as a Blue, what stands out for you?
TN: My first full season there, we won the Presidents' Trophy. That was pretty special. Making the NHL, walking in that locker room for the first time and seeing my name on that jersey is something I dreamed about my entire life. To have that come to fruition was pretty special. But the biggest thing was the team we had. I always tell people it was probably the best team in the NHL to never win (the Cup). You knew every night you put that jersey on that you had a chance to win the hockey game, and you probably were going to win the hockey game no matter what the score was. You knew (Pierre) Turgeon was going to come through, Chris Pronger was going to come through, Al MacInnis, Pavol Demitra...the list just goes on. To be part of that team was very special to me now that I'm retired and I look back at it.
BLUES: After your playing career ended, you end up making your home in Phoenix. What kept you there?
TN: Obviously St. Louis is a place I hold very dear to my heart. The job that I have right now (though in Phoenix) doesn't come around very often, and it came around and I jumped at it because when you're a player, you always think you're going to have a job in hockey, but that's not the way it goes. I'm very fortunate that the Coyotes hired me. I love it here, too. The weather is beautiful, the team is fantastic right now going to the Western Conference Finals. It's a great group of guys to be around. There was no (job) in St. Louis for me at the time, but I always go back there as much as I can with the Alumni, one of the best Alumni (groups) in the National Hockey League. Kelly Chase keeps me very involved and I love every single trip that I (make) to St. Louis. It will always hold a very special place in my heart because that's where it all started for me.
BLUES: How did the job as a color commentator for the Coyotes come about? Is that something you considered doing once you hung up the skates?
TN: No, I never did. I was actually off to Tampa Bay (Lightning) for a tryout after playing a year overseas, and (broadcaster) Louie DeBrusk ended up leaving to go back to Edmonton to his hometown, so the radio job became available. The president at the time called me and said 'hey, this is a real good opportunity for you to be involved in hockey for a long time. I think you have the right personality for it, you have the energy for it and I think you should really look into this. You and your family should sit down and talk about it.' I did, and it took me all of a couple hours. I said 'you know what, it's going to be hard to retire and hard to hang up (the skates), but this is something that I could do for a real long time in hockey.' I love every single minute of it. It's the next best thing to playing. I get to travel around, be around the guys and I go to the rink every day. That's my office, and the best part about it is I don't get beat up anymore."