The Five-Minute Interview: Defenseman Paul Mara
|Paul Mara celebrated his first Rangers goal in style during a 2-1 win over the Islanders last March at the Nassau Coliseum.|
Mara stepped in at just the right time, helping the team go 12-3-4 over its last 19 regular-season games and sweep an opening-round playoff series against Atlanta. Although he was brand new to the team, the 28-year-old blueliner played as if he had been in New York all his life. His poise and professionalism down the stretch played a major role in the team's late run.
On Wednesday, as ate lunch at the MSG Training Center before leaving with teammates for team-building exercises at West Point, Mara took time for this exclusive five-minute interview with newyorkrangers.com.
Question: How was your summer, and did you do anything special to prepare for the 2007-08 season?
Mara: The summer was great, but I was a little disappointed at the way things had finished. We had Buffalo on the ropes and couldn't finish them off. All in all, it was a great summer. I worked out hard. We had some great signings here in New York. After July 1 there was a buzz all over the country about how well we could do this year, and I think that made everyone work a little harder than we might have in the past.
Question: How familiar were you with Chris Drury and Scott Gomez prior to this year's training camp?
Mara: I knew Chris. I skated with him on a couple of U.S. teams and I also knew him from being around Boston. When I first saw that he and Scotty had signed, it was really amazing for the Rangers organization to obtain two of the best free agents on the market. It was a really exciting time when they signed on July 1.
Question: This is your first training camp in New York. How much more comfortable do you feel now than you did when you first got here in March?
Mara: I got traded to a team with 20 games left in the season. There's always an adjustment period in meeting new guys and getting adjusted to a new city. I think having those two and a half months under my belt has helped coming into training camp. Knowing the guys, knowing the trainers and knowing the coaches has made it a little bit easier coming into my first training camp here in New York.
Question: You seemed to fit right into the team from the moment you joined it last season. What made for such a smooth transition?
Mara: I think the players and the trainers and the coaching staff here really welcome new players with open arms. The systems that they run and the players that they have here make everyone feel at home right away. With some other teams it's not like that, but here in New York it was great, and it was a very easy adjustment.
Question: How does this training camp compare to some of the others you experienced during your years with Tampa Bay, Phoenix and Boston?
Mara: The players here at this training camp know that we're going to win and want to win. That's a big difference from a lot of teams throughout the league where you come into training camp with question marks in everyone's mind about how well you can do in the upcoming year. Here in New York, I think everyone has the attitude that we're going to win the Stanley Cup, and that's what you need to be successful.
Question: You're one of several American players here in training camp. Is there a special bond between you guys?
Mara: We've all been on USA Hockey teams. I know I've played with Chris and Scotty. It's always great to have other countrymen on your team.
Question: Is there any sense of rivalry between all the American and Canadian players?
Mara: No, not in the locker room. When the U.S. and Canada play each other, there's a little bit of ribbing, but it's no big deal.
Question: With so many talented defensemen in camp this year, how do you guys all handle the pressure of competing for jobs?
Mara: It's always a good thing to have a competitive balance whenever or wherever you play. It makes it that much more important for you to play hard and play well every time you're on the ice whether you're practicing or in the games, so it's always nice to be pushed.
Question: What has been your impression of some of the younger defensemen in camp who are coming out of junior hockey, particulary Marc Staal, Michael Sauer and Bobby Sanguinetti?
Mara: They have a bright future ahead of them. They can all skate with the puck and shoot, and that's the name of the game nowadays in the pros. So they have great futures ahead of them.
Question: Do you have a preference as to who might be your regular defense partner this season?
Mara: It doesn't really matter. Whatever happens, happens. During the seasons there are always situations where you have to play with the other five guys, so it really doesn't matter. During the regular season last year I played with Jason Strudwick and I also played with Thomas Pock. It really all depends on injuries and the game situation.