King of the Mountain: An Interview with Sy Tremblay
The Washington Stars flunked out of the playoffs in the second round last year. They were the talk of the IHA after a titillating 7-game series against fan-favorite Pittsburgh. And they managed to knock-out the powerhouse Rocket team without their superstar center, Symon Tremblay.
Tremblay, touted as the face of the IHA and the best player of a generation, broke his ankle in the second last game of the regular season, which took him out of the playoff picture entirely. Sportica talked to him about rehabilitation, the playoffs, and getting back on top in a new season.
Sportica: You broke your foot in a pretty freak accident in March. How frustrating was that when the team got to the playoffs?
Symon Tremblay: It was pretty frustrating. You know, we work really hard all season, and there were some fears we weren’t even going to make the playoffs last year. You know, going into the last game even, people were like, “will they or won’t they?”
S: The Stars made it in though. How did you feel about that, when you heard they made it in?
ST: Oh, you can’t be down about that kind of thing. Like, there’s a lot of emotions, sure. But for the team to make it in, that’s huge. I’m not gonna hope or pray for the guys not to get into the postseason because I’m injured. You gotta hope for the best for the whole team.
S: Even still, that has to be tough, knowing you won’t be able to play.
ST: Sure. You want to be there for the team–of course you do. That’s only natural. That goes for anybody on the team. We have a great group of guys, and we all work very well together. If we’re missing even one piece, then the whole team struggles a bit more.
S: So being sidelined …
ST: Sucks. There’s no two ways around it. You want to be there, and you try to support them anyway you can. But you’re constantly thinking, ‘what if I was there, what if I was on the ice? Would that play have happened like that?’ But, you know, I’m not going to make or break the team. Whether I’m there or not, some plays just aren’t going to go our way. I think the guys proved that.
S: What did you think when the team faced the Rockets right off the bat? There’s a history there, going back a long way.
ST: We’re rivals, for sure. laughs You know, I think that kind of helps, sometimes, like it riles guys up, gets them fired up. There’s all this history there, and you want to give the fans something. You want to honor that history, all the guys who played before you and built up this great rivalry.
S: You and Aleks Volkov have an amazing rivalry. Do you think that’s just because you two are such great players, or do you think it has to do with the teams you play for?
We have a great group of guys, and we all work very well together. If we’re missing even one piece, then the whole team struggles a bit more.
ST: The league really tries to play that up. We don’t actually think about it that much–at least, I don’t. I’m not watching how many goals Volkov scores, keeping track of his stats. I go out there and I play my game. I hope he plays his. And that’s the thing–we’re two different players. People are always gonna wanna compare, but you can’t. You just can’t. Volkov’s an amazing player. He brings amazing energy to the ice, to the game. He’s a great competitor. And you can’t compare that, the numbers don’t show it.
S: The Rockets are considered a powerhouse in the east, and they were the fan favorites to get to the second-round. How did you feel when the Stars upset them?
ST: I said we have a great group of guys, and I mean that. Everyone goes out there, does his best. We all bring a lot of passion to the game. And, you know, in this league, I think that’s sometimes–sometimes, that’s how it goes. The guys who want it are gonna fight for it. It comes down to who wants it more, sometimes.
S: What about the second-round loss to Boston?
ST: The amount of talent in the IHA is just astounding. Boston has some very talented guys, just like Pittsburgh does. So you can’t ever say things like we just don’t stack up against a team like Boston or that a team like Pittsburgh lost because they don’t have the talent. Like I said, it’s sometimes a matter of who wants it more, who wants to fight for it. And Boston wanted it more.
S: The playoffs ended earlier than most of the Stars were hoping. What about you?
ST: You never want it to end. You want to get all the way to the end. Even if I couldn’t play, I’m not secretly hoping that they’re gonna flunk out so we can all play golf together.
S: You probably weren’t playing any golf right after the Stars playoff run ended either.
ST: No, the broken ankle didn’t really help with that. Four to six weeks before I was even cleared for physio. And, after that, you have to really ease back into it.
S: Rehabilitation is incredibly important after an injury. How did you go about it during the summer?
ST: Like I said, carefully. You don’t want to just jump back into it. You’ve had four to six weeks of rest, and the ankle was still healing, so you have to be careful with that. It’s still weak. And you don’t really know what else is weak or vulnerable after that length of time, so you have to sort of start from the bottom and work your way back up again. Obviously, the trainers are really good about that kind of thing, they set up a program for you.
S: Some trainers have complained about you.
ST: Oh really.
S: Rumor has it that you don’t like to stick to plan.
ST: [laughs] I guess not. It’s easy, you get pretty excited, and if you feel pretty good, like, you push it a bit more. Sometimes, it feels like they’re making you go too slow, and you think, yeah I can do more …
S: You spent most of the summer getting back into shape for the upcoming season.
ST: Yeah. Obviously, at the start, there was a lot of concern about the ankle, so we worked a lot on that. But I worked on other parts of my game too. Lots of drills for face-offs. That’s really difficult to practice, but you have to try. Of course, we worked on other things too–more defensive.
S: Everyone says you play one of the most complete games in the league.
When I go quiet, people really notice, so that’s all they want to talk about.
ST: There are still holes in my game. There are still things I can work on, things I can improve.
S: Some people say you’re too driven. Does that ever come up?
ST: More than you’d think. Yeah, the guys–a lot of the time, it’s the guys, telling me to relax, to take a step back. It’s helpful, really. I don’t realize when I’m getting into it, so having someone remind me isn’t really a bad thing.
S: We can all use some perspective from time to time.
ST: For sure. It happens in the season too, like, you can get too caught up in a points streak or a slump. The team’s doing really well in December and you start thinking, well, maybe … Or you get off to a bad start, you have to be able to put that into perspective, to shake it off.
S: How important is it for teams to get off on the right foot at the start of the season?
ST: That’s a really tough question. You know, I think it’s easier, way easier. You know, set the tone for the season, and you can’t let guys get too down on themselves. It means you don’t have to battle for every point at the end of the season, it takes some of the pressure off. Like, you still have to work hard–you can’t just slack off–but it definitely helps. But you know, if things go really well, right from the start, then it can be harder when things don’t go as well. Guys get frustrated–like, we started off so well, what are we doing wrong?
S: So a bad start can help a team?
ST: So long as they can put it in perspective, then yeah. Like, it might suck, but you know, it can teach you–things are temporary, things will get better. Guys who do well right from the start, they come to expect it, and then they just don’t get why it won’t go their way.
S: Things seem like they often go your way.
ST: I’ve definitely struggled. I may not seem like it, you know, but I have scoring slumps too. And I think, in some ways, it’s worse, because some guys, people don’t really notice or they don’t expect it of them, right? So for me, when I go quiet, people really notice, so that’s all they want to talk about, he hasn’t scored in so long, why isn’t he scoring, when will he score? It’s frustrating, it really amplifies a slump, makes you question yourself.
S: Obviously, you don’t set out to have slumps. How do you ensure you start the season off on the right foot?
ST: Well, that’s the thing–you can’t really predict things in this sport. Like, you go out there and you try, you give it your all. And you feel ready, you’ve done all this preparation. But sometimes, the bounces just don’t go your way. All you can do is keep banging away at the pucks that do come your way, hope one of them makes it into the net.
S: With your track record, a lot of pucks will find their way into the net. Have you set any goals for yourself this season?
ST: I try not to. It’s easy to get distracted by that kind of talk, by looking at numbers and thinking, “Hmmm.” You know, you just sort of go out there and see what happens on any given night. It’s all we can really do.
Tremblay and the Stars spring back into action October 1.