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A Chat with Nolan Graham

By Kevin Beattie, Transcribed by Eddie Haldemann '02

Game Program, January 18, 2003

You had a big game recently (1 goal and 4 assists in a 5-2 win over Minnesota Duluth on Jan. 3) - was that something you were expecting? Is it like a monkey off of your back?

Maybe a little, personally. More just the goal and the other stuff was just the team scoring. A couple of guys contributed and the pucks went in that game for us.

Is that a trend that you see continuing?

I definitely hope so. We're getting into ECAC play and the tradition of the ECAC is low scoring games. I think five goal games are not going to be high percentage, but we'll just get a little confidence going into league play and that's going to be good for us.

Were you personally feeling the pressure?

I wasn't feeling pressure from outside, but inside I was a little frustrated. It was good to have a game like that.

Is this the type of season you expected with low scoring games?

I think that was the easy prediction, predicting that we'd have trouble scoring goals. We've had a lot of games where we scored one goal. But, we've got a real good core of young guys. For the future, they are definitely some exciting players to watch here for the next couple years.

If not scoring goals is a negative this season, what are some of the positives?

I think our freshmen. Brad (Farynuk) has played very well. I think all of our D-men - I think (Scott) Romfo and some players we haven't gotten to see very much of, guys like (Chris) Hussey, are going to contribute down the road. Obviously, (Kevin) Croxton is definitely an exciting player to watch.

Have the upperclassmen played a significant role in their success?

I don't know - I think they've kind of taken the bull by the horns a little. It's easier with them playing the way they're playing, its not really much teaching as far as leadership goes. Those guys are just so eager and naïve to play, they just want to get on the ice. I think they're doing well and we just have to pull up our socks a little bit here coming down the stretch.

What are some of the things in the locker room that happen that people don't see that upperclassmen are expected to do?

Keep the attitude positive when things aren't going well. Upperclassmen have to keep it positive, keep guys in the right direction. Being here for four years now, or three and a half years, just give them tips on things you've seen, things to expect when we go on certain road trips. Just talking over things you've seen in the past.

You're four classes from graduating - how fast has it gone by?

Freshman year seems like yesterday still.

Has it been enjoyable?

It's definitely been enjoyable. I don't regret the decision to come here at all. I think the atmosphere here with the fans, the whole school ... it's great.

What have been some of your more memorable moments?

I think the whole hockey crowd and hockey community here is real tight. The same people that were here when I was a freshman and introduced me to people bring the freshmen over and introduce themselves to the freshmen.

Lake Placid my freshman year was pretty enjoyable. It was the first time my parents got to come out here too, that was nice. Some of the players I've gotten to play with - guys like Marc (Cavosie) and Matt (Murley), (Brad) Tapper, Potsie (Brian Pothier) and Joel (Laing). They're all guys that have come through because of good recruiting by our school - guys that I've had the privilege to play with.

You mentioned your parents - have they been out here very often?

Once a year I think. They came out already the start of this year, and they're going to come out again for Senior Appreciation night - that'll be nice.

You're from British Columbia, what's it like back home?

A lot of outdoors stuff. I fish a lot in the summer and stuff like that.

What about weather-wise? Most think Canada is cold all the time.

No, not at all. I think right now in January its close to 48 or 45.

So it's more like California?

Definitely, just more humid. Just more wet - you don't get much snow at all maybe an inch or two a year.

So who is back at home? Do you have any brothers or sisters?

My brother is in Australia right now. He's been down there for the last couple of months. I don't know when he's coming back. He's surfing and working on a fruit farm. And I have a sister going to nursing school.

Do you have plans to go back to BC when you're done here in May?

I'm not sure of my plans as of yet. I would like to hopefully get a chance to play somewhere at the end of year. That would be great. If not, I'm not going to be crushed, but I would love to go play somewhere and get a feel for how I fit in.

As far as going back in the future and working and living - I haven't planned anything out yet.

Do you have hockey in the plans?

Definitely.

Either in the U.S. or Europe?

If I got the chance to go to Europe I would definitely take that opportunity to go. Six years ago when I was back home and I got a chance to go here it didn't seem like it was going to happen, but I had a chance and it was great.

How did that all work out?

I went and played junior hockey in Chilliwack for my two years. After my first year I started talking to Bill Cahill when he was here, and later that summer they asked me to come visit and I visited. It all happened real quick - in about a two week span.

What was your recruiting trip like?

It was real good. Mark Murphy was my player host; he took me around here - he was a senior that year. I just got to visit the campus and meet a few people, have lunch with Coach Fridgen and breakfast with Burkie (John Burke).

Was there a game that weekend?

No, it was in August before my season started. It was a good trip - a lot of fun.

Were you looking at other schools or were other schools looking at you?

I had an offer to Cornell and I was talking to Princeton. There was a couple other schools, but it was so early in the year that a lot of schools hadn't had a chance to come out yet. The season starts in September and a lot of schools come in September before their season starts.

What is junior hockey like in Canada?

It's town hockey. You're playing for the town - it's not like a school or something like that. Back home in Nanaimo they get 4,500 people a game with a 60 game schedule - 30 home games a year. People are real passionate about their hockey.

How old are the players?

It varies. There's some players in high school who are playing and you can play until you're 20.

What has been the biggest difference in you on the ice since you first got here?

Confidence. I'm stronger. Taking responsibility, taking leadership, being accountable, being the guy that Coach can turn to we need something done on the ice. Just filling the shoes that have been empty after guys leave.

Is that the nature of college sports?

I think so. I think some guys fill the shoes quicker than others. Guys step in like Marc (Cavosie), like Croxton is doing this year - goal production was down and he stepped in and filled the shoes there.

Are there certain things you, personally, are working on during the season?

I try to work on my shot. I feel I have a weak shot - its one of the weaker parts of my game. I try to be more patient with the puck when I get frustrated. Sometimes the puck gets a little jittery there and bounces off your stick, I just try to calm down. I guess its more mental, you've got to try to stay positive.

With a record under .500 has the team lost a lot of confidence in themselves?

I don't think so. It's just more frustrating a little bit. The games we're losing are the games where we're only scoring one goal. We're not losing 64, it's the 3-1 games. You're playing well defensively and keeping teams to two or three goals. Its not great, but its not bad, but its just one of those things - scoring is tough to teach.

What about the ECAC? What do you see with the league? What are the goals of the team going into the bulk of the ECAC schedule?

I think a lot of guys don't realize - they think the season is half over - but it's just beginning right now. The rest of our games are in ECAC play. I think with all the teams going to playoffs, top four is one of our goals. With the likes of Cornell and Harvard playing fairly well right now, they're likely 1 and 2. Other than that with 15 games left I think we can finish anywhere, its another classic season where 3 to 12 is a four point difference.

Is that enjoyable or would you rather it be spread out?

It was definitely a big difference from junior hockey where we play 60 league games a year where one team got 80 points and one team has got 20 points. We play 22 league games here, there's not too many points that are distributed around many teams. Its definitely a big change.

With the additional change of all the teams going to the playoffs, they moved the final four to Albany ... what do you perceive the atmosphere being if and when you play in Albany?

I think, for RPI, it would be terrific. It's definitely something that's nothing but exciting. For all the fans its just a 15 minute drive away now instead of two hours and an expensive hotel room in Lake Placid. I got a chance to go to the Final Four when it wasn't even the RPI team, and that year was unbelievable. I think it was the best hockey atmosphere I've ever been a part of. If it's half of what that was its going to be a terrific place to play.

Do you make it to the Pepsi very often?

I've been to a couple Rats games, a Britney Spears concert. I've been there a couple times, we got a chance to watch Matt (Murley) play early in the season.

There were three RPI players there recently. Does that give you some incentive to see guys like Healey, Aldous and Riva playing in the AHL? Does that give you some hope?

Oh, it definitely does. Guys like that have gone their own way and paved the way for other players coming through look at them and look up to them. It can be done, even if you think it can't be because you're not drafted. You still get a chance.

To consider that a lot of our guys are playing in the AHL, that's pretty good. That says a lot about the coaches, doesn't it?

It definitely does. Guys go up and they realize that they learned a lot of stuff here and perhaps it wasn't as bad as they thought and, wow, I'm prepared for the next level.

Looking ahead to the Senior Banquet, what will you say when you get your chance to go to the podium?

I think it would be the typical 'four years go by very quick'. I remember four years ago sitting there and you think it doesn't - sometimes when things are down you think 'its never going to end', but it goes very quick. You realize how good you have it here. I think I'll even realize that more when my hockey is over. Once you have no chance to put that jersey back on, you realize that you have a real good chance and opportunity here. Have fun and cherish it while you're here.

Will you bleed RPI red forever and forever watch the team?

Definitely. Just the way I was brought up here. Four years is along time. I'll definitely watch and stay in contact.

Should there be fighting in college hockey?

Yeah.

Why do you say yes to fighting?

I don't think there's a problem right now with stickwork. But sometimes things get out of control where guys start taking runs at skilled players or smaller players where there's not much else you can do. You say 'line him up for a good check', but sometimes that's ??? you can do if you've got an idiot running around.

I think we'll see more of that in ECACs?

Definitely. Especially come late in the season when guys know who the other team's players are. If guys get a chance to run over one of the other team's good players, I think albeit dirty or not its going to happen a little bit. Its just the name of the game.

When you go back home, how do you describe college hockey?

My first game I watched is the first game I played. Very skilled, quick, skilled players moving the puck real quick. Guys are bigger and a little stronger. Goalies are a big step up from junior hockey. You still get five shots on net, but those five shots aren't going in like junior hockey was.

Who is the best player you've ever played against?

I played against Scott Gomez (New Jersey Devils) in junior hockey. He dominated that league. I'd say Tapper is definitely one of the most skilled players I've played with. He's unbelievably fast and he's got a ridiculous shot.

Best goalie?

Joel. His work ethic definitely amazed me. Guys usually get off the ice and are begging for a goalie to stay on so they can shoot on him. He's the total opposite. He'd drag you over there and make you take 100 shots on him.

Favorite movie? Goldmember. Actors? Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro. Band? Eminem. TV show growing up? Seinfeld. First job? Public skating - being a staff member. Most exciting goal you ever scored? Lake Placid freshman year. Favorite hockey team growing up? Chicago Blackhawks. Why? Jeremy Roenick, I had a Chicago jersey signed by him. Favorite video game? NHL Hockey.