May 9, 2003
Pro-file: Paul Kariya

By Jess Myers

For fans of college hockey, Paul Kariya will always be that amazing freshman from Maine, putting on a clinic in Milwaukee in 1993, and skating back to Orono with the NCAA title and the Hobey in tow. It might surprise some to realize that this is Kariya's ninth season in the NHL, and that fresh-faced kid in the Black Bears sweater is now a 28-year-old veteran who has seen the good and the bad of the pro game's battles.

With the NHL's Western Conference Finals set to begin in St. Paul, Kariya's seventh-seed Mighty Ducks were battling the sixth-seed Wild not only on the ice but to determine who was the playoffs' true Cinderella story. On the heels of the Angels' improbable run to the World Series title, most were giving the nod to the team that plays just down Katella Avenue from Cinderella's castle at Disneyland.

Inside College Hockey caught up with Kariya at the landmark St. Paul Hotel, in the heart of Minnesota's capital city, for a talk about pucks and the off-ice tragedies that have made the past few years a challenge for the Ducks' perpetually up-beat captain.

Inside College Hockey: You're obviously happy to be in the Western Conference Finals no matter who the opponent is, but being from Vancouver originally, were you quietly hoping to face the Canucks instead of the Wild?

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Paul Kariya: Going back to Vancouver would have been special, no doubt, with my brothers and all of my family there. But on the other hand, playing Minnesota saves me a ton of money in ticket requests.

INCH: After what happened in Minnesota at the Frozen Four last spring, did any of your friends from Maine encourage you to exorcise some of the demons at the Xcel Energy Center this spring?

PK: That was pretty disappointing for me and for our family. That was Martin's one shot at a title, but it was a great accomplishment for that team to get there, and Minnesota certainly played well.

INCH: Does Martin get any ribbing from you and Steve, seeing as how he's the only Kariya brother who didn't win a NCAA title?

PK: Oh, we give him plenty of crap in the summer, that's for sure.

INCH: After Maine beat New Hampshire for the title in '99, at the Pond in Anaheim no less, how do you and Jason Krog get along?

PK: We didn't ever get to play against each other, but I think there's a natural rivalry there. He's a great kid.

INCH: Do you two ever compare Hobey trophies to see whose is more dented or anything like that?

PK (laughing): He always complains that I had a better team behind me when I won, and he had to do a better job to get the Hobey.

INCH: On a more serious note, where were you when you heard that Shawn Walsh had died, and how did you react?

PK: I was at home in California. I looked at it two ways. It was obviously hard to lose such a great man and a person that meant so much to me, but on the other side of it, you never want to see someone suffer. He was in a lot of pain at the end, so it was a blessing in some ways too.

INCH: You recently lost your father as well. Has this season with the Ducks and the success you've had been dedicated to him in any way?

PK: No, that's not really my way. It's certainly been a tough year at times. Losing a parent is a part of life that most of us will have to deal with at some point, but the support of my teammates has meant a lot. All of my family and my friends have been very helpful.

INCH: In that first playoff game in Detroit, taking the Red Wings to two overtimes and getting out-shot by a wide margin, were you on the bench thinking, "No problem. We'll be in Minnesota in a few weeks and everything will be fine?"

PK: It's been a wild ride, and there have been a few of those crazy overtime games that we've been able to win. But it's certainly been a fun few weeks.

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