Tyler Kennedy was always an awesome guy on and off the ice. After being drafted 99th overall by the Penguins in 2004, he had the pleasure of playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Not a lot of players will ever get the chance to play with guys of such caliber.
After being drafted, Kennedy played two seasons for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Matt Murray’s former junior team, of the Ontario Hockey League. He then played a season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before debuting in his first game for the Penguins on October 27, 2007 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Kennedy has played for four teams throughout his career: the Penguins, Sharks, Islanders, and Devils.
He was fortunate enough to not only win a Stanley Cup in 2009, but be a vital part of the reason as he scored the game winning goal in game six of the 2009 Stanley Cup to push the Penguins to the decisive and eventual win in game seven. He won it in his first full season at the NHL level. Greats like Marcel Dionne, Cam Neely, and Pavel Bure never won a Cup. Current players such as Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist also have yet to add the elusive trophy to their list of impressive resumès.
So enjoy the interview as I delightfully get to catch up with Tyler Kennedy.
Cody Flavell: Probably the biggest and most exciting moment of your playing career (aside from winning the Cup) happened in 2009, game six of the Cup Finals scoring the game winning goal. How does that resonate with you today?
Tyler Kennedy: It’s pretty funny. I watched the Stanley Cup and thought “I remember doing that…I remember winning the Stanley Cup”. It will be something that I’ll obviously always remember and cherish and not everyone gets the experience the opportunity.
CF: After the 2008 loss to the Red Wings, how did that motivate you guys heading into 2009 and did you believe it would be the exact same matchup only one year later?
TK: It definitely motivated us. We were a very young team. It gave us the confidence to go back and try to do it again. We knew if we stuck to the plan, we could be an incredible team.
CF: You won a Cup in your first full season with the Penguins, some greats never won a Cup. What did that whole summer and the parade feel like and how excited were you guys to have a chance to defend the title?
TK: It was an unbelievable, whirlwind feeling. It was such an exciting and positive time in my life and it was so fun. The next season was also a great challenge. You’re the top dog and everyone wants to beat you. It’s crazy how realizing you’re the best team helps you and your team’s effort level reach maximum heights.
CF: Playing with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury definitely had to have you in awe from time to time. Did you ever feel like you were pushing too hard and not letting your game come to you or do you feel your skill set was very complementary to theirs?
TK: It gave me the ability to play some of my best hockey. It’s a pretty good feeling when you get sent out to play with high end talent. At times, it’s tough to believe you’re out there playing with these guys. All you can do is push yourself and they always pushed me as well. They brought the best out of me. No doubt, Pittsburgh is where I played my best hockey.
CF: Unfortunately, you and the Pens went separate ways when you were traded to the Sharks, did that trade upset you when it was made?
TK: It was more of a business deal than anything, really. It’s a part of hockey. They kind of gave me a heads up that I might be traded. But the nice thing was it gave me a new beginning and I embraced the challenge. I was a new player on a new team coming off my best years with the Penguins.
CF: You’ve played for four different NHL teams throughout your career, what positives have you taken away from each coach and organization and who stood out as your favorite?
TK: With the Pens, it was a great experience. I was here for six years. It was the greatest place to establish myself. I got to play with a great team that I will always hold close to my heart. The Sharks were obviously a little different. It’s much different living life on the West Coast and was an adjustment, but it wasn’t that bad. The time with the Islanders and Devils were similar. With both team’s, I always found myself roaming New York City in my free time, soaking in the atmosphere. As far as coaches, I think this year with John Hynes and the years with Dan Bylsma’s made me the best player. Each coach has a different style and mentality, but I definitely believe those were my two favorites.
CF: Are you aware of the Twitter campaign #KennedyToPittsburgh now that you’re back on Twitter and how do you feel about it?
TK: It’d be tough and I don’t know if it would happen. But it’s great. I never thought I would have the recognition I do around here. Pittsburgh is a great town and an even better sports town. I’m very fortunate to have played for this franchise and infront of its loyal fans. It’s always great to feel wanted and have my efforts appreciated and hopefully remembered.
CF: Have you had any contract offers and if so, how are you staying in shape?
TK: I’ve been skating at UPMC in Cranberry during Pens rookie camp. Chris Kunitz has been there too. I do have some offers but I’m waiting for the right one to arise for me and my family. I just have to stay positive and have the belief that everything will come about in the end.
CF: Did you get to watch the Stanley Cup? What kind of praise do you give to Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan for saving a team that just about crumbled by mid-December?
TK: I think just about everyone in hockey watches it [laughs], but yes. The Pens really came on strong when they had to. Mike Sullivan did a great job. He knew how to keep everyone accountable…He went to a team that was doubted and seemed to be down and out before mid-December.
So incase you were wondering, Tyler Kennedy is still alive and well. He appreciates your support and I hope you enjoyed the first of hopefully many interviews for LTP.