Quick Strikes Q&A with Chris Dingman
As some fans might know, you now co-host a talk radio show on Sportsradio 98.7 The Fan. What was the transition like for you going from an NHL player to now a current member of the local sports media?
I wish I could say it was seamless and easy but there were some difficulties at first. Usually I just try to be who I am and be funny, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But you know, it’s sports, so some days it’s tough when there’s not much going on, unless someone gets arrested, then it’s pretty easy. For the most part though, it’s been a good transition and anytime you can interact with the fans, it’s fun. I just try to have fun with it every day, and that’s thing, when the listeners are having fun then we’re having fun and that’s how we try to go about it every day.
What has been the hardest thing about being on morning drive talk radio and has there been more preparation than you expected?
The hardest thing is getting up early. I get up at 3:30 every morning and whether I’m up late at night watching a game or not watching a game, it’s always an adjustment. Sometimes you’re working on four hours of sleep, so that’s probably the toughest part. In terms of preparation, there’s been quite a bit more. I know from working with Sun Sports we usually go over clips and highlights and have our notes ready beforehand, but with this show and the preparation, it’s all day. You’re constantly watching the headlines and always trying to get an idea of what to talk about the next day. Depending on what happens, you have to be willing to adjust and it’s an all-day job.
In addition to radio, you also appear on the Sun Sports television network for analysis of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games. What do you find are some of the primary differences in your job between different outlets such as radio and television?
With radio you have a much better idea of what you’re going to talk about. A lot of the stuff for each day’s show is more of a reaction to all the events that happened yesterday, whereas on Sun Sports, you’re acting more on the fly because everything that you talk about in between periods has to do with what’s going on in the game, so you don’t have as much time to prepare. You might have the best idea in the world, and then if something happens in the game that doesn’t support that idea, you can’t talk about it, so you always have to be quick on your feet when it comes to television.
You won not one, but two Stanley Cups throughout your NHL career. Did it feel any different the second time compared to the first?
I don’t know if it’s any different. I can tell you it’s the coolest thing you’ll ever do, and people always ask me which one is better, and I don’t think one is better than the other. They’re both special for different reasons. With Colorado, that was a team that had Hall-of-Famers. You can go down the list of Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Chris Drury, Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, and then there’s me alongside these guys and I ask myself what I’m even doing here. But the pressure there was awesome, just to win after losing the previous year in Game 7 to Dallas, and I love pressure. Here in Tampa Bay, it was different. We had these young budding superstars like Marty St. Louis, Dan Boyle, and Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards, who were good players but weren’t quite at that elite level. Those were guys who were just coming into their own rather than being established stars. That year was something special just the way it all came together, and you could just feel it. I don’t think anyone really knew how good we were or how good we could be, but we had a good goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin and some great leadership with Dave Andreychuk, and we just found a way to come together. We weren’t the biggest team, we weren’t the most talented team or the strongest team, but the perseverance we had and leadership made us believe more and more.
What did you always envision yourself doing after you retired from playing? Did you ever think you’d be talking about sports for a living every morning once you were done playing?
To be honest you don’t really think about it too much. I was always so focused on playing and getting in shape during the summer and making the team, trying to stay in the lineup and stuff like that. You always think you’re going to play forever, and then when you get older you’re not playing as much and your body starts hurting and that’s when you start thinking about what you’re going to do after. With television, I think I have a pretty decent personality and I like to talk, so I approached the organization about what I can do to stay involved, and I just wanted an opportunity to do something and I was pretty much willing to do whatever the team wanted me to do. That work ethic definitely helped me, and you just try and find things you’re good at.
Being an analyst on Sun Sports, it’s no secret that you watch a lot of hockey. What are some of the primary differences between the game today and the way it was when you were playing?
Not a heck of a lot, although the rule changes altered some of the obstruction rules and what not. To me, the players now aren’t as big. I think they were bigger when I played, but now it’s more about agility and speed. Stretching wasn’t even in my vocabulary five years ago, so that’s a big part of it, that guys are learning how to get in better shape. The technology is different and the equipment is too with the one-piece sticks and lighter skates. Something I marvel at is watching the evolution of the players and seeing how they continue to get better and better. I have no problem saying that the guys playing now are better than I was. I think that’s a great thing for the game and that it’s very positive.
As an NHL player, you were known for your gritty style and for racking up a few fighting majors. What is your stance on the NHL’s current philosophy regarding fighting, and what would you suggest to ensure player safety without jeopardizing what has been a long-time part of the game?
I’m not a big fan of the instigator rule, but a lot of the stance nowadays has to do with the rule changes. A defenseman used to dump the puck in and give the guy some time to go back and get it. Now, he does that and he’s going full bore in to hit him and he’s going to hit him hard. One way to counteract that is to have someone on the other team make others answer for what they did. As a player, you think about that, and you think about if there was another guy on the other side who was going to make you take a beating. If they change back the rule where guys can police themselves then I believe our game will be better. But now you see a lot of guys running around taking liberties because they know that if they don’t want to, they don’t have to fight.
You’re very involved within the organization with such activities like connecting with fans, serving as an ambassador in the community and participating in youth hockey clinics. How significant is what you do to creating a connection between the team and the community?
I think the most important thing is creating a connection to the fans. They’re passionate and they’re the most likable people you’ll ever meet, so I have no problem talking with them, anywhere or anytime. People always come up to me and they take pictures and chat, and I take great pride in that. Hockey players as a whole I think understand that they’re not just athletes, but that they are role models and have obligations to the community to be a good person and make a positive influence in people’s lives. As far as youth hockey goes, I love that stuff and I love kids. It’s great and it feels like they’re part of your family.