Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are sticking together
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry met at a selection camp for an under-18 team -- or so Perry recalls. Getzlaf thought it wasn’t until after the 2003 draft, in which the Ducks chose him 19th and Perry 28th, that they began forming the bond that led to having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2007 and on Team Canada’s roster for the Vancouver Olympics.
After a moment’s thought, Getzlaf decided Perry was right.
“He made that team and I didn’t,” the rangy center said, “so that’s why he remembers it.”
Since then they’ve rarely been separated on the ice by anything but an injury. Getzlaf’s sprained left ankle gave them a momentary scare Monday, but he is still being counted on to anchor the second line in Vancouver. Their familiarity will be a big boost for Canada, which will have only one practice before its opener Tuesday against Norway.
Because there will be no time to develop chemistry, Canada chose some pairs and trios, such as the San Jose line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, and Chicago defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. In Getzlaf and right wing Perry, Canada got players who stand out individually but are a force together.
“One and one makes two, but sometimes one and one makes three too,” said Mike Babcock, Team Canada’s coach. “Perry’s competitiveness and his net-front play and his reach, just his overall resume spoke for himself. And I think Getzlaf is a dominant player in the league.”
Getzlaf was born six days before Perry, in May 1985. They were paired on the first day of their first Ducks rookie camp and made their NHL debuts on Oct. 5, 2005. Since that season they’ve been friends and at the core of a changing cast.
“I think our games kind of complemented each other,” said Getzlaf, who has 15 goals and 57 points in 55 games. “He’s a little more of a scorer than I am, and he’s a guy who’s gritty and goes to the net real hard.
“As we grew as a tandem, we learned where each other is going to be, and the fact that I can put the puck into those areas and know he’s going to be there makes it work.”
Perry says their friendship helps them on the ice.
“We’ve gone through a lot of things together,” said the 6-foot-3, 206-pound right wing, who’s about an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Getzlaf. “It’s kind of nice when you have somebody that’s going through the same thing at the same time in your life that you can talk to and get ideas from.”
Of the two, Perry was less sure of an Olympic berth. He hit career highs of 32 goals and 72 points last season, but Canada had a lot of options on the wing, while Getzlaf’s size, strength and stats marked him as an early favorite.
Having watched Canada win gold at Salt Lake City in 2002 and eager to be an Olympian in his homeland, Perry worked like a demon to prepare for orientation camp in August.
“It wasn’t a cakewalk, that’s for sure. It was intense, it was high-speed,” he said. “All the best players in Canada were there, and when you get them together it’s going to be quick, it’s going to be skilled, it’s going to be very competitive.
“Practices were only an hour, but it felt like you were out there for three.”
Afterward, he wasn’t sure where he stood.
“I was probably one of the guys that had to have a good start to even be on the radar,” said Perry, who has 21 goals and 56 points in 59 games. “You had to go out and prove yourself night in and night out, not just putting up numbers but playing strong defensively and playing an all-around, two-way game for 200 feet.”
Which he did. “He knew he had to go out and make a mark, and that’s the kind of player he is,” Getzlaf said. “What makes him who he is is that he can play in the big games and big situations.”
The same is true of Getzlaf, but his recovery from hernia surgery limited his activity at the orientation camp and he feared that might count against him.
“There was a little bit of doubt in my mind at times. I’d be lying if I said otherwise,” he said. “It was tough for me, especially the first 10 games or so until I got going and got getting the points.”
Players were told that if they made the team they would get a phone call early on Dec. 30. Getzlaf was out for breakfast with his girlfriend when Team Canada executive Ken Holland gave him the good news, but Holland wouldn’t say if Perry had made it. Getzlaf wanted to know before he went to Perry’s house to carpool to the airport.
“I ended up talking to one of the PR guys and he let me know before I got over there, thank God,” Getzlaf said. “It was a pretty exciting morning for us.”
Perry heard from Holland about 7:45 a.m but didn’t know about Getzlaf until his teammate drove by to pick him up.
“He walked in the door with a big smile on his face, then he asked if I made it and I said yes,” Perry said. “We were two happy guys going to the airport. To go through that with him is going to be fun, and to have Scotty Niedermayer along too to lead our team is going to be a great experience.”
Both know the pressure on Canada to win gold in the national sport will be like nothing they’ve known.
“It’s going to be media-filled. It’s going to be the talk of the Olympics. Fans are going to be crazy about it,” Perry said. “You just have to stick to what you have to do. You try not to think, ‘What if?’ or ‘What are these people saying?’
“You just go out on the ice and do your job and come off, and the next person comes out and does his. You just roll it over and continue to do what you do and what got you there. You don’t want to change what got you there.”
Getzlaf is taking the pressure as a challenge. “For us, and myself personally,” he said.
A challenge he and Perry will handle better together.