SHL Digest: We’re here this week with perhaps the league’s most controversial coach, New York’s Nick Foster.
Nick Foster: That’s right, folks, it’s me! The bad boy of the SHL.
SHLD: You’ve become known around the league as a smack-talker and a starter of feuds. You’re perhaps most famous (or infamous) for your fight with Hamilton and their star Steven Alexander, but you’ve also taken swipes at the referees, accusing them of bias against your team. This season, you’ve taken a jab at Hershey’s famous “Love Line.” You even slammed the Corn Palace!
NF: I gotta tell you, picking on the Corn Palace was a dangerous move. I’ve gotten more flak over that than anything else. People in the Midwest sure love their corn!
SHLD: People might argue with your approach, but there’s no disputing the results. Last season, the Night posted a winning record for the first time ever. This season, you’re in playoff position in the East. What do you think have been the keys to the team’s improvement?
NF: There’s always been a lot of talent here, but there some guys who were all about “me” instead of “we,” if you know what I mean. It took a while to change the mindset in the locker room, but we did it.
SHLD: What do you think you need to do to take the next step and win the Vandy?
NF: That’s our plan! The things I’m preaching right now are getting tighter with the puck, doing a better job in our own end, and improving on the basic stuff, checking and blocking shots. [Goaltenders] Jesse [Clarkson] and Sherm [Carter] have been outstanding, but even with an attack as powerful as ours, you can’t win the Vandy giving up 40 shots a game. On offense, I’ve talked about looking for the right shot, not just the first shot. We’re definitely doing better on that.
SHLD: You’ve arguably gotten more attention for your feuds than what your team has accomplished. Do you ever worry that your jokes and jibes get in the way of your team’s success?
NF: No, but my wife does. She always tells me my mouth is gonna get me in trouble. (laughs) I actually think the feuds help us.
SHLD: Really? How so?
NF: Well, when you play in the Big Apple, you’re always going to have a target on your back. No one feels sorry for you. So if everyone thinks you’re the heel, you might as well go for it. Play with a little swagger, a chip on your shoulder.
SHLD: That makes some sense.
NF: And the fans love it, too. They want a team with that swagger. Hockey’s not a sport for nice boys. You’ve got to be able to take a hit and dish it out too.
SHLD: While your comments have played well with your fanbase, they’ve ruffled feathers around the league. Does that bother you?
NF: No way. Why the hell should it? I’m not here to win a popularity contest; I’m here to win games. Look at Rodney [Reagle] over in DC. He was a fun guy, everyone liked him. But he didn’t win enough, so they fired him. You don’t get standings points for being a nice guy. As long as I keep winning, they’ll keep me around, even if Miss Manners doesn’t like me.
SHLD: And if you do make the playoffs and face, say, Hamilton or Hershey, do you think your comments will come back to bite you?
NF: No way! They’ll be fuel for the fire. I hope we play Hamilton [in the playoffs]. With all the [expletive] I’ve talked about them? That series would be epic! Imagine, us against the Nutcracker and his boys in that sorry dump of a rink. People would be lining up around the block just to call me names.
SHLD: It would definitely be an emotional series.
NF: They could sell voodoo dolls with my face on them and make a fortune.
SHLD: Would you be okay with that?
NF: Sure, why not? As long as they give me a cut of the back end, I’m on board.
SHLD: Well, this has certainly been a juicy interview! Thanks for your time, and good luck this season.
NF: Hey, no one can accuse me of being boring! This was a gas. Let’s do it again after we win the Vandy!