Swisshockey.net caught up with Mark Streit in the New York Islanders locker room after the team’s game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Feb. 18. Streit’s Islander’s lost a hard-fought encounter to the New York Rangers, 3-1, their fourth loss in five “New York derby” games this season. Despite the loss, Streit had reason to be upbeat: playing in just his second game since returning from an upper body injury that sidelined him for five games, the Englisberg (BE) native scored the Islanders’ lone goal of the encounter, his 10th on the season. More importantly, he said there was no lingering discomfort from the injury. In an interview conducted in English (when other reporters were present) and Swiss-German (when they were not), Streit spoke of his fondness for New York and some of the differences between the Swiss game and the North American one, among other things.
swisshockey.net: First of all, congratulations on your goal (click for video, courtesy of nhl.com), which temporarily tied the game 1-1 in the first period. You had a lot of room to come in there and take the pass.
Streit: Looked like that. They collapsed somehow [defensively] and I was wide open. Still it was tough to see and he [Blake Comeau] made a great play. It was a nice backdoor pass and a good goal.
Did you make any eye contact with him?
I thought as soon as he had the puck he peeked over his shoulder and saw me coming in and then he just passed it. It worked out perfectly.
How is your injury? Do you feel okay?
It’s all right. I feel good. I don’t feel any [discomfort] out there. I feel good.
The team has struggled this year, your first in New York. What do you make of your own season thus far?
It wasn’t a big adjustment for me. I got the opportunity to play as a defenseman and I play a lot. I play a ton and I love that. So I can take a lot of responsibilities out there and be a leader on the ice and off the ice. That’s very exciting. It’s been great so far. Obviously it’s tough [because] we’re pretty much out of the playoffs but you see the young guys improving and you know, we’re still a team. We have great character in this locker room. We try to win every game. Unfortunately tonight we came up short.
What about the All Star Game? (Streit this season became the first Swiss player to make the NHL All Star Game). Was that a highlight for you so far?
Obviously it’s a highlight in the season and a highlight in my career so far. Being an all star is an incredible honor for me. I never thought that was going to happen in my career. It was a great weekend and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m never going to forget it. It was really a highlight and a dream come true.
You’ve played five games now, Rangers-Islanders. What’s your impression of this rivalry compared to others you’ve played in your career? Montreal – Toronto, ZSC – Kloten?
A rivalry is a rivalry. Obviously Toronto – Montreal is a big one in Canada. It’s huge. But I love playing against the Rangers. It’s always physical, it’s very emotional. Playing at the Garden is great. When they come to Long Island it’s a great atmosphere. The building is usually sold out and it’s great. That’s why we play hockey games like that. It’s a thrill to play.
As for the Swiss rivalries, it’s a tough comparison. It’s a different league, obviously. But we had some good rivalries. Pretty much Zurich against Lugano is probably the best one I played back home. It’s just a different level of hockey. But a rivalry is a rivalry it doesn’t matter on which level.
How do you like Madison Square Garden specifically and New York?
It’s always special. Like playing in Montreal. There’s certain buildings where it’s even nicer to play–even more exciting. New York as a city is “mega” [Swiss slang term perhaps best translated as “intense” in U.S. slang] I’ve really gotten used to it. I really enjoy it.
Do you live here in town?
I live on Long Island. It’s nice and quiet there. You can sort of take some distance from the intensity, which makes coming to the city even more exciting. I really thing it’s the coolest city I’ve seen.
In all of North America?
It just offers so much. You can live here five years and experience something new every day–culturally and so. I really treasure this time.
What are your theories for why more Swiss skaters haven’t established themselves in the NHL? So far it’s mainly been goalies.
Difficult to say. I think that as a goalie you’re more of an individualist. The game is still different, of course. There’s more pressure on the goal in the NHL but ultimately you’re a goalie, you stop shots. But the North American hockey game is just completely different from what is played in Switzerland. The lifestyle is different. The talent is definitely there though.
Who are the other up and coming Swiss skaters, particularly defenders, in your opinion, who might make the leap to the NHL?
The ones here, Luca Sbisa and Yannick Weber are on the right path. They’re definitely promising young players. Nobody knew Sbisa over here. But he came over and gave it a try. There are certainly one or two players who can make it here but they have to take the leap. If you stay in Switzerland waiting for them to roll out the red carpet nothing will ever happen. What’s the name of that guy at Bern? The defender?
Roman Josi, drafted by the Nashville Predators? [Josi was recently called to the Swiss national team for the first time]
Yeah he’s a promising player. There are a few but you need to maintain the goal–the dream–of playing here yourself.