Following up on yesterday’s news that the Manchester Monarchs had signed Paul Bissonnette to a try out agreement, he participated in his second straight practice with the team earlier today. Shortly thereafter, MayorsManor caught up with the 29-year-old Ontario native, as he tries to get his career back on track.
The man known as Biz Nasty to the twitter-verse, has such a following among hockey fans he actually garnered more votes for the 2011 NHL All Star Game than his then-teammate, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, and Kings forwards Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. All of that while having less than 100 games of NHL experience and averaging fewer than five minutes of ice time per night.
Now, he’s on his second PTO in the American League this season, looking to find acceptance and a future in the hockey world. What follows was a fascinating conversation, where, in typical Bissonnette fashion, he lays it all out there, warts and all.
On if he had any conversations with Kings VP Mike Futa [his GM in the OHL] over the summer:
“I really didn’t. I was supposed to sign with Washington. That kind of fell though, because they couldn’t [move John] Erskine. They were trying to work out a trade with him, and then I just kind of stayed in limbo there. It was either go to the camp there or to camp in St. Louis, and John Anderson, who I’m really familiar with from Phoenix, who is [a coach] in Chicago, which is St. Louis’ AHL farm team, was at camp too, so that really helped bring me in. I had an awesome time there. I figured; go to St. Louis because if I went to Washington and had a good camp, there’s still no change of me signing if they hadn’t traded Erskine. After that, I just went home. It was a tough time there. It was a pretty depressing time, not having a job. I was really frustrated and upset about it. Luckily, [I’ve] got a couple jobs here since then.”
On if he felt signing a PTO in Portland would eventually lead to a return to the Coyotes:
“No. I was on a PTO, right? I would probably be one of the last guys they’d call up. Obviously, it always depends on your play too. They had a lot of prospects there they’re trying to develop. I knew I was going to go in there and just be positive in the room. I’d be in and out of the lineup. I didn’t see much ice time – it was limited. Saying that, I knew what it was. It’s the same here, with [Scott] Sabourin going down. I reached out to Futes (Futa), and he said he would be out for an extended period, so I’m just going to try and come here and improve. Who knows?”
On calling Futa looking for a job:
“It’s one of those cases where, sometimes in your career, you feel a little vulnerable. You kind of just need someone to believe in you. I was fortunate at that moment, to reached out to Futes. Even when we played Manch a couple times, I’d go over and talk to [coach Mike] Stothers and talk to him and stuff. He’s like, ‘Hey Biz. You never know. If a spot opens up here, maybe…’ Obviously, you don’t want Sabourin going down, but he got hurt against us last week, so it just kind of worked out like that. I have no problem putting in the work. I just need an opportunity. It’s hard when coaches don’t have confidence in you. That’s a big thing. You talk to any guy – if you don’t feel like the coach likes you, you feel like every time you make a mistake, its magnified and you’re letting everyone down. It kind of sucks like that.”
On if having Stothers in Manchester makes it a perfect situation to rebuild his career:
“[Most people] probably know me best from my NHL days. It’s going out there, having to run around, hit a couple guys, and ask someone to fight. That was the reality of it. He saw me as an all-star defenseman in the OHL, that’s when I played for him. People’s perception of you is based on what they’ve seen. Luckily, probably the one guy in the AHL or NHL who has seen me at that level, and perform to that level, is Stothers. It works out. I’m really happy to be here. They have the brass come down here every three or four weeks. They do like a development week and just kind of do things that are outside the box. My first day was yesterday and seeing that kind of stuff – it’s awesome. They’re in it for the long haul. They have no problem investing money in their future.”
On replying to Futa’s comments about Twitter and what this try out was actually about:
“Coming in, I would have already known about the Twitter stuff, I have no problem with that. I’ve kind of slowed it down to begin with. I don’t really tweet much during the season anymore, anyway. But aside from that, what I knew when I was coming in, I’m going to be kind of the healthy scratch guy for now, until otherwise, and just push the pace in practice, [and] work hard. I’ve kind of been that guy for a long time. You talk to anyone – I’ll never sulk about being a healthy scratch and be a negative component to the room. That’s just not my style. In the hockey season, it’s a long time. There are a lot of games. You need to keep it light in the room, and you need a guy who’s going to complement the guys even when they’re feeling like [crap].”
On if he’s scheduled to play Friday in Portland:
“I’m not sure. Right now, I’m on the fifth line with [David] Van der Gulik. They do things a little different here. The practices are very high-paced, which is good. That’s what I need to my game. I don’t need to practice just running around and being an idiot. I need to practice with the puck, and hockey skills. That’s why I’m excited to be here, and learn, and develop my game. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be in the NHL again, but the goal is to work and get to that. This is a good place to start. Even if it is only for four to six weeks, I’m going to take out whatever I can of it.”
On if he’s bringing his famed yoga gear to Manch:
“You know what? Older guys must look at the new guys and [think], ‘What the hell are these guys doing?’ It’s amazing, even since I’ve started, how much the game’s changed and how much recovery is such a big factor. Just the overall speed of the game, the intensity, and the amount of games in the season, foam rolling and stretching after the game helps the body recover. [Fortunately], locker rooms throughout pro hockey now, even here, there are foam rollers and mats everywhere, so you don’t have to bring your own anymore.”
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