Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interview with an American Hero

We had originally planned to have Toronto Marlies forward and former RPI star Jerry D'Amigo make a guest appearance on our weekly podcast this afternoon. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out just perfectly, thanks to the presence of both TSN and NHL.com at Team USA's morning practice at Houston Field House. We're still a little farther down on the food chain, it appears, and without question, Jerry has been the number one media star since the Junior Team opened camp in Troy yesterday morning.

Instead, we got the opportunity to sit down with Jerry to ask him about his return to RPI and get his perspective on tomorrow afternoon's game and the upcoming tournament, among other things.

Jerry talked to Ken Schott yesterday on camera, where he spoke fondly of his year in the Cherry and White, and admitted that he keeps a close eye on how the Engineers are doing. "I always look them up to see if they won," he said. "I don't really lose track. I'm an alum now, so I've got to keep my tabs on them. I know it was tough for me and Brandon Pirri to leave, but they're bouncing back. They're a great team to begin with and they're doing well. I'm proud that they're doing well."

Then, with a snicker and a grin... "Maybe it was because I left."'

Without a Peer: Tell us about your feelings on coming back to RPI after being away for a few months.

Jerry D'Amigo: I was excited when the Toronto staff let me come back out here. I loved it here for the year. Getting a chance to spend some time with the (RPI) coaching staff and hang out with the guys again has been just great. My family's here, too, and it's just going to be a great time tomorrow night when we play them.

WaP: For a little while after this game was announced, it was thought that you'd be playing against your current team in this one.

JDA: I thought it was going to be great from the time I first heard about it. I remember when Seth (Appert) told me about it, and we were both pretty excited. He was like, "you better get ready, because we're gonna be coming after you hard." It's going to be fun tomorrow. Some of the guys were joking about it, saying things like "well, we're gonna crush you into the boards." It's going to be a good game. You practice with them the whole year and you learn what it's like to play with them, and now to play against them is going to be a little weird, but it's gonna be great.

WaP: What kind of reaction do you expect out of the crowd?

JDA: Well, actually I don't really have any expectations. Hopefully I'll get some cheers. Hopefully no boos. Nobody likes to get booed when they're coming back to their old team. These fans are great here, so you really can't get mad at them anyway.

WaP: Everyone's dying to know... what's your plan for beating Allen York?

JDA: (laugh) Well, I don't know. He's a good goalie. There are some weak spots, which I may not tell the other guys. I know where I want to shoot on him, and hopefully I can get one, but you never know what's going to happen.

WaP: A few people were upset that you left after you said at the end of last season that you were all coming back, but obviously some things that happened in the offseason changed that. What changed the most?

JDA: I had a great season, and I thank RPI for that, the coaching staff and my teammates especially. The World Juniors helped me a lot too, though, to open the eyes of some of the guys in Toronto. The offseason was great. I worked hard with a goal to get stronger, bigger, and faster, because that's what I needed to do for this season. Then I went to Toronto's prospect camp and they saw the work I'd done. It was an opportunity that I felt that I needed to do to move to the next level.

WaP: Last year during camp you weren't a sure thing to make the team, but this year you're a veteran. What's the difference for you between this year's camp and last year's camp?

JDA: Those of us that are returning this season, we all have to be leaders. There are younger guys who are where I was last year. It always helped to have one of the older guys to tell us what to do. I've just got to just set an example by working hard and be there to be a character leader.

WaP: How about the difference between this team and the one you played on last year?

JDA: It feels kinda the same, really. Obviously, we're going to have the pressure to win (the gold medal) again. Teams are going to come in this year knowing that we're a great team. We've got to play hard, because we know it's not going to be given to us. We're going to have to earn every inch and work that much harder because we're on our home soil. Having the fans with us and not against us will be good for us, too.

WaP: How much would it mean for you personally to be able to repeat as champions on your home soil?

JDA: We (won a championship at home) when I was 18, and it was just great to have the whole crowd with you cheering you on right to the end and singing the national anthem with you. It's a great thing, and if we were to win again... wow. Last year was one of the greatest feelings ever, and to be able to experience that, especially beating Canada in the gold medal game, it was unbelievable and something that I'll never forget. I dream of doing it again, I would love to have that with me to carry on forever.

WaP: Here at RPI, you developed kind of a reputation for getting run from behind, and we saw it happen again when you were up in Glens Falls (playing against the Adirondack Phantoms) last month. What is it that? Are you just a magnet?

JDA: (chuckles) I guess I've just got a target on my back. It's one of those things where I like to get down and dirty, and you know what, if that means you end up getting hit from behind, then I'll do that. Hopefully I don't get it tomorrow, but we'll see what happens. I'm trying to shy away from those because those hurt a lot.

WaP: When you signed your professional contract, you became the first Engineer to sign after just one year at RPI. It's difficult to do in just one year, but what kind of a legacy do you feel you'll have here at RPI?

JDA: I talked to Seth about it, and he said it's good for our recruits coming in. They know that RPI is brewing pro athletes when they look at the things that me and Brandon (Pirri) did here. I was just telling everyone (in the locker room) that we're not just another school, we're a good defending school that is really one of the top teams in the ECAC. It's a great time for us right now. We've got some great guys here now like Chase (Polacek) and Tyler Helfrich that are going to have good hockey careers down the line, too.

WaP: What would you say to a young player that was considering coming to RPI?

JDA: I'd tell them that it's a great experience. I had a great time here. Seth and I had a great friendship and we still do now, I still talk to him frequently. They're here to help, and that's what you always want out of a coaching staff. If they were to ask me if (RPI) was the right choice to make, I think it is. You're not going to get this type of help with the coaching and this type of education that I got, even if it was just for a year. It was tough, but it was something that I'll carry along with me as I come back to get my degree, too.

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