After a fabulous debut season in the NHL, Christan Djoos experienced a down season last year with the Washington Capitals. Now the former Brynäs defenseman is determined to bounce back on track this season.
The following is a translation of an interview with Djoos conducted by Ronnie Ronnkvist for HockeySverige.se.
Pär Djoos, with roots in Mora (Sweden), became a Swedish champion under the coaching of Roger Melin in 1999. He also played 82 games in the NHL. His career was good, but he never experienced the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup, like his son Christian did in 2018.
Christian Djoos moved over to the Washington organization in 2015, and has since worked his way up the ranks, even though he hasn’t had his major breakthrough yet. Now he has had a long summer at home. Hockeysverige.se met with him outside of his former home, Gavlerinken, only a few days prior to his return to the US. He looks back upon the summer in Sweden with both warmth and joy.
When I was younger we spent a lot of time in Mora (his father’s hometown). I also have my aunt and grandparents living there, Christian Djoos said after we have a seat outside of his former home rink.
His father Pär Djoos has meant a lot for Christian as a hockey player, especially when he was younger.
He retired when I was pretty young unfortunately, so I didn’t get the chance to see him play that much. He has meant a lot for me. Now when I’m older he isn’t that involved in my hockey though. Today we don’t have that relationship with him calling me with instructions and thoughts on my game. We don’t talk about things like that, but of course he answers me if I wonder about something in my game.
When you were watching him from the stands, cheering him on, how was the experience?
I only watched him play at the home rink, and it was cool. Maybe it was good that I didn’t see any away games, Djoos says with a smile.
Hockey has always been natural for Christian, with his father playing, but also because he, together with his best friends Emil Larsson and Emil Molin (both sons to former hockey players, now also active in SHL) played their own games in the corridors of Gavlerinken.
It was always natural to play hockey. I started to spend a lot of time at the rink. It was me, Emil Larsson and Emil Molin. We ran around here so much that people started to get frustrated with us (laughter). After every Brynäs home game we were down in the locker room playing around.
Are you still in contact with each other?
Yes, We always hang out a lot during the summer when we all have free time.
Pär Djoos went over to the NHL in 1990, and Christian did the same in 2015, 25 years later. Some things have changed, even though a lot is the same.
I guess it was a more rough and tough game back then. Now there’s a whole other respect on the ice and a more beautiful game. You could get away with more in the early 90’s, from what I have been told, my dad treasured that time and the opportunity to try in the NHL life.
How did you yourself experience going over?
I also liked it. It suited me well. I had played three seasons here at home and felt like it was a good time to move over. Washington thought the same thing whilst I was completely determined to start out in Hershey, I had no problems with that and felt no disappointment if I didn’t start in the NHL right away.
We were many younger guys coming to Hershey at the same time. We helped each other. Among several, Jakub Vrana was also there. He had played in Linköping and knew some swedish, which was comforting. We got to know each other well and lived together during the first year. He is a really nice and funny guy.
Did Nicklas Bäckström help you also?
Yes, he has always been kind to me and helpful. I have to thank him for a lot. My dad actually played with Nicklas father, Anders in Brynäs.
There has been a large increase regarding salaries in the NHL from the early 90’s to what we have today. What’s your take on that?
When the market gets bigger, that’s the way it goes. Compare with basketball, baseball and football. Hockey is a relatively small sport in comparison, but the pay is way bigger anyway compared to the SHL.
Have you seen players getting blinded economically, spending just for the sake of it?
If you like cars and really want a specific car, then maybe you get if you have the money for it. I haven’t met anyone who has spent it all though.
How have you handled getting the bigger paychecks?
I don’t have any interests yet involving big spending, so I’m alright.
Is money a priority when signing a NHL-contract, or is hockey most important?
No, I don’t believe everyone thinks like that either. Everyone wants to play in the NHL. If you get the chance, I don’t believe money matters.
Would you consider going over to the NHL if you had the same pay as in Brynäs?
Yes, I would. If I’d get the chance to play in the NHL I’d would right away. I would probably do it even for free, Christian Djoos says with a laugh and continues.
The NHL is the NHL, and it’s there, I can’t talk for every player, but most of us wants to be there.
During the 2017/18-season, Christian Djoos experienced his biggest accomplishment as a hockey player, to win the Stanley Cup.
We were some younger guys getting on the team at the same time. The other players had several experiences of getting eliminated in the second round, but I don’t think us newcomers understood the seriousness in that. We came to the rink, practiced and tried to do the best for the team everyday. Then suddenly, we were in the finals. Then it struck me that it was very close. Everything went so fast and I took it like every other day all the way to the finals. Then it was a little special, off course. When we then took it to a 3-1 series lead at home, we all felt that all we needed was another game to seal the deal.
Is it possible to describe with words how it felt after you won the Stanley Cup?
It was my first season, but for the guys who had fought for this for many years, the feeling must have been amazing. The same group of guys who had been together for nine, ten years. I was most happy for those guys.
How is a player like Alex Ovechkin in the locker room?
He is a leader, positive, and nice to everyone in the room.
What’s your take on your personal development last season?
The first year was learningful, but the last year was filled with ups and downs. It became a bumpy season where I played, got injured, played and then were scratched and then played. I didn’t get any flow in my game, which was a shame. I would’ve needed that.
Are you disappointed over being scratched at times?
It’s like that sometimes. A lot was up to me, I have to be better. There is only six spots and I knew that I was fighting for the 6th or 7th spot. If I wasn’t good enough, then I should be scratched. When it comes to the injury, there wasn’t much I could do about it.
Did the injury affect your performance during the rest of the season?
No, I felt a 100 percent fit after the injury. When I was injured some other players got the chance. That’s how it works in any NHL team. I look forward to returning after a long summer. I’m really excited over the season to start and I hope to be injury free.
How much do you want to lift the Stanley Cup next spring?
I would love to do that again, Djoos finishes with a smile.
Interview by Ronnie Ronnkvist for HockeySverige.se.
Translated by Jesper Svensson