Attention hockey fans : Baller Life brings you an exclusive interview with the lone representative of France in the NHL, Antoine Roussel ! The winger with a reputation as a brawler kindly discussed his career in the United States, his future projects and his fondest memories…
His career in the United States
Baller Life : You are actually in your second season in the NHL. How do you rate your performance thus far ?
Antoine Roussel : Up to now I feel it’s been a good performance. It hasn’t always been reflected in my point totals (goals and assists), but I feel satisfied. You can always improve and I’d like to increase my scoring for the remaining matches.
BL : Yesterday against the Ducks you had a huge performance (2nd Star of the Match and two goals). What kind of feedback have you gotten as a result of this ?
AR : I often have messages from friends in France, family in Quebec, and even here in the United States, messages sent to congratulate me. It’s true that I appreciate this kind of thing each time, it encourages me to continue to have good performances.
BL : What are your goals for the coming years ?
AR : My short-term goal is to establish myself in the NHL. In the long-term it’s to win a Stanley Cup, that’s my ultimate goal.
BL : You came up through the AHL. What are the differences between that league and the NHL ?
AR : The tactics between the two are the same, it’s the speed and execution of the players that are different. It’s only the best who evolve to this level (the NHL). They shoot harder, they are better technically, everything is at another level… To play here, you have to find your niche, differentiate yourself from the other players and be efficient.
BL : Do you follow the French championship, and if yes, what is your view on the level of the Ligue Magnus ?
AR : I try to stay in contact with my friends, but with our schedules it’s difficult. I don’t watch every day, but from time to time. I feel it’s going in the right direction. The federation has done a very good job since they separated from ice skating. The directors can be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Of course, it’s still not enough to be able to compete with the biggest nations, but it’s going in the right direction. It’s really encouraging.
BL : Do you still keep in contact with Stéphane da Costa ?
AR : I talk occasionally with Stéphane. He’s a really good person. He’s someone I’ve known since I was young. I always wish the best for him, and vice versa. I’d like for there to be two (in the NHL) and for other French players to join the league. It would be an important step for French hockey. It would be incredible if he could have another chance to show his worth in Ottawa this season.
BL : There is also the likely arrival of Tim Bozon with the Canadiens. Are you also in contact with him ?
AR : His parents came to see me play in Los Angeles the last time. Of course it’s a small family and it’s really fun with French hockey. Everybody knows everybody and helps out. Tim is 18, I imagine that he’s going to continue to develop as a hockey player and as a person. I feel that he’s going to be a good player.
Your best moments
BL : Your first hockey experience was with which club ?
AR : It was with Deuil-la Barre in the Paris area. I was born in Roubaix, but my parents moved around a lot for work. We went from Deuil, to Grasse, to Deuil, to Nantes, and after that I was alone in Rouen before moving to Canada.
BL : You’re sponsoring the club in Wasquehal ?
AR : Yes, my cousin works for the club, she’s volunteering there. I feel they give a lot, and I’d like to help the clubs I played for. I think that’ll happen in time, but for the moment I’m trying to do one thing at a time and not spread myself too thin. When the time comes I’ll involve myself more with French hockey.
BL : What is your best memory in the NHL ?
AR : My first goal was really fun. My family had come down and so it was a really special moment.
BL : Who was your favorite NHL player when you were young ?
AR : I really loved Joe Sakic and the Detroit Red Wings. I didn’t really have an idol though until Cristobal Huet established himself in the NHL. The route he took and the mark he has left on French hockey is very impressive !
BL : In France the press speaks of Antoine Roussel the brawler. What do you think of that ?
AR : People who don’t know hockey well see that I’m an aggressive player, and so that’s the image of me. On this side of the Atlantic it’s another tool in my skillset, the commitment and energy that I bring to the team in addition to scoring goals and assists. For me, it helped me distinguish myself and reach the NHL.
BL : How is life in Dallas ?
AR : The fact that I moved to Quebec when I was 15 has really helped me to adapt. Here it’s essentially the same. People are really nice, the weather’s always good, and it’s a city where I like to live.
BL : Outside of your hockey career, do you involve yourself in other projects ?
AR : For the moment I’m trying to establish myself in the NHL, but I’ll try to develop an association or a foundation in my name.
BL : The Baller Life team comes from Normandy, and you played for Rouen Hockey Club. Do you have an anecdote you can give us ?
AR : In my second year (U15) we only lost one match. It was in the Czech Republic. We had a lot of fun and everyone pitched in. Those guys who played with me, we still talk and when I return to Rouen we try to meet up.
The « Baller Questions »
BL: France or the United States ?
AR : France.
BL : NHL 2K14 or EA Sport’s NHL 2014 ?
AR : EA Sport.
BL : CCM, Bauer, or another ?
AR : 50/50, but more Bauer at the moment.
BL : You left for Quebec as a teenager. Can you teach us an expression ?
AR : “On n’est pas allé aux bleuets ensemble.” We haven’t been close enough in the past to pretend we have a privileged relationship, therefore let’s take things slowly.
BL : Your music at the moment
AR : « Summertime sadness » by Lana Del Rey.
BL : In closing, do you have a message for the readers of Baller Life ?
AR : Thank you for the support and encouragement. And a greeting to all the French public. I think the world of French hockey and of everyone who contributes to it.