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Friday, March 28, 2008
Trade in a Cy Young Award for spot on the Cup? Glavine's game

By David Amber
Special to ESPN.com

On the baseball field, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine has done it all -- 300 wins, two Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP. He is a future Hall of Famer and may be the best athlete ever drafted by the Los Angeles Kings.

Glavine was selected in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL draft, taken off the board before Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille.

In this week's Facing Off, we find out why the 41-year-old chose pitching over pucks, what he would do to get his name on the Stanley Cup and why he'll never forget his practice with the Boston Bruins.

Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine is still a big hockey fan and has season tickets to Atlanta Thrashers games.
Question from David Amber: Why did you ultimately choose baseball over professional hockey?

Answer from Tom Glavine: I guess after going through both sports and doing a pros and cons for both sports, they were both evenly matched in my mind. I love both sports, but the deciding factor was, being a left-handed pitcher, I had a huge advantage in baseball because of that, and I didn't have that type of advantage in hockey. I knew how desperately everyone wanted a left-handed pitcher, so it was an advantage that I needed to try and use.

Q: Yeah, but it hasn't really worked out for you, right?

A: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm not sure I made the right choice.

Q: I mean, there are a lot of 41-year-old hockey players walking around [laughs]. At least it saved you some money on dental bills.

A: [Laughs] Well, it did. That was my pride and joy -- that I made it through all those years of minor hockey without losing any of my teeth; then, I ended up losing them in a car accident in New York when I was riding in a taxi. So, I end up losing my teeth, but not in the glamorous fashion I envisioned.

Q: In 1984, you were drafted a few picks after Patrick Roy and before the likes of Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. So, what kind of hockey player could you have been?

A: Well, clearly, based on that, I would have been a Hall of Famer [laughs]. I don't know. When I was in high school, I was a scorer; I was a skill player, so to speak. I was never a banger. I scored a lot of goals and took a lot of pride in keeping the puck out of my net when I was on the ice, killing penalties and things like that. So I was a complete player in that regard. But, looking back, I know I would have had to gain some weight and get stronger. I like to think I would have made it, but would I have been a Hall of Fame player like I hope to be in baseball? The likelihood is probably no … I will always wonder what would have happened, but there's no second-guessing the decision I have made.

Q: I read you coach your three sons in hockey. Could we be seeing a Glavine in the NHL in the next generation?

A: If they have their way, yeah. They love it. They have the same passion that I had when I was a kid. I feel bad for them because, in Atlanta, they don't get as much a chance to skate as I did growing up in Massachusetts. They like baseball, but they all have a different passion, a bigger passion for hockey even though their dad is a major leaguer.

Q: Growing up in Massachusetts, are you a Bruins fan?

A: Yes, I am. I don't see them as much as I used to, so I have become a bigger Thrashers fan. I have season tickets here in Atlanta, but I still check the box scores to see how the Bruins are doing. I still watch on the satellite when I can, so I still cheer for Boston, but it's easier to gravitate toward the Thrashers.

Q: How are Thrashers fans different than Braves fans?

A: I think the Braves fans are a little more passionate, they are a little bit more into it. I still think a lot of people at the Thrashers games don't totally know what's going on, but they know going to the game will be fun.

Q: The pro-athlete fraternity is pretty small. What NHL players do you consider friends?

A: Gosh, they're all retired. I don't know if I have any friends anymore. I have played a handful of rounds of golf with Wayne Gretzky.

Q: Did you beat him?

A: Of course!

Q: Now, you realize you gave up a chance to play hockey with Gretzky since he ended up getting traded to Los Angeles after the team drafted you?

A: You talk about being in a position to question the decision that you made. To think I would have had a chance to play with Wayne if I had made it to L.A., that would have been quite an experience.

Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine was selected in the fourth round (69th overall) of the 1984 NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings.

Q: What do you think the NHL has to do to get on par with the likes of Major League Baseball in terms of overall popularity?

A: It's hard to say, but I think the one thing that hockey struggles with that the other sports don't is that hockey isn't the greatest sport to watch on TV. Even for me, as much as I love the sport, sitting down [and] watching on TV is harder for me to do than with other sports. Still, if you're giving me tickets to the football game, baseball game or hockey game, I'm taking the tickets to the hockey game. For me, it's by far the most fun sport to go and watch live and be part of. I just don't know why it doesn't translate as well on TV.

Q: I guess you need the smell of the hockey gloves emanating through the air [laughs].

A: Absolutely. Nobody knows what it's like to put your hands in a pair of those gloves and have your hands stink for a couple of days. That's the best part of it [laughs].

Q: You practiced with the Bruins in 1992. What do you remember most about that experience?

A: The biggest thing I remember is, Chris Nilan was on the team at the time and he was a serious prankster and he messed with me the whole time I was there, from taping all my stuff together to putting hot stuff in my jock. You name it and he messed with me from moment one. I really hadn't skated much from when I left high school in 1984. I remember getting out there for the practice and going through the drills and my brain was working exactly how I wanted it to, but my feet just couldn't follow along as quickly as I wanted them to, like when I played all the time. So, when you're watching the likes of Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, and see how fast they are and how strong they are, I really got a tremendous sense of appreciation of how good and skilled those guys really were.

Q: You mention the toughness of the hockey players. In the hockey community, baseball players are often considered wusses. How can you help dispel that myth?

A: In any sport, you're going to have aches and pains, and in baseball, trust me, there are a lot of guys who play through the aches and pains, myself included. You don't see the blood that you necessarily see associated with some of the hockey injuries and you don't see a guy getting cut and stitched up and getting back on the baseball field, like you see with hockey players. But, a lot of the time, the injuries you suffer in baseball, they won't let you go back on the field and risk having something more serious happen. If you rip your hands up getting spiked or sliding into a base, it's kind of hard to get that thing stitched up and then throw a baseball or swing a bat. Our injuries aren't as noticeable to the naked eye simply because you don't see the contact you see in hockey.

Q: Would you trade in some of your personal hardware, like the two Cy Young Awards and the World Series MVP, to get your name on the Stanley Cup?

A: Yeah, I probably would. That to me is the coolest trophy in sports. I'm sure I could come up with something I have achieved in baseball that I would trade to get my name on the Cup. That would be cool.

Q: It's an election year, and we have seen a lot of former athletes have solid post-retirement political careers. What about you someday?

A: I've had people ask me that before, but I tell you what, watching politics from the sidelines nowadays, I can't imagine why anybody would want to do it. The stuff these people have to go through, how far people are digging into people's past, looking for skeletons in their closet, it's ridiculous. You expose yourself to so many things and so much potential embarrassment, it boggles my mind sometimes that people would want to put themselves out there like that to have people digging up dirt on them.

Q: You may be the last 300-win pitcher we see in a number of years. How special is that milestone to you?

A: It's a tremendous honor to be in the company of the guys I am associated with at 300 wins. It's a small list of just 23 of us, so it's a select group. You look at the list and they are all Hall of Famers, everybody recognizes the names and now I'm one of those guys. So, it's a very humbling yet gratifying thing knowing I am a part of that. If it turns out that I am the last guy to do that, it would be cool to be the last guy in the history of the game to achieve something that special. Randy Johnson is 16 wins away; if he stays healthy, I'm sure he can do it. And I'm sure there's somebody out there now who we're not looking at. Like I have said so many times, 20 years ago, when I lost 17 games in my rookie season, no one was saying "Hey, that guy's going to win 300 games." You just don't know.

Q: Do you have a favorite hockey player?

A: Right now, it's probably a toss-up between [Sidney] Crosby and [Alexander] Ovechkin, one of those two. Ovechkin is more physical, but Crosby has such amazing skills. You really can't go wrong cheering for either of those two guys.

Q: Who wins the Stanley Cup this season?

A: Good question. I don't know. Detroit looked like they were going to be tough to beat, but they're struggling lately. I always like Ottawa; they always seem to have a number of guys who can score on the ice. But I don't know. Like it always is in the NHL playoffs, you need a hot goaltender and some defense. But if I had to pick somebody right now, it would be hard to bet against Detroit.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.