Ducks right wing Corey Perry is congratulated by teammates after scoring… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Most valuable player = mostly vanishing privacy.
You would think a league MVP in a major, celebrity-driven market would see his privacy vaporize in a dizzying flurry of red carpets, photo drive-bys and TMZ blurbs.
Thankfully, there are rare exceptions to that expected course of events.
Corey Perry, the Ducks forward who is the NHL's reigning MVP, recently showed that his skill for anticipation does not lie only on the ice. He seemed to know where the question was headed after the first couple of words and got off his response in rapid-fire fashion.
Did he feel he has been treated any differently?
"No, no," Perry said. "I can answer that question quickly. No. I don't think so at all. I'm the same person I've been. I've tried to act the same way. I want to be treated the same way as anybody else.
"I don't go looking for it [extra attention], and I don't expect it. That's what I want and what I hope to have. Everybody needs their privacy and everybody needs their space."
In many ways, the NHL All-Star game Sunday in Ottawa illustrates how far Perry managed to fall under the radar. He made the roster when Ducks teammate Teemu Selanne opted out and urged Perry's inclusion.
Perry even wondered why local reporters wanted to talk to him about the All-Star game when the Ducks presented him with several interview requests.
He largely escaped attention in the All-Star game fantasy draft Thursday. He was not the first player selected nor the last. Perry was picked by Team Chara in the sixth round and did not have to answer questions on the live television broadcast.
On top of that, one commentator referred to him as a "sleeper pick."
This is nothing new, really.
Until last season, Perry was regarded almost as a sidekick of linemate Ryan Getzlaf — albeit a tremendously skilled one — and established a singular presence only out of sheer necessity. He had 25 goals and 47 points in the Ducks' last 30 games of the season.
"I thought the first couple of years he was a little bit in Getzlaf's shadow," Selanne said. "Last year when Getz got hurt, I think he raised his level, like unbelievable. The end of the year was just amazing how he played. Since then, he takes a lot of pride for his game and he's so talented.
"And another thing, he doesn't get satisfied very often. He keeps pushing. That's a great player sign. When a player is hungry, then he is really dangerous."
Another element played into the Perry-under-the-radar theme: The Ducks' horrendous start, one that cost coach Randy Carlyle his job at the end of November and continued into December, nearly landed the team in what Selanne once called "position zero."
Starting Dec. 8, Perry went through a stretch in which he had three goals in 12 games. His play, like the team's, has accelerated in a torrid January in which the Ducks went 8-2-1.
This season, he has 22 goals and 39 points in 48 games and is the Ducks' second-leading scorer behind Selanne (45 points). No other Ducks player has 20 goals, although Bobby Ryan is close with 19. Perry is tied for 10th in the league among goal-scorers.
"His body language was down," Selanne said of the difficult times. "That's normal. Every day, he still did his job. He never was too down. That's a veteran player action."
Perry, 26, talks about the dramatic turnaround in terms of a collective experience rather than an individual issue.
"I think we're playing better defensively," he said. "We're not allowing them to get those golden opportunities every period. After a goal they score, we're not down. We're going out and we're playing the same way."
The All-Star game affords Perry a rare opportunity to play in front of friends and family. He grew up in Peterborough, Canada, and the Ducks are not scheduled to play at Ottawa or Toronto — the NHL cities closest to Peterborough — this season.
His family was on hand when Perry's junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, retired his jersey Nov. 4.
Perry was overcome with emotion during his speech and wasn't entirely sure he would get through it.
"It's a special place for me," Perry said of London. "I grew up there and matured as a person, so that organization meant a lot to me. It's a place I call home."
What brought forth Perry's run of emotion was the presence of his mother, Nancy.
"That's pretty much when it went south," Perry said. "She looked up and I looked over at her and it was just one of those things, a lot of the emotion went through me.
"I didn't know how it was going to go. It definitely went all right. Everybody said emotion just shows what kind of person you are. It meant a lot hearing it."