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Out of Bounds: An interview with Brian Holzinger, Ramzi Abid, Rico Fata and Shawn Heins

Monday, March 17, 2003

By Dan Gigler, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The unofficial anthem at the Mellon Arena has gone from, "Rock and Roll Part II," to "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you ...," not just for the fans, but for the players themselves.

So many bodies have come and gone in the Penguins organization in the past month, it's become clear that only two people have total job security: Mario Lemieux and the guy who makes the little signs with the players' names on them in the locker room. So, to help you get acquainted with your Flightless Waterfowl, let's go Out Of Bounds with some of the new gents on the squad ...

GIGS: There's a nasty rumor going around that you're a Cleveland native and a Browns fan. Say it ain't so, Brian!

BRIAN: Absolutely. I'm a Browns fan, and I was a Buffalo fan for those few years when the Browns weren't around, and now I'm converted back to being a Browns fan. I don't know if you're allowed to print that though, I might get killed [laughs].

Brian Holzinger

GIGS: Do you own any Dawg Pound paraphernalia? A throwback Jim Brown jersey perhaps?

BRIAN: No. I had a jersey when I was a kid, but not since then.

GIGS: How about the Cavaliers? Should they tank the rest of the season to get LeBron James in the draft?

BRIAN: I think it would be nice. A Cleveland area kid playing in his hometown would be great, and I think he'd draw a lot of fans there. I don't know how well they draw now, but I know his high school team sells out arenas. It would be nice for them to get the first pick.

GIGS: So if you grew up in Cleveland, you couldn't have learned to skate on the river when it froze over -- wasn't it always on fire?

BRIAN: I won't go there ever man. Don't trust that place. Obviously, Cleveland was the "Mistake by the Lake" years ago when that happened, but they've changed that city around a lot since then.

GIGS: Well, welcome to the 'Burgh.

BRIAN: I'm happy to be here and I hope I get to carry on some of the tradition that's been here for a really long time. Right now I'm still trying to fit in, but I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people in the community.

GIGS: Talk about your background a little bit. It's not every day that you hear of a hockey player with Arabic roots?

RAMZI: My dad was born in Tunisia and came over to Canada when he was 20 years old, and I was born and raised in Montreal.

Ramzi Abid

GIGS: To your knowledge, are there any other Arabic players in the league?

RAMZI: Probably not. Not to many. Just me.

GIGS: You played for Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix and now Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh. Is it nerve-wracking to be young and having two legends sign your paycheck?

RAMZI: I think that's pretty special. I had a chance to skate with Wayne and now I'm having to get a chance to play with Mario, especially on my line. Obviously, I feel special and it's an honor for me to play for these two guys.

GIGS: It has been written that you play with a certain level of reckless abandon ... ?

RAMZI: That's my style. I have to work hard, play physical and my force is around the net and in the corners. I try to create room for my linemates and myself and I feel that this is a great situation for me. I'm happy to be in Pittsburgh.

GIGS: So, if you were personally selling tickets to the remaining games, what would be your pitch?

RAMZI: It's going to be fun for the fans to see this team grow. Our young guys are hungry and it's going to be really exciting for the fans to watch us.

GIGS: You've been here almost a month, which puts you pretty high on the seniority list. Are you getting first choice for seats on the team plane and bus?

RICO: No, not really. I'm still pretty young so I just hang in the back and play cards and hang out with the guys. I'm still feeling my way around.

GIGS: Favorite use of "Rico" in a song -- "Rico Suave" or "His name is Rico ..." from "Copacabana"?

RICO: Rico Suave. For sure, yeah. When I tell people my name its always, "oh -- Rico Suave."

GIGS: So, are you and Gerardo boys then?


GIGS: French fries or freedom fries?

RICO: What are freedom fries?

GIGS: Apparently some legislator suggested that in the House of Representatives made a motion that in the Congressional cafeteria, they call them freedom fries instead of french fires, because the French don't support the United States in Iraq.

RICO: Are you serious?

GIGS: I wish I was making that up, but I'm not.

RICO: That is unbelievable. I never heard that. But I'll stick with french fries.

GIGS: How have things been different for you here so far than in San Jose?

SHAWN: It's different but it's a nice surprise. It's going to be good for guys to come in here and show what they can do and to start fresh. A lot of guys who have been frustrated in different organizations, so coming here to Pittsburgh they're going to get a chance to play and show what they can do.

GIGS: Has it been strange in the locker room with all these new people coming?

SHAWN: I think when you first come in, you're a little shy or timid, but once you get a game under your belt, you're all united as one. You're all friends. Once you're one the ice you're altogether.

GIGS: Was your number 57 before you got here?

SHAWN: No. It was 23.

GIGS: Do you realize, of course, what that means in this town?

SHAWN: The way I looked at it, I spent a very frustrating time in the San Jose organization and I really didn't get a chance to play. I left with kind of a bitter taste in my mouth, so when I came here and somebody approached me with the idea of wearing number 57, I thought, sure, let's have some fun with it. I'm ready to start having some fun in hockey again.

GIGS: So, if you get a hat trick or something can everyone at the game expect free ketchup?

SHAWN: I have no idea. Maybe free mustard. I'm just having fun with it. My post office box for my parents is 5,7 too. Back home, everyone got a kick out of it. I'm just having some fun.

GIGS: They named a stadium after you, too.

SHAWN: I've heard [laughs]. I'm just enjoying myself here. It's just fun. You have to work hard and have fun.

GIGS: Will you give Hines Ward a run for his money as the most popular Hines/Heinz/Heins in town?

SHAWN: I don't think so. He's pretty good and pretty popular. I'm just trying to be a complete player in the NHL and work hard and have fun, and hopefully to help this team get back on track.

New kid on the (ice) block? ... names@post-gazette.com

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