In this week’s celeb Q&A: Friends and Episodes star, Matt LeBlanc. While he may be best known as Joey, there’s a group of hockey playing celebrities that known him as a bruising defenseman. Matt tells us that story and more.
Stars like hockey too, and everyone once in a while they’re more interested in chatting up last night’s game than they are in pontificating about their latest TV or film projects. In our weekly “Celebrity Overtime” feature, we take five minutes with various celebrities to discuss their love of the good old-fashioned game.
We might all just want to ask Matt LeBlanc “how you doin’,” but as it turns out, his history with the game is a story worth telling. Before he became a mega TV star thanks to his 10-season stint as Joey on Friends, he used to spend lots of time at the arena. His former hockey playing days have even translated to his new Showtime series Episodes, on which he plays a heightened version of himself. (That character plays a hockey coach on a show called Pucks!—it’s all very meta.)
Here, LeBlanc recalls the one time former co-star Matthew Perry dragged him back on the ice, the hockey culture in L.A. and more.
Q: What was it like getting back on the ice for your Episodes?
A: It’s funny, on Episodes they had to hire a skating instructor. I didn’t have to skate, but everyone else had to skate, and I was the only one that knew how. I played hockey since I was a little kid and I played all through high school. I was the defenseman.
Q: Were you good?
A: Yeah, we won the state championship, and we went to Canada to play in Montreal at the provincial championships there. We played the third place team and we killed them. Then we played the second place team and it was close, we beat them. And then we played the first place team and they absolutely kicked the s— out of us. Because in Canada, I don’t know if it’s still the same but when I played there was no checking until you were 13. And in the States we started to check at eight. So all we did was … they could play the puck better that us. We just tried to muscle them but they outplayed us. They were the better team.
Q: So why did you stop?
A: I stopped playing because I got into riding dirt bikes and other s— you know, I just stopped playing.
Q: Do you still watch it?
A: Yeah, I watch it here and there but not like I used to. Like I couldn’t even tell you who was … I watched the Stanley Cup; I went to a party and nobody was really watching the game, it was one of those parties.
Q: Do you get to any games nowadays?
A: Naw, not really. Matthew Perry’s the hockey guy.
Q: Did you guys ever bond over that on Friends?
A: Ha, yeah. One of the first years of Friends, first or second year, he said, ‘I’m playing in this celeb hockey thing, come with me, you skated.’ I said, ‘Yeah I can play.’
So I called my mother, and said, ‘Hey ma, go down in the basement and my hockey bag is under the stairs, just FedEx it to me. Don’t open it, it probably smells bad. Just FedEx it to me.’
When I got it, the skates were so rusty—and I didn’t even get them sharpened. So I just put my old s— on and went out there and as I’m in the locker room getting dressed and I’m looking at the equipment the other guys are putting on and I’m going, f—, this game has really changed. Like, look at the equipment. My kneepads were old and they had like mildew on them. It was pretty bad. So I went out there and I made … you know you couldn’t really skate with rusty skates, so it was kind of a joke. I did the best I could and I had a good time. But I would have at least liked to have had the skates sharpened. That would have made a huge difference.
Q: Do you remember who else was there?
A: Um, it was at The Forum before a Kings game kind of thing. I think like Alan Thicke was there, he plays in all those games. So I’m not used to no check hockey. And I was a defenseman. So we’re out there playing and I don’t know, everyone’s got a helmet on, I don’t know who’s who. It’s like a celebrity game. So I don’t know who it was, I rode some guy into the boards … that’s how we played hockey! I f—ing crushed him in the corner and, uh, nobody was happy. So …
Q: So that was your last time on the ice?!
A: Yeah that was the last time I was on the ice. I said to Matt afterwards, ‘That was kind of fun. I’ll go get some new s— and yeah I’ll play.’ He goes, ‘No … they don’t really want you, Matt.’
I play rough hockey, you know? I’m 210 pounds I’m a big guy. I’m not like a skinny model guy, that’s not how I’m built. I‘m built like a hockey or football player. So if we’re going to play hockey I’d rather you have the puck. You take it, I’m going to knock you down and then it’s easier for me to score. So that’s how we played.
Amber Dowling is a freelance lifestyle/entertainment writer, yoga and wine enthusiast and all-around player of sports. She currently serves as the vice-president of the Television Critics Association and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows across North America. An advocate for Canadian Television and a lover of the medium in general, Amber founded TheTVJunkies.com as a spot for fellow enthusiasts to connect and collaborate. She previously spent almost eight years as the EIC for TV Guide Canada.