With Kevin Kennedy
I played all my minor hockey in Olds, Alta., and only left there when I was 17 to play midget AAA in Red Deer. I was kind of a product of the hometown minor hockey system all the way through.
I had a lot of great coaches who really helped me along the way. When I was 15 I tried out for the bantam AAA team and I ended up getting cut and went back down to the AA team in Olds. The coach kind of took me under his wing and started to turn me into a more physical player. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder that season from getting cut and I felt had something to prove. I see that year as kind of a turning point for me. I started to build an identity for myself as a player that year.
My parents and my brother really got me into hockey. My brother is two years older and I always followed what he did. I ended up playing on his team with older kids, which I think helped my development. My dad also would flood the pond and keep it plowed for us, so in the winter we had tons of ice time.
I played a little baseball in the summer and some golf. Our family would also go up in the mountains and do some skiing, but that stopped once hockey got more serious. I didn’t have a ton of hobbies as a kid, but I would spend a lot of time in the fields shooting gophers. I liked being out on the ranch, running around. I was never much of a video game guy and I liked to ride my bike into town and find jumps and stuff.
These days I go to a lot of movies during my free time. I spend my summers back home in Olds and try to get outside as much as I can between training and working out. To be honest, I’d still rather spend my time being active outside than watching movies, but you need to give your body some rest. Maybe when I have kids I’ll be able to do that some more and chase them around outside.
I used to work with my dad part-time growing up. He runs a livestock auction company and he’s the auctioneer, so on sale days in the summertime I would do all the out penning and get all the cattle in the right pens and get them in the trailers after the sale and make sure they got to the customer. Other than that it was just the odd jobs at a buddy’s farm that I’d be able to do.
The Mac’s Midget tournament would probably be my most memorable highlight from my minor hockey career. I was 16 years old and I’d played all my hockey up ‘til then in Olds, so going to an international tournament was unbelievable. I remember we played against the Swiss national team and just seeing them out there was crazy. I’d never played against a European team and they had logos all over their equipment and there was a big crowd with TV cameras. I’d never experienced anything like that before.
I remember my first NHL moment was when I made the team out of training camp last year, which was kind of nice because when you get called up during the season you don’t really know anyone and there’s a lot going on. You’re on the plane by yourself, packing your own bag and not sure what to expect and all the nerves that would come with that. It was nice to play some exhibition games and keep that momentum going right up to the first game of the season. I didn’t have to change my routine at all, which really helped my nerves.