John Mitchell

With Kevin Kennedy

My dad got me into hockey and signed me up at Rosedale arena in Waterloo, Ont. The first team I played on was called the L.A. Kings and we had the grey and black jerseys. I still call Rosedale Arena my favourite of all-time. You’d walk in there at 7 a.m. and you’d smell the hot chocolate from the snack bar and you’d be pumped up about your game coming up. My parents have video tapes of games when my grandparents were there watching, which is really cool.

One place I didn’t like playing as a kid was in Cambridge, Ont. I remember they didn’t have a Zamboni – they only had a tractor that pulled the Zamboni part behind it. The rink had a really low ceiling and it was absolutely freezing.

One of the most exciting experiences for me as a youth hockey player were out of town tournaments. I played in the Wayne Gretzky tournament in ‘AAA’ when I was in atom or peewee. I don’t think we won the tournament, but every game they awarded an MVP and out of the five games I think I won four MVPs – that was memorable. Another fun part was riding the bus and watching movies. When I was growing up I was really into the Mighty Duck movies. I liked Young Blood a little more than I liked Slapshot as a youngster.

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I remember I really worked on my skating as a kid. Power skating was something I hated doing, but you had to do it if you wanted to become a better skater. That’s what I attribute my speed to, being able to battle through the power skating sessions for nine or 10 years.  No pucks, just my skating coach, Bridget Wolf, screaming at me. She was nice, but she was strict. Lacrosse was the summer sport I played every year, which helped with my stickhandling. All the guys on my team in Waterloo were on the same lacrosse team as well.

Growing up I always wore No. 7 in minor hockey because it was my favourite number as a kid. When I got older I switched to No. 93 because Dougie Gilmour was my favourite player.