With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in Strasbourg, a small town of about 800 people in Saskatchewan. Basically, every kid played hockey and if you showed up at the rink, they suited you up and let you play. Everyone just kind of hung out at the rink. I have two older brothers who I really looked up to and they were always there so I ended up spending a lot of time in the arena.
I’ve always pretty much been a defenseman. When you start off you kind of play everywhere, but for the most part I played defense. Growing up, I played a ton of school sports like volleyball, badminton and track and in the summer it was mostly baseball. At school I enjoyed classes where I could use my hands like gym and wood working class, but I also enjoyed mathematics. I never really liked English class – didn’t really care about it to be honest.
I would sometimes think about what I would do if I didn’t make it playing hockey and I think I probably would’ve become a teacher. I always looked up to a teacher at my school. He taught social studies, he was active and he would coach a lot of the school teams. I thought that was something I’d enjoying doing as well to be around kids and teach them the value of fitness and team sports.
My most memorable minor hockey experience would probably have to be playing in the Saskatchewan provincials. One year we had a good run and went all the way to the final. We lost, but I just remember playing in our little rink and having it packed to the roof with people. It was a great experience as a kid to be around your buddies and have the whole town’s support.
When I wasn’t playing hockey I had a few odd jobs as a kid. For the most part I had a paper route and I think I bagged groceries for like a day. My grandfather owned a lawn maintenance business in town and I’d always help him after school and go out and cut some grass.
The year of my draft to the Western League I was still playing in my hometown. I ended up getting drafted to the Prince Albert Raiders and moved there when I was 16 years old. It was a tough transition at first and I remember the first week especially being hard to be away from my family. After a while I started to really enjoy it and most of the players on the team were in the same situation so you could relate to each other. I was billeting with a great family so it turned out to be a really good experience. I also was only about three hours away from my hometown and I could’ve easily ended up with a team a lot further away in Alberta or B.C.
I remember the NHL draft very well because I was pretty stressed out that day. I was there with my whole family and you hope you’re going to get drafted, but you never really know what’s going to happen. Thankfully, I was taken in the second round by Minnesota, which was an expansion team at the time, and it gave me a great opportunity to prove myself as a young player.
The day I found out I was going to play in my first game I remember just hanging out at the hotel with my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, and I got a phone call and it was a call I’ll never forget. I don’t remember who my defense partner was in my first game, but I know I played a little bit with Willie Mitchell and Brad Bombardir. It was a dream come true.