With Kevin Kennedy
Hockey was something I just tried one day. I was pretty active as a youngster and started my hockey career pushing a chair around cones on the rink in Hamburg, New York. I played there until about peewee and then I moved to West Seneca and played there for the Wings.
My dad never played hockey – he was in to other sports like baseball and football. I guess it was just a thing I tried out when I was really young for a way to burn off some energy. I gave it a shot and loved it. I watched a lot of hockey as a kid and my favorite team was always the Sabres. I’m also a big football fan so I loved the Bills, too. My favorite hockey players as a kid were Pat LaFontaine and Mike Peca.
I think the best thing that came out of minor hockey for me were the friends I made. I mean, I still have a lot of friends that were on my first travel team in Hamburg and I grew up with them through high school and even now today we’re still really good friends and I think that’s a great thing about hockey. You’re on a team with 20 guys and you build friendships that last forever. I think that’s one of the major parts of hockey that’s not always seen by everyone.
My first and only job before this job was working the Burt’s Beer tent at the Erie County Fair. Only thing I remember about that was fighting bees all day and serving a ton of root beer.
I spend a lot of my free time playing with Lego. I broke my hand three times last year and I read something about David Beckham doing them during the World Cup and I’ve been doing them ever since. I’ve done the Taj Mahal, I’ve done all kinds of things. I can’t normally sit down for long periods of time and concentrate on one thing. I don’t really have the patience for that, but I started doing Lego when I was injured and it’s really the only thing I can just sit down and do for hours.
Besides my dad, I’d say the GM of the Peterborough Petes, Jeff Twohey, had the biggest positive impact on my hockey life. He gave me the opportunity and the chance to play in the OHL and really helped me develop as a hockey player and as a person. I give him a lot of credit for where I am today.
The day I was drafted by the Petes I was at a USA hockey development camp and I found out I was drafted in the second round. I had an offer to play for the development team, but I’d already committed to Peterborough and I wasn’t going to go back on my word. I stuck with it.
In Peterborough, I billeted with Jim and Marilyn Gibson and at first I didn’t know what to expect. They were an older couple and, you know, the day you meet them is the day you move in with them. But I tell you what – they were unbelievable people and I couldn’t ask for a better billet family in the whole world. They were like my parents and Peterborough is still a home away from home for me. The city totally supports the team and the atmosphere is unforgettable.
High school was a bit tough for me. I went to three different schools, but I ended up graduating from the same one that I started at, Lakeshore High School. I remember my graduation clearly because it was the same day as the first round of the NHL Draft. I didn’t get picked that day, but when I woke up the next morning and I found out the Sabres drafted me, it was the best feeling in the world.
I was with my mom and dad when I got the phone call and they were just as excited as I was, especially because it was the Sabres. My dad was a huge fan and a season-ticket holder. After that phone call I was always in a good mood. I felt like I actually had a legitimate shot of achieving the dream I’d always had.
Before I got called up for the first time, I was playing in Rochester and we had a bunch of guys because the team was split with Florida. I didn’t really pay a lot at the beginning of the season. I started progressing and was getting more time and we had a couple injuries and I remember sitting at my house in Rochester and getting the call from Lindy Ruff saying I was going to be playing the next game against Ottawa. After that I think I was on the phone for about four hours calling all my friends and family. My first game was pretty memorable as well. That was the game when we brawled against Ottawa where the goalies fought and everything.
First game’s don’t get much crazier than that.