With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario and I played for the Clarkson Canadiens. I think I was five years old and my dad was going to put me into hockey, but he didn’t really know much about where or when to sign up and stuff. I’d play street hockey with my neighbours and they were signing up for hockey and when I heard that, I really wanted to play.
Soon, my brother and I were lacing up skates and my parents were driving us all over the city. One tournament that sticks out took place in Prescott, Ontario, when I was playing for the Toronto Red Wings. We won it two years in a row and we always had lots of fun at the hotel with all the guys playing mini hockey in the hallway. Actually, I remember they opened up a building across from the hotel and we had this huge room to ourselves and we had a big mini-stick game and even played ball hockey – we were acting like goofs. Those were my best memories of being a kid, just being at the hotel messing around with my friends.
I definitely had more good memories than bad ones in minor hockey, but I never liked playing at Malvern arena – it had a small ice surface and it was a long trek from my house. I never looked forward to playing there. On the flipside, I loved stepping on the ice at the Hershey Centre, which was my home rink while playing with the Mississauga Senators. We got to play out of the main bowl. We were lucky to play our home games there at such a good rink.
I owe a lot to several coaches throughout my career, but Scott Moulson really stands out for me. He’s Matt Moulson’s dad from the New York Islanders. He was a great influence even though I was really young and he always made me play hard and tough hockey. We still stay in touch.
My dad was also a great influence. My brother started playing ‘AA’ which was mostly Mississauga-based and because my mom worked late nights it was easier for her to take him so my dad was the one who drove me most of the time. My dad was hard on me. I’m not going to lie about that. He pushed me and made me the player I am today. I still get post-game phone calls from my dad and I know that, to this day, if he doesn’t see me working hard he’ll let me know. I talk to him after every game. I like to know his thoughts. He was never one of those dads that just goes to the arena and just yells and screams and goes crazy on the refs. Now that I’m in the NHL it’s pretty cool for him and my mom to come to these games in huge venues and see their son playing in the NHL.