With Kevin Kennedy
I was born in Swift Current, but grew up and played my first hockey game on an outdoor pond in Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan. My family has a grain and cattle farm out there where I spend a lot of time in the summer. Growing up, I pretty much worked the farm every day and I guess you would call me a professional gofer. I’d get ordered to go for this or go for that, but I liked it. I used to do a lot of hay baling and drive the tractor around the farm, which was fun for sure. I definitely like going back and helping out, but I’m not sure if farming is what I want to do after I’m finished playing hockey.
My father was a true hockey dad and he gave me plenty of hockey talks. Depending on how I played, the ride home could feel like a very long journey. He knew the game and was critical when he needed to be, but he also pushed me when I needed a push.
He was my first coach and I’ve had so many great coaches and role models throughout my career, but there are definitely a few that stand out. I had Marc Habschied in junior, Trent Yawney in the minors, and Brian Sutter when I broke into the league with Chicago. Every one of those guys took a shot with me and let me come into my own as a hockey player. You don’t get this far without other people believing in you and I had amazing support from those coaches.
As a young hockey player I wasn’t very superstitious, but I did like wearing the number 18 and had worn it pretty much my whole life until I was drafted for the Kelowna Rockets. I made the team as a 16-year-old and so did a guy named Carsen Germyn. I don’t remember the circumstance, but he got 18 and I got 17, which I only wore for a year before switching to 24. Then, I played my first NHL game with Chicago and was given number 59 so I wore that, and then I got traded to Anaheim and Ruslan Salei had 24 so I settled on 32 and thankfully haven’t had to switch again.
My favorite hockey player has always been Mario Lemieux. I grew up an Oilers fan, but for some reason I just loved how Lemieux played the game.
The best memory I have from youth hockey was when we won the Western Canadian Championships in bantam. All my close friends today are from that team. We had such a tight group of guys and we battled for that trophy. I’ll never forget that moment.
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