With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in Illinois and I guess I started playing hockey because of my brother. One day he brought home a random flyer for a spring hockey team. My brother and I always roller-bladed so my parents just decided to sign us up. We were so fast on the ice, but we didn’t know how to stop and I remember the coach went to my parents and said that he could see we could skate and that he was going to teach us all the other hockey skills we didn’t have. It was pretty dramatic how well we could skate compared to everyone else, but we needed to learn the other fundamentals of the game.
My closest friends at the time were all from hockey and we played right through junior high school. In high school a lot of people were playing baseball and football, but I never really got into that. I was more of a soccer and hockey player. As soon as I noticed I was better at hockey than soccer I just focused on getting better on the ice.
I remember going to quite a few tournaments and bringing our shinny sticks and as soon as you get in the hotel you find an area, whether it’s a hallway or an empty banquet room, we always tried to find a place to do that.
I had an interesting coach when I was playing for the Chicago Young Americans. We won the national championship that year and he just had a goofy way of doing things. We had such a good team that he would take half the team and they would do dry-land training during the game, while the other half of the team was playing. He would pull the goalie randomly and we would still play 5-on-5. He was just kind of weird like that and wanted to teach us other things besides the game. We never had any systems, nothing, and we ended up winning it all.
My best coach was probably Jim Markey who coached me in midget. We were kind of getting serious at that age and he had a lot of faith in me. Ever since that team I played with the U.S. development team up until the NHL draft.
I actually went to the draft, which was cool because you have no idea when or what team is going to draft you. You never know for sure and when I got picked by Vancouver it was cool to meet all the staff from the team so I’m glad I went.
After I got signed I played in Winnipeg for the Manitoba Moose for a couple years. When I heard I was getting called up, the coach just brought me in and said I had to go to Minnesota for the game. I packed a bag and was on my way. There was an incident in a previous game when Mattias Ohlund slashed Mikko Koivu so they wanted to add some toughness for the game so I guess I got lucky and got the call.
My first shift I remember playing with Trevor Linden and Brad Isbister. I remember getting my first goal a couple games later against Minnesota as well. That was a great experience especially because I was able to get my whole family there to watch. Definitely something I’ll never forget.