The Hockey News - - The First Word - – WITH MATT LARKIN

What was your fa­vorite team when you were grow­ing up?

The Buf­falo Sabres. The big year was ’99, ob­vi­ously, when they went to the fi­nal with Do­minik Hasek. Even later on, when Daniel Briere was there, and Chris Drury, Jason Pom­inville, Ryan Miller, those were my teen years when I was a big fan.

Who did you model your game af­ter?

I’m sure if you ask peo­ple my age you prob­a­bly get a com­mon an­swer: Joe Sa­kic and Steve Yz­er­man. Watch­ing the Sabres – Chris Drury. I liked Cur­tis Brown when he played in Buf­falo. I liked how gritty he played at both ends of the ice. He played hard.

What did you splurge on af­ter you signed your first NHL con­tract?

I bought a Ford Es­cape when I got my sign­ing bonus. Noth­ing crazy, just a nor­mal car to drive in the win­ters of Ot­tawa, where I played ju­nior.

Why do you wear No. 39?

I didn’t have a choice when I first came to train­ing camp with the Sharks. I was given No. 41. All the draft picks get high numbers, and Tom Ca­vanagh wanted the num­ber when he played in the NHL. So the next year I came to camp, I was given 39. And I played that year, didn’t re­ally get a choice to change it un­til the fol­low­ing year about half­way through the sea­son, and I just de­cided I was gonna keep it.

What was your ‘wel­come to the NHL’ mo­ment?

I’ll never for­get it. We played Satur­day night in Worces­ter when I was in the American League, and com­ing out for warmup there were prob­a­bly 50 peo­ple in the stands. You could see all the seats in the build­ing. And then the next night, I got called up to the NHL. It might’ve been an af­ter­noon game in Philadel­phia. You walk out in the warmup, and the lights are brighter, the mu­sic’s louder, and there are about 7,000 peo­ple in the stands just for warmup. So it was the eye-open­ing mo­ment.

What’s your cra­zi­est fan in­ter­ac­tion?

Sharks fans are pretty nor­mal. I’ve signed a pros­thetic leg. It was dif­fer­ent.

What’s the hard­est thing about being an NHLer?

The con­stant pres­sure to per­form is tough. You have to be at your best ev­ery night or you’re ex­posed. On the ice, that’s the big­gest thing, the con­stant need to be at your best.

What’s the best thing about being an NHLer?

Just play­ing hockey for a liv­ing, play­ing hockey ev­ery day, get­ting to go to the rink and be around the guys. It never gets old.

What ad­vice would you give to your 13-year-old self?

At that age I ac­tu­ally quit base­ball to fo­cus on hockey. But I loved the game of base­ball, so I’d say maybe, “Keep play­ing base­ball a lit­tle bit longer.” Ev­ery­thing ob­vi­ously turned out pretty well, but I miss the game of base­ball so much. I wish I could’ve played a lit­tle bit longer. I played short­stop and sec­ond base.

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