RAPID FIRE WITH WINNIPEG JETS’ RIGHT WINGER BLAKE WHEELER
Wmohdoewl agsroywouinrgNuop. ?1 hockey role Steve Yzerman. I’m from Minneapolis, so we lost the North Stars when I was pretty young. My dad’s a Detroit native, so it was easy to cheer for the Red Wings in the mid ’90s. ‘Stevie Y’ was obviously the leader of that team and someone everybody could look up to. Why do you wear No. 26? LI uwcoicreinNBoo. 1s7tomnyhaedntiitr,esloifeI ,wbaustnM’tiglaoning to wrestle that away from him. It was just the next option. They gave me a few that were available, and I picked No. 26. What did you splurge on with your first big contract? As cliche as it is, it was a car. I’d been driving an Isuzu Trooper for a handful of years, and she was on her last legs, so I had to upgrade a little bit. Got an Audi. That was pretty awesome to tbheaat bnliecetowdhreivneyaoruouwnedreinjussotmaectohlilnegge kid the year before. It was stock, your standard Audi A6, pretty old man-ish, but I loved it. What was your “welcome to the NHL” moment? Being a rookie is a transition overall. The tthheinng.sLIorooklilnmgybeayceksoant iftr,oymour’oreokkiiensdnow are what guys would do with me back uopf igonn.oLraiknet itfoyeovue’rreytihninthge. Icdoliddnt’utbmoisrs any planes or forget a suit or anything like that, but just little things you trip the hot tub, and somebody’s waiting for it who’s been in the league 15 years, and you don’t even think, “maybe you should get out and let them get in.” WEmhpatty’s-nyeotuterrfsaavroerfiuten.wI ateylltmo sycsoorne? that all the time. He asks me where the goalie went. And I say, “It’s a lot easier to score with no goalie in there.” What’s your favorite thing about being an NHL player? Now that I have kids, seeing my kids with my jersey on…my oldest son is turning five, so he’s starting to connect athtethdaottlsetvheal.tTnoosteeevehrimyonreeaplizlaeyhsohwocckoeoyl that is, that makes it all worth it. What’s the hardest thing about being an NHLer? It’s the flip side of that answer. It’s being away from my family with the amount we travel. And even when we’re home, we’re still not necessarily there all the time, with practice and pre-game skates and games and all that. You miss out on a lot of stuff. But there is a payoff. mCairzeeeirtswahreileshyoorut,csaony, oanud’vewgeo’llthtoavmeaaxilot of good times to spend afterwards. What’s your craziest fan interaction? It’s not really an interaction, but playing in Atlanta was a bit different. Coming from Boston to Atlanta and then up to Winnipeg, I’ve been lucky. I’ve played Winefrdonnetsodfasyonldig-hotutgbamuiled,iynogus wmeyreenn’ttire career. But for the Thrashers-Panthers gWehttaint gadmvoicree twhoanul4d,0y0o0u fgainvse. little extra to get up for those games. 13-year-old self? Just don’t give up. As long as you believe in yourself and stick with it, nothing can stop you.