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This was the first time Puck Daddy had a presence at the NHL Player Media Tour, which was being run out of the MasterCard Centre For Hockey Excellence (actual name) in Toronto this year.
We experienced many things, as you’ll see in the stories and videos we’ll run over the next few weeks. There was a lot to take in. So here are 20 things we learned at the NHL Player Media Tour this week in lovely Toronto:
1. Our Room
We were given our own space by the NHL for interviews and video, which was really cool. It was a locker room next to a practice rink with two long wooden benches, a few folding chairs, a shower that was actually a trash room and one toilet that we’re proud to say Jonathan Toews used in full uniform. And that’s why he’s The Captain.
Alas, the room wasn’t without its challenges. First there was the constantly running fan, which you can hear in this video. However, the alternative was having a room like our friends at NBC did next door, that didn’t have a fan but had a vent from which you could hear everyone talking in the room next. And we’re rather boisterous people.
The other challenge was the motion lights. There was no light switch. The lights were operated by walking past or waving at a sensor in the ceiling near the front door. Which meant that the room would suddenly go pitch black in the middle of the interview until someone triggered the light.
When the lights fell during his interview, we’re pretty sure Sean Monahan thought we were going to chop him up and eat him.
2. Speed Dating
If you aren’t hip to the NHL Player Media Tour, here’s how it works: From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., you get 15 minutes with players from all 30 NHL teams over two days. Frequently, they follow each other in rapid succession – “Thanks, Duncan Keith, oh hai Zdeno Chara” – so you have to really be prepared. It’s a lot like speed dating, only with more emotional baggage.
You end up with an amazing amount of content and sympathy for the players who have to hear "so any update on your talks with the Lightning, Steven?" 105 times.
3. Geno and Sid
Would watch “Geno and Sid 24/7” in a heartbeat. Like, everyday. Like, all day. Like, we wish it was like “The Truman Show” and we could see them brush their teeth together each morning.
4. No Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is the kind of player you’d expect to find on this NHL Player Media Tour, except he wasn’t in Toronto for obvious reasons. And outside of Gary Bettman having to address it during the World Cup presser, no one was talking about him. We tried to ask Duncan Keith whether he, like so many Blackhawks fans, was disappointed in Kane. “We’ve been told not to comment,” he said.
5. John Tavares vs. Hot Dogs
The NHL Player Media Tour was really run rather efficiently, as most players sync’d up with their schedule. Alas, some guys were caught in traffic (because Toronto is why), and so a few schedules had to be shifted around.
Which brings us to John Tavares.
The New York Islanders captain was a little late to the rink, so his time with us was moved later in the day on Wednesday. As Tavares made his way down media row after filming some on-ice stuff, we figured he would roll into our room in about 25 minutes. Our own Sean Leahy decided to grab us lunch, consisting of coffee, a Powerade and a couple of hot dogs from the rink café.
Five minutes after he left, in comes John Tavares, in full uniform, helmet included, for his interview time. He sat down on a little plastic seat, and we started chatting.
Five minutes later, here comes our own Sean Leahy, holding two drinks in his hands and clutching two hot dogs against his chest like a mother protecting an infant. The juxtaposition between a professional athlete in peak condition and in full Islanders hockey gear and the blogger running into the room coddling cooked sausages to talk to him … well, few visuals have ever been more perfect.
(P.S.: Leahy didn't get to eat the hot dogs until about an hour later because of our schedule. They were cold.)
6. Speaking Of Hot Dogs
James van Riemsdyk said he’ll miss Phil Kessel, who was a close friend. We asked him if he ever visited the hog dog stand that Phil allegedly visited each day. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said of the Steve Simmons anecdote. “I didn’t really appreciate what was written there.”
7. Monogrammed Shirts
In terms of monograms, the best we can hope for in life are bath towels and wedding party gifts. But for NHL players, having your initials on a shirt is a status symbol. From Henrik Lundqvist to Dion Phaneuf, the monogramed sleeve cuff is mandatory for NHL stars.
8. F--k Cancer Bracelets
These bracelets were worn by Nicklas Backstrom and Gabriel Landeskog, promoting a charity that preaches early awareness, detection and supporting those battling it. In Backstrom’s case, it was to honor his late grandfather. [Image via Damernas]
9. Nick Bjugstad
You know how sometimes you meet someone that’s so incredibly positive about life and passionate about what they do that it sort of makes you question whether or not your own soul is a dark black abyss that will remain forever empty in comparison? That’s what meeting Nick Bjugstad was like.
10. Dion Phaneuf’s Socks
Many players had a strong sock game at the Tour, matching their tailored jackets with socks befitting a 14-year-old on a halfpipe. The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, however, won the day with this homage to either Sharknado or Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
11. Henrik Lundqvist Luvs Tennis
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is basically the “Spike Lee at a Knicks game” of the U.S. Open in New York, watching championship tennis whenever he can during the tournament.
How did he catch the tennis bug? “My sister played tennis her entire life, and I love to play it. It’s a challenge to read the game,” he said. “And the Open is a great tournament.”
12. NHL Bumpers Are Fun
Our room was set up near the ice where the NHL players were shooting their bumpers for the 2015-16 season. Puck handling to the camera. Shooting the puck. And, of course, skating down the ice and then staring ferociously into the giant white lights.
We asked Dion Phaneuf if he ever got tired of skating up to the camera and staring into it ferociously, and he said he didn’t.
That’s before we realized that “ferocious” meant “Dion’s resting [expletive] face,” so he never really needed to exert himself.
13. The Sedins And The Hall Of Fame
One of the planks in the Puck Daddy platform has been that if the Sedin Brothers both made the Hockey Hall of Fame, they should be on the same plaque. So we asked Henrik Sedin about that idea, and his response was …
“No. We’d have separate, for sure.”
14. Vladimir Tarasenko’s Chest
We don’t want to say that the St. Louis Blues star as a rather large torso, but he had trouble crossing his arms and we’re pretty sure we saw a Harrier Jet land on him during our interview.
15. The Roman Josi Press Release
The Nashville Predators were the only team to bring an informative one-sheet to explain why we should care about Roman Josi. Fun fact: “Considers being dropped in an ocean at night to be his greatest fear.” Such is growing up in a landlocked country …
16. Drew Doughty’s Tooth
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty had a missing front tooth, which he said he lost near the end of the regular season but that he intends to get it replaced soon.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation after that revelation:
ME: “I actually have a baby tooth over here [points to left side of upper jaw] that has nothing behind it. So when it falls out – which it should, as I am no longer a baby – I was thinking about leaving a gap in my teeth to try and gain some street cred with the players I interview. Do you think that would work?”
DREW DOUGHTY, TWO-TIME STANLEY CUP CHAMPION: “No. If it’s over there, we know it’s because you did something stupid.”
17. Boring Sean Monahan
I told mom happy Mother's Day. I asked her what she would want for dinner if I could take her out and she said duck. I said very funny mom.
The Calgary Flames forward was rather delightful, but alas we were among the three or so media groups that he turned down when asked to read tweets from the “Boring Sean Monahan” Twitter feed that he totally doesn't write himself. (Pet theory: Monahan is like Tyler Durden and his "other" self writes it.)
18. Young Guns
The thing we learned from the players that are going to be on the World Cup of Hockey Young Guns: They are legitimately excited to beat the crap out of the U.S. and Canada veterans.
19. World Team
The thing we learned from the players that are going to be on the World Cup of Hockey Team Europe: Those from Slovakia and Switzerland are legitimately frustrated that they have to be grouped in with “the field” instead of having their own teams. And that Zdeno Chara has no idea what song they’d play if they medaled.
20. Zemgus Girgensons (Girgensons)
The answer is no, Zemgus Girgensons did not make this his ringtone.
But he does have the song on his phone.
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