TORONTO – One of the oddest moments of Tyler Seguin’s admittedly eventful offseason was when a fan asked him, via Twitter, if he wanted anything from In-N-Out burger while he participated in a sled hockey charity game.
“I was actually hungry at the time. So I asked [Dallas PR maven Tom Holy] if I could respond to her, and he said ‘yeah, why not?'. I told her what I wanted, she asked if I wanted fries, I said yes, and she showed up with the food at the first intermission at the charity game,” he said.
The story went viral, and it was one of the best athlete/fan moments of the summer. But is he worried that it’s a little too popular a story, and fans might start tossing double doubles with cheese onto the ice like the burgers flew in Ottawa last season for goalie Andrew “The Hamburgler” Hammond?
“No,” he said, “but I’m already worried about the rubber ducks being thrown on the ice.”
When Seguin modeled for the ESPN Body Issue this summer, one of the photos depicted him standing naked in a shower stall with only a rubber ducky covering his bits, like Ernie from “Sesame Street” as shot by Terry Richardson.
“So here’s the thing: a lot of the Body Issue is very artistic. They asked me beforehand if we could do a funny version, saying they need one guy that’s going to do something that’s a little more outgoing. I was open to pretty much anything,” he said.
“Anything,” in this case, being a nude photo while he grasped what appears to be a genuinely surprised duck.
“The day before the actual shoot, I was thinking if I could get out of it. I was a little nervous, and it was the day before I was going to Europe for the world championships,” he recalled. “The first 15-20 minutes were a little awkward, but it got easier.”
Now comes the hard part: Having your friends, teammates and fans reminding you of your fowl prop at every turn after the magazine was released.
“I’ve already seen a little rubber ducky in the top of my stall in the dressing room. I knew what I was getting into,” he said.
What he hopes to avoid is a shower of little quackers hitting the ice this season from Dallas Stars fans, who are already showing up at Seguin events with rubber ducks.
“I already told them I don’t want rubber ducky giveaways. I don’t want ducks on the ice every time I have a hat trick,” he said.
Seguin, 23, had two hat tricks last season in his brilliant 37-goals-in-71-games season, matching his goal total from 80 games in 2013-14 when Dallas made the playoffs. They failed to make the cut last season, but had added some significant names in the offseason: Former Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, as well as goalie Antti Niemi.
With Sharp and Oduya having raised the Stanley Cup just a few months ago, Seguin hopes they can bring some championship gravitas to the dressing room.
“I think winning is contagious. We have a young group. They’re going to help us in the locker room, just day-to-day routines. They know what it takes to get there. To be effective teammates,” he said.
Seguin’s most effective teammate last season was Jamie Benn, 25, whose 87-point season was enough to earn him the Art Ross Trophy. Conventional wisdom was that Valeri Nichushkin, a 20-year-old Russian offensive dynamo, who join their line this season. But Seguin pumped the brakes on that.
“We’ll throw a couple different combos out there. Nothing set in stone,” he said. “That’s the great thing about having the group of guys that we do.”
Seguin likes this group and takes pride in the fact that he’s earned their respect after two years in Dallas, following a contentious, gossipy departure from Boston.
But some people refuse to let him turn that page … like former Toronto Maple Leafs CEO Richard Peddie.
On Sept. 1, Peddie tweeted: “Tyler Seguin now behaving himself? Yorkville neighbours sure don't think so. Lots of loud noisy parties to 6am Lots of garbage left behind.” He followed that with another message that he wouldn’t be surprised if Seguin is “late for last game of season because [he’s] hungover. Past behaviour best predictor of future behavior.”
Seguin was baffled.
“I didn’t recognize or know who it was. I had never met him before. Everybody was saying he was calling me out, but I was never in town. I moved out. I was confused,” he said, adding that he was in Vail for offseason training at the time.
“I wasn’t sure if he was saying that I did that the last night or what. It’s unfortunate: We only really had one party all summer.”
Seguin said Peddie’s leap from an allegedly messy house to his potentially missing a game due to his behavior was upsetting, given the strides he believes he’s made. It’s a benefit of the doubt Seguin felt he’s earned, even as its been squandered by other NHL players with mended reputations like Patrick Kane.
“That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ve worked hard at maturing. But in the end I know what I’ve done and my teammates know what I’ve done. I know I’ve been improving every year and will continue to improve,” he said.
“It was all a little … petty.”
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