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Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of profiles on the Carolina Hurricanes’ players and staff designed to give people a better look at the players behind the pads. We’ll be asking them about hockey, of course, but also about life — hobbies, interests, special moments — to better understand what makes them tick.
The Carolina Hurricanes would be hard-pressed to pick a most valuable player in what has been a special season, but no one can overlook the play of Vincent Trocheck.
The center, whom the Canes acquired last season from the Florida Panthers, is used in every situation by Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour this season. A competitive guy who once said he hasn’t made many friends among opposing players in the NHL, Trocheck is always lurking around the opposing net, making life miserable for the other guys.
Trocheck also has made the Panthers pay for sending him away. He scored a goal in each of the first six games against his former team this season in the Central Division.
In an exclusive interview with The News & Observer’s Chip Alexander, Trocheck talked about the trade, the season, his love of golf and Pittsburgh, and a life lesson learned from his mom:
Chip Alexander: What do you like most about being a player in the National Hockey League?
Vincent Trocheck: I think the competitive nature of the game. I mean, every night is a battle. I think people are seeing that even more this year, with a tighter schedule and how much every game matters a little bit more. I just think it’s having that competitive edge and going out there every night and having to fight for every inch.
CA: When people ask me why Vincent Trocheck is having such a good year, my answer has been it seems you are playing with so much confidence. Let me ask you, why are you having such a good year?
VT: I’m sure confidence has been a little bit of it and plays into it. Confidence is a very important mental factor every game for all players. I just think the fit I have here is part of the reason, being able to fit in in perfect spots with my linemates and jelling well with them, jelling well with the power play. Being on the same page as Roddy (Brind’Amour). It just all kind of goes into it.
CA: Having played with the Panthers for seven years before being traded, how concerned were you about the fit with Carolina. Was there any apprehension?
VT: Yes, of course. I had never been traded before. It was a first time. It was a little different, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, if I would be able to fit in right away. It took a little bit of an adjustment period coming last season at midseason. But it has been a great fit ever since.
CA: You once said that a competitive nature is in every hockey player’s blood. Has it always been in your blood?
VT: Yeah, definitely. From a very young age. I was competitive, not just as a hockey player but in just about everything I was doing, whether I was playing cards against my sister or on the ice.
CA: Did you have a temper or just very competitive?
VT: I don’t know. Maybe a little bit of both.
CA: I heard Nino Niederreiter say there was trash-talk going on in a recent game. That can be a part of competitiveness. Were you a part of that?
VT: Yeah, I’m sure I was. I get involved in all aspects of the game.
CA: Would you call yourself a car guy? Do you still have the BMW M4 you bought way back when, the one that you called your “baby”?
VT: “I don’t have the M4 anymore. About a year and a bit ago, I sold the M4 and I’ve got an M8. But, yeah, I’m definitely into cars.”
CA: Your dad was a musician and can play a number of instruments. You play the piano, but is it true you can’t read music?
VT: I used to be able to read music, and it wasn’t something that I thought I would forget, but sure enough I did. Learned when I was young, forgot, ended up taking piano classes in high school and relearned how to read music. And then after high school, going to play hockey and not being around a piano for a while I kind of just kind of lost it. I’d like to get to learning how to read again but don’t have the time to get somewhere where I have my piano there and could kind of settle in with it.
CA: One of your former teammates said you are a good singer who could imitate anybody? True?
VT: I don’t have a great voice but I like to sing. I do like to sing.
CA: I know you love to play golf, true?
VT: Oh yeah, big golf fanatic.
CA: What’s your handicap now and your lowest 18-hole round?
VT: Four, and 73.
CA: Favorite golf course you’ve played and the one course you’d like to play?
VT: Laurel Valley in Ligonier, Pa., and Augusta National.
CA: And what about a dream foursome for Vincent Trocheck?
VT: Tiger Woods, Mario Lemieux and maybe Adam Sandler.
CA: Best golfer on the Canes?
VT: Brady Skjei.
CA: Are you still a big cereal guy?
VT: Yeah I am. I’m a little odd. I like Raisin Bran Crunch, which is basic. And then I like Puffins, like peanut butter Puffins. They kind of taste like Cap’n Crunch. Pretty good.
CA: When you were with the Panthers, “Sweeties Trochex Mix” was being sold. It was a collection of your favorite candies. Can you still buy Trochex Mix?
VT: I have no idea. Good question. I think I still have a couple of boxes at my house back home in Pittsburgh.
CA: I’ve asked this question of others on the team who have kids. What’s the best thing about being a father?
VT:“Man, I don’t really know if it’s one thing. It’s the smile they put on your face every time they do anything. It’s pretty awesome when I come home and the excitement my son has whenever he sees me walk in the door. It’s always something that brightens up my day, no matter what’s going on in life. Just watching him grow is awesome.
CA: Think he’ll be a hockey player? You started at a pretty young age.
VT: Yeah, he has a pretty big obsession with hockey already, so I don’t think there will be much of a choice there. I tried to put a golf club in his hand but he keeps going back to the hockey stick.
CA: I read a few stories about your mom, Rita, and read that you said, “She taught me there’s no problem too big.” I know she had some serious health issues. What kind of an inspiration has she been?
VT: When she was going through her colon cancer, the way she carried herself you would never even know she was going through anything or that she was sick. She just went about her business and always had a positive attitude and was happy and it was like nothing bad was going on. I think that taught me a lot about life, that there’s no problem too big you can’t get through it, and that a positive attitude can do a lot.
CA: You’ve had some serious injuries. Did that help you get through those?
VT: Definitely. I may not have been as strong as she was when she was going through her sickness, but it definitely taught me a lot. I was able to stay positive and focus on post-injury and family and trying to make sure I was as happy as I possibly could be even though I was going through some stuff that was keeping me off the ice, which was a big part of my life.
CA: I know you’re a proud Pittsburgh guy. What about your loyalties? Still a big Steelers fan, Pirates fan?
VT: Yep, big Pirates fan, Steelers fan. Still loyal to the Pirates although they may not be the greatest team in the world. I go back to Pittsburgh every summer. It’s home. I’ll always have that.
CA: A few hockey questions. You’ve been around a number of hockey coaches. What do you like best about Rod Brind’Amour’s coaching style?
VT: I think it’s how competitive he is. You can tell how much he wants to win and he brings that into his coaching style.
CA: What do you like best about this Canes team, looking at its strengths?
VT: The balance. I think we have so much balance. From line 1 to 4, and D pairs 1 to 3, we have a ton of balance. And we have three goaltenders who this year have all played phenomenal hockey. And everybody wants to win. Everybody comes to the rink with the same attitude, and we all have that same goal, to win the Stanley Cup, and every single guy in our locker room has that competitive nature that we’re not going to be denied. That can be one thing that separates us.