Kirby Dach talks the mental side of his game and more

Scott King
NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago's Nick Gismondi caught up with Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach for a skate and chat discussing Dach's first season in the NHL, growing up on the ice, being mentored by Blackhawks vets and more. 

Already more than halfway through his first year, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft is holding onto moments from this season that were special to him. 

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"There's been a lot of things that have kind of stood out to me," Dach said. "Obviously first shift was pretty cool and starting at the UC. It's a whole different atmosphere when you're on the ice and hear the anthem than when you're sitting in the stands or when you're hurt and you're watching the game. 

"But it's pretty cool, it gives you chills and the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It's a pretty cool feeling. To score my first goal at home too was pretty special. So those are the two things that stick out in my mind the most."

Kirby has always been close with his family and friends back home in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

"They've been huge for me," Dach said. "Obviously growing up in a smaller town you're pretty close with your community and your family and your friends there. I've always gone home, I enjoy going home. I've got a lot of good buddies that still live there. I like to hang out there and kind of relax. 

"It's good for me to kind of get away from the big city, so to speak, in Chicago and just kind of lay low for a little bit and hang out with them. They've supported me so much throughout my entire life. I'm here because of them. I pay homage to them all the time, which is great."

At 19, it's easy for Dach to remember learning to skate.

"I started off in those bobsled skates with the two blades on the bottom out in the backyard rink when I was younger," he said. "Then we had a lake lot, so we spent a lot of time during Christmas up there. 

"I think those are kind of my first memories is spending it out on that lake. I had a couple of close friends who I kind of grew up with out on that lake. It was a friendship we had for a really long time and we're still good buddies to this day and it's pretty cool."

Even as a kid, Kirby knew his hockey skills could take him to the highest level one day.

"Yeah, you kind of know," he said. "But at the same time, you don't really want to say anything or jinx yourself almost. You just want to find a way to keep getting better, even at a young age. 

"The biggest thing that I remember is my dad and my mom kind of talking to me and saying there's two different paths you can kind of go down here. We're going to give you every tool if you need it to get there, but it's up to you, we're not going to force you to go there. 

"The big thing for me was I always wanted to be at the rink, I always wanted to be playing hockey and enjoying the game and hanging out with my friends around the rink."

Beyond his years, Dach focuses on the mental game in hockey.

"I think every good player goes through hurdles," he said. "I think for me, growing up kind of in a smaller town, people are going to be jealous towards you if you're having success in a particular sport or in school or anything like that. That always comes into play when you're younger. 

"So the mental side of the game has been huge for me and trying to learn that and be strong mentally and understand that who you are as a person or as a player and that no one can really take that away from you."

Living with Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and learning from him and the other decorated Hawks veterans has been a valuable experience that Dach appreciates. 

"Living with Seabs has been great, his mentorship of me and Duncan (Keith)," he said. "I can't thank those two guys especially enough. They've kind of taken me under their wings and helped me a lot. 

"Same with Tazer (Jonathan Toews) and Kaner (Patrick Kane). There's so much experience in that locker room, it's crazy. It's only going to help out all of us at the end of the day."

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Kirby Dach talks the mental side of his game and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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