With Kevin Kennedy
My first hockey experience was when my brother asked my dad to take him out to skate with his friends and I tagged along. My dad encouraged me to try it out and it’s a good thing he did. That was back in Rochester, Michigan where I grew up.
As a kid I was put in every sport because I think my parents wanted to see what would keep my interest. My brother already knew he wanted to play hockey so my dad just put me on his team, so he’d only have to make one trip to the rink. I ended up always having to play up an age level, which I’m sure helped with my development.
I made the jump to ‘AAA’ when I was in the fifth grade. I tried out for the team in the spring and I actually got cut, but then one of the players moved out of the area so they called me back and put me on the roster. The next fall I went to play for Detroit Compuware ‘AAA’ Hockey and I stayed on that team for seven years.
I won two national championships in 2007 and 2009 with that team, and I remember the one in 2007 as being particularly memorable. We had a scrimmage a week before the tournament and I ended up breaking my wrist. My mom didn’t want me to play in the final, but I was able to talk my coach into letting me play with a cast under my glove. They told me to try and stay away from physical contact and so of course on the first shift I get nailed, but I was just happy to be in the game.
Growing up, a lot of my friends were into video games, but I never really got into it. I preferred to be outside and the street that I lived on was a dead end so it was great for street hockey and whiffle ball. I also played basketball until about the eighth grade and I played baseball all through high school.
I had a friend named Andrew Copp on the Compuware team and his dad, Andy, was our coach. At the time, I wasn’t a stand out player, but for some reason he saw potential in me and spent a lot of time teaching me the X’s and O’s of the game. I had never learned that before because my parents never played the game, but coach Andy took the time with me and gave me a real shot.
My first NHL game was the first game of the season this year. We played against Edmonton and I was partnered with Mark Stuart. It was a pretty cool game for sure. I scored my first goal and we had a comeback win. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.