Minnesota center Erik Haula talks about how hard it is to reach, and stay in the NHL.
Why do you wear No. 56?
I didn't really pick it, they just gave me a number when I came into the league. I played half a season with that number, and it went well and after that I felt it was part of my identity, so I didn't want to change it anymore.
Who did you model your game after?
I never really modelled my game after anyone. I didn't pick one person, I watched a bunch of players and tried to pick up things from all of the best players. I didn't want to identify my game in one style of play, I wanted it to be my own kind of thing.
What was your favorite team growing up?
My favorites were the Detroit Red Wings and the Ducks because they were good teams that had a lot of Finnish players, like Teemu.
What's your favorite way to score?
I love breakaways. It's always nice to get one breaking down the ice by yourself.
What was your welcome to the NHL moment?
It's hard to say. I never really had that secure feeling of "welcome to the NHL" in the regular season…But when we went to the playoffs in my first year, and I got to feel that rush, that was my "wow, I'm part of the league" moment.
Who was your main mentor growing up?
My parents. I'm really close with them and I talk to them about everything. I talk to them about the game. They've always been there for me and they're my biggest supporting cast. They took me to practices and pushed me to be my best. I owe them a lot.
What's your favorite thing about being an NHLer?
There is really nothing that I don't like about being in the NHL. It's the biggest stage with the best players. It's just everything. The atmosphere, the crowds, it's all amazing.
What's the hardest thing about being an NHLer?
Just how hard you have to work to stay in the NHL. Everyone knows it's tough, but I definitely think people sometimes look at it as once you're there, you're there. That's not how it is; you're always improving your game so you can stay.
What was your first extravagant purchase with your first contract?
I bought a condo in Minneapolis that I love. I'm not one to buy cars, but I've leased a couple since the contract.
What's been your strangest fan interaction?
Someone asked me to hold their baby a few years ago in Minnesota. They asked me to hold the baby for a photo, and I said yes, but that was definitely a first for me.
– with Nicole Dawe