This is going to be all over the place. Are you ready?
> I’m really ready.
You’re quite chirpy on the ice.
> I talk a lot? Yeah, when I get excited, sometimes I talk a little too much. I really enjoy it. Growing up with my buddies, we’d trash-talk all the time.
Have you regretted anything you’ve said?
> Oh yeah. A lot. In the moment of the action you just say stuff.
And you make bird noises.
> [Laughs.] That’s an inside joke me and James van Riemsdyk had. It started with Scott Hartnell—he’d call people pigeons. I called van Riemsdyk a pigeon and made a pigeon noise.
Let’s hear your pigeon noise.
> [Laughs.] No, I’m not in the moment of the action right now. I can’t.
That’s fair. Who has really witty retorts?
> The goalie from Ottawa, Robin Lehner. I like to give it to him once in a while, and he always responds pretty quick. I kinda like that.
Are you a talkative captain in the dressing room?
> I talk once in a while, and before games I just try to keep the guys loose. Mike Richards was my captain at first and I learned a lot from him. He wouldn’t say much. He was more of a show-it-on-the-ice type of player, but when he did talk in the room, I think guys got a little surprised and really listened to him.
What do you like more, grapes or apples?
> What do you mean, like goals or assists?
Yeah, of course.
> I was like, “Oh, is she actually asking that?” Well, goals are more important, no? I don’t score a lot of ’em. But I mean, you need grapes to win.
What was it like for you growing up? You were a small kid from a small town.
> Yeah, where I’m from—Hearst, Ontario—you show up to tryouts and you make the team. We’d get the ice a lot because there weren’t a lot of teams. It’s cold out there; we played a lot on the outdoor rink. I was pretty lucky to grow up there.
All you had to do was show up to make the team?
> Pretty much. It was only single-A, not like in Toronto with those big teams. Obviously I played summer hockey with AAA players. But playing single-A, I remember one game we had a couple guys suspended and some were sick, so we had six players. We played the whole game with one guy on the bench and we ended up tying the game. I didn’t get off the ice the whole game, so that was pretty fun.
At what point did you realize hockey could be a career?
> To be honest, I think it was after my first year in junior when I was 17. I got invited to the camp, kind of showed up, and I ended up making the team. The coach believed that I could be a good player and he played me a lot, and then I got drafted by Philly. When I got drafted, that’s when I noticed, “OK, I need to focus a little bit more here.” [Laughs.] I’m pretty lucky to be here.
I heard your dad started playing hockey at the same time you did.
> And my mom, too. And my sister. She’s five years older. She used to do figure skating. When I was five, I started playing on a team and my sister played on another team and my parents were playing. Everybody started playing at the same time.
When you were five were you the best player in your family?
> [Laughs.] No, no. Not at five. Maybe when I was 12. My dad’s a broomball player so he picked it up quick.
Who’s the toughest defenceman to get by in the NHL?
> The same answer for everyone is going to be Zdeno Chara. His reach. He’s not the nicest guy on the ice, either. It’s fun to play against him.
Do you guys have an extra-long stick for practice, so you can practise going around him?
> No, we do not do that. No fake Chara.
Might be worth trying.
> That’s a good idea.
Your Twitter bio is all about grilled cheese.
> Love grilled cheese, yes. It’s a nice little snack. When you’re hungry, you have bread and cheese and it tastes really good.
Do you put bacon in there?
> Oh yeah. Bacon, ham. Anything I can cook.
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.