By Kristina Rutherford in Toronto
By Kristina Rutherford in Toronto
The Maple Leafs winger takes a break from racking up points to come out and say what everyone's been thinking: Vegetables are disgusting.

Which name do you prefer: Mitch? Mitchell? Mitchy?
Mitch is probably the best. A couple guys call me Mitchy. Maybe most guys, actually.

Mitchy it is. How would you describe how the first couple months of the season have gone for you?
It’s going well, the team’s doing really well.

How about for you, personally.
Yeah, it’s good. I mean, it’s been getting out to a good start, just got to make sure you keep your foot down and you’re not sitting back. I didn’t really set many goals ahead of the season, just wanted to come in and be more of a leader and have some more responsibility, and I think I’ve done that.

When we spoke in the summer, you were living with your family in Vaughan. Are you still?
No, I’m downtown now.

Oh wow, you moved out. Where to? Actually, you probably don’t want us printing that…
[Laughs.] Yeah, no! I’m living with my girlfriend. She’s the cook and all that, it’s been really good.

Good to hear. I know you really like your mom’s cooking.
I like the lasagna quite a bit — she makes a mean lasagna. Pasta, lots of pasta.

A lot of carbs, eh?
Yeah, she’s all into trying to get me bigger, so…

How’s that going?
It’s been fun. I mean, expanding the palate, so that’s important [laughs]. Pretty sure if you’ve ever talked to anyone about me and eating, it’s usually not a good thing, so expanding it a little bit.

After averaging 1.38 points per game through the first two months of the season, it's no wonder Marner's getting recognized more around the city.

You’re a little picky.
I’d say more than a little.

What are your biggest dislikes?
Pfffff. Vegetables — don’t really like vegetables. Mostly all of them. Well, now I don’t mind a couple of them.

What don’t you mind?
That’s a good question.

Red peppers?
OK, yeah, I like those.

Yeah. I wouldn’t eat a cucumber just by itself, though.

Few would. Kale? Arugula?

I’ve had them a couple times. You know escargot? OK, so somehow I like that. Yeah, it’s weird. When I go to The Keg, I order escargot and it comes with mushrooms on top, and I used to eat it with the mushrooms and had no problem, but for some reason one time I was just like, ‘Ah I don’t want the mushrooms anymore,’ and I just started taking them off. I pretty much tell myself I don’t like stuff when I haven’t really committed myself to it.

So you consume vegetables in powder form, or…?
Like smoothies? Yeah. Somebody makes my smoothies and they hide a bunch of stuff in it that I probably wouldn’t like it if I saw it. I just chug it.

Wow. Walking around Toronto these days, how much do you get stopped and recognized?
Honestly, I don’t get really stopped that much. I get people looking, but I don’t know if they really want to ask, or if they just don’t think it’s me or something. I get a lot of people staring and stuff like that. Once in a while people ask for photos and it’ll be a chain reaction, but I enjoy that part, it’s fun. Obviously, playing in this market that’s a great thing about being here, you get noticed by people for your accomplishments and for playing. I don’t mind it at all. It’s fun, talking with fans, joking around.

Do you wish it happened more often?
No, no. [Laughs.] I wouldn’t say that. When it happens, obviously I like interacting with them. But I’m sure if I was standing there and it was 20 minutes straight of taking photos, maybe it’d get a little annoying. At the same time, obviously never show your anger or anything like that.

You’re into Fortnite, right?
Yeah. There’s no blood or gore or anything in it. It’s a shooting game, so there’s that aspect of it. At the same time you play with your buddies, so it’s another way to talk to friends that you don’t get to see too often. I think that’s the fun thing about it.

How good are you?
Pretty good, I’d say. I used to play guys on the team, but they’re all on Xbox, I’ve moved to PlayStation.

You have a new centreman this season, but you would’ve known a lot about his game before he started playing here. Has any part of John Tavares’s skill set surprised you?
Not really. I knew what kind of player he was when he got here. He’s come in and done more than what everyone thought he would do, I think. It’s been a lot of fun playing with him.

If you could steal one skill from him, what would you take?
Ah, probably his diet. Right off the board — very healthy and he takes care of himself very well.

A lot of vegetables?

Marner's advice to younger teammates: When it's good, appreciate every second.

What did you learn about yourself as a player last season?
There’s gonna be ups and downs, and it’s about how you handle yourself through those ups and downs. Everything’s not always going to be sunny and beautiful, there’s going to be some tough days, and it’s about making sure that you get yourself ready for those times. Obviously when you’re on a high, you want to keep riding it but there are going to be moments when you do drop, and when that happens, you just got to find a way to get out of it as quick as possible.

How do you do that? Is there anyone in particular you talk to?
I think it depends how long it’s been going on for. Obviously everyone around you in that room is supportive of you and knows how you’re feeling and they’re on your side regardless of what’s happening. Obviously family is the same way. Usually it’s just trying to get your mind off hockey. I think that’s the most important thing when you get out of that rink is forgetting about hockey and all the stuff that happened the day before and just living your life.

What is it like to be part of a playoff series in this city?
Pretty wicked, obviously. It’s a dream to play in your hometown and obviously going to the playoffs. But I think [two seasons ago] we were really excited about it and then [last] year we expected to be there. I think we were disappointed, we felt that we deserved better and that we could’ve gone further, and obviously this year that has to be the mindset as well, is just to make it past these next rounds. Obviously every round you play in the teams get better and harder to play against, so just making sure we grow up as a team together and making sure that we’re ready for those challenges.

When you were a rookie, did any teammates in particular give you solid advice?
Marty [Matt Martin] definitely did. Marty was a big piece in helping me out. He was a guy that I could always talk to and blow steam off with, and he was a guy that always invited me over. I’d have dinner with him and his girlfriend.

But you’re so picky!
We’d usually go out to eat, so I’d just pick from a menu. [Laughs.] He was a guy that was great to have around. We never really talked too much about hockey, to be honest. We just joked around with each other. Obviously there was the big joke about him and I, dad-son and stuff like that. He was a great person to have around and learn from.

Do you like that dad-son joke?
It’s pretty funny. There’s still people commenting on photos when someone takes a photo with a 10-year-old or something, saying how it’s funny that I’m there. It’s pretty funny to me.

What advice would you give a rookie teammate about playing in Toronto?
Have fun, enjoy the time, enjoy the moments. Know that there’s going to be up and down moments, there’s going to be stuff that you hate. That happens to every hockey player — I’m sure that everybody’s gone through it a couple times in their career, regardless of where they’re playing. Just make sure they enjoy the moment.

You turned 21 in the off-season. Have you been enjoying that?
It’s pretty nice. It’s cool now if I go to the States with my family or girlfriend and her family and someone’s having a glass of wine, I don’t have to feel obligated to sit there and drink water. It’s pretty cool. This summer, [Connor] Carrick had his wedding. That was nice. Last year when I went to [Tyler] Bozak’s wedding, I wasn’t 21. I went to go get a pizza the one night with Bozie and a couple guys, it was seven o’clock. I tried to walk in, the guy asked me for an ID and I’m like, ‘I’m going in for a piece of pizza.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, you need ID sir to get in here.’ I was like ‘Well, I’ll see you guys later!’ [Laughs.] Everyone’s like, ‘No we’re not leaving you!’ So everyone walked out, but it was kinda funny, seeing how strict people are in the States about that stuff, even to get food.

You probably get ID’d a lot.
Yeah, I should just stamp it on my shirt.

Designed and edited by Evan Rosser.

Photo Credits

Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images; Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images; Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images.