In isolation with his parents and siblings in their suburban St. Louis home, it didn’t take long for Matthew Tkachuk to be informed by brother Brady he’d been voted as a finalist in the NHLPA’s annual player poll.
The cheeky category?
Best bromance, with Drew Doughty.
“It wasn’t me, I’ll tell you that,” laughed the Flames winger when asked how the well-known adversaries landed in a fourth-place tie.
“I voted for ‘David Rittich and Pepsi’ for best bromance.
“He loves his Pepsi. He has, like, 20 of them on game days.”
Vintage Tkachuk to counter on the offensive.
In a candid, often comical, chat, marking his first interview since the season was paused, Tkachuk opened up about pickleball, puzzles, Peloton, the pandemic, being pushed around in the paint, his popularity in the pizza world, and his penchant for practicing TikTok creations in his pyjamas:
Sportsnet: Thanks for doing this. How are things?
Matthew Tkachuk: First day in a while I haven’t slept in until noon. It’s a little bit different.
Just doing the same old stuff you would do in the beginning of the summer when you’re not skating and just trying to work out. What’s different is you can’t get to the gym, so we walk and jog a lot in a park near us and just do body weight exercises and ride the bike.
SN: Are you a puzzler?
MT: My mom ordered a bunch of puzzles and had some here as well. I don’t know, it just frustrates me too much, especially those 1000-piece ones. My mom was talking the other day about getting a 1,000 or 2,000-piece, plain white puzzle. I said, ‘no,’ I can’t even do these normal ones that her and my sister have been going with while my brother helps out.
SN: I understand you’ve got a pickleball net at the house. Who is dominating so far?
MT: My sister (17-year-old Taryn) is actually probably the best one out of all of us. She’s got that natural tennis stroke, and she just puts it in places you can’t get to. Even though my brother and I are quicker, and probably rangier than my parents and her, she’s smart where she puts the ball. She’s tough.
It has been a lot of fun. It’s unreal. We love it. It’s like mini-tennis.
We haven’t played a lot of singles. The first time I saw one-on-one was my sister and my brother playing – that might be a little too much exercise for me.
SN: Your brother is a lot taller than he was when you two played basketball growing up – is it getting harder and harder to beat him?
MT: Yes, it is. He’s beaten me the past couple times we’ve played. He’s just long. By no stretch of the imagination do we have the best jumping skills of anybody, but just the length of him – he just shoots over me every time.
He’s a good player, he’s strong and bigger and heavier than I am, so he’s able to dominate me in the paint with his size and strength. I have to try to finesse it around him.
I’ve just got to hold the ball as much as possible and try to out-condition him a little bit. Sometimes that works.
Me and my brother have been outside as much as possible, playing basketball, and it’s actually a pretty good workout.
SN: Tell me about your new relationship with the Peloton bike?
MT: I’m thankful my parents have it because that’s the one thing that’s been keeping me in somewhat cardio shape.
We’ve been getting our money’s worth right now with it.
Normally my sister goes in the morning because she has school, and then whenever I wake up, I grab a quick bite and then go down there.
My three girls that are my instructors – Jess, Olivia and maybe Robin – are pretty intense. They’ve been kicking my ass on that machine the last couple weeks.
They motivate you too because they’re not even sweating and it’s like, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t quit halfway through this workout if they’re not even sweating.’
There are some hard workouts on there. I started off the first few days with a 30-minute ride and I was kind of a hero on it and thought, ‘this isn’t too bad’ and I did a little bit more resistance than they said, or I’d go faster. Then at five or six at night, that’s when it hits you, and I was gassed.
That’s when I quit being as much of a hero and do 20- and 30-minute ones and a low-intensity hour.
They great thing about that Peloton is they have some core and abs and arm workouts. They have yoga on there too, but I’m too lazy for that.
SN: Tell me about your history with TikTok?
MT: I have the app and I love watching it. Some of them are awesome and pretty funny.
My sister is really into it, so she had me try a bunch and then posted an easy one. It seemed to gain some traction and she thought it was super cool. The NHL tweeted it and she got some followers from it. Then she wanted me to do some more, and then I slowly realized she was maybe using me to get some followers.
We’re practising. I told her the only way I’d do one is if it’s a unique one or an intense one that make us look good.
We’re working on it right now.
She’s really good at it, but I’m struggling.
And Brady, oh gosh, he’s a lost cause, so we’re not going to do any with him.
SN: Is that your dad or your brother who is wearing those vintage goalie pads and puffy chef outfit in those new Giuseppe pizza commercials you’re in?
MT: Neither (laughing). What a great crew we had. One of the scenes we had to do was me hitting him in the middle of the ice and along the boards. Of course, that was the one part it took 20 takes. This poor kid was getting rammed into the boards and centre ice and I felt bad, but it made for a pretty funny commercial. People are all over me for that in Calgary and Canada, sending me takes of that video. They’re having some fun with it, for sure.
SN: Were you or your family worried when you heard two of Brady’s Ottawa Senators teammates tested positive for COVID-19?
MT: I think a little part of us was worried he could have potentially had it, but he had no symptoms. When it was announced that a few of the Senators had it we were there with Brady, so we obviously knew he was doing well. But you were really worried for the guys on his team and whoever may have been around it on that big California trip or while flying and being home with their families. It’s real life and when it happens to someone in close contact with your sibling, it’s scary.
SN: Do you have a format you’d particularly like to see if the league is able to squeeze a truncated playoff in this summer?
MT: I have to be careful with this one. Whatever we’re allowed to do, as long as everyone is going to be safe and the health professionals allow us to play. It’s all about what the experts are saying,
Yes, it would be nice to play for the Stanley Cup, but if that comes with a risk to people’s lives then absolutely we’re not going to do it, and we wouldn’t want to do it.
Everything that’s going on is so much bigger than the game of hockey.
Even if things get better, is it still smart to do it when you still have a little bit of risk spreading it?
We don’t know a lot at this point around the world, or where this is trending, and the time frame.
We need to stop this because there are a lot of people at risk with this.
While I’m on this topic, I want to say how proud and thankful I am that we have the health professionals and doctors and nurses and everyone who go to the hospital every day and run the risk of potentially getting it each second, and they keep doing it to help save lives.
The scary part is trying to keep them safe.
Everyone needs to stay home and do their part. We’ve got to stop this thing.