The following interview is a Q&A transcription of parts of episode 110 of the Canucks Conversation podcast, when Chris Faber (who conducted this interview) and myself were joined by Harman Dayal and Zack MacEwen.
Q: You’re one of the few guys from Prince Edward Island in the NHL, I’m just curious, what’s it like growing up playing hockey on PEI? Because from what I’ve heard, it’s all potatoes and hockey over there.
A: Yeah, everybody takes hockey pretty seriously. There are a couple of good rivalries between the teams on the island, and you kind of go to school with the guys you’re playing against too. So it’s definitely a great place to grow up and play hockey. I have a lot of buddies that I’ve played with my whole life that I started playing hockey with who are my best friends to this day, so yeah, it’s definitely a good scene.
Q: What’s it like for NHL players? Do some people retire in PEI? Are there a lot of NHL connections around there?
A: Yeah, there’s some guys that played back in the day. You know, I know Dion Phaneuf has a place that he goes to every summer he loves it here. So yeah, there’s definitely a few guys.
Q: I’ve got a couple of PEI questions. It’s the big thing that you guys all like to attend, and it’s called the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. Have you ever attended that?
A: Oh, yeah. No, I haven’t missed one of those in the last probably five or six years, except, I guess this year since they cancelled it. Yeah, that’s a must see if you like country music,it’s always a good time there. They get some big name artists in and they set it up really well. It’s a pretty good weekend for sure.
Q: I went up to Whistler and went to a place called Cows ice cream, I heard that’s a PEI staple as well.
A: It is! You know, you see the Cows all over the place in Canada but it orginated in PEI. My girlfriend loves it too, she’s always pressuring me to take her there to get it.
Q: Something they had that I wasn’t a huge fan of were these chocolate covered chips. That’s like what they’re famous for?
A: Yeah, I’m kind of in the same boat as you, I’m not really a fan of those but I know some people love them.
Q: I wanted to get a little bit now into the Comets and what that situation was like with you when you signed with them. What were your initial thoughts coming out of the Q and just signing and jumping right into the AHL?
A: Nerves for sure were the initial feelings but coming out of junior and going to Utica for that two weeks as a 20 year old, they were kind of making a playoff push, so I didn’t get any games in. I was practicing and stuff, so it was good to get my feet wet, just get a taste of what Pro was going to be like, I got to see what that was going to be like. I think that was good for that year, and then I kind of knew what to expect coming into next year.
Q: That’s something that I think a lot of people have talked about in your career is that you had a late growth in your game. What was that like in the QMJHL and kind of moving into the AHL?
A: Yeah I mean well I was never drafted in the Q. I ended up getting called up out of Junior A in Moncton and you know, those playoff games I played as an 18-year-old in Moncton kind of gave me a good start for, you know, getting my foot in the door to get into the Q. They had me back the next year and I kind of found my game as a 19-year-old, playing a bit of a role with the Wildcats. We had some good players on that team that I played pretty well with and clicked pretty well with. Coming out of my 19-year-old year, we just had too many 19-year-olds returning to Moncton so, I ended up getting a trade to Gatineau where they only had a few 19-year-olds coming back at 20. It was a good opportunity for me there for sure. And then I kind of got to settle in as a 20-year-old having a little bit of freedom to kind of play my game. The coach had a lot of trust in me so, I think I really got to show people what I could do and feel confident in my game and I kind of took off.
Q: Congratulations on the two year deal with the Vancouver Canucks, it must feel pretty good to see where you’ve worked your way up to now, right?
A: Yeah, for sure. You know, my first contract kind of went exactly how I wanted it to go, with a development path, I’m really happy with how that turned out. To get rewarded again, for another two years, especially in a city like Vancouver you know, I love this city. I love it here. So to get another two years to spend here and keep developing with this young team is really exciting.
Q: It’s gotta be a crazy month for you here over the past little bit, I mean, getting eliminated from the playoffs, coming back home from out of the bubble then signing this contract, is it kind of nice now to just relax for a couple of days?
A: Yeah, no, for sure, definitely a little bit of weight off the shoulders there after signing the contract. You know just not really knowing what’s going down with free agency, and everything going on with the NHL next year. So it’s definitely, yeah, definitely a little bit of a relief. And it’s time to get back to work here now.
Q: What did you think about the whole situation in the bubble? I mean, you guys were in there for a decent amount of time, you ended up getting into six playoff games. What was the whole experience kind of like for you?
A: You definitely didn’t know what to expect going in there. But once you got in there you saw everything they had set up, and the way they organized it, it was really cool to be a part of. Just the amount of planning and execution that they would have had to go through to to get that set up was pretty amazing. Then yeah, like you said playing in the games that I played in was super exciting. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, so you’re fired up to play in that. The run that we went on was, was really fun to be a part of, and then just seeing you know, what our team could do, in what could have went either way there in that game seven against Vegas, so it’s definitely encouraging to see going forward here with this team.
Q: I got to get your opinion on this because what we saw as Canucks fans was Thatcher Demko absolutely standing on his head when he was given an opportunity to play. He’s a guy that you’ve obviously been around for a few years now. What was it like for you guys on the bench, just seeing what he was able to do in those last few games?
A: Oh, man, I was so happy for him. He’s so good, he works. He works so hard on his details and he’s always ready. He was put in a pretty tough spot coming in there when he did and I knew into that he was going to be great, I knew he would he could handle that. I was just super happy for him and he really deserves that. I’m glad that he did what he did.
Q: What do the next few months look like for you? Are you able to see some of your teammates or are you kind of just hanging out at home right now?
A: Yeah I’m in and out around the facility working out and I’m going to be skating for the next month just getting ready for the start of the next season. There are a few guys left in town and I think a few more might be filing in here as it goes on. So yeah, like you said, it’s still kind of up in the air, about what’s gonna happen so you kind of just have to be adaptable and just be ready for whatever.
Q: The final question I wanted to ask you, it’s about Alfie of course. Last year, the Canucks had the dog races and I don’t think Alfie participated in that, did he?
A: He did not because I got called up the day they had the dog races so I don’t think they knew I was going to be there; but I don’t know how he would have done in that, he might get a little distracted, he might have just chased the other dogs around.