Hours before our first scheduled interview and photo shoot with standout Rick Nash, the 21-year-old Left Wing prodigy for the Columbus Blue Jackets, we received an alarming phone call. Nash had injured his ankle during a scrimmage and was on his way to the hospital to have it examined. Fast-forward a week. The pre-season games are already under way and Nash is still sidelined. Thankfully, he’s still set to “officially” return to the ice by the time the regular season starts on October 5th. Though he’s not ready to take to the ice just yet, he did agree to sit down with us and fill in the cracks.
But let’s get one thing straight. This is not your typical hockey story. We are not going to spout off statistics or give play-by-play run-downs. Nor is this story replete with details of the Brampton, Ontario native’s $27 million dollar, five-year contract with the Blue Jackets. That story has been told, repeatedly. Instead, we rattled off 61 questions to the young buck that vary from his expectations for the season to whether he has all of his own teeth. And, as our Q&A style requires, we threw in a ton of off-the-wall questions that every hockey fan is dying to know, but never had the chance to ask. Along the way, we discovered that while on the ice, this man is brash and unforgiving; in person, he’s one of the most laid-back cats you’d ever wish to meet.
No need to provide reasoning behind his answers to this line of questioning. We just told Nash to shoot from the hip and answer quickly and freely. Got to get warmed up somehow.
- Indians or Reds
- Browns or Bengals
- Blue Jacket Choice – Denim or Leather
Tough question. Denim
- Starbucks or Cup O’ Joe
- Blonds or Brunettes
- Molson or Crown Royal
-Youngblood or Slapstick
- About or Aboot
I don’t know where you guys get Aboot, but yea, I guess Aboot.
- Bacon or Canadian Bacon
Come on, Canadian Bacon.
First Thing That Comes To Your Mind When We Say…
Jackets, of course.
- Bad Call
- Hockey Groupies
Fill In The Blanks
- In order to have a great game you must be ________.
- I’ve never ________during a game.
Thrown up – a lot of guys have.
- I think about ________when I’m in the penalty box.
That’s hard. Probably about how much I hate the ref.
- The first thing I do to celebrate a win is ________.
Depends on whether it’s right after a game or three hours later. (laughs). First thing I do is congratulate the guys.
- I’ve always been a sucker for ________.
- The worst thing you can do in hockey is ________.
- The worst thing you can say during a hockey game is ________.
We’re going to lose.
Hockey Season Returns
A year without hockey left this town a bit chilly, but with contracts and agreements out of the way, it’s time for the Blue Jackets and Nash get back to business. A few rule changes this year may inspire a new crowd to take in the game and give die-hards all the more reason to scream for more.
Who is considered the rival team for the Blue Jackets?
Minnesota Wild because they came into the league five years ago with the Blue Jackets so we’ve been matched up since in how fast or how well we can do it.
Do you think the change of rules will have an effect on the demographic of the audience; and what are the pros and cons of the new rules?
Yes, but I don’t think there are many cons to it. I think the game is going to be more exciting and the game is going to be a bit easier to understand for people who are just picking up on it.
Why do you think Americans do not appreciate games like hockey and soccer despite the fact that it is a game of constant action?
For the same reason why Europeans don’t appreciate football, because they are immune to it growing up. In Canada, it’s hockey. In Europe, it’s soccer. Here it’s football. Each place you go to kids grow up playing it. You know they’ve got the European NFL over there and the Canadian Football League and with Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup last hockey season I think there is going to be a change down the road.
Do you think those rule changes will affect people’s translation and appreciation of the sport?
I think by adding a shoot out and trying to make the game offensive and a lot more exciting, a lot more two on ones and things like that for the fans. I think the shoot out will make things a lot more exciting and will grab more fans.
What are your expectations for the season?
Our goal is to make the play-offs, and that’s my goal as well. Personally, I don’t have too many, but I’m sure I’ll get more as the season goes on.
Having danced with injury at any degree has your perception of the season and your goals changed?
Not at all. I mean [injuries] always happens and it’s better that it happens now at the start rather then 20 games into the season. Obviously, it’s a set back and it’s frustrating, but you’ve got to stay positive and keep those goals and that’s what keeps you going.
What’s the worst injury you’ve ever sustained?
I’ve had two concussions. I had elbows to the head. One I got hit with my head snapping back, and same with the other one too.
How does Columbus measure up as a Hockey town compared to other cities you’ve played in?
Great. I think it’s one of the best by far. There are a couple of magazines that rate sporting events, and the last hockey year Columbus was #1 in arena experience, so it says a lot about our fans. During the last 20 games we were so far away from the playoffs and you don’t think anybody would care [to still come to games], but we were still getting sell-out crowds. Coming from a city like Toronto, obviously, I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s unbelievable. Our fans our great.
What city has the craziest fans?
Craziest was probably in Switzerland where I played this year. I’ve never seen fans like that. If we were losing, they would light flares and set off smoke bombs and this is a 4,000-seat arena, not even half the size of the Nationwide Arena. Games would have to be called off for a half hour to clear the smoke out of the building. They had horns and drums; exactly like European soccer but inside a 4,000-seat arena.
Besides you, who are the greatest players in the NHL? Pick a Goalkeeper, Defensive and Offensive player.
Best Goalie Martie Brodeur, Best Defensive player Adam Foote, the guy we just picked up and one of the best in the league, and Jarome Iginia, who plays for Calgary is one of the best forwards.
We heard you were happy to have Foote join your team.
Yea, because I hated playing against him. It’s nice to have him on the team. I don’t have to worry about going by him anymore.
If you could trade shoes with anyone else in the league who would it be?
I wouldn’t want to trade shoes with anyone right now. I’m pretty happy where I am. I love it here in Columbus and love the city, the fans and all of the guys.
Who would you least like to meet on the ice?
Chris Pronger who plays in Edmonton now. He’s probably 6’6 and probably 230 or 240. He’s pretty rough on the body.
Put these in order of importance – Speed, Vision and Power.
I would say Vision, Speed then Power.
If you could only have two of these, which ones would you choose?
That’s a good question. I would say Vision and Speed.
Even though it’s a stereotypical hockey question, we have to ask, do you have all of your own teeth?
I do. All my teeth are real.
If you were to lose any of them would you replace them?
Oh for sure. Some guys leave them out for interviews and stuff, but my mom would kill me. I’d have to get them in.
Who currently has the fewest teeth in NHL?
I would say Todd Marchant on our team.
Now which team has the fewest teeth?
You know, Jody Shelley has fake teeth on our team too. Jody and Todd stick out to me.
No, we didn’t get too personal by asking whether he wore boxers or briefs (although word on the street is that it’s boxer briefs), but we did dive into the reason why Nash even got on the ice to begin with (besides the fact that he’s Canadian) and even got him to tell us what exactly a capade is. Triple Axel anyone?
What first inspired you to play the game?
My parents. It was regular to them growing up, and for a young kid growing up in Canada it was the thing to do, like football here.
Do you remember your first game?
I think I was six years old when I played my first real competitive hockey game. I think my brother and I started hockey school when I was four and he was seven.
Who was on your first hockey poster?
Who are you idols?
I’d say mainly the people who I look up to the most are my parents. After that, I think Terry Fox is a pretty big inspiration. He’s the guy who ran halfway across Canada with one leg for cancer research. It was just the 25th anniversary a few weeks ago. He’s a pretty big inspiration to any Canadian person. In hockey, I would say Mats Sundin who played for the Maple Leafs. He was the captain and the #1 guy. For me to grow up watching him was pretty amazing.
Who gave you your first stick and skates?
My dad did that. But they were hand me downs from my brothers. I got all hand me downs from my brother.
How old were you when you got on the ice?
I don’t remember, but I guess there is a pond behind my house and I got right on it when I started walking. When I was two years old, they strapped on tiny, tiny skates and were pushing me around. I guess I really started skating when I was three.
What other sports did you play?
I played Lacrosse for 12-13 years. I had to stop that because of hockey. I played a little bit of high school volleyball. That was about it. I had to kind of stay away from other contact sports that run along the same time as hockey in winter.
Was it always your main goal to get to the NHL?
Definitely. The NHL is the highest you can go, even though there are leagues in Europe. But the NHL is the best league. Growing up you always had those goal things and what you wanted to be when you were older and I always put NHL Hockey player and I think I would be kind of lost if I didn’t make this. But it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Was there ever any question in your mind that you were going to make it?
There are so many kids who play the sport and when I was 16 years old, I was drafted to the OHL, the junior league. I played one year for them and the next year the NHL draft was coming up and that was my year to be eligible for it. I remember the scouting list came out and I was in the top 15 on the list and right there it kind of set in that I needed to take this a little more seriously. I can actually do this if I start setting my mind to it. That’s one thing that jumps out at me.
What are your other interests?
Golf. I golf a lot. I like Muirfield a lot.
Your hometown Brampton is experiencing the same growth rate as Columbus, how does it compare?
I see the same problems traffic wise. Traffic is just crazy at rush hour. You see here the highways are built and the roads are set but back home they’ve got one lane roads and they will start putting up a huge suburb. I don’t even bother driving around 5 p.m. when I’m home.
How does Columbus compare to other major cities you’ve been in?
I don’t know because I haven’t really spent a lot of time in other American cities but I always tell people that Columbus is great for anybody. For a young guy there is campus and night life and for the older guy with kids, from what I’m told, Columbus has a great school system and there are always things to do. For me personally, it’s only a six-hour drive to Toronto and for my friends and family it’s only an hour flight. It’s not that far of a drive just to come in for a weekend.
Who has the best pizza in town?
Donato’s, eh. Team sponsor.
What Canadian food, treat or delicacy did you try to locate when you first got to Columbus?
You guys don’t have Smarties, the chocolate bar. Or Coffee Crisps. I love Coffee Crips.
What is the first thing you bought for yourself that would be considered an extravagance?
Probably, when I signed I bought a BMW M3 series in Silver.
Do you ever get to drive the Zamboni?
No, but I’ve always wanted to. We’ve got to work on that.
Do you ever miss the fact that there is no 4th period in hockey?
Not at all, three is long enough?
What exactly is a capade?
Hockey players don’t really mix with that. That’s more figure skating, right?
If you had to define it, how would you define it?
A bunch of people doing twirls?
Can you do a triple axel?
Would you want to?
We know, we know – we’ve exceeded our question limit – but that’s what a shoot out is for, isn’t it.
Did you ever go through any hazing when you joined the team?
No, when you go pro the only real thing that happens is rookie dinner where you have to take the entire team out and you have to pay. My rookie dinner was in L.A. The bill was, well we had seven rookies, and it was a couple grand a guy. We took out about 25 people. It was good.
What is the one thing someone should know about Rick Nash?
I’m a calm, down-to-earth and honest guy and I don’t really let things bother me.
Catch Nash and the rest of the Blue Jackets at the Season Opener on October 7th against Calgary.