During the offseason, we here at Pure Hockey are still uber-focused on hockey equipment. The season truly never ends for us. While less hockey is certainly being played during the summer months, we are focused entirely on getting ready for the next season; what will we buy? what is the demand for? what changes do we make to the stores or the websites? how will we advertise? We ask oursleves these and a truckload of other questions. But the offseason also allows us to go out and talk to players who are too busy during the season to do so.
Our interview today is with Todd Skirving. He's not an NHL player or a professional hockey player. Yet. Todd is a 20-year old kid who plays for Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL, one of the elite breeding grounds for the NHL and for NCAA Division 1 schools. How impactful has the USHL been, you ask? Well, a total of 28 USHL players were selected in last year’s 2011 NHL Entry Draft and more than 165 of the USHL's alumni are currently under NHL contract.
One of our goals with this blog is not only to review hockey product for you, but for you to also gain an understanding of the sacrifice, culture, hard work and yes, fun, that goes into being a hockey player. This is the first of a series of interviews that we'll have with Todd as we follow up through the offseason and through the course of a USHL hockey season. Todd, in turn, is well spoken, educated and clearly is a person who knows what we wants. We sincerely hope you enjoy the series....here's part one:
1. As a 20 year old playing in the USHL, hockey is obviously one of the main priorities in your life and takes up a great deal of time. Now that it's the offseason, what are some of your hobbies and what do you generally do?
For sure hockey is definitely one of my top priorities all year 'round. It’s not just a way of living, it's also like a job. You have to put continuous time and work into bettering yourself not only as a player, but also a person. I find that the way you carry yourself off the ice leads into how you perform on the ice, whether it is your determination towards general tasks or your tenacity towards wanting it more than the guy beside you. Now that it’s the offseason, it gives me the chance to improve my skills and strengths and better myself in different assets of my game. The offseason is also a chance to relax and reflect on the past season. I encourage all players to get away from the rink and the gym once the season is at an end. It’s healthy to give the body a rest and let it rejuvenate after a full, gritty season of hockey. It will only benefit you when you get back after it in the weight room and out on the ice. Personally, now that we’re midway through summer, I like to get a well-balanced healthy breakfast in me and also a lunch before I head to the gym. I train in the early afternoon with a few of our local pro and college guys. It’s nice to train with guys above my level as it pushes me to be the best I can be and also gives me footsteps I can follow. They’re already at a level where my standards and goals are set for. I do, however, like to hang with the guys, catch a local baseball game or head out to the lake to do some fishing. I take the chance to visit with friends and family and let the body and mind recuperate.
2. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on the ice?
I don’t have too many embarrassing moments, but during my senior year of high school when I was playing for the Thunder Bay Kings (AAA), I broke my stick on a play. I went to the bench and received a stick from another player, only to find out that it was right handed and not left! I picked the puck up from the half wall and only then did I realize it. Once I got closer to the net, I just shot a backhander, thinking it would be my best opportunity to make something out of nothing. As embarrassing as it was, it ended up going in! Not so much embarrassing I guess, but definitely a funny highlight in my career that I look back on.
3. A lot of hockey players can be wild and adventurous… Is there anything wild and crazy that you have always wanted to do at least once in your lifetime?
Yeah there are a few things I have wanted to do. I’m not the biggest fan of heights, so you won’t catch me riding around the roller coaster at any Six Flags Parks, but I would however, love to take another ride up Toronto’s CN Tower. They have recently added the CN Tower Edge walk where you walk around the top brim of the structure while being strapped in by a few belts. It’s about 356m/ 1,168ft above the ground and about a 30 min walk around, so I’m sure that would be quite the experience and a view from up above! It would be a huge adrenaline rush for me from doing something like that. I’m also a big animal fan - I would like the chance to be around a tiger, which is my favorite animal. Just to be around one for a bit would be a cool opportunity. Something else I would like to experience outside of hockey would be to swim with the dolphins. I have had many friends that have experienced such a thrill, but it’s something I’d love to do and I think it would be a fun getaway and surreal experience.
4. What is one thing that people would never guess about you, just from going and watching you play hockey?
There are a few things I could touch on here, but I would have to say my game day routines - or the fact that I am very superstitious. It’s not even just on game day, but also in the days leading up to a game. The way I prepare myself is different obviously from what others do, but in my case or even last year the guys saw it as quite superstitious. It’s less superstition and more of just a routine for me now. I used to call them superstitions, but I have carried almost all of them with me for the past several years now that it really is becoming a routine and just an everyday thing for me. I really do have some crazy and funny superstitions. However, on days where I might forget something, it won’t get to a point where it affects my one ice play. It is almost like another way to push my game to another level because I feel I have to prove the “superstition” wrong. So I would have to say I’m a pretty superstitious guy if one didn't know me. My team and fans as well could probably agree that it’s almost like another side of me when it comes to something like this!
5. Being a gear store, we are well aware that all athletes are different with how they choose their gear… Which piece of equipment are you the pickiest about when playing and why?
Growing up over the years it sure has changed in what equipment I am pickiest about. Starting out, when it didn’t even matter what you wore, to now having sponsors for equipment and having it profiled to meet my (and other athlete's) needs. I can’t pick just one here so I’d have to go with skates and shoulder pads. With today’s technology in building skates, players can get their full output and power within their stride. I like my skates to have a solid and comfortable fit. I have wide feet, so I go with a wider boot. I get my blades profiled at an 11’ radius and ¾ skate sharpening, which allows me to stay on top of the ice more and not dig into the ice, thus keeping my stride quick and powerful. I recently got a pair of the new TotalOne NXG skates. I went up from the previous TotalOne’s as it is a skate that I can literally put on and go. I do, however, also get my skates molded so it gives me that nice tight and comfortable fit on my feet. Another piece of equipment I’m picky about is my shoulder pads. I like the smaller, tighter fit when it comes to shoulder pads. I don’t like them bulky and that’s why I wore the Bauer Vapor XXXX shoulder pads this past year. I have looked into new pads for the upcoming season and I like the new Bauer Nexus shoulder pad model that Bauer is bringing along. It’s a nice, snug fit that isn’t too bulky at all. It’s like a blast from the past, too, with the colours and the way it’s designed. It looks like the new equipment is bringing back styles that were in the older days of hockey and it’s really starting to grow on young athletes and even the pros.
6. We assume you live with a host family during the season – what is it like adjusting to that type of situation?
Yes, I live with a housing family back in Sioux Falls. Usually for the first day and night it’s a little different from what you have back home. You get the tour of the house, the rundown of the rules and you usually meet your roommate and siblings for the season. I can say from experience it has been fantastic. Other players should be so lucky to get billet parents like mine. You have to go into it with an open mind and be open and accepting towards the family as they are of you. They’re doing what they’re doing because they love to take players in and they do a great job at it. I was fortunate to live with a housing family this past year who always went above and beyond. They were always there for my roommate and I, cooking us 3 meals a day and much more. When they had to work overtime or when they wouldn’t be home for dinner, they would have something cooking up for us in the oven when we got home from hockey and workouts. I think it’s great for hockey players that get a chance to live with a housing family. I think it gives us the opportunity to learn different values and life lessons that build and shape who we are as people. It’s a great learning curve for young athletes - they want you to succeed just as much as your real parents do. They’re only going to assist you along into your journey and future endeavors!