If you’re a hockey fan, you’re probably familiar with James Wisniewski, but how well do you really know the veteran defenseman? With the NHL lockout now entering month number three, Wisniewski was kind enough to answer some questions about his career and his clothing line, Wiz Wear.
As a 28-year old defenseman, his favorite player growing up was future Hall-of-Famer Chris Chelios – certainly not a bad player to look up to at all. In fact, Wisniewski was drafted by one of Chelios’ former teams, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the fifth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Every player remembers their first goal vividly and Wisniewski is no different: “It was against the Phoenix Coyotes. I have a lot of family in Phoenix so they were all there to see it. So that was pretty special to share with them, and yes, I have the puck.”
Here is video of that first NHL goal with some narration from Wisniewski, via CBC:
That first NHL season is always memorable and Wisniewski made a friend for life in Jim Vandermeer, with whom he lived in his first pro year. When asked which he enjoys more, scoring a goal or stopping one from being scored, he showed his sense of humor, “Stopping goals, preferably not with my face, but I guess that comes with the job.”
Unlike some other NHL players, Wisniewski has stayed home during the lockout, save for a charity game last month in Chicago (Champs For Charity) in which he auctioned off three game-used sticks with all proceeds going to charity.
“I like to golf but it’s kind of (too) cold for that right now. My wife is pregnant right now with our first child, due in February,” he said, “so planning for that and remodeling our house takes up quite a bit of time.” They have also spent time watching a bunch of TV shows, something else he probably doesn’t have much time to do during the rigors of an 82-game NHL season. “Entourage, Homeland, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Shameless, Californication and Boardwalk Empire – all those Showtime and HBO shows. My wife and I really enjoy watching them all.”
“I [also] like to visit with family. I don’t usually get to do a lot of that around this time because I’m usually playing hockey. So that’s nice; I’m a big family guy. I love to have them around. I also watch a lot of The History Channel,” said Wisniewski.
Despite the extended summer vacation from the NHL, he has been staying in shape, and recommended his personal trainer for those looking for one. “I hit the gym regularly and workout with Jared Boll and Derek Dorsett. My trainer is Mike Durant from Peak Performance Training [of Ohio], who was a catcher in MLB for a bit. I told him I’d give him a shout out, so give him a call if you’re looking for a great trainer (614-915-8171). Don’t worry, he knows I’m giving out his number!”
Here’s a look into a little bit of what Wisniewski’s training is like, along with some highlights, set to Wiz Khalifa’s “Work Hard, Play Hard”:
During his time in the NHL, Wisniewski has seen a lot of funny things while amongst his teammates, but one memory stood out when asked about the best practical joke that he has witnessed. “When I was with Chicago, Mathew Barnaby hid Todd Simpson’s car for a week and sent him on a week long scavenger hunt to find it.” A little different than putting blue dye in your buddy’s skate boots or gloves for sure!
Over his seven seasons, Wisniewski has played for five NHL teams. After leaving Chicago, he also suited up with Anaheim, the New York Islanders, Montreal, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. During that time, he’s racked up 175 points (33 goals) in 377 games.
Here is a look at his first goal with the Habs (OT Winner!):
And here is his first goal with Columbus (also an OT Winner!):
As many players are these days, James is fairly active on Twitter, which is how I found out about his great creation called WIZ Wear and how he uses it to give back to others.
This statement on WizWear.org explains his mission:
Launched in 2008, the Wiz Wear clothing line breaks down boundaries often created by the competitiveness of sport. With a hockey theme, a USO undertone, and a hint of Polish heritage, the James Wisniewski clothing line shows off his flair for the game and his allegiance to style.
“Mostly Wiz Wear is done to try and raise some money for the USO. I have very high respect for those that serve this country,” said Wisniewski. “(It) really means a lot to me, because of my grandfathers, they both served in World War II.”
James spoke about his grandfathers and their service – as a tank operator and a B24 pilot – as part of his WizWear line:
And as part of a Veterans’ Day Tribute on Fox Sports:
I’d like to thank James for taking the time to answer the questions I sent him. I look forward to talking with him again down the road when the lockout finally ends. Be sure to follow James Wisniewski (@JamesWisniewski) and Wiz Wear (@WizWear) on Twitter.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.