As a hockey fan, I love digging up nuggets about players who interest me. What makes them tick off the ice? What hobbies do they enjoy? It makes for great water-cooler conversation and humanizes them to me. Sometimes we think of athletes as these super people who never make mistakes and are just programmed to be perfect in every way. Finding fun tidbits shows they are relatable.
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Side note, I can’t think of the last time I’ve actually had a water-cooler conversation unless you count seeing someone drink out of their hydro flask on a zoom call.
So inspired by Ben Fisher’s piece on the Golden Knights, here are some cool things to know about the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Czech forward is back in Ohio. One thing that he loves is old music; he says that he absolutely hates modern artists and that classic rock is his genre. In a profanity-laden interview on Spittin’ Chiclets, he lists AC/DC, U2, and Bruce Springsteen as his favourite artists. He loves heading to concerts, and that as of 2020, he saw Springsteen 15 times. When he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, he took on the role of the locker room DJ, which he was challenged for by Kevin Hayes. He says he let Hayes DJ for 15 minutes each game night before taking the reins.
The key piece in the return package for Pierre-Luc Dubois, Patrik Laine is one of the more elite snipers in the NHL. Laine was the fourth-youngest player in league history to score 100 goals behind Bryan Bellows, Jimmy Carson, and one Wayne Gretzky.
He wouldn’t have scored any of those goals without his late father. Laine had actually started his hockey career in the crease, tending the net. He says he was better in goal because he was a bigger kid and had more success there than other positions. It wasn’t until he was 12 that he stopped protecting the twine and started denting it. He definitely has the unique personality befitting of a goalie. It’s fair to wonder if he still would have made it to hockey’s biggest stage as a goalie.
Cole Sillinger started his NHL career as the youngest player in the league. Interestingly enough, as the 12th-overall pick, he found himself as the only player from the 2021 NHL draft to stick with his NHL squad longer than the first month of the 2021-22 season.
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Every now and again, you’ll come across a player who was born in a country that they didn’t play for nationally – think Dany Heatley, who was born in Germany but represented Canada internationally. Son of Mike “Suitcase” Sillinger, Cole was actually born in Columbus shortly after the last of his father’s 155 games in a Blue Jackets uniform. His US birth status allowed him to count as an American player in the United States Hockey League – and not an import – while in international competitions, Sillinger competes for Canada. Just one of the perks of dual citizenship.
Elvis Merzlikins doesn’t just like stopping pucks; he can apparently take a punch too. And in the offseason, he trades gloves from hockey to boxing. The sport helps him improve his footwork, build his cardio, and work on the mental mindset of a goalie.
Related: The Next Great Goalie Tandem
You need courage to box, and you need the same guts to stand in front of the powerhouse clappers he faces on a nightly basis. If you ever see Merzlikins get challenged to a goalie fight, you know he’ll be prepared to battle.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is one of the few Danish players in the NHL. Many are from the small community of Herning, including Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen, and most of these players learned from Bjorkstrand’s father, Todd Bjorkstrand.
The senior Bjorkstrand coached in Europe for many years, but back in the day, he made quite the name for himself on the ice. In 1983-84, Bjorkstrand put up 52 points in 32 games at the University of Maine. What’s really cool is his teammate with the Black Bears was none other than former Jackets’ coach John Tortorella.
Growing up, Maxi Domi was surrounded by hockey. With his father Tie Domi a huge fan favourite, the younger Domi would hear about the game all the time. When it was time for gifts at birthdays or over the holidays, Domi didn’t need hockey-related presents; he was fortunate because he already had most of what he needed. What he really wanted was a guitar. One year at Christmas, he received a Fender and strummed those strings from Grade 3 to 6. He hasn’t played much since but says he plans to take lessons again soon.
There are some classic Boone Jenner pictures showcasing his brilliant smile. Sure he may be missing his front teeth, but man, he looks like a hockey player through and through.
Back in March 2016, Jenner couldn’t avoid incoming friendly fire, taking the puck right in the chops. Twenty stitches and a few missing teeth later, he returned to the game as the true warrior he is. But one tooth was nowhere to be found. The dentist at the rink could only come to one conclusion; the tooth had become embedded into the ice. And hey, who knows, maybe it’s still there.
Jarmo Kekalainen is the most renowned general manager in Blue Jackets history. The mastermind behind the most successful era in Columbus hockey has a bit of a reputation as a robotic guy. He’s very methodical, logical, and not one to show an abundance of emotion. Digging a little bit past his stone-face persona finds that Kekalainen is a big fan of playing pickleball. The niche sport seems to tickle his fancy as he often posts updates of his pickleball extravaganzas on his social media. He even started a team staff pickleball tournament that takes place around the prospects tournament in Traverse City.
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Writer covering the Columbus Blue Jackets for THW since August 2021.
Co-host of the Blue Jackets’ focused “Union Junction Podcast” on The Hockey Writers’ podcast network.
Also, a radio personality and reporter currently based on Vancouver Island.