In part one of my interview with Taylor Hall, he talked about his shoulder rehab and how much stronger he felt. Today he discusses leadership, bag skates, chirping Strudwick and he had some smart observations about young kids playing hockey.
The conversation starts off discussing his two-week conditioning stint in OKC and what needs to happen before he signs an AHL contract.
JG: You’ve got to come back to Edmonton and the doctors will re-evaluate you to ensure that the shoulder is good before you play in a game, correct?
TH: Yeah. I think I’ll be a professional bag skater by the end of the two weeks.
JG: Did you get some advice from Struds, because he says he owns the record for bag skates?
TH: He’s probably the best stop and starter in the game because of it (laughs). Yeah, that’s pretty much the plan. I’ll get some contact. I’ll get bagged, and then I’ll come back after a couple weeks, see the doc. Hopefully that’s all good. Then I’ll start playing. It will be a pretty quick process, but I have to make sure that I’m game ready before I play.
JG: Did you ever chirp Strudwick when you guys were teammates?
TH: Yeah, all the time. He chirped me before I even knew it was okay to chirp him.
JG: Really? He told me that he would never chirp a guy unless that guy chirped him first.
TH: No, that’s not true. I remember the one time ‑ and he’s probably already told you – I wore this terrible suit into the rink one day. It was a complete junior suit, so he was chirping me; all the guys were chirping me. And then the one day before a road trip he came in with a black V‑neck and just a suit and he looked like Julian from "Trailer Park Boys". Same hair, same outfit, same everything, except he was dressed like this for a road trip, not to hang out in a trailer park. After that it was acceptable to chirp each other. But now that we’re good friends, we have more fun with it.
JG: What’s the easiest chirp on Strudwick?
TH: His hairline. Oh, it’s terrible. His wife is all over him to get a haircut right now, too. If he’s reading this, I hope he’s at the barber right now. He must have built his house without mirrors, I guess.
JG: How do you plan your life right now because you don’t know when the lockout ends? What will you do for living arrangements in OKC?
TH: Ebs (Jordan Eberle) and I are living together again, and he has a two‑month lease for us in OKC.
JG: Is Nugent‑Hopkins living with you too?
TH: Nuge is with Schultz. I think our places are right beside each other. We’re in the same building, and it’s a ten‑minute walk from the rink. Ebs set that all up. I’m living in our place here by myself. I’ll just go down there, move right in. He went shopping today for a bunch of stuff for the place, and it will be fun.
JG: So is he more the homemaker of you two?
TH: Well, he’s down there right now, so he might as well get it all organized. I got everything set up for our place here, and he got everything set up for me, so it’s even.
JG: When I had you in studio last time, you mentioned you wanted to become more of a leader this year. You talked about needing more of a “buy‑in” philosophy from your teammates. When, or if, the Oilers are going to be good in a few years, outside of having yourself, Eberle and Nugent‑Hopkins, you’ll need those support, complementary guys, like Paajarvi, Hartikainen and Pitlick. Are you going down there looking to be more of a leader?
TH: I think it’s a good opportunity to really step into that role. Ebs has an “A” on his jersey down there. I might bring him down a step or two if I can, (laughs) but it’s definitely a good chance to become a leader. I’ll be playing with guys that are mostly the same age as me, and I think for me and Ebs in three or four or five years, that’s going to be the case here. We’re pretty much the same age as everyone.
So it’s a really good opportunity in a lot of facets. You know, leadership, my defensive game, my power play, my shooting, everything down there I can really improve. And I think the coaches are going to give us an opportunity to be leaders, and hopefully we’re looked upon for that because I think we’re both ready in the AHL and the NHL.
JG: How do you go about being a good leader? Is it something that just comes naturally?
TH: Yeah, there’s definitely that for sure. It also goes along with how you play, how you dedicate yourself to the game and how much respect you really do have for the game. There are guys that are great players on the ice, but they don’t really work hard in the weight room or they don’t say the right things or they just – they don’t act like leaders, and they don’t lead a team. They’re just not leaders. And then there are guys that do it quietly and just go about their business. They don’t really care if there’s anyone watching. And then there are the guys who lead by example.
So there are all different types of leadership. I mean, I’m not sure what I am or what I will be. But I think if you start trying to be someone that you’re not, that’s when it doesn’t really work out for you. So I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to try and play my game, and hopefully people can relate to that.
JG: Are you more of a vocal guy? I would sense maybe you would be more of a vocal guy compared to an Eberle or a Nugent‑Hopkins.
TH: I think Ebs and I are probably the same vocally, but Nuge might be more of a lead‑by‑example guy. He’s got a great work ethic. He works very hard. On the ice, people don’t give him enough credit for how much battle he has. And same with Jordan. But I think vocally, I think if there’s something that needs to be said, it will be said. I like to joke around. I like to have fun, but at the same time, I’m very serious when the time comes, so that’s pretty much my type of leadership. I’ve never been a captain in junior or anything like that. So I haven’t really had that opportunity.
But I think over the next few years here we’re going to be looked upon for that for this organization, for this city. I think we’re both excited about it, and it should be fun for the three of us.
JG: When I talked to Eberle before he went to OKC he was adamant that he was going to work on his defensive game. He said, ‘I want to be a better overall player. I want to be put in every situation in the NHL.’ Are there specific things that you want to work on that you think will help you when you come back to the NHL?
TH: Hopefully I get a chance to penalty kill. I think that would be a really good opportunity to work on that part of my game. I think with my speed, I could be a good penalty killer and also score some shorthanded goals. Also I want to improve my defensive game, and like you said my leadership skills. I feel I could improve on every aspect of my game. I had a lot of shots last year, but I had some breakaways where I didn’t score. That’s something I really worked on this summer. I need to improve on my breakaways. If I get the chance down there, I need to score. So those three things, I think, are probably the biggest things that I’m going to work on. But overall, everything in my game can really improve.
JG: When you work on breakaways, are you just trying different moves? Are you slowing down? What are you trying to improve on your breakaways?
TH: Just trying to trick the goalie. That’s the biggest thing in a breakaway. You want to do something that he doesn’t think you’re doing, and that’s what I’ve tried to work on. So fakes, moves that are quick to slow or slow to quick. I have watched some guys that are good on breakaways. You know, Gags in his first couple years there, he was dynamite in breakaways. I’ve asked him a couple questions. You can always learn. That’s the thing about me. I love to watch hockey, and I love to learn from other people, so that’s one of the things that you can really do. I look on YouTube or whatever and see what guys do that makes them successful.
JG: The goalie don’t give you much net to shoot at. How do you plan to beat them?
TH There’s a lot of hesitation involved. You can’t just go down and shoot. I mean, the goalies are big these days; many of them are 6’4", 6’5". They’re not giving you a whole lot of net. So you’ve got to fake him; you’ve got to make him ‑‑ like I said, you’ve just got to trick him into doing something that he doesn’t want to do, whether he poke checks or anything like that.
The best guys around the league are the ones that mix in a little hesitation, or little fakes that really get them (goalies) to bite, and then after they take advantage of it.
JG: You never went to a hockey camp when you were a kid, did you?
TH: No, I’ve never been to a hockey camp or power skating when I was a kid.
JG: You never went to power skating?
JG: How did you learn to skate so well?
TH: Just at the rink, I think. My dad had me working out when I was around nine, just doing sprints and jump squats and stuff. No weights, just body weight stuff. I never did power skating. I like to think I have a good stride in hockey, but I never actually learned the stride part of it. It just kind of came naturally.
JG: Steve Serdachny is your skating and skills coach now ‑ did you ever work with one before coming to the NHL?
TH: Nope, no skating coaches. I think Steve does a really good job, especially on the skill side of the game. I love practicing with him, and I love the drills that we do. I had a two‑week injury last year, and I practiced with him pretty much every day, and I came back and I felt great and I scored. He was a big part of that.
But as far as hockey camps and power skating as a kid, I just played a lot of sports. I had a lot of fun during the summer and played a lot of road hockey, roller hockey, but being on the ice was only something that was during hockey season for me.
JG: To avoid burnout?
TH: Yeah. My mind was always fresh for hockey. When it came time for hockey, I was just dying to play, and that’s how it should be.
If you’re a kid and all you want to do is play hockey, as a parent you kind of have to hold them back a little bit and make sure you try other sports. If he is a good hockey player and it’s something that he wants to do when he’s older, I think parents need to embed in him that you can’t play hockey year‑round. You’ll just get burnout. As much as he does like it, eventually he’s going to get sick of it. And that’s probably the biggest thing that my parents did. They forced me to do other things, and now I love other sports.
I have such an appreciation for football players, baseball players, golfers and everything because I played sports as a young kid. Even now to this day, I don’t skate a whole lot during the summer. Towards the end of the summer, I do, but I love to take a good amount of time off just to refresh my brain. When I come back to play hockey, it’s the same as when I was a 9‑year‑old. I just love to play. I have a burning desire to play the whole year, instead of not getting burnout at Christmas time.
JG: Your father played in the CFL. Did you ever play any sort of organized football?
TH: That’s the one thing I never played was football. My dad played pro football, but I don’t think he really enjoyed it as much as he should have. As soon as he saw that I was pretty good at hockey, he kind of turned his focus to that and never really made me play football. I played soccer and baseball and golf but never football.
* The best clip is at 1:11 in.**
JG: Out of those other three, which one were you the best at? Which one did you like the best?
TH: I like golf the best. I was probably the best at soccer, but that was a long time ago. I’m not sure how good I am now. We play a little soccer game before our games, and it’s actually funny. You can really see who the good athletes are in that soccer game and who are the ones that are just totally uncoordinated. I’m not going to name names, but there was a guy named Jason Strudwick that would play with us, and it was like watching a 40‑year‑old man that had never played sports in his life, kick a soccer ball around. It was pretty bad. It was like the whole idea of a ball was foreign to him. It was almost like he didn’t know how it bounced. It was terrible. (laughs).
JG: Does he ever tell you about his high school basketball days?
TH: Actually, he does. He loves basketball.
JG: He’s a big basketball player ‑ or fan, anyway. I don’t know about a player.
TH: He said that he was a good basketball player, and I tend to believe him because he is tall. And he does have big arms and big hands, so that’s pretty good for a basketball player. But as far as soccer, I mean, I give him credit if he never played soccer in his life, but it was pretty bad watching him.
JG: Are the Euro guys the best?
TH Laddy is very good. Horc is good. Dubby is good. Pecks is actually really good. Pecks is a good athlete. I’m okay. I mean, I’m pretty good. And then there are some guys that are just ‑ like, whoa, they never played sports.
JG: You’re a pretty decent golfer, shooting around 8O. Who are the best golfers on your team, and who do you compete with?
TH: Justin Schultz. I didn’t golf with him this summer, but Ebs did a couple times and said he just was off the charts. He shot, I think, a 73 and a 74. After him I’d say Sutton and Horcoff are the best. They’ve golfed some pretty unreal courses. If you ask them where they’ve golfed, it’s like most of the best courses in the world.
JG: Do you have any teams that you root for in any other sport?
TH No. I just really like the sports. I’m not a huge baseball fan during the season. I love the Jays, and since they’re not in the playoffs I’m not rooting for anyone.
JG: Speaking of the Jays, Jose Bautista invited you to a few games this summer and gave you a jersey?
TH: It says Hall 4. I’ve got it hanging up in my room. And he gave me a bat actually too.
JG: Did you take batting practice with the Jays?
TH: No, I didn’t get a chance to do that.
JG: When you got drafted, did you do batting practice then?
TH: In Anaheim, yeah, I did.
TH: I hit the wall, which is okay.
JG: Did anyone go yard?
TH : Yeah. Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay draft pick.
JG: At this year’s draft in Pittsburgh Nail Yakupov’s batting skills were equal to Strudwick’s soccer skills. He’s clearly never played baseball, which is fine, but you’d think after watching the other draft picks he’d understand the basic, general concept of when you hit, you run down towards first base. When Yakupov hit he wheeled to third base. It was hilarious.
TH: That’s really funny, actually. I would have loved to have seen that, I’ll have to ask him about it.
JG: Have you gotten to know him at all?
TH: No, I haven’t. I skated with him a couple times during the Perry Pearn camp here, and I just talked to him a little bit, but I never really got a chance to know him at all. I’ve met him off the ice a couple times, and he seemed like a really nice and charismatic kid.
JG: Well, he’s very energetic obviously. You talked about your passion for the game earlier. How important do you think that is to ensure that you have guys who are all passionate about the game?
TH: There’s all types of personalities that go into having a really good team and a team fabric. And not every guy is going to be like Yak where he’s very vocal and very outgoing. There’s going to be other guys, who love the game a lot, but are very quiet and that’s what makes everyone different. That’s what makes a good team. But definitely that passion and just having that fight or flight mentality when the going gets tough is definitely important.
JG: You seem to have no fear on the ice. You’re not scared to go into tough areas. It seems like you’re fearless. Are you that way off the ice? Would you love to go skydiving? Are you a thrill‑seeker guy?
TH: I don’t think I’d ever be able to go sky‑diving until after my career, but it’s something I’d like to do. I like to drive fast, but not crazy (laughs). I wouldn’t say I’m an extremist, but I do like to kind of push the boundaries a little bit, wherever it is.
We are hosting a great charitable event on Friday November 2nd at the Pint. Strudwick debuts as a DJ. The great part of the deal is you donate $25 to charity, but we will give you more back in return. It is a win-win and we will help out the Inner City Childrens Program. More info here. Only 300 tickets available so get in and help out.