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Hab at Heart - Mikaël Kingsbury

The Olympic freestyle skier talks to us about his love for the Habs

by Staff Writer @CanadiensMTL / Montréal Canadiens

If he's not on his skis hitting the slopes, then you can probably bet Mikaël Kingsbury is hitting up the Bell Centre instead, always managing to find the time in his busy schedule to cheer on his favorite team. The crew recently caught up with the Olympic silver medalist to get the inside scoop on his love for all things CH.

When did you first become a Habs fan?

MIKAËL KINGSBURY: I've been a fan since I was a kid. I would have even liked to play hockey but I was already skiing during the winter and playing baseball during the summer. I was actually a huge Expos fan back in the day -- I was even their bat boy once -- but once the Expos left, I shifted my focus to hockey. It's probably my favorite sport now… after skiing of course! No matter where I am in the world these days, I'll always follow the Habs, check the scores, manage a pool… I love hockey.

How about these days? Do you ever hit the ice from time-to-time?

MK: Yes, my freestyle ski team often plays together. I also play with my friends sometimes. A lot of them play in garage leagues, so sometimes I'm called in as a sub. Believe it or not, for a guy who never played hockey growing up, I can actually handle myself quite well on the ice.

What's your best Canadiens memory?

MK: I went to so many games as a kid that it's hard to pick just one memory in particular, although there was this one game against the Oilers. I remember it was during Guillaume Latendresse's rookie season; the night he scored his first goal and also got into a fight. If I remember correctly, it was also the year the shootout was introduced, and the game ended in one as well. A big night of premieres! I also remember I was at home once, watching a game against the Rangers from my sofa. We were losing 5-1 but came back to win it at the end. I was with my brother and we were freaking out! I've got too many memories to pick from. I even had a glass of wine with P.K. Subban once in Sochi!

Did you have a favorite player growing up?

MK: When I was in elementary school -- so at around age 10 -- it was Mike Ribeiro, but these days I like the young guys. I'm really big on Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk . I like the entire team, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Gallagher.

Are you as fast on skates as you are on skis?

MK: On the ice? I'm for sure a lot speedier on skis. I can get by on skates and I think I can skate fast enough, but skiing for me comes natural. I've been skiing since I was three or four years old, to the point that it's become innate, although I do still play hockey often enough. When I get home, one of the first things I do is go to the rink, like a lot of people. I'm comfortable on skates.

Hockey has a reputation as a physical sport, but what about freestyle skiing?

MK: It's different. I sometimes train with hockey players, like when Andrei Markov was rehabbing his knee with Scott Livingston at my gym. We knew each other, but still, it was Andrei Markov! (laughs) I've also trained with Maxim Lapierre in the past. Hockey is physical, it hurts, but skiing is different. Just like in hockey, you need to take hits if you want to win, but you take the hits in different places. When you're skiing, it's your back that takes the brunt of the impact when you hit the moguls at full speed before a jump. Although I'm sure getting hit by a 250-pound guy on skates is a lot worse than falling off your skis. Going from 50 km/h to zero on a mogul hurts, but hockey in general probably hurts more.

How does your rivalry with Alexandre Bilodeau compare to Montreal-Boston?

MK: It's no Habs-Bruins! (laughs) Not at all! People think there's a rivalry, but we're really just two champions. Alexandre is a guy who always wants to win and we share the same objective, it's gold or nothing for both of us. Whether competing professionally or in training, we always want to one-up each other, but we're no Montreal-Boston and never will be. A better analogy would be Crosby and Malkin competing for the NHL scoring crown. At the end of the day of we're friends. If it was someone from another country, then maybe there would be a rivalry.

Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine. Translated by Steven Nechay.

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