MONTREAL - When Michael McNiven finally gave Game of Thrones a chance, he quickly fell head over heels in love with the cult classic.
It was just six weeks ago that the 21-year-old Laval Rocket goaltender tuned into the fantasy drama series for the first time, doing so at the urging of teammate Alexandre Grenier.
And it really was a match made in heaven for the self-described fan of all things science fiction.
"I like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter. I didn't realize Game of Thrones was like that. I thought it was people just fighting. I thought it was a completely different show than what it was," admitted McNiven with a laugh. "Guys were always talking about the show and I was always hesitating, but when I started getting into it, I was like - "I love it. Why didn't I watch it before?"
During his downtime, McNiven watched all seven previous seasons - an astounding 67 episodes - in order to prepare himself for this past Sunday night's highly-anticipated Season 8 premiere.
To say McNiven is hooked on the show would be an understatement.
"Especially early, so many characters come and go. You fall in love with a character, and then he's only there for like six episodes before he's gone. And then they bring in a new character and you fall in love with that character. It's amazing," said McNiven. "At one point, I was so mad about a plot twist that I told Grenier - "I'm done. I'm never watching this show again." That twist just threw me right off the deep end. But, the show totally grew on me. It's right down my alley."
In fact, McNiven enjoyed Game of Thrones so much that he ordered a brand new mask with artwork featuring some of his favorite characters.
"I decided to put Jon Snow on the right and Daenerys on the left. Jon Snow never stops. He just keeps on going. Then Daenerys, she's obviously a very good looking girl. She's a really nice person, but she's got that attitude with her, too, when she needs it. She's the Mother of Dragons. She's the boss," explained McNiven, whose mask also features the Stark sigil and Snow's direwolf, Ghost, as well. "Season 8 is all about winter, so it fits perfectly with the time that I got it done. It's the season we play this awesome sport in, so I love the mask."
Artist David Gunnarsson is the man behind the mask design, which was done in close consultation with McNiven, who was completely blown away by the final product.
Now, if someone would only tell the Winnipeg native where the show's storyline is heading next, he'd be one happy puck-stopper.
"I'm excited to see what the season can end with because there's so many different scenarios. I've actually read a couple of things on that and there's so many different theories. No one knows where it's going, so it's going to be exciting. I can't wait until it's three or four episodes into the season because there's only going to be six to finish it off," said McNiven. "If I was the guy running this show, I would never end it. People love it. Figure out something to come out next, I don't know what, but figure it out because the show is too good. I can't believe it's the last season."