When Taylor Hall was traded to the New Jersey Devils this past summer, he knew life would be different…he just didn't know how different.
On his first night as a New Jersey resident, he went to dinner with long-time friend Adam Henrique to catch up and get the low down on what to expect, from the staff to the fans.
"He had just told me how low-key everything is here and, on our way back to his place, a lady stopped us and asked Adam for a picture and then she asked me to be the photographer," Hall said with a smile. "I was certainly happy to take the picture and, honestly, a little bit happy to be anonymous too. We had a pretty good chuckle after that. That had never happened to me before."
Henrique, who was Hall's linemate in junior where they won two Memorial Cups with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, was texting him all summer with bits of information to help him make the transition to New Jersey a little easier.
"Any time I thought of something, I'd text him," Henrique explained. "Like, when I drove down here, I went through a toll booth with my EZPass and I remembered that when I first came here I didn't have one. and it was such a pain to wait in line or stop and get cash, so I texted him right away and told him to get it before he came down here."
Hall didn't listen to him.
"My car isn't here yet, so I thought there was no point in getting it for this license plate. So then the first night I drove in, I figured you could just pay with a credit card and I was scrambling around looking for cash," explained Hall. "Luckily, I found a ten dollar bill in one of my bags, but the line was now 10-15 cars deep because this idiot at the front of the line didn't have cash."
He continued: "In Canada, you can do everything with a card. There's no spot that just accepts cash. So, I have to get used to having cash on me all the time now just so I can pay the tolls."
Hall has also been pleasantly surprised by New Jersey now that he's had the chance to venture out of the city.
"The area is awesome. I'm surprised at how spacious and how suburban it is. I thought it was going to be more metropolitan all over, so that's nice," he said. "I'm in the Jersey City/Hoboken area so, right now, I'm kind of in all the action, but I went to my dentist and it was a really nice drive out there. If I were to have a family here someday, it'd be a really good place to be."
They don't call it the Garden State for nothing, Taylor. And, while he awaits his first season of Jersey corn, he's loving all the food options available to him.
"I haven't been to a diner yet, but I've been to a lot of brunch spots. I feel like you can get brunch anywhere here, at least is seems like that," he explained. "Also, I've really taken advantage of all the options to order food right to your door. It's pretty easy to do that here. Anything you want."
His only setback so far has been the lack of a food court at Short Hills Mall.
"I went there after practice the other day hoping there was a big food court with a lot of selection and they had restaurants, but no food court. I don't know if that's a Canadian thing, but I was a little disappointed there."
As far as his transition in the locker room, it's been just as entertaining.
"I think playing for Hockey Canada at the Worlds has really helped me with that," Hall explained. "In that tournament, you have to come together right away and I've been doing the same thing here - going to lunch or dinner with different guys, just trying to get to know everyone and be the best teammate I can. I already feel like I'm part of the team. It's been great."
"I even put on the win song [Green Light by Pitbull, in the locker room] after the game in Montreal. Hopefully the guys liked it."
Having Henrique with him on the ice has certainly helped.
"It was really fun just to play with him again," Hall said. "I thought we had a really good game and even though it's just exhibition, it was fun to get out there with him again. He's turned into such a good player and it's a lot of fun to see. He's always been a guy that doesn't need many chances to score and he showed that the other night. Off the ice, he's still the same guy. Exactly the same. And, he's definitely a leader on our team and a guy that's a lot more vocal in the room than he was in junior. It's really fun to see how he's grown in that way and get to play with him again."
Said Henrique: "It seems like yesterday that we were there and we got reacquainted pretty quickly. I'm just so used to how he plays and what he's thinking and where he wants the puck and I think those are all important things to building chemistry. I think it's just a matter of getting some games under our belt and getting used to it again and going from there. Hopefully it's just as good of a dynamic as we were in junior, if not better."
While many things are different here in New Jersey, there's one thing he's hoping will be very different. In six years in the NHL, he's never been in the playoffs.
At the World Championships this past May, his third representing Canada, Hall was asked if he would always answer the call from Hockey Canada to participate in this tournament.
Hall looked the reporter square in the eye and said: "Honestly, I hope I'm never available to participate in this tournament again. Being able to represent your country is an honor and winning a gold medal at the World Championship is great, but I want to be in the playoffs. I want to win a Stanley Cup."
Sometimes, change is a good thing.