Taylor Hall is always listed as being from Calgary, and while that is a statement of fact - Hall was born there, grew up a Flames fan, and lived there until he was 13 - the place that he thinks of as his hometown is nearly 1,800 miles away, halfway across Canada.
Kingston, Ontario, sits about halfway between Toronto and Montreal, and also just shy of a two-hour drive from Ottawa. By Hall's estimate, the civic breakdown in the city where the St. Lawrence River begins flowing from Lake Ontario is about half Maple Leafs fans, with the rest split between the Canadiens and Senators. As with many Canadian cities, hockey is an important part of life, and that was a boon to Hall.
"If I didn't play hockey there, I would've had a tough time adapting," Hall said. "I met some great friends and had some really great coaches and mentors along the way. That's why I try to get back in the summer and give back a bit."
Hall has found a particularly fun way to give back, staging a ball hockey tournament to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston. Hockey, after all, never stops, even when there's no ice.
"I grew up playing ball hockey in the summers, whether it was on the street or organized, whatever it may be," Hall said. "It's kind of the equivalent of roller hockey down south. My buddies and I, we play all the time. I had a one-day hockey school that I did for four or five years. That kind of ran its course. I met a lot of really good kids and helped out the Kingston Cancer Fund. Then I wanted to switch it up and do something else. I went to the Boys and Girls Club as a kid in Calgary all the time after school, and picked that as a charity to combine the ball hockey tournament with, not only to just give back and help the community, but to play ball hockey for a day, it's a fun day."
The proceeds from the ball hockey tournament have more than tripled since raising $6,000 the first year, and that kind of growth is inspiring to Hall as he keeps his connection with his hometown strong even while living and working in New Jersey for most of the year.
"That's a big deal in a city the size of Kingston," Hall said. "It's a pretty proud moment for me and my family when I'm able to use my platform to do that. I'd like to say that I'm well liked in my hometown, and I certainly know a lot of people in that community. It's a tight-knit community, about 150,000 people, and when university is out in the summer, it gets even smaller. I'm proud to be from there and proud to say that's my hometown. I always like going back."
It's a little trickier to get back to Kingston than it is for Hall to return to Calgary, as the NHL schedule provides an annual visit to the city of his birth and youth. But Hall has an easier time of it than his parents, both of whom are from Ontario. That was partly because of Steve Hall's job. After playing for Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa in the Canadian Football League, Steve took up another sport, and that kept him in the mountains - which is why Taylor was born there.
"My dad was in Calgary bobsledding, and they wanted to move back," Hall said. "It just took them 10 years, 13 years to do it. Eventually, we picked a spot and it ended up being Kingston. You don't really bobsled as a kid, and my mom was the one that put me in hockey. I fell in love with it, and as soon as I started playing, that was my only focus."
And it was in Kingston that the singular focus started to turn into something real, setting Hall on the path to where he is today.
"They support their junior teams really well and it was a fun place to play minor hockey for a couple years," Hall said. "I moved at the very start of high school, so I walked into high school and I didn't know anyone. The only guys that I knew were from my hockey team, and they're still my best friends today. That says a lot about Kingston and the hockey community there."