By Kyle Shohara
An imposing figure on the ice, 6-foot-4, 218-pound defenseman Simon Despres is anything but that outside the rink. Soft-spoken and reserved, the 24-year-old finds enjoyment away from the game in the form of reading books and playing chess.
It’s been a year since he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for defenseman Ben Lovejoy (March 2, 2015), and it’s been a challenging season for Despres after he missed three months with a concussion. He returned to the lineup on January 26, once again playing at a high level that had made him such a valuable part of an outstanding Ducks defensive corps.
Despres sat down after a recent practice to answer some personal questions – a few of which submitted by fans using the hashtag #AskDesi.
What do you like most about playing in Southern California?
|"If I would’ve known [former Mighty Duck] Ruslan Salei had 24, I don’t think I would’ve chosen it, out of respect. When I was asked what number I wanted, I had a few to choose from. I had no idea of the history of any of the numbers." |
I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was the weather. I love the sun. It’s always a blue sky. Is it nice to have a guy on team (David Perron) you can speak to in French?
It’s so refreshing to be able to speak French. It’s my first language and there aren’t many French-speaking people in California. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air for me.Why did you go with No. 24 here?
If I would’ve known [former Mighty Duck] Ruslan Salei had 24, I don’t think I would’ve chosen it, out of respect. When I was asked what number I wanted, I had a few to choose from. I had no idea of the history of any of the numbers. I just picked 24 without knowing. I used to have No. 47 in Pittsburgh.What is it about this sport that excites you?
It was my dream growing up. I came from Montreal where hockey is a religion when you’re growing up. We eat, sleep and always talk about hockey. It’s a one-of-a-kind sport. You need precision, strength, speed and agility. You need to understand the game. Are you superstitious?
Not at all.Do you have a pregame routine?
I have my routine, but I change it. It’s not the same from year to year. I have a couple of little tricks to get ready. I listen to my body and have a couple of key words I tell myself before each game starts to be the best I can be to help my team.Which player in the NHL have you learned from the most?
I’ve played with a lot of icons and All-Stars in this league, so I can’t pinpoint one specifically. When I was in Pittsburgh, I learned from Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Bill Guerin, Max Talbot. I can go on and on. It’s a learning process. I learn every day. To be around guys who have been successful in this league for a long time definitely helped my progression into the player I am today. What is your favorite animated movie?
Kung Fu PandaWhat’s your favorite Disney movie?
I don’t remember the last Disney movie I watched, but I enjoy Disney movies. I’ve definitely watched my fair share of them as a kid. I loved Lion King. What did you like most about your hometown of Laval, Quebec? What made it special to you?
I enjoyed going for bike rides. I know the entire west side of Laval like the back of my hand. All the trails and shortcuts. I was kind of an explorer when I was a kid. I’d get lost and find my way back home. Instead of watching TV, I’d ride my bike, even in the winter.
Aside from weather, what are some of the biggest differences living here and in Quebec?
|"I’m diversified when it comes to music. I like old school rock like Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Styx, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. I also like reggae, hip-hop and techno. I enjoy good music." |
It’s a different way of thinking. The lifestyle is different. For me, it was a culture shock coming here although I’ve traveled a lot in my life. Technology-wise, it’s way more advanced here. The roads are well-constructed here. The fact that it always feels like summer here helps the roads. Our roads back home are all broken down because of the four seasons. One day it’s minus-20 and the next day it’s plus-10 Celsius. California is more advanced in a lot of things.Do you like to read?
I love to read. If you watch your brain activity while you read a book compared to watching a movie, there’s more activity. And, it’s more fun to read a book than watching something on TV. What kind of music are you into?
I’m diversified when it comes to music. I like old school rock like Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Styx, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. I also like reggae, hip-hop and techno. I enjoy good music.What do you like to cook?
There’s a crepe recipe I have from back home. It’s like pancakes, but a little slimmer. I do it from scratch, and it’s fairly easy. It’s two eggs, one cup of milk, one cup of flour, a little bit of salt and vanilla extract. You stir it up and put some maple syrup and fruits on top. It’s pretty good.You’re a big chess player. What is it about chess that you enjoy the most?
I don’t play as much as I’d like to these days because I don’t have partners to play with right now, but what I like about it is the strategy. You have to think a couple moves ahead. That’s the way of thinking in life, too. On the ice you have to be a couple moves ahead. In business you have to be a couple moves ahead. Chess is very beneficial for someone in life to learn.