From the moment he found out he'd be facing John Tavares
in a competition at the NHL Store Powered by Reebok, Michael Grabner
knew he would be victorious.
The Calder Trophy finalist squeaked past his New York Islanders teammate Thursday afternoon in a skills competition that saw the pair attempt to sell T-shirts to consumers, as well as folding shirts and pressing their names and numbers on Isles' sweaters.
One thing Tavares learned after the competition, though -- Grabner had previous experience.
"It was a little rigged, but my first job was working in a hockey store … I was 14," the speedy Austrian winger said afterwards. "I was used to talking to customers and printing shirts and stuff like that. I'm one-up on Johnny to start the year. It's 1-0 and that's all that matters right now."
Not surprisingly, Tavares first earned his paycheck on the ice. He wasn't pleased in dropping the competition to Grabner, but he was humble in defeat.
"My first job was working for a goalie school," Tavares said. "It was definitely a lot easier than this. I think it was a little bit rigged, but I'll let Mike take this one."
Tavares would love the "C" By Brian Compton, NHL.com
When Doug Weight retired in May, it left the New York Islanders without a captain.
That vacancy is expected to be filled, with the most likely candidates being Mark Streit
and Kyle Okposo
. But if John Tavares
joins that mix, that's just fine to the third-year pro, who turns 21 this month.
"I'd love to be (captain)," Tavares told NHL.com Thursday morning. "I definitely understand maybe I am still too young and just need to worry about the game, but if it was presented to me, it definitely would be something I would talk about and make sure it's the right decision for the group and for myself as well. I'd love to be a leader of this team.
and Kyle are great guys and are going to be highly recommended, for sure. But I still feel I'll be a big leader no matter what, and I'll still have a lot of responsibility in a lot of ways. Whatever way it goes, it's going to be a guy that definitely deserves it and will do a great job at it. If I get the opportunity, it would be a huge honor."
Grabner's speed came naturallyBy John Kreiser, NHL.com
When it comes to skating, just call Michael Grabner
The New York Islanders forward won the Fastest Skater competition during the skills competition at All-Star Weekend in January and went on to lead all rookies with 34 goals, becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy.
He said Thursday that his skating skills just came naturally.
"I've never trained for it," he said. "I did a lot of sprints -- track and field -- when I was in school. I always practiced with older guys when I was in school when I was younger, and I tried to keep up with them. I wanted to be the fastest. That probably helped me.
"But I didn't do any specific training or have any skating coaches or anything. I guess I got lucky."
Grabner is one of just three Austrian-born players in the NHL (Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl are the others). Hockey isn't the big sport in his homeland, and Grabner may owe his career on ice to a fortunate accident of geography.
"We lived across the street from the rink," he said. "My mom signed me up when I was 5 because my friends and a lot of people from school were playing. That's how I got into (hockey). I liked it and started to play roller hockey in the summers. After that, I would spend five or six hours a day at the rink. I loved it."
Grabner a fan of Long IslandBy John Kreiser, NHL.com
It's no secret that the Nassau Coliseum, one of the NHL's oldest facilities, is not exactly a selling point when the New York Islanders are trying to recruit free agents and keep young talent. But forward Michael Grabner
says Long Island has a lot going for it.
"It is," Grabner said when asked if the Island was nicer than he had expected. "A lot of guys probably see the Coliseum, but once you get to know Long Island, it's pretty good. There's a lot of beaches. You're 40 minutes from New York if you want to go there. I love living out there, and I think people would enjoy it if they lived there for a while. There's a lot to do -- there's not just the area around the Coliseum."
Grabner, who led all rookies last season with 34 goals, will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy Long Island -- he signed a five-year contract with the Isles this summer.
Asked if a lot of players get their sole impression of Long Island from the 40-year-old Coliseum and the hotel across the parking lot where most visiting teams stay, he said, "That's exactly what a lot of people think. But you go 15 to 20 minutes and you've got some beautiful areas -- lot of beaches, lot of parks. It's great to live out there."