MY STORY…BEGINS AT AGE 3…IN LONDON, ONTARIO, CANADA…
That is when I first started playing this game. It was like a half sheet of ice so there could be two games going on at the same time. When I was younger I loved the game of hockey but I was awful at skating compared to the other kids. I remember my parents telling me that at times I would not even want to go on the ice. I would just look up at the scoreboard waiting for the buzzer to sound. But as I became a better played I started to love the game even more.
Where I am from, which is about two hours from Toronto, the skill level of hockey in my area was really good. London is a big hockey city for sure and a lot of guys who play in the NHL right now live there because they played in the city when they were younger. The talent was pretty good growing up and I was on one of the best AAA youth teams and we won a lot of tournaments growing up.
London is a great town. There’s a lot going on there. Obviously I have my friends and family there. I’ve been there for so long. There’s a great university there, the University of Western Ontario, which a lot of Americans probably don’t know about. It’s a big school and a lot of kids stay there during the summer. There’s a beach not far away and the population is growing all the time.
Back when I was a kid in London I was a forward all the way until major bantam hockey. Then one day we were short some defenseman at camp so they asked if I would play back on defense for a couple games. I had been on the team for a while and I had kind of established myself so I tried it out and it and I played well. So my coach asked if I minded switching to defense and I was happy to and it worked out.
Even though I lived so far away then, I was a Kings fan and I really loved Wayne Gretzky. He went to Los Angeles and I’m sure that is a main reason why a lot of people became a fan of the Kings. He was the best player in the world at that time.
When I was younger my room featured a lot of Kings stuff. I had an L.A. Kings pillowcase, an L.A. Kings phone and I had a Gretzky jersey. I had a Kelly Hrudey jersey too. Besides that I had a bunch of Gretzky posters and I was just a huge Kings fan.
Back home I would look to go to see the Maple Leafs every time Gretzky came to town. We also have the London Knights in town, which is a pretty big deal in London. They are pretty established with the Canadian Hockey League teams in Canada.
I always remember watching Rick Nash and he was a really good player for London. I remember watching Corey Perry and watching them win the Memorial Cup.
As I got older and continued to get better at hockey, I started to realize that I could keep playing at a higher level around the time I started in the OHL. I was drafted pretty high in the OHL draft and it kind of gave me the sense that I could continue this as a career and maybe have a shot at making the NHL. After my three years with Guelph there were a lot of good things said about me but it wasn’t until then did I think I would have a shot at making an NHL team one day
Stepping into the OHL I had only played about two or three years as a defenseman so I was more of an offensive-defenseman. It wasn’t until my second or third year I really learned how to play defense and had to improve my defensive game. After that I became a complete defenseman and the one thing I really learned was how to be defensively sound in my own zone and little techniques on how to be a better defensive player.
Before the draft I went through the interview process and the combine. It is tough to go through and you put a lot of stress on yourself. Going into the combine, all the months before, it’s really all you can think about. You want to do well at the combine so it’s a lot of stress on you and at those meetings. I think most guys are pretty nervous. It’s pretty intimidating. You get in front of eight or so guys and that is definitely intimidating.
When I was drafted by the Kings, it was a great feeling. I had been dreaming of that since I was a kid. Right before I had a gut feeling I was going to Calgary because I saw Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter shake hands. I was like, 'Oh no, I didn't think I was going to go to Calgary.' No offense, I would have been glad to go anywhere, but just because I loved L.A. so much when I was a little kid. It was unbelievable to be here.
Draft day was also a long day for sure. It was so much fun and it was an exciting time for me. Some of it is a blur. I don’t remember every detail from the day but I’ll always remember getting my name called and being able to hug my family and finally get up on stage, to finally become a member of the Kings organization.
From the time of the draft to my first NHL game I worked out really hard and lost a lot of weight before that first training camp. They put me through some tests -- they wanted me to become as fit as I could to show that I was committed and I did that. They just wanted me to realize that they wanted to become winners and I think I’m a winner and I’m going to help them do that. They really wanted me to know that their pick at number two was very important to them.
Then once camp started I tried to stay calm and play the best I could to make the team. When I made the team it helped to have some other rookies on the team like Wayne Simmonds and Oscar Moller. We had so many things to talk about. We always hung out and playing with each other and was a great time. The three of us really helped each other out that first year.
Editor's Note: Following the theme of the LA Kings 2010-11 Yearbook, each week we will feature a player telling his story on how he became passionate about this game we all love.