William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles Malcolm Hayes, who is chronicling his chase of an NHL career in videos.
Malcolm Hayes has a hot dining tip for aspiring professional hockey players.
"This right here, this is the most important thing of the meal," Hayes said. "This is my chipotle Tabasco sauce, I put this on everything -- I'm talking eggs, steak, chicken, pasta, it don't matter. Whatever it is, I'm going to throw it on there -- it's that good, get you one."
That's some of the advice that Hayes, a former University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Maine defenseman, dispenses in YouTube videos that chronicle his diet, workout routine and life in his pursuit of an NHL playing career.
The idea is to give a glimpse into the commitment it takes to become a pro. And Hayes, a 24-year-old Atlanta resident who recently signed with Fayetteville of the Southern Professional Hockey League, does the hard work in a personable style in the videos, all to a hip-hop beat.
"I would love to definitely do them while I keep getting ready for the season and as the season goes along just to give an inside look of how it is as at the professional, not just at the top, top level, but also guys in semi-pro who are working to get to the NHL," he said. "I think it would be a cool experience, and I actually enjoy it."
Four episodes in and with 115 subscribers and counting, Hayes isn't quite a YouTube sensation yet, but he's drawing attention.
When Emmanuel Glaze saw Hayes' videos, he quickly booked him as a guest on his Atlanta-based "The Crush Sports Talk" live-streamed internet show.
"I think what he's doing is a huge thing," said Glaze, a black hockey fan who still mourns the exodus of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011 to Winnipeg. "Just the fact that a kid from Georgia -- this is football area, basketball area -- finding a love and passion for hockey, an African American youth like that, it's a compelling story."
Hayes' videos are a family affair. His father, Mark, came up with the idea that his son should record his on- and off-ice workout sessions to show teams who he is and to help guide other younger players who may also be dreaming of playing pro hockey.
"I told him whatever you do, keep it authentic, be who you are," said Mark Hayes, a former television news personality in Atlanta, Detroit, and Cincinnati who now runs a media consulting firm. "Make sure people can relate to you and want to come back for more."
But his son was hesitant, owing to a case of camera shyness. But dad persisted, and son eventually relented.
"Just the way my dad was talking about my story, telling how I need to put this out to show people what I'm doing to prepare, he was just so passionate about it," Hayes said. "He really gave me the fire and energy to actually record it and edit it and things like that."
Hayes has an on-camera wingman, his 5-year-old nephew, Kody, who joins him as a willing workout partner and eager smoothie-maker. Hayes' marathon-running mother, Latonya, has a cameo in one episode competing against him in a workout climbing 600 steep stairs in Georgia's Amicalola Falls State Park, with the loser stuck washing the dishes for two weeks.
The videos are part of Hayes' unconventional path in hockey that has taken him across the country. He first became interested in the game at 5 years old when he was invited to a friend's birthday party at a rink in Detroit and told to bring his hockey bag.
"His mother instructed me to go to the sporting goods store and find out what goes in a hockey bag and fill one up for him," Mark Hayes said. "The rest is history."
As Hayes' interest in hockey grew, his parents tapped into the Atlanta-area hockey community and hired former New York Islanders forward Yan Kaminsky as his skating coach and Scott Pearson, who was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (No. 6) of the 1988 NHL Draft, as his skills coach.
He went on to play prep hockey at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire and Cushing Academy in Massachusetts before earning a scholarship at Maine.
A forward-turned defenseman, Hayes had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 88 games for Maine and Alaska Anchorage.
Hayes earned a business degree in four years at Maine but didn't play hockey as a senior. With one year of NCAA eligibility left because of a shoulder injury that caused him to miss all but three games of the 2015-16 season, he transferred to Alaska Anchorage last season to finish his college career.
"I would say my career has been a marathon," he said. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Fayetteville coach Jesse Kallechy said he hasn't watched Hayes' YouTube work yet. The only video that he's seen is a highlight reel with more than three minutes of Hayes (6-foot-2, 220-pounds) "just blowing guys up with hits, which makes us pretty excited."
"When you do a scouting report on him, the first thing that comes up is 'workhorse,'" Kallechy said. "He will do whatever you need, he will do it hard, and nobody will outwork him. He's a guy we can't wait to see on the ice in October."
Hayes can't wait either.
"I'm really just excited about the opportunity to get to play hockey for money," he said.