NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers, and the latest news.
The latest edition features Xavier Woods, a World Wrestling Entertainment star who's become a hockey fans and took park in the Chel Gaming Challenge during the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.
Xavier Woods is a World Wrestling Entertainment star, a YouTube sensation (with 2.09 million subscribers, and counting) and a social media hurricane.
A top-notch EA Sports NHL 20 gamer? No so much.
"We have no clue what to do," Woods said after participating in the Chel Gaming Challenge on Jan. 25 during the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis. "It's just a bunch of bad dekes and a terrible shot."
Woods may not know the difference between a toe drag and Toe Blake, but that hasn't curbed his newfound enthusiasm for hockey -- both the video and live action versions of the game.
Woods, who goes by Austin Creed on UpUpDownDown on YouTube and Twitch, got hooked on hockey after watching one of the early games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. The Blues won the Cup in seven games.
"I watched the rest of the playoffs and I've been playing a lot of NHL 20. That's helped me understand the game a little bit," Woods said. "But I'm still very much in my infancy understanding the game. I do hang out with a lot of Canadians. They've been helping me, explaining what a toe drag is and things like that."
Woods spoke with NHL.com at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend about Black History Month, his new passion for hockey, wrestling and gaming.
Here are Five Questions with … Xavier Woods.
Why is Black History Month important to you?
"Black History Month is a time to educate people who forget that black people are just part of world history. I have some friends who hear Black History Month and they harp on the fact, 'OK, we're focusing on black history and whatever aspect it is, whether it's in civil rights, whether it's in sports, whether it's in entertainment -- but a lot of times we don't talk about those things for the other 11 months of the year.' It's always interesting that in February these things are examined and spoken about, but for the rest of the time, it's kind of by the wayside. We, as a people and as a human race, can do a better job of remembering that every ethnicity's history is part of our world history. That's a long-winded way to say I think Black History Month should be Black History Year."
What figures in black history have influenced you most?
"In general, obviously Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. At one point in my wrestling career, I was researching the way Malcolm X spoke because I very much enjoyed his cadence and the way he put inflection on the words. Obviously, my parents and grandparents [influenced me]. All of the stuff they went through, hearing about those things and the hardships and understanding that they went through this stuff so I wouldn't have to go through it like they did. All respect to them for being my biggest influence."
Are you a hockey fan?
"I am, yes. I got to be a hockey fan from watching the playoffs last season. A friend turned on the TV and I saw two teams (hitting) each other and I asked, 'Oh, is this the finals and is this game almost over,' because they were both playing as if they were both losing and there was 10 seconds left. And they said 'No, we've got 20 minutes left and its only Game 2.' And I was, like, 'Wait, why are they playing so hard?' They're like, 'That's hockey.' And I was, like, 'This is incredible.' And so I watched the rest of the playoffs and I've been playing a lot of NHL 20, and that's helped me understand the game a little bit. It's very humbling going from a few months ago just playing the video game to being at the All-Star Weekend."
You met Wayne Gretzky at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game? What was that like?
"It was incredible. Wayne Gretzky is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). I did not watch sports growing up, I was not a sports kid. I'm a weird male; I don't know anything about cars, about sports. I'm not handy. I need computers, video games and cartoons. I knew who Wayne Gretzky was because of the [ProStars] cartoon he was on with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson [in 1991]. The was the first thing I ever heard about Wayne Gretzky, and playing the Wayne Gretzky hockey games. Being in the same stadium with him, it was never a thought that it would happen. When I got the chance to actually shake his hand and say hello to him, he told me that he used to hang out with wrestlers back in the day. And so I'm, like, 'Oh, cool, he enjoys wrestling,' which pumped me. I'm like, 'OK, cool, I like hockey now,' and I told him the whole story on how I'm getting into it. He was, like, 'You're with good people, just keep going in it and you'll learn everything, and you'll be good.' The fact that Wayne Gretzky is encouraging me to get into hockey, I couldn't ask for a better day."
What do you see in the future in terms of hockey improving upon its black fan base?
"Honestly, being so new to the community, I was just so happy that everybody was so accepting and pumped to be there. And everybody that I met was super-kind. From talking to people in general, they told me the shape of the fan base is changing, the face is changing. More people are coming in that used to not be there. It's exciting to come in the game on the cusp of that before it all happens. As far as the future, again being so new, I have no clue where it's going to go. But just from talks, it sounds like diversity is going to increase a lot and a lot of young kids from different ethnic backgrounds are, hopefully, going to have opportunities to jump into hockey and learn about it and play it and, hopefully, work their way into the NHL. It will be exciting to see if it can really catch on in some communities."