Auston Matthews has fond memories of visiting Mexico when he was growing up.
The Toronto Maple Leafs center said he and his family would travel to Hermosillo, the hometown of his mother, Ema.
"We always enjoyed it, my sisters and I going down there and just spending time with them," said Matthews, who was born in San Ramon, California, and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. "It's obviously different scenery."
Matthews, who grew up speaking some Spanish in the house and rooting for the Arizona Coyotes, became the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft and the winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2016-17, when he scored 40 goals. He set NHL career highs in assists (36) and points (73) last season.
With the NHL celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sunday and runs through Oct. 15, Matthews shared his thoughts on his Mexican roots with NHL.com:
Where is your family from in Mexico? What's it like?
"My mom's side is from Hermosillo. It's about six hours south of Phoenix. I've been there, went there a lot growing up. I'm not really sure how to really describe it. They had a ranch about two hours away from their house in Hermosillo, so we'd go there and hang out there, and lots of animals, and just kind of do different stuff that we typically did not do in Phoenix."
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How's your Spanish? How much can you speak? How much do you speak?
"It used to be a lot better. I mean, it's still good. I can still have a conversation and get by. I understand it probably better than I can speak it. But the only time I really speak it is when I'm in Mexico on vacation or something like that."
Have your grandparents gotten to know hockey? Any other family members in Mexico who have learned about the game because of you?
"Most of them actually live in the (United) States now, whether it's Arizona or Colorado or California. They've gotten to know hockey quite a bit. They usually make the trip up to Phoenix for the game when we're in town, so they like to watch then. I'm sure they watch quite a bit throughout the regular season back home as well. My mom's side is a big family, lots of brothers and sisters, so usually when we go to the city and one of them lives there, they like to come to the game and grab dinner or just catch up after the game."
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The Vegas Golden Knights have a Spanish broadcast. NHL.com is launching a Spanish site. What can we do to introduce the game to more Hispanic fans, and why should they love the game?
"Well, I think it's pretty easy to sell the game. I mean, it's an amazing sport. When I first started playing, I mean, I loved it instantly. So I think that's the case for a lot of kids. I mean, I think it would be an amazing idea to maybe do a preseason game down there once a year with obviously teams on the West Coast, like [the Coyotes] and [the Los Angeles Kings] or something like that. I think that could obviously bring a lot of attention to the sport and kind of help grow the game in different ways down there when you can kind of see it firsthand."
What's your favorite Mexican food? Who cooks in the family? What's your go-to spot for Mexican in Toronto?
"My mom makes a great tortilla soup. I've never met anybody that didn't like it. So pretty fortunate to have two parents that are extremely good at cooking and like to try different things. But my go-to spot in Toronto for Mexican food? Um, I don't know. I like to go to this spot called [Wilbur Mexicana]. It's downtown. So I like to go there quite a bit. Me and [Frederik] Andersen and Connor Brown when he was with us, we'd go there quite a bit."