Charlie Coyle quickly is making a name for himself in the NHL. Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (No. 28) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Coyle, 21, has managed the pressures and expectations of being a first-round pick by providing depth at center in Minnesota. And as talented as he is on the ice, Coyle takes time to pay it forward by embracing his persona as a role model to young children.
Kathryn Tappen: You became an instant heartthrob when cameras caught you waving to 5-year old Wild fan Henry during pregame warmups. The clip has more than 2.6 million views on YouTube as the video went viral. Were you surprised at this response?
Charlie Coyle: I didn't expect it to go past just me waving to Henry. I didn't think anyone even saw it. Different guys in the League do that every night, waving to young fans, throwing pucks at the kids. A lot of guys do things like that, which is a nice gesture. I remember being a young kid wanting to wave to an NHL player. So I just tried to do a little something for him and apparently the cameras were rolling. It was such a simple thing and now everyone's talking about it. It was pretty crazy to see.
KT: There’s no question you made Henry's day. His facial expression after you waved was priceless.
CC: A week or two later he came to one of our practices and I got to do a meet-and-greet with Henry and his sister Madeline. It was awesome to meet him. He's a pretty talkative kid. At first he was a little star-struck, but after I sat down with him he talked non-stop and it was a really good time.
KT: You're always seen giving back to kids. You've posted pictures on Twitter from visits to children's hospitals and this moment with Henry is just another example. Why is it so important to you to give back?
Center - MIN
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 16
SOG: 75 | +/-: -7
Whether we like it or not as professional athletes a lot of people look up to us. To take time out of your day is really no big deal at all. To go visit a kid or someone who is in a tough situation in the hospital, it's something little that you can do to make someone's day. If it means we cheer them up for the time being then I'm all for it. I love making those trips. You meet a lot of young, brave kids who have been through a lot. It's nice to be able to put a smile on their faces.
KT: What is the one thing you like to do when you have free time in Minnesota?
CC: [laughs] Well, it's probably just going to the Mall of America with some of the guys. I'm actually in the parking lot now. We make a trip to the mall once or twice a week.
KT: So a typical 21-year-old's activity.
CC: [laughs] Yeah, I guess you could say that.
KT: You grew up just outside of Boston in a town called Weymouth. But you recently posted a picture with a few of your teammates at a Vikings game. Aren't you a Patriots fan?
CC: Oh boy. I'm going to get myself in trouble here. I was a Vikings fan for the day. But I'm always a Pats fan. I've grown up watching them and always root for them. Right now I'm rooting for them as well. I hope they can take down the Broncos [in the AFC Championship game]. I love watching the Pats.
KT: Were you also a Bruins fan growing up?
CC: Of course, of course. I always watch them. All of my buddies from back home are Bruins fans. I grew up watching them on TV and going to games.
KT: You have yet to play in Boston as an NHL player. Are you looking forward to March 17th?
CC: My first game in Boston against the Bruins will be on St. Patty's Day. I know everyone has been texting me about tickets and wanting to see the game. It's someone new every day but I am looking forward to it.
KT: You come from quite the hockey family. Two of your cousins are former NHL players Tony Amonte and Bobby Sheehan. What is the relationship like with you and your cousins and how have they impacted your career?
CC: Everyone on my dad's side of the family plays hockey. Tony and Bobby both are on that side of the family. Growing up in that environment I started early. That's all I really wanted to do. Obviously when I was little having a cousin in the NHL meant I always looked up to him. I wanted to get where he was. Tony used to run a hockey camp in the summer that I would attend. I can think of times when he played for Chicago and they came to play the Bruins. We would go to games and I would get to see him and his teammates after the game. When there's a role model like him in the family who is where you want to be in life, it puts it in your brain that you can get there too. He's given me pointers and tips over the years. For the most part he likes to keep his space but I know he’s only a phone call away.
KT: I would imagine things come up as a young pro that you can lean on Tony for advice.
CC: His line is always open to me and he's told me that before. I have a great support system around me. My agent is a cousin as well. It's great having a solid group of guys around me whom I trust. Tony is definitely in that group of guys.
KT: As a Weymouth kid what was it like playing for one of the best college hockey programs in the nation, in basically your backyard, and for legendary coach Jack Parker and the Boston University Terriers?
CC: That was a dream come true. Tony went there and played too. When I was younger I played for the Boston Junior Terriers so it was an absolute dream of mine to play there. I always watched [Boston College] vs. BU when I was a kid. In high school when colleges were looking at me BU was the first school to talk to me. It was always the place for me. To be in Boston where my family could come see me play and where I could live my dream, it was great. I really enjoyed my time there.
KT: Your time there was short- lived. After two years at BU you left to sign in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Saint John Sea Dogs. How difficult was that decision to leave college?
CC: It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I never thought I would leave BU like that and I never really wanted to. But everyone has their own path to get to where they want to go. I chose that one. It was a hard decision as I had a lot of good friends and teammates at BU. But in the end I knew I was going to turn pro the next season and I needed to get more games under my belt and work on some areas of my game. That was the best route to do it, to play in Saint John in the Q. As difficult of a decision as it was, I think it definitely paid off.
Minnesota's Charlie Coyle takes time to pay-it-forward and has embraced being a role model to young children. (Photo: Kathryn Tappen)
KT: I would say so. First-round draft pick for the San Jose Sharks in 2010. What was that moment like?
CC: The draft was in Los Angeles so me, my two older sisters [Jessica and Jillian], and my parents made a mini-vacation out of it. They all got to attend the draft with me. It was an amazing experience. Obviously it doesn't even matter what pick you are; just to be drafted is a cool feeling. It's something you work for your entire life and it was just another step to get to where I wanted to be in playing in the NHL.
KT: High expectations come when you're a first-rounder in the NHL. How have you managed those?
CC: Pressure comes with everything. You don't want to think about it too much. When I was drafted I knew I still had a couple of years still before I was going to play in the NHL. I had work to do. But I was ready to put that work in and try and get where I want to be. You have to put the pressure aside and focus on the task at hand. For me that was playing at BU and trying to get better and improve my all-around game.
KT: You love to play street hockey in the summer. Most guys want nothing to do with putting on another pair of skates, or in this case rollerblades.
CC: [laughs] We always played when we were younger. I grew up playing street hockey in front of my house with my cousins and friends. It's nice to get a break from hockey and that's my way of doing it.
KT: Any pregame rituals for you?
CC: I'm not a really superstitious guy. But I do this weird thing. I found out that I put all my equipment on left to right: Left skate before my right skate, left glove before my right glove, left elbow pad before right. I always put on my left side before my right side; I don't know what it is but that's what I do for some reason.
KT: What are your plans for the Olympic break?
CC: It's going to be fun to watch the Olympics. I can't wait. I'm looking forward to going home to Weymouth, see my friends who I don't get to see a lot during the year. I plan on spending time at home with my family. My father and cousin coach the Weymouth High School hockey team and I have a few cousins on the team so I plan to do some skating with them.