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Tapped In: Maple Leafs' Lupul loving life in Toronto

by Kathryn Tappen

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul is only 30 years old, but he already has a lifetime of hockey memories. In his third season with the Leafs, Lupul is enjoying life as an alternate captain. Off the ice, he is enjoying all the opportunities the city of Toronto offers and, in the process, exploring his passions for food, music and fashion.

Kathryn Tappen: A Fort Saskatchewan kid, living in the big city of Toronto. What was it like growing up in the small town of Fort Saskatchewan?

Joffrey Lupul: I lived there until I left to play my junior [hockey] in Medicine Hat. I have two younger brothers and we grew up playing hockey there. Most of my childhood friends still live there. It is a small city, probably of only about 15,000 people. Every year I would be playing with all the same players. We grew up as best friends and playing on the same team from the time you were about 10 years old. We developed a lot of close friendships that way, and especially being from a small town I've tried to stay in touch with a lot of them, although things are a little different now than they were back then. Some of them have busy lives with their kids, getting married; but I've certainly tried to keep in touch.

Maple Leafs wing Joffrey Lupul considers Toronto one of the best places in the NHL to live and play. (Photo: Getty Images)

KT: Two years into your three-year junior career, you were drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, No. 7 in the 2002 NHL Draft. What was that moment like for you?

JL: It was a special moment. My family was there. For me, I was never that high of a prospect when I was growing up. I was a good hockey player, but when I was 15 I would have never even thought of being drafted two years later. Everything came together quickly for me. It was a whirlwind and a shock to me, especially to be taken as the seventh overall pick. I was thrilled that it all came together for me that particular year.

KT: When did you realize you had made it in the NHL, your welcome-to-the-League moment?

JL: I think when I was told to pack up and move out of the hotel in Anaheim. I got a place out by the beach, and then I felt like I had really made it. It's certainly a long way from Fort Saskatchewan to Newport Beach.

KT: Your bio lists that you are of Ukrainian-Canadian decent. Do you have cultural traditions you like to honor?

JL: My grandma will be happy to hear that, that's for sure. I think the only cultural Ukrainian thing that I take part in is eating!

KT: I hear you're a pretty good cook.

JL: I do like to cook, but it's pretty plain during the season. I eat very healthy. I like to stay home and cook during the season because we are eating at restaurants so much on the road. Whenever I get the chance I try and cook.

KT: Anyone who saw the ESPN Bodies issue this summer knows you eat healthy.

JL: They talked to my marketing and PR guys and asked me if I would do it. Initially, I wasn't sure. But I looked at the pictures they had done in the past and they are very tasteful. I think it's a great opportunity for people to see what a professional athlete's body looks like. We put a lot of time and effort into specific exercises for certain sports. It's cool to see a basketball player in there, along with a motocross rider and a hockey player. You can see the difference in muscles, training regimen. That's their biggest issue of the year, so it's also good publicity for the athletes themselves. I did it, and I enjoyed it. It was a different experience but everyone on set was professional and I didn't feel nervous at all.

KT: Where do you spend the offseason?


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JL: I knew after about a year or two of playing in Anaheim that I wanted to stay in Southern California. I had a chance to buy a lot of land on the beach and build a house. It's pretty awesome when the season is done to have a place like that to go and relax. I have a lot of friends there now so it's a special place for me.

KT: What is a typical day like for you in the offseason?

JL: I usually train in the mornings, play golf, maybe hang out at the beach. I love being in L.A., there's a lot of music and different cultural activities to do. I try and get out and do different things, and I also like to travel in the offseason.

KT: You mentioned music, and I saw a recent Twitter post of a fancy new guitar you got!

JL: That's a full-size guitar that Martin Guitars sent me. That one I get a lot of use out of. It's truly the first one that I really had my eye on and wanted to get. Otherwise, I've just bought them as I've moved from place to place. This new one is one that I will certainly keep for a long time. I have about four or five acoustic guitars. I like to learn new things on them. I have a smaller guitar that Martin sent me in a case that is like a backpack, so I usually take that one on the road with me, especially when we're going to places that I know are going to be real cold and there's not much to do.

KT: You've mentioned before that Toronto is one of the best places to live and play. Where do we find you in the city when you have free time?

JL: There are so many options in Toronto. I live a little west of the city in a great little fun, artsy neighborhood. There are five to six different neighborhoods in Toronto that you can hang out in. To be honest, I'm still figuring this place out a little bit. I've been here three years. It's a huge city with a lot to do. I consider it the New York City of Canada. There are a lot of people from all over the world who come to Toronto to try and take what they do to the next level, whether it be cooking, acting, fashion.

KT: What is your favorite restaurant in Toronto?

JL: I have a lot of favorites in Toronto! But one that I really love right now is called Bar Isabel. It's really, really good but you have to book your reservation weeks in advance! There's an Italian restaurant called Campagnolo that I go to frequently. I've gotten to know them well in there, so they take care of me. The food is amazing -- best Italian restaurant in Toronto.

KT: You always look stylish when you're photographed or on camera entering a game. Do you enjoy fashion?

JL: I do. I have always had an interest in it. I'm starting to meet people and have connections in the industry. People are starting to come to me with different requests, whether it be modeling or doing something for their brand. That's another benefit we have being in a market like Toronto. Companies come to hockey players first, so you get a lot of opportunities to do something else you're interested in. For me, it seems to be music and fashion. It keeps my mind off of hockey, and I also learn something new and get a passion in something else.

KT: So if you're packing for a road trip, what is your essential item that you don't leave home without?

JL: I have a big bag! There's lots of things. But I'd have to say headphones, for sure, that's the first thing I pack. I then pack whatever book I'm reading. Then, depending on the city we're traveling to, it's all about the climate: scarves, tuques, and gloves. But headphones, those are essential.

KT: Leafs and Wings, gearing up for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at the Big House on New Year's Day. How much are you looking forward to playing outdoors?

JL: It's going to be pretty special. For me, and for most of the guys, we have a lot of family coming to the game. The game itself is not the best hockey game of the year because of all the different weather elements. But just having that experience and playing in front of over 100,000 people, my family coming down, and HBO "24/7" makes it a pretty unique experience. We're trying to not let the "24/7" cameras be a distraction, but at the same time you want to take it in as much as possible. You look back at the end of your career and you basically have a whole documented video of you and your friends when you were young and playing in the NHL. I'm going to try and take in as much of this as I can.

KT: Can you let us in on any insider secrets on what we can expect in the upcoming season of HBO's "24/7"?

JL: I think the funniest things will be something that has happened unknowingly. I don't really see anyone right now going out of their way to be a clown or anything, but that might change as it goes on. In any of those shows, what you're looking to see is a glimpse into the guys' personal lives, a bit of their personality, and the work that it takes on a day-to-day basis [to be a professional athlete]. I think the show does an excellent job of doing that.

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