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IN DEPTH: Taylor vs. Taylor

by Kelsey Spohn / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.
*This story was originally published during the 2015-16 season. Certain parts of the story have been altered or updated to reflect current facts or statistics.*


It’s -22 Celsius in Edmonton, well below freezing and Taylor Hall climbs into his Ford F-150 just like every other day. It’s game day. You’re gonna love again by Avicii and other similar techno jams set his mind in motion as he drives to work, part of a longstanding routine of preparation that started even before he arrived in Oil Country back in 2010.

The music helps fire up Hall on game days, but the foundation for his success in professional hockey is based on living a prepared, but balanced lifestyle.

It’s widely known that NFL quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is meticulous and calculated to a fault off the field. He’s employed a personal life coach even, to help keep his nutrition, fitness and meditation on task. And while Tom Brady and Taylor Hall are both leaders in their own leagues, their approach varies.

Taylor admits he’s passionate about preparation, albeit impatient, but the one thing that works best for him to perform is to live his life. Naturally, hockey is his life, but he’s also not jumping on the yoga, gluten-free, calorie-counting train any time soon.

“I don’t do anything out of the ordinary, but the way I’m prepared, and I’ve built myself to be prepared, I can walk into any gym and do their workout.

“I really try to focus on sleep quality and eat well, but I’m eating things that I enjoy. Everything has a purpose, I’m eating well to perform better, but I honestly try to live my life,” shared Hall. “Napping on game days is huge for me, I think it really helps my mind and body, but rest is important to me 365 days a year.”

Hall credits his father, Steve, with helping him understand the importance of preparation. His father trains him every off-season in Kingston, Ontario at their home gym and using Queen’s University’s track and athletic facilities.

Improving speed is always at the top of their list.

Conveniently, his dad knows a thing or two about sprinting and short bursts of energy as a former Canadian national team bobsledder following his years in the CFL where he played for the Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Rough Riders.

"My dad has always been a huge influence on me. He’s always been my trainer and he’s honestly probably the biggest part of my hockey career. He went through a lot as a football player and even though he never played hockey, he’s always been able to teach me the ropes about preparation and being a pro.”

Steve Hall was drafted in the fourth round by the Edmonton Eskimos in 1983, but his son was destined for the first round, and eventually, first overall.

Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.
With almost six NHL seasons under his belt, this honest and realistic approach has evolved over time for the 24-year-old forward.

“I always come to the rink with a purpose. Over the years, I’ve learned that you still have to enjoy your life and learn to relax. I don’t think it would surprise people to learn that I’m impatient and restless, but finding my balance and becoming truly prepared for workouts, morning skates, practices, stretching, eating, games – honestly I think about the 10 or 15 minutes before or after all of these things as well.

“I’m always preparing.”

Hall operated on another level of confidence this season and his on-ice performance excelled. He played a full 82 games for the first time in his career, scoring a team-high 26 goals.

There’s no denying that the 2010 NHL Draft was one of the most anticipated drafts in history at the time and the number one topic highlighting most sports media: Would it be Taylor or Tyler?

But before Hall’s name was stitched onto the back of the blue and orange Oilers jersey, there were years of preparation behind that moment.

Taylor got his start in the greatest game on earth in Calgary, playing his minor hockey with the Northmemorial Amateur Sports Association (NASA), now known as the Calgary Saints Hockey Association, thanks to his Mom, Kim Strba who signed up her son at the age of five. His family moved to Kingston when he was 13 and he continued his hockey journey playing for the Greater Kingston Predators in both Bantam and Minor Midget.

Fast forward three years and he’s leaving his parents to pursue his hockey dreams with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Windsor Spitfires as a 16 year old. Bob Boughner, now an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, coached Taylor for three seasons in Windsor (2007-2010) and hasn’t been surprised by Taylor’s production, commenting that it’s only the tipping point.

The pair first met over lunch with Taylor’s dad in Ottawa prior to his rookie season with the Spitfires after he was selected second overall in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. And what happened next told Boughner everything he needed to know about Taylor.

“My first impression was that this is a very, very confident 16-year-old kid.

“I asked him, ‘What are your goals for next year as a rookie in the OHL?’ and he looked me straight in the face and said, ‘I want to lead our team in scoring, I want to win Rookie of the Year,’ and he kept rifling off these huge goals to me,” shared Boughner.

“I told him he’d be playing against some pretty good 19 and 20-year-old guys and he just said, ‘I know’.”

Hall went on to score a team-high 45 goals and ranked third on the team with 84 points (45G, 39A) during his OHL debut in 2007-08. His performance earned him both the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and OHL Rookie of the Year titles.

“I’ll never say he was cocky. He backed everything up,” said Boughner. “He’s different than most. He’s very, very driven. He cares about the game an incredible amount. By coaching him, I quickly realized that when he puts his mind to something, he does it. Look at him now, he’s still doing that.”

When it comes to Hall’s compete level, it’s through the roof, and the Oilers brass couldn’t agree more.

Kevin Lowe, Vice Chair for Oilers Entertainment Group, helped interview Hall at the 2010 NHL Combine when the Taylor vs. Tyler chatter was front and centre. He recalls the small margin between the two players, but that Taylor’s compete level and hockey head paved the way.

“Taylor brings a high level of intensity and leadership to our hockey club. He’s our difference maker when the team needs him most and there are very few players in the game that can be a real difference maker from shift to shift,” shared Lowe.

“He’s a real hockey junkie and it’s an honest passion of his. In this business, that’s always a good sign.”

And so as hard work and preparation would have it, Taylor Hall was selected first-overall, earning his spot as an eventual leader on the Oilers roster.

As #4 has enjoyed a highly successful IIHF World Hockey Championship tournament for Team Canada, playing a high level of hockey on the international stage, Boughner, like so many others, considers Hall to easily be a superstar in the League.

Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.
But it’s not the numbers that Taylor pays attention to. He’s competing against himself. What was once a conversation of Taylor vs. Tyler has evolved into one of Taylor vs. Taylor, largely because he’s learned to tune out the extra noise.

“If I spent every day looking up others’ stats and worrying about what others were doing, I would be of zero benefit to my team. I just want to be the best Edmonton Oiler I can be so in a sense, I am competing with myself. Today I want to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow I will be better than today,” shared Hall.

It seems that Taylor’s approach to living his life and enjoying every minute preparing for games, practices and everything in between has been working. Perhaps the best measure of this maturity can be found here:

“Every game I look around and there are over 16,000 people here and it’s always a real ‘wow’ moment for me. I am so appreciative of that feeling. When you play for Edmonton and when you realize what it means to be an Oiler, it’s not just the fans at the game, you’re really playing for the whole city.

“And that’s not an exaggeration – I’m not just saying that. I truly feel privileged to play for a Canadian team and for a city as special as Edmonton.”

While the Oilers battle and improve through their growing pains, like Taylor has been, Hall and his team will certainly be prepared.

By Kelsey Spohn/edmontonoilers.com

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