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Do You Know Beau?

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins knew Beau Bennett was a special player when they selected the forward in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He hasn’t disappointed since deciding to turn professional last season.

Bennett played 26 NHL games (and six playoff contests) last season and made the 2013-14 roster out of training camp, currently skating on a line with Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin. We’re seeing what the skille winger is capable of doing on the ice, and it’s exciting.

Off the ice, the California native (nicknamed “Sunshine” after the Remember the Titans character from the same state) has won over his teammates, coaches, staff and the fans with his friendly and easygoing personality – which he has become more comfortable showing over time.

“I’ve become a lot more outgoing,” Bennett said entering his sophomore season. “When I first got there, I was very quiet, I didn’t talk to anyone. I did what I was told and I did it in a timely manner. I didn’t want to step on too many toes. I just wanted to go in there and try to earn their respect. I need to continue doing that this coming year. I’m 21 years old. I need about four more years of that and I’ll feel comfortable.”

Yes, Bennett hasn't been here that long – but it looks like he's here to stay. So here are some things you may not have known about him in order to get to know him better (thanks to Beau for taking the time to answer all of our questions!)

1. Beau really DOES know.
Bennett was born on Nov. 27, 1991 to dad Kurt and mom Louanna in Gardena, California, which is about a 20-30 minute drive from Los Angeles. He was named after the "Bo Knows" Nike commercial campaign. Bennett has two brothers, Wade and Shane, and a sister, Bailey. He was raised in Gardena and attended Valley Christian High School in Cerritos.

2. Beau supports the WNBA.
What’s the best part about living in California? “Weather. Family. Friends. Although I have a lot of friends out here and all over the States now, but back home, I have the same group of close five friends that I’ve had since I was five years old. It’s basically family.” He likes playing beach volleyball and paddleboarding.  

Being born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Bennett is a fan of all of the city’s sports teams – even their pro women’s basketball team. But don’t worry; he no longer supports their NHL franchise (obviously). “I like all the LA teams. The LA Sparks of the WNBA, the Dodgers, the Lakers. I was a Kings fan and I’m not anymore; I can’t be. Basically, I’m pro-LA sports, whatever it may be, even the WNBA.”

3. Beau tends to go with the flow.
You know how when players claim they aren’t superstitious or don’t have a pregame ritual, and you don’t really believe them? You don’t get that feeling with Bennett when he says he doesn’t do anything specific. All the laid-back California kid does before a game is listen to music (he’s always got his headphones on), and he says that’s more so to wake him up from his pre-game nap than anything. He also eats whatever he feels like the day of a game, saying, “I don’t have a specific thing that I want. I just kind of go with the flow and try different things and not put too much emphasis on that, although I try to eat healthy.”

Bennett getting off the bus for a game wearing his headphones (Getty Images).

4. Beau can play the piano.
Bennett’s parents made a lot of sacrifices in order for him to play hockey, and they didn’t ask for much in return – just that he get in touch with his artistic and creative side. “My parents told me that if I wanted to play hockey I had to play an instrument for five years,” Bennett told us before. “I made it 8 to 13. I can still play some songs from back then and learn some songs if I need to. I learned enough while I was doing it.”

He declined to name his go-to song, joking, “I’d love to just keep it a secret just in case anyone ever wants me to play for them. I can just serenade and see where it goes.”

5. Beau is a big Drake fan (and has Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ on repeat).
His current music tastes aren’t quite as classical. Bennett is a big Drake fan, saying “Drake, ‘All Me’? I know the whole song. You can test me on it.” (We’ll hold you to that, Beau – PensTV special, anyone?) He hopes to be at the artist’s Oct. 18 concert at CONSOL Energy Center. In addition to Drake, the songs Bennett is currently playing on repeat are ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus, ‘Royals’ by Lorde and Steve Aoki’s ‘Boneless.’ “There are a lot of Las Vegas club hits that I’ve just been jamming out in my car too, to be honest. I love that type of music.”

Toronto native Drake performing at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game (Getty Images).

6. He misses the ‘Ac Attack.’
And what kind of car does he drive, you ask? A Jeep Grand Cherokee here in Pittsburgh. But back home, he drives a 1998 white Acura Legend nicknamed the ‘Ac Attack.’ “There’s so much character involved with it that I can’t give it up.”

7. Beau just got a place with Robert Bortuzzo.
Bennett moved into a hotel after being called up to Pittsburgh on Feb. 13 of last season. He stayed there through the playoffs (about five months), returned there at the start of training camp in September and literally just moved out on Wednesday. He and teammate Robert Bortuzzo, who was living at the same hotel, got a place together. “People see us together all the time, it’d be weird if we didn’t live together,” Bennett joked. "We’re just going on man dates.”

Bortuzzo (@rbontuzzi21) tweeted this photo of Bennett "decimating the pillow population" while buying stuff for their new place.

8. He loves a good burrito.
“We always go to Chipotle and Pita Pit,” Bortuzzo said. “That’s our lunch routine, usually. We called it burrito and a movie. So we’d go and grab a burrito, grab a Starbucks and a movie. That was usually one of our daily routines.”

Mexican food is Bennett's favorite. He loves getting it back home in LA, saying, "You can get authentic Mexican food there, being so close (to the border). Other than that, there’s just a bunch of hole-in-the-wall restaurants that I love to go to. And In-and-Out’s up there.”

In Pittsburgh, Bennett loves going to the restaurant Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square.

9. Beau has a massive movie collection.
Bortuzzo says the two of them go to Walmart and stock up on DVDs from the $5 bin. “I’m big into movies, I bought like 150 movies over the past year just to watch on the plane and whatnot,” Bennett said. He plows through his collection on road trips. “I don’t watch them at home but on the plane all I do is watch movies. I just try to get ones I’ve never seen. Half the ones I own, I’ve never seen.”

“He’s got a huge binder, which as a friend, you appreciate,” said Bortuzzo. “We’re also at the movie theater a couple times a week.”

Bennett’s all-time favorite is Lords of Dogtown, which he calls a “California skater movie.” He also loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was shot and based in Pittsburgh. As far as TV shows go, “Two and a Half Men is my all-time favorite. I’ve seen every episode and I’ll watch it every time it’s on no matter what.”

A scene from Perks of Being a Wallflower, shot coming out of the tunnel going into downtown Pittsburgh

10. He’s a Call of Duty guy.
Bennett also plays video games during his free time. He bought an X-Box the other day and is currently playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Him and Bortuzzo also have a Nintendo 64 for their house, where they plan on playing a lot of Mario Kart.

11. What’s the one thing he can’t live without?
Showers. Feeling fresh and clean is a must for Bennett. He takes a lot of them throughout the day, which is understandable since he does play hockey for a living. “I take one in the morning, one after I skate, one when I feel greasy off the plane, one before I go to sleep. I can’t sleep if I don’t shower. I just like feeling clean going to sleep.”

12. Actually, Beau wouldn’t know anything if it weren’t for Twitter.
Bennett, who turns 22 next month, has grown up in the age of social media and has a presence on virtually every platform. I asked him what his favorite one was, and he said, “Instagram is fun because I can get my friends involved with putting pictures of them up and stuff. But as far as Twitter goes, I think, I don’t know if I would know anything about anything going on if it weren’t for Twitter. I would be out of it if it weren’t for the Yahoo ticker bar or Twitter. So it’s good for that, I guess.”

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @BeauBennett78.

A sample Instagram photo from Bennett. Caption: "Cameras make me weird #facetime"

13. Beau didn’t transition completely to ice hockey from roller until age 15.
He began playing roller hockey at the age of 3, but eventually worked his way onto the ice thanks to the sacrifices of his family – especially his parents. “They’re doing all the driving, the rinks are spread out,” he said before. “(There was) about nine or 10 rinks throughout southern California. We’re driving, doing our homework in the car, getting dressed in the car. You definitely have to sacrifice a little of your social life. But you can do it if you have a passion for the game. All of us hockey players are willing to do it.”

However, Bennett didn’t switch to ice hockey fully until age 15. Until then, he was still doing both. “Roller was still big in California, but ice has taken over, really,” he said of why he made the transition. “I just wanted to go to college, get a scholarship and it worked out that way and I was happy that I did switch eventually.”

When he did commit fully to ice hockey, Bennett played for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings of the Midwest Elite Hockey League (MWEHL). He visited Pittsburgh two years before being drafted by the organization to play in the Under-18 AAA Nationals at the RMU Islands Sports Center as a member of the Jr. Kings. That was his second cross-country trip to the Steel City; he traveled there for the first time for a national AAA tournament as a peewee player.

14. Beau didn’t want to go to college far from home.
After one season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League, Bennett attended the University of Denver in the fall of 2010. One of the main reasons he chose to become a Pioneer, said Bennett, was proximity to home. “My dream school was Boston College growing up. (But then) I knew people that were there at Denver. California had a bunch of guys go through there throughout the year, so I was comfortable with the coaches and they were kind of the first college team to approach me before I was any good at hockey. So it was nice of them to show that loyalty.”

Bennett studied psychology and communications at Denver, opting to turn pro after his sophomore season. 

15. Beau made his NHL debut in Winnipeg, where his grandma is from.
Bennett made his NHL debut on Feb. 12, 2013 in Winnipeg, which is notable because it’s the home of his grandmother Bennett. She inspired Beau to play hockey by showing him pictures of hockey players from her time in Winnipeg. She and her sister eventually moved the family to California, and she still lives there in the same house to this day. She watched her grandson make his NHL debut in her hometown on TV.

Bennett making his NHL debut (Getty Images).

16. He lives the hoBEAU life.
Bennett tweeted last year that "it's true I own two sets of clothes, hoodie & flannel, just livin the simple life. Summertime I only wear boardshorts #hobeaulife." His wardrobe may not be that extreme, but it's close. We used to only ever see him wear the same gray striped hoodie in interviews and around the rink before he got to Pittsburgh. "I came here with very sparse living, to be honest. And it’s all Lululemon. There’s nothing other than that. 412 and Lululemon are my only two spots.”

Finally, Beau can’t believe he’s making a living playing the game he grew up playing for fun.
Bennett is only 21 years old, and he says right now he’s “living the dream.” The most surreal part about being a professional athlete, he says, is “I think just being able to play the game that you grew up playing for fun now for a living – and it’s still fun. Now you just happen to get compensated for it. That’s very privileged and I don’t want to take it for granted or anything. I know we’re in a good spot and we’re very lucky. Not going to lie, it’s pretty great.”
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