The NHL’s version of speed dating is going on this week.  For players, it’s their first real glimpse of what the next level will entail.  It’s exciting and also a little scary at the same time.

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As a 17 year old, it’s likely a player’s first time alone in a big city without someone to hold their hand.

You walk the gauntlet of NHL execs in numerous meetings, not to mention the smack down the physical testing brings. Nothing but eyeballs and notepads as you lie there half naked, fighting the urge to puke after the bike test.

Aside from the audience, the physical testing really isn’t that crazy. Most guys have trained for it and know what to expect these days.

The same may not be said about the interviews.  At 17, not a lot can prepare a kid for a room full of people (many that you looked up to) peppering you with questions.  Its rapid fire and all eyes are focused on you.

After a few a meetings, you learn many are the same with most team’s questions being rather redundant.

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If hockey players are a boring broken record of clichés and robot answers to begin with, imagine what they sound like after 25 of the same interview.

What type of player are you? Where do you see yourself in 2 years? How long till you think you can play in the NHL? What are your strengths? What do you need to work on? What’s your preferred position? Can you get bigger? Why did your team suck this year? Why was your team good this year?  Why did you do this in a certain game this year?



Back in my day the whole thing was done in 48 hours. Two teams stood out from the rest in my 20 plus interviews: Washington and San Jose.

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The Washington Capitals have since gone through a regime change, but it was hands down the most relaxed and comfortable I felt in any meeting.

They were laughing, telling jokes, asked me to tell a joke – it wasn’t just your standard questions that you answered with a script. They got you to open up a bit. I presume so they could peak inside the robot most guys become for better or worse.

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I actually didn’t want to leave. I left there thinking “Boy would I like to be drafted by those guys.”


A team that had the opposite effect on me at the time was San Jose. I looked back after and know the scout was just trying to see what players were made of.

In a process like this, I now commend the Sharks for trying to see kids for more than just your typical answer. I have no idea if the gentleman is still there, but I would recognize him if I saw him today.

He did all he could to push your buttons, grill you about your weaknesses.  If you answered something he didn’t agree with, he fired back and wanted an answer versus just writing it in his notepad.

I left thinking “what a d*#k”.  It was the same for every player that went in there however, which made me feel better.

15 years later he still stands out and I’d say they have built a pretty good organization.



Best story I ever heard at the combine was a friend of mine being interviewed by a team and they asked him to take his shirt off.

He said “excuse me?”

“Can you take your shirt off please, we want to see your build” they said.

Standard stuff, except this guy had a bit of a sweat problem and wanted to prevent it from showing through his shirt.  Along with an under shirt, before he left for the combine, he had his mom sew these pads that he taped to his armpits.

“Uhhh ok” he said turning away from them, trying vigorously to take the tape off while he took his dress shirt off in one motion. You can picture how smooth this went.

They finally asked him what the hell he was doing and as he hurried, a pad fell on the floor. He was forced to come clean as red faced as one could be, he placed his pads and tape on the teams table!

Safe to say they never drafted him.


All in all, I have to believe it’s a productive week for teams.

As for the kids, the NHL combine is a special time. It’s the beginning of life as a professional hockey player and a learning experience they will never forget….especially if you have a sweat problem.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Man I wish I drank less and worked out more as a teenager. I bet it feels pretty good to have guys in NHL coats clamoring to interview you, eh.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Thanks for the perspective Brian. Some of the best NHL combine interview stories I have heard come from Terry Ryan.

    Many have heard them and I am sure Stauffer will have him on pre-draft, if he hasn’t already, but his interactions with Phil Esposito and Mike Mibury are epic.

    Terry Ryan is / was a beauty.

    Edit: Found a link to a couple of the stories. I didn’t realize that Ryan had a book out.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio?show=TRADE PAPER:NEW:9781770411395:19.95&page=excerpt#page

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nobody wants to chop a head off anymore, and throw it up into the crowd. People tend to freak out now whenever this happens. Everyone is so careful now because they could be team mates by lunchtime tomorrow.

    Not sure where that San Jose scout is, but they could sure use him here in Edmonton now.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Suds, have you been following the prospects this year?

    Who would you prefer on the Oilers, if available at 3, between Ekblad, Draisaitl, Bennet, and Reinhart?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I definitely agree. But maybe Sutherby likes Reinhart, so I included him. We should not be upset if we pick Reinhart IMO, even if he’s not my first choice.. or second… or third

  • Quicksilver ballet


    Is skipping an interview considered sending a message to the team?

    If not, is popping some buttons/tearing a few dress shirts (Lowe/MacT) in the room frowned upon? Grab the first laptop within reach and ask if they think this game can be played on a monitor. Fire it in managements direction and scream….. What Say You! puckers. Turning your back on them and then exiting the room would have this effect, no?

    Only in that Oiler room, would the kid sitting on the hot seat, know more about winning than the rest of the bozos seated in it. Maybe it’s time the kid being interviewed needs to challenge them, a self soiled organization to be better, rather than the Oilers asking him all the questions.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      I don’t think any 18 year old is going to directly question the management of an organization that could potentially make their NHL dreams come true.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Maybe that should change. I’m sure Ales Hemsky wished he’d thought differently during his interview. There’s a lot at stake, what team can best help each player reach their potential. Look at all the former Oilers who have went on to have better success in better organizations. NHL dreams/nightmares, it’s a fine line depending on the team. Sheldon Souray may have an insiders opinion on that.

        • vetinari

          let’s hear who truly has – oh I know the already answers – cogliano, except his points per game is actually lower with the duck (where he is playing on the wing). Stoll – nope points per game are lower and bouncing between the third and forth line. Hemsky – nope. The other popular one is Dan Cleary, except the fact that he was a boozer and when he was basically out of the league and smartened up is when he turned it around, but I know somehow that is managements fault. But let’s here your list.

          • Zarny

            You make a good point. It’s not that the players played better after they left the Oil but the teams they went to were better. The players were in positions where they contributed to a success at some level.

            Players who left the Oil to go to weak team (think of all the Oilers who have been sent to the islanders, Rob Shremp, Mike York eg. does any one remember what Raffi Torres did in Columbus) are not remembered.

            The Oil failure is not being able to evaluate what they have and how it can be utilized.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Not everyone is as self centered as you Zarny.

          You must’ve really lyfao when Pat Tillman turned his back on the many millions he would’ve made, eh?

          • Zarny

            WTF? Are you really this stupid?

            Newsflash…ripping buttons off your shirt, throwing laptops around and screaming just proves you can’t handle stress.

            If that is message you want to convey then by all means…

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Don’t play dumb with me Zarny. You know exactly what I mean. For as many people whose lives have been improved by money. There have been just as many lives ruined by it. It’s all about the dollah dollah bills for you, I guess. Get out of my face you self righteous poser. I’ve explained myself, but I obviously can’t help you understand it.

            Someone, someone who the Oilers feel they need/can’t do without, has to walk in that room and stick the knife in above the waste line and drag that knife up till it stops at the rib cage. This loyalty outweighing results agenda needs to be gutted from this organization. Who better to do that than Aaron Ekblad or Connor MacDavid, or maybe it isn’t too late for Taylor Hall to do it before he checks out of this place. Someone needs to challenge these bozos to be better. Despite what you think.

            This IS the message that needs to be conveyed, as you mentioned.

          • Wax Man Riley

            Dude, stop, really.

            NO 18 year old is going to scoff at being drafted by any team, and risk throwing his career away.

            This management is brutal, we all know that, but same could be said for NYI, Columbus, Florida, Maple Leafs. Should that same 18 year old throw their laptops around?

            Come on, man! Think before you type!

            Bring up Lindros, sure. He was a generational player. It might happen once in a generation. MIGHT.

        • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

          I was hesitant to write my comment because of the Lindros thing, but I think that’s a special case simply because he was touted as the next Mario. He heard the hype, knew the skills he possessed, and knew there was a job waiting for him anywhere he wanted.

          • Tikkanese

            Mario literally cried and threw a tantrum in the stands when the Pens drafted him after he told the universe he would only play for the Habs.

            Modano held out a year for more $ after being drafted.

            Lindros wasn’t alone.

          • Lofty

            Wasn’t Lemieux disgruntled with the contract negotiations with the Pens, rather than the city or team?

            I can’t imagine what Oil fans would do if they drafted a player and he refused to play in the world junior. Look at some peoples criticism of the current oilers declining the men’s worlds after an 82 game season.

            If the Oil drafted Lemieux this year and he declined to play for canada in the Christmas tournament because he didn’t like the coach and didn’t want to break up his junior season, a lynch mob would have chased out a future hall of famer. This is why we can’t have nice things!

          • Lofty

            The difference with Lindros was he stated it had nothing to do with money, nor that he had a favorite team he wanted to play for. He just flat out refused to play for Quebec. Lucky for the Avs he did.

          • Tikkanese

            You guys think no one wants to play for the Oilers now? That Quebec team that Lindros didn’t want to play for was much worse than our current Oilers are. Not only their on ice performance, but the fact the team was on the brink of folding/being moved to another city. Kind of hard to blame him.

            I fail to see how Lindros refusing one team is worse than Mario refusing 20 teams, yet Mario is a hero. I guess because Mario eventually caved after the draft and played for the Pens… Or that Modano who never played an NHL game somehow felt he was worth more $ than anyone before and held out an entire season holding the Stars, the NHL and the fans at ransom.

          • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

            Little late to the party, but I’ll comment anyway. All the players we’ve mentioned (Mario, Lindros, Modano) are some of the best to ever play. I’d say those are special circumstances.

            Think of it this way: if you had Google, Facebook, and Yahoo interviewing you for a job, would you flip your lid and start railing against Yahoo because they’re less successful than Google and Facebook?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Great that Quebec took him anyways . Just look what they got by trading that pick later -well worth the taking . Hypothetical : Lets say Oilers get first pick next year and the player refuses to come here . We take him anyways and trade him and hope to duplicate what Quebec did by taking Lindros .

    • interesting take.

      Given the money the Oilers shell out on the weakest of supporting evidence perhaps a young lad looks at them as a tree laden with cash,, standing in a field, completely unguarded and waiting to be defrocked. (again!!!)


  • vetinari

    The lesson seems to be: ask cliché questions then you should expect cliché answers. It’s like job interviews– what do you expect me to say when you ask me where do I expect to be in 2 years? On my yacht, in the Bahamas? No, I plan to be a cornerstone of your business/organization and blah blah team player blah blah leadership skills blah blah ambition blah blah…

    Good article and it would be interesting to find out if any players “turn the tables” on the GMs and scouts when they get a chance to ask them questions (“where do you see me in your organization and plans in 2 years if I continue to develop?”).

  • Zarny

    @Quicksilver ballet

    Yeesh, I literally have no idea WTF you are talking about now with the drivel about dollah dollah bills etc. Try making a point instead bleating catch phrases like a kid in grade 6.

    FYI…money doesn’t ruin anyone’s life. Decisions people make do. Money is nothing but a tool and completely and utterly irrelevant in a discussion about the NHL scouting combine.

    Sometimes you make good points. Mostly they are just immature, emotional rants.

    Do you actually think Ekblad or some rookie ripping off his shirt and throwing laptops is going to teach anyone anything? That’s patently absurd. That isn’t challenging anyone to be better. The only thing it would tell Oilers management is that the kid is mentally unstable and can’t handle stress. Not to mention every other team would hear about it and no one would be impressed. That’s not how champions act; that’s how self-entitled teenagers act.

    You repeatedly claim Taylor Hall and Yakupov etc will demand trades. Did they tell you this over Facebook or Snapchat? The only thing that does is reveal how you think. That you’re a quitter.

    Joe Sakic endured far more years of losing than Taylor Hall has and never demanded a trade. Because that’s how winners think. Hall was a back to back Memorial Cup champion and tournament MVP. You think he accomplished that with a weak mindset to pull the pin when things don’t go his way? Ummm no.

    If you are concerned though that players like Hall will want out then the answer is probably to improve the team with players who are actually ready to contribute. Those players tend to be 24-30 y/o and in their prime. They are not 18 y/o draft picks.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      This organization is far from the norm. The common sense you take for granted may not apply. Patience has to be near the breaking point.

      Somebody needs to rock the boat here in some fashion. You know it isn’t going to come from within, that’s for sure with their loyalty before results program they have going on there.

      The ship will hit the fan before the new building opens. Katz has to wake up at some point. Someone needs to turn the tables on these unmotivated posers. A current player/incoming prospect is as good a opportunity as any to force them to sit up and take notice. Rub it in their face and remind them how poorly they’ve done as an organization, and see their response.

      • Word to the Bird

        While I do agree that there must be SOMETHING that will happen that will make Katz realize that Lowe and Co. are not capable of running a hockey team, to suggest that an 18 year old throwing a tantrum will do anything is absurd. What credibility does an 18 year old that hasn’t played in the NHL yet have? What is Katz realistically going to think in your fantasy? “Some nobody teenager thinks management sucks, he must be right”. Sorry bud, you’re delusional to think that will change anything.

      • Zarny

        Your frustration is certainly understandable but wanting to “rub it in their face” is simply childish and will accomplish nothing. A prospect certainly isn’t going to get anyone to take notice. The Oilers are also hardly “far from the norm”. No valid criticism is unique to Edm.

        Oilers management doesn’t need to be reminded of how poorly the team has done. It’s right there in the sports page or blogs like this every day. I’m sure free agents & their reps provide an annual reminder too.

        If it makes you feel better though Journal sports columnis John MacKinnon rubbed it in last year at the presser to introduce MacT. He basically asked why the group who left a mess for Tambo to clean up should be trusted with the rebuild.

        The response was Lowe’s infamous 6 rings comments.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Interviews are interviews . Player sells himself and basically tells then what he thinks they want to hear . Conversely , the club tries also tries to sell an image the player might want to hear , work , or play in .

  • Do what Weight did?

    So, they don’t listen to Brian Burke.

    They don’t listen to former players like Smid or Bryz,

    They didn’t fire anybody after Jeffff’s favorite article; the one about the second worst sports team, better only than the cubs.

    Nope. None of them are credible. They’ll only listen to a 17 year old throwing a tantrum. That’ll be the one that changes Katz’s mind.

    By the way, why wouldn’t this interviewee just politely tell the team he’s not interested in playing for them. Why does it have to be a button-popping, laptop-throwing hissy fit?

    It’s mostly already been said, but would a pick really be certain enough that Calgary, NYI, Vancouver (post Vignault), or Winipeg would be better?

    At some point, can you please stop using unrelated articles as a place to whine about management. We get it. We really, really do.

  • RedMan

    I have to say, I couldn’t be happier with the rebuild, with the management, with the scouting department, the farm team, and the very entertaining year we had watching a fun-to-watch team that was “in it” on most nights and played full out beginning to end on 95% of the nights.
    sure, we finished low, but what do you expect in year 1? in a couple years we will be climbing fast, while other rebuilding teams contemplate the possibility and value of endless top 3 picks over the span of a whole generation.
    what a fun year!