We interviewed NY Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo after a recent practice at their rink in Syosset.
Who is your favorite NHL player growing up, not including yourself?
Joe Sakic. Growing up I was a big Joe Sakic fan and Colorado Avalanche was my favorite team.
Were you always the star of your team as you grew up?
No, I wasn’t always the star of my team. I always had good players on my team. My summer team when I was growing up actually three guys from the team went into the top 10 of the draft. Eric Johnson who went No. 1 that year and Peter Mueller went No. 8. I was never the best player, but I always tried to work the hardest.
Lots of kids who grew up in Minnesota would want to play hockey. At what age did you start playing and why?
I started playing when I was 6 and I really just tried to skate outside and I was skating outdoors and I just fell in love with it. I just like the cold air in my face, my toes were frozen, but I still wanted to keep playing.
What are your best warm-ups before the games?
We do pretty much the same routine every day and usually about 6 o’clock I start warming up for the game. I do about 20 minutes worth of warming up and just kind of get my legs moving and get my hips going and I listen to music to kind of get me in the zone and then go out there and play.
At what age did you know you wanted to play hockey?
Probably when I was 14. I was just going into high school and I loved the game, obviously, and I was starting to get some attention from different agencies and some colleges were starting to recruit me and I thought I might be good enough to play professionally and that’s when I really started getting into it.
What is your favorite city to play in besides New York City?
Probably Montreal and Minnesota. Montreal is a very cool atmosphere. It’s a fun building to play in and the fans, they are pretty crazy. And in Minnesota, it’s obviously my hometown and I grew up 5 minutes away from the rink. So that’s always been a fun place for me to play in.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Probably too many to count. Everybody kind of has their own high-fives and if you were to watch all of us go out of the locker you’d probably see about 40 different special high-fives that guys do and in warm-ups if you watch us everybody’s kind of passing to each other the same way. So there’s a lot of different rituals. Me myself, personally, I like to have the same routine, but I really don’t do anything too specific.
What do you do in your free time when you’re not playing hockey?
Now I hang out with my daughter a lot. She is 2, and she’s running around and talking and I like to hang out a lot and talk with her. Just spend time with her. Her name is Ellie. Other than that my wife and I watch some shows. I like to watch “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” every night. We’re kind of old people but we have fun.
Who is the best player you’ve played against?
Probably I would have to say Jaromir Jagr. He’s 43 years old and he’s still playing. I think he’s third all-time in points. I didn’t play against him when he was in his prime, in the prime of his career, but just to play against him now is pretty special.
How do you deal with criticism?
It’s a funny thing. You’re never as bad as they say you are and you’re never as good as they say you are either. So when things are going well you just have to try and stay with that confidence, but you can’t get too high. When things are not going that well you can’t really read too much, but you have to know within yourself that you’ve got to do more to get better. People could be pretty nasty out there and say some pretty mean things. You just have to try and live within yourself and make sure when you get away from the rink you’re not thinking about them.
How do you like the Barclays Center compared to the Coliseum?
Well, it’s different. For sure different. It’s just a little bit different getting there. The atmosphere at the Coliseum was awesome. I don’t think any rink can probably duplicate that, but we’re getting used to the Barclays Center and the thing I really like about the Barclays Center is the basketball hoops. We go on, shoot hoops before the games and have some fun that way.
If you weren’t a hockey player what sport would you play?
I would be a golfer for sure. I love to play golf. In the summers I try to play as much golf as I can.