We interviewed New York Islanders star center Mathew Barzal after a practice at Eisenhower Park recently. The Islanders did not have a great season, but they are getting better every year. With help from Mathew, they are going to be better and better. After our interview, he took us on a tour of the locker room and where their hockey sticks are stored and fixed. A fun morning!
When you were in elementary school, did you play any sports besides hockey?
Yes, I actually played lacrosse and I played T-ball. Those are the two. I was a fan of hockey obviously, so I just picked those two, though. My dad took me golfing and stuff. But it’s good to play a lot of sports.
How many sticks have you broken? Do you have a favorite stick?
I probably have broken about 12 this year. And my favorite stick? Actually, the more you use them, they get broken in, so they feel more comfortable.
What do you eat when you’re on a break?
I’ll have a smoothie or some dried fruit, like dried mangos and stuff.
What is your breakaway move?
I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want the other goalies to know! But I had one the other night. A fake shot, and then went backhand, up top. Did you see that?
How many fights have you got in on the ice? Why do they happen?
I have been in two that have been recorded. The first one, I was just frustrated. And I shouldn’t be doing this. You know, only on the ice.
What age did you start hockey?
I started at 4. I just seemed to love it.
We know that you’re from Canada and we were wondering if you speak French.
I do actually speak French.
What was your favorite game?
So far I think it’s been the Colorado game. I had a great night and I just got my confidence going further up in the season. It was multiple assist.
You have been playing on the same line as Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle. They both have different styles of play. How would you describe each of them on the ice?
Andrew’s really hardworking and he’s a big guy, so he wins a lot of the battles for me. Jordan and I are kind of smaller guys, a little bit quicker, and we have good hands and stuff so we like to make plays together. We all work really well together.
Who is the hardest defenseman you have ever gone against?
Do you guys know Tampa Bay? Victor Hedman? He’s so skilled that it makes it really hard. He doesn’t really hit, or that kind of stuff where he’s not really defensive. He beats you with his offense. Victor Hedman is like 6-5, and he’s huge and he’s got a good stick, and he’s hard to get around.
Before a game, do you feel nervous or excited?
I do. I’m still kind of young, so I do get nervous sometimes.
How do you feel when you get benched, and what are you thinking about?
You don’t want to get benched, but when you do you know it’s probably because you made a mistake. And the coaches are just trying to send a message and let you know that you’ve got to do better. You want to just stay positive and, hopefully, if you get another chance, you’ve got to go out there and work as hard as you can.
Why do you think you and Andrew Ladd play so well together?
I think just because we all bring a different aspect to our games. Like Ladd is a very clear guy, and Jordan is skilled. I’m more of a passer. They are both goal-scorers, so it works. Sometimes you just have those couple of guys you can click with.
Do you ever regret giving an assist? Do you wish you took that shot?
I don’t regret giving an assist, but sometimes I regret passing instead of shooting if we don’t score. Maybe I could have scored it myself. But I do tend to do that. A lot of time I actually pass. I’m a passer, so I have to shoot more. Is that what you see, too? I’ve got to shoot more, right?
When you score do you have a special celebration?
No, I actually don’t. I just react. Sometimes I go crazy, or sometimes I’m mad and I don’t even celebrate. Other times I just go crazy and get out of control.
Do fans encourage you to play better?
I try to read them. They’re pretty cool. You know, growing up, you see the signs for [Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney] Crosby and those kind of guys — to have your own signs, that’s pretty cool. It’s nice to have your own sign.
Mary Ralph’s fifth-grade class, South Oceanside Elementary School, School #4