We interviewed New York Rangers center Brett Howden at the Rangers' training facility in Westchester recently. It was fun watching him practice with his teammates and getting to talk to him afterward.
What got you interested in hockey?
My brother played. He’s my older brother, so when I was younger, all I wanted to do was be like him. So, hockey was my main priority, trying to be like him.
What is your favorite thing about being a New York Ranger?
I just think being a part of this great organization. There’s lot of good guys that are in it. I’m a young guy, so lots of other guys have been taking good care of me. So it’s been great.
Do you eat anything special before you play a game?
I usually like to have salmon, some rice with Alfredo sauce and pesto mixed into it.
What sports figure do you admire?
There are a couple. I think that the biggest one I admired was Sidney Crosby — he’s just a really good leader.
What made you want to pick your uniform number?
When I was younger, my brother had to change numbers on the team he was on, and my favorite player was No. 21. So I made sure he got 21, and ever since me and my brother are both 21. Well, it’s very special to wear the Rangers jersey. There’s so much history behind the team, and being an Original Six team, there was a long ways back with a lot of legends that played here, so it’s really special wearing the jersey every game.
Why did you go to the Rangers?
Well, actually, I got traded here, so it was not really my choice. But it worked out for the good. It’s probably one of the coolest spots you could play hockey. I’m really happy with it.
What would you have done if you did not play hockey?
I'd probably want to be a sports agent. I would want to try and stay in hockey somehow, either as a coach or a sports agent.
When you were a kid, how much did you play? How much did you practice?
I started playing hockey when I was about 5 years old. When I was younger I tried to play as many sports as I could, not just hockey. Then once I started growing up and getting older, I started taking hockey more seriously. That’s when I started practicing a lot more.
What was your reaction when you were drafted?
It was really cool. I was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was young. I was 17 years old. So it seemed like it was probably the best thing in the world at the time. It was really special, and it was a good celebration for me and my family.
Do you think the Islanders versus Rangers feud is realistic?
It’s real, for sure. I mean, there’s a lot of battles there. The cities are so close and the fans are so into it. So every time we play them, we want to try and make sure we come out on top. So it’s always fun to play them.
What are your other hobbies besides playing hockey?
I’ve been learning how to play guitar. I love to golf in the summer. I love going to the lake and hanging out with my family on the water.
Have you ever had any problems or injuries along the way?
I had a couple injuries. It’s never fun during an injury. You always have to miss time and you miss being with your teammates. I think probably that’s the worst thing, not being around your teammates. It becomes like a family, so it’s never fun when you get an injury.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Once the season ends I usually take a couple weeks off just to relax with my family. And then once those couple weeks go by, I start training. I am working out, do some skating, and prepare myself for the upcoming season.
Have you ever fought someone?
I have. I’ve been in a couple. None in the NHL. But in junior [level] I got into a couple fights. Not particularly part of my game, but if it happens, it happens.
Do you hang out with teammates outside the rink?
Yeah. We hang out. I live with Neal Pionk, so me and him are together pretty much nonstop.
Where do you like to play the most?
Well, Madison Square Garden is my favorite rink. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s tough to say. I haven’t seen all the rinks in the NHL yet, so I’ll have to wait and see by the end of this year. But right now my favorite is MSG.
What’s your pregame warmup?
I have a certain routine that I try to stick to every game. Once I get to the rink I usually do the same thing every game. You can find me at the exact same time in the exact same spot. I’m trying to do the same thing every time. It’s nothing too crazy. I just go through the same thing and just make sure I feel ready before the game.
Can you hear the fans during the game?
It’s pretty cool seeing all the fans. I’ve never played in front of this many fans every night before, so every night it’s really special. Lots of times during the game you’re so focused that you don’t even really realize it. But when I take a second and look around, it’s pretty cool to see.
Jennifer Spaccaforno’s sixth-grade English class, North Country Road Middle School, Miller Place