We met N.Y. Rangers left winger Rick Nash when he was visiting the New York Toy Fair recently.
How did you feel when you scored your first goal?
I felt great. It was one of the coolest things. I think just to score one goal but to score three in one game is super cool. It’s something I’ll never forget.
What do you think the team needs to succeed in the playoffs?
There’s a lot of stuff. I think for us, our biggest thing is playing defense — that’s first. Another thing is momentum. Once you start winning, you go on like a snowball. I think that’s huge for us.
How did you feel when you made it to the NHL?
I felt great. As you guys know, as kids you have these dreams inside your mind, what you want to do when you get old, and for me, I always wanted to be an NHL hockey player. For me to live that, to succeed, that was the first step. Getting drafted was the best day of my life.
Which athlete do you admire?
Lots of athletes. Tom Brady, a quarterback [New England Patriots] who has won so many championships. Other guys like LeBron James [Cleveland Cavaliers], Jordan Spieth — one of the best golfers. I look up to those guys for sure.
How do you handle such a long season?
We’re on the road a lot, maybe three or four days a week. So sometimes it’s tough and you miss your family a lot, but I think the biggest thing for me is whatever happens at work, if you lose a bad game and you’re really mad, you come home and you see your son or your wife smile at you. You have to make sure you separate them both: Work and family are two totally different things.
What was it like playing for the Blue Jackets?
It was fun. I played in Columbus for 10 years. I got traded to the Rangers, which you guys know was an original six hockey team, which is pretty cool. The organization has been around for a lot of years and in New York City, hockey is a big deal as well. So to come to New York City and play at Madison Square Garden, which is one of the coolest rinks in the whole world, was amazing.
Do you or your team have any special traditions before or after you play the game?
Yeah, we have one where they hand out the Broadway hat after every game. The guy who won it the previous game picks who he thought the best player was after we win a game. He gets the Broadway hat, he gets his picture taken, and he usually has to do an interview with the Broadway hat.
What do you think of all the fighting?
It’s part of the sport that adds momentum and takes away momentum from different teams. I don’t fight a lot, but some guys, it’s their job to go out and just try to gain momentum for each team.
What do you do when you’re not playing hockey?
I love hanging out with my son. We always have these toys out. He likes to grab the Zamboni and throw it down the hall. He loves doing that. I like to golf a bit in the summer and just hang out with family.
When fans see you, they get really excited. Is there a hockey player who you got you excited?
That’s a great question. When I played in the Olympics in 2006 I got to play with Joe Sakic, who I grew up really idolizing. The coolest one ever would have to be Mario Lemieux. I played against Mario Lemieux my first couple of years and actually I high-sticked him and took the penalty. That’s one of my fondest memories is taking a penalty against Mario Lemieux.
What made you get involved with hockey?
Growing up in Canada I can’t remember my life without hockey. From what my parents tell me, I was on skates from when I was 2 years old. It’s just part of your upbringing growing up there. So I’ve always had a passion for it and always had respect for it, too. It’s been very good to me. It’s allowed me to live my life and access my dreams. If you guys keep your dreams and practice real hard, listen to your parents, you guys can live your dream, too.