Matthews talks popularity of NHL, its players in U.S. on ‘The Pat … – NHL.com


One day after ESPN’s “Frozen Frenzy” monitored the busiest of nights in which all 32 NHL teams were in action, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was a special guest Wednesday on “The Pat McAfee Show” as part of the program’s Hockey Is Awesome segment. Here are the highlights of the 26-year old’s appearance:

ON THE SURGE OF HOCKEY’S POPULARITY IN THE UNITED STATES

“Absolutely. I think, you know, year after year it’s grown. It’s been showcased a little bit more, I think, having ESPN broadcast the games now. And nights like last night where you’ve got every single team playing and lots of action (with the “Frozen Frenzy”). I think it’s great for the game and a great way to showcase some of the great players that we have.”

ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF UPCOMING U.S. STARS

“I think they’re common. We’ve got lots of great great young guys. You know, Jack Hughes, who’s come up … I mean, I think USA Hockey has come a long way. And there’s a lot of young talent, a lot of guys who are coming through the ranks that are fun to watch, that are extremely talented, and that are taking the League by storm.”

ON THE PRESSURE OF BEING A ROOKIE IN TORONTO IN 2016

“I had an idea (going in). I think a lot of people kind of let me know how it’s going to be but it’s hard to really realize it until you experience it. It comes up a lot, but I’ve definitely loved my time in Toronto. I love the fans. The city is great. I’ve been fortunate to play there and have had great teammates along the way. So, it’s been a very special ride. And I’ve loved every minute of it.”

ON WHETHER IT BOTHERS HIM BEING OVERLOOKED WHEN OUT IN PUBLIC WITH HIS PAL JUSTIN BIEBER

“No, not really. I think when you’re out with a guy like him and his caliber, well, for someone of his status, there’s not going to be too many people that are going to be on that kind of level, right?”

ON BEING OVERLOOKED IN PUBLIC IN THE U.S. COMPARED TO STARS IN OTHER SPORTS

“I don’t mind. I mean, it’s fine. I think there’s been a lot more recognition now. And that’s fine. All I want to do is just play hockey. So, at the end of the day, if that extra stuff comes with it, it’s fine. And if it doesn’t, it’s all good.”

ON NHL PLAYERS BEING GUARDED WITH THEIR PUBLIC THOUGHTS COMPARED TO OTHER ATHLETES

“I don’t know. I think it can be a lot of different things. I think hockey guys are pretty simple guys, pretty down to earth. So, I don’t know. But like I said, the sport is growing, with it being on ESPN now and getting more recognition and continuing to grow. At the same time, I don’t mind it being low key when you’re walking around and stuff.”

ON POTENTIALLY EYEING A CAREER IN BASEBALL, GIVEN HIS DAD PLAYED IT IN COLLEGE

“I mean, I played baseball up until, like, 12 years old, right after Little League. And I don’t know, I think [my dad] hyped it up a lot because he played baseball and it was cool for us to have that experience. He was kind of teaching me the ropes and everything I needed to know. And I really enjoyed it. I mean, pretty much just hitting. I wasn’t any good at everything else. But I think they knew it was just a matter of time I was going to hang up the bat and the cleats and be full time in hockey because that’s always what I wanted to do. It’s always what I wanted to watch and play. I really enjoyed baseball but hockey was always my No. 1 passion, and it was just a matter of time. So, when I was about 12, I gave it up and just concentrated on hockey.”

Pickleball?

“Nah, no pickleball.”

ON HIS “WELCOME TO THE NHL MOMENT”

“I mean, my first game I scored four goals. So that was pretty special. That was my first game and it was awesome. I had my parents there and my mom’s crying in the stands. Just a super emotional game for, I guess, everybody. But it was a pretty good night.”



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