You’re a huge country music fan … who are your favorite performers?
I like all different types of music but I love country music. When I listen to country music, the music just brings a smile to my face. The songs tell a story and the melody could be either fast-paced or you can have a great slow song that reminds you of the times that were. I can relate to all of the songs. Some might talk about being a cowboy, a place that reminds me of Georgia or about that country girl. I don’t know of very many country songs I don’t like.
There are so many good country singers I don’t have one particular one I like the best. Right now I have been listening to Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Brooks and Dunn, Kenny Chesney and, of course, Tim McGraw!
What is the best concert you have been to and why?
I can’t say I have a single concert that was the best one ever. Every one has been unbelievable. I do have a Top 3 list, though.
1 – Brooks and Dunn’s Neon Circus with Brad Paisley and Columbus’s own Rascal Flatts in Summer 2003. This concert was just an overall great time. Even though I missed Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts was great and Brooks and Dunn rocked the house. At this concert Ronnie Dunn lost his voice halfway through the set, but it did not matter. Everything about this concert was memorable; I wish I had taken more pictures though. When Brooks and Dunn sang “Rock my World, Little Country Girl” and had two huge “country girl” floats on both sides of the stage, it was one of the things that made the concert. It was the “Ride of my Life.”
2 – Toby Keith with Blake Shelton in Fall 2003. When I arrived at Germain Amphitheater I did not have a ticket. However, as luck and a little patience would have it, one of Sawyer Brown’s (the opening act) family members had two extra complimentary tickets. He saw I was trying to find a ticket and came over to Scott May and myself and gave us two tickets that were for six rows from the stage. I couldn’t believe it when I was down that close to the stage. I was in awe the entire concert. Toby Keith put on a concert that helped me through the rest of training camp. “How Do You Like Me Now”
3 – Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney “Set this Circus Down Tour” in Summer 2001. I could leave it at just that. As luck had it again, I found myself on the floor about 13 rows back from the stage. This time I got the ticket from an Atlanta radio personalities, Steve McCoy, whose son I coached in roller hockey. There were so many great songs. The concert will always be with me because there was a live web cast from another city that summer in which my friend made it into an audio CD. It might not have all the songs from the concert but it is still awesome. This was the concert that jumpstarted Kenny’s career and Tim McGraw officially became a megastar after this concert.
The great thing about country music concerts is the whole atmosphere around the concert. From going down to the concert, to the tailgating, to the concert itself and then the waiting in the parking lot afterwards just listening to the great songs you just heard in the concert really makes the entire experience.
Growing up in Atlanta, how did you get involved in hockey?
I was born on Long Island, N.Y., and grew up there until my father got transferred to Georgia when I was 7. My uncle, Lou Schwing, played hockey for Connecticut College so I would go watch him play when I lived in New York. I played in the house league and was a defensemen there but I always wanted to play goalie like my uncle. Right before I moved to Georgia I started playing goalie for a season and I was then hooked. When I moved to Atlanta I played for a travel team from the beginning. We barely had enough players to fill the teams early on. Starting out, I played for two age groups, mites and squirts. I would alternate playing goalie and defense until I was about 9 and have played goalie ever since. I still love to try my hand at forward. Whenever I played in the less competitive high school ice and roller hockey leagues, I played forward or defense; that helps me with both my skating and my on-ice awareness when I play goalie.
Since the Atlanta Thrashers arrived in Georgia, hockey has really picked up. There are about eight rinks in Atlanta now and there are more on the way. The players down there are getting better and better. It’s only a matter a time the big southern colleges get varsity hockey teams. I know I would have loved to play for a school in the south.
Why did you become a goalie?
I became a goalie because my uncle was a goalie in college and I would always make my great-grandmother and other family members shoot apples and oranges at me in my kitchen in New York. I think I was born wanting to play goalie.
Tell us about your goalie mask … what’s on it and why did you pick that design?
My goalie mask is made by Gary Warwick, just like Mike Betz and Kelly Holowaty, and was painted by Ray Bishop. Deciding what to put on your helmet is a tough decision. As (OSU equipment manager) Tim Adams would know it takes me a while to decide on all my equipment. I finally decided I wanted to put a “Tim McGraw country theme” on my helmet. Two of my favorite songs are “The Cowboy in Me” and “Telluride,” both by Tim McGraw. I asked Ray if he would put an angry cowboy with two smoking guns on the center of the mask and have a mountain range on the sides that would signify the Rocky Mountains where Telluride, Colo., is located. The two songs are songs I can relate to. I put an Ohio State symbol on the chin and have a red background to finish off the mask. On the back of the mask I have a name former players Yan Des Gagne and T.J. Latorre used to call me, “Larusso,” in reference to the Karate Kid. I also have “Big Guns” on the back. I take a lot of heat for that one from the guys.
Why did you come to Ohio State?
I came to Ohio State for a number of reasons. First off I really wanted to go to a big school that was similar to the schools in the south. I liked how there is everything here at Ohio State. There are so many majors here it would be hard not to find one you liked. The athletic program is great. There are so many sports team its hard not to find a game to go to. Another big factor was the direction the hockey team is going. The coaches have been building this program and our time has come that if we don’t win the national championship this year it will be a major disappointment to everyone. The final reason is I get along well with the coaches. It was the perfect fit for me, not to mention it is 560 short miles from my house in Atlanta.
You coached a 12-and-under roller hockey team to a national championship … tell us about that.
I coached the Franklin Cooler Selects during the spring and summer of 2000 and had a blast coaching them. Along with them, I also coached a 10-and-under team that made it to the quarterfinals. I coached along with Dave Porter, a former player for Northern Michigan. We went to the USA Inline National Championships and won the 12-and-under division and also won in my age group where I was playing goalie. During the semifinal 12-and-under game we were leading by a few goals so I called a timeout and told my players to gather around and make a “wall” so I could get my undergarments on because I had a game right after that. It was fun to see how well those kids played and to be a part of two championships that year.
What is your major … what do you want to do when your hockey career is over?
My major right now is Business – Marketing. I would love to work that deals with something in hockey or country music. Being a country music singer would be the ultimate dream job, but I don’t know if that will work out.
During the past two summers, you participated in the Atlanta Thrashers prospects camp … how did that come about?
Living most of my life in Atlanta, I have become friends with a lot of people down there. My high school roller hockey coach played with some of the Thrasher coaches and staff in men’s leagues. He came to find out they only had one goalie coming into their prospect camp during two years. He talked to one of the scouts that was heading up the prospect camp and told him I play at Ohio State and the scout called me and asked me if I could skate with them. I agreed after consulting with the coaches here; they were all for it. What a chance to skate for a week with all of the Thrasher’s prospects and to meet the Thrasher’s personnel. It makes you want even more to play pro hockey. About half of the players that skated in the camp now are either playing in the NHL or in the AHL right now, so it shows you how close it is from college to the NHL. This past summer I had a chance to skate again and it was just as good as last year. This time they had their highly touted No. 1 draft pick goaltender there, Kari Lehtonen. From watching him throughout the week, I picked up some techniques I am using this season. I also got to do off-ice goalie work with the 3 other goalies which was a great experience. In addition to the two camps I participated in, I also skate with the actual Thrashers starting about a month before the season starts. There were times this summer when I would be practicing with about 20 or so of the actual Atlanta Thrashers. Some of the players were Dany Heatley, Slava Kozlov and Shawn McEachearn. It was a great experience and great preparation for the season.
Why do you wear No. 1?
Growing up I wore No. 1 most of the time. I changed a few times from No.1 to No.30 and then my final four years in Atlanta I was No. 00. I really liked No. 00, but when I got to Boston (to play juniors), Coach Mike Addesa chose my number for me to No. 1. I didn’t mind it because that was the number my uncle wore when he was playing. When I came here, I decided to stick with No. 1 because I wanted to wear it for my uncle.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love to play and watch any sports. If you don’t find me at an athletic event I might be trying to catch up on some sleep or talking on instant messenger. If I am not I might be just watching television (especially my favorite show, “The O.C.”) or you can find me watching a movie such as “Old School” or “Happy Gilmore” and of course, I love to go to country concerts.
You consider yourself “one of the best car/shower singers around”. What are some of your best songs? What types of things do you sing?
I sing everything, since I listen to all kinds of music I have come to learn a lot of different songs. You could hear me singing anything from The Clarks (a band from Pittsburgh) to Tim McGraw to even Outkast. I just like singing with the words. Some people say I’m not very good, but my grandmother from Georgia says I have a great voice, so I am going with her. I think my best song might be a song by Tim McGraw “Where the Green Grass Grows” or “Help me Out” by The Clarks. It is one thing to know the just the words; I use hand motions along with the words to really stress different words to a song. A goal of mine is to sing with a musician at one of their concerts as part of a duet. If I didn’t play hockey, I would definitely want to be in a band as a guitar player or singer.
Where would you like to live in the future, and why?
There are so many places I would love to live. I love Georgia but when I went home for Christmas break it was getting way too crowded. I want to live in the mountains maybe the North Georgia Mountains where I could live in a house that is on a lake and has golf course nearby. I would love just to sit out on my deck in my hammock or rocking chair and just watch the wind blow by.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned at Ohio State so far?
There isn’t one big lesson; it is many lessons that have equaled a big lesson. I think Mike Betz has taught me many things. He has shown me how to come to the rink everyday and be a consistent performer with a focus and an extreme determination to win. I try to watch Mike Betz and what he does day in and day out it. Playing behind Mike is a blessing in disguise. Even though I would love to be playing every game. I feel that I am playing mentally because I try to go over all of Mike’s saves and goals and try to learn from him on what I should be doing in certain situations. With Mike playing so well this year, it is great to see him playing with a calmness and a demeanor that is indescribable. He reminds me of Martin Brodeur in how he conducts himself while playing. I have learned a lot from him and hope I can take some of his qualities for the rest of my playing years.
Who has had the biggest impact on your hockey career, and why?
My coach from juniors (Boston Bulldogs), Mike Addesa, has had the biggest impact on my hockey career because if I weren’t for him, I would not be where I am today. He not only made me grow up physically, mentally as well as emotionally. He taught me so many things and has the best advice. There isn’t a situation that fazes him. He is a great teacher, motivator and most importantly a great person. If he said to jump off a bridge because it would make me better, I would do it.
Anything else to add?
If you don’t like country, you don’t know what you are missing. Give it a chance. If you do like country, maybe I’ll see you at a country concert. I’ll be the one with the cowboy boots, tight jeans, huge belt buckle, jean shirt and a cowboy hat! I’ll be singing every song while using hand gestures!!!!