Well let’s start with the big news, a couple of months ago you signed an NHL contract with Chicago Blackhawks. On behalf of the Hyperfit family and myself I’d like to give a huge congratulations to you! What was that like?
KB: Thank you! It was an extremely exciting time for me. The entire experience was surreal … especially being in the presence of players like Kane, Toews and Hossa.
What made you pick Chicago? Did their recent 2 Stanley cups, now 3, have anything to do with it?
KB: Many factors played into my decision to choose Chicago. Definitely having been so successful in recent years played a part. Though for me it was mostly about opportunity. Chicago is currently experiencing salary cap issues and is likely going to be moving around a number of their marquee player, like we saw with Saad. Therefore, I felt that there would be an opening for me, especially with the big physical presence I bring. Chicago is also a great city with great fans and has great mentors I can learn from. Their logo is also pretty cool!
Now almost all kids who grow up playing hockey in Toronto dream of playing in the NHL, and now you have, would you say it’s a dream come true for you? Was that always your goal?
KB: It was definitely a dream come true. Every kid playing minor hockey has the goal of making it to the NHL. For me it has been quite a roller coaster ride to get here and it is everything you can imagine and more.
Contrary to taking the most popular way to the NHL, you played tier 2 Jr. A and NCAA D1, what made you pick this route? Was an education always a part of your plan or did you just ride the wave wherever it took you?
KB: Honestly, it wasn’t so much that I picked this route as it was where I was placed. I believe that I was more of a late bloomer and the major junior route was never really an option, especially as I was never even drafted. I could have gone to play in the OHL later on in my junior career but I would have only had 2 years to play. Therefore, I thought it was best to play college, which would extend my ability to play at a high level for another 4 years. Not to mention I was also able to earn a degree and enjoy the other perks of being a college student!
In the last couple of years, you became a standout college player and began acquiring NHL interest. Did you ever feel that pressure day to day to make it happen? If so how did you deal with it?
KB: I just tried to play my game and focused on winning with Colgate. I knew that if we were successful as a team down there, it would correlate to success for me as an individual. I generally just tried to ignore all the attention and hype that came with the NHL interest, and school work usually provided me with a means to distract myself from it.
Legendary NHL blood runs in your family with your grandfather, Bobby Baun, I’m sure you have consulted him for advice. What are the pieces of advice you feel made the largest impact on you?
KB: His biggest advice for me was to just have fun and enjoy playing hockey. A lot of people put too much pressure on themselves and forget that we play hockey for the love of the game.
So beginning of April you’re still a regular college student-athlete attending classes, skating with your Colgate teammates and buddies. Then, boom, you get the call and the next day you walk into a dressing room and you’re now teammates with stars and future legends like Toews, Kane, Sharp, explain what that’s like … and how did the team and the guys receive you coming in?
KB: The only way I can describe it is as surreal. Obviously it was also intimidating, but they welcomed me with open arms and made me feel comfortable on and off the ice.
Couple of hours later, you pull on an NHL jersey with your name on the back, step on the ice in front of 15 thousand people and not long after hop the bench for your first shift, how shaky were your legs!?
KB: Hahaha yeah to say I had butterflies would be an understatement! But my first shift I tried to run into a few guys to get the nerves out, and then I quickly settled down. Quickly enough I figured out that it was just another game and all of these guys are just like you and I.
You finish out the season with Chicago, appearing in 3 straight games acquiring lots of playing time, where do you set your goals for next season?
KB: My goal is definitely to make it as an everyday roster player who can make an impact out there. While those 3 games were a great experience, I am definitely not satisfied.
What has been your most memorable moment in your NHL experience so far?
KB: Probably having a hit against Jerome Iginla. I grew up watching him win gold for Canada and he is a legend around the league. Knowing I had to finish a check against him almost felt wrong!
What have you learned in each of your jumps, starting from minor hockey to Jr. A to NCAA and now to the NHL? What differences have you noticed in what allows athletes to successfully make those jumps?
KB: For me the biggest difference between each level is related to commitment level. What separates many people from each level is work ethic and focus. Everyone is skilled and has talent, but I find that those who work harder and spend the extra time after practice tend to be more successful. The difference between players becomes subtle at higher levels, but coaches and scouts notice the extra effort and in the long run it pays off.
Lets backtrack a bit, many of our athletes especially the young boys and men at Hyperfit will be ecstatic and proud to know that you’ve been playing for Ben and training with us since your minor hockey days. You won a GTHL championship with Ben, moved on to captaining a Jr. A team, being an NCAA standout, and now signing in the NHL and you continue to come back; skating and training with Ben and Hyperfit, why’s that? What is it you love about training with us? Can you tell me about your experience with Ben and Hyperfit?
KB: Ben has been a great mentor and most importantly taught me about work ethic. When first joining a team coached by Ben I was not considered to be one of the top players. However, I worked hard and earned my teammates respect and Ben’s respect, which resulted in me being presented more opportunities. By rewarding my hard work, Benny showed me the power of work ethic and how it can be used for success. Anyone who knows about Toronto minor hockey knows about the politics that are involved. Ben however, creates a fun and family training environment that respects honest hard work, always and still providing me with a refreshing hockey experience.
What advice have you now formulated yourself that you could pass onto our young athletes here at Hyperfit?
KB: My best advice would be to have fun and work hard. I know it sounds cliché, but from my experience I can honestly say that my work ethic has been the reason for my success. For most people, the road to the NHL is a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. Hard work and a true passion for the game are required when facing adversity. At the end of the day hockey is just a game and you are supposed to have fun. It is important that young kids do not lose sight of this, as it is a key to success.
Couple fast fact rapid-fire questions bro as I’m sure the kids want to know more about you!
Favorite food(s)? Good old steak!
Favorite TV show(s)? Breaking Bad
Favorite hockey movie? Mighty Ducks
Leisure hobbies/activities? Golf, fishing, listening to music
Off-season sport of choice? Lacrosse