Taking Liberties With … Pacific Palisades native, Minnesota State senior captain Nick Rivera
Position: Forward/captain, Minnesota State University (WCHA, NCAA D-I)
Hometown: Pacific Palisades
California youth teams: California Wave, Los Angeles Jr. Kings
California Rubber: Do you have any favorite memories of your time playing youth hockey in California?
Nick Rivera: The whole development part of it was pretty special. At that time, there weren’t a lot of guys staying in California all the way through. Both of my (older) brothers (Jake and Luke) left to play in prep school. I was fortunate enough to play for Mike Lewis with the California Wave, which was awesome. Then Louis Pacella gave me an opportunity to play with the Jr. Kings. It was great to be on teams that were always competitive and had a shot to go far. There were always high expectations, which set me up well for juniors and for college.
CR: You’ve captained teams in youth hockey, junior hockey and now Division I college hockey. What are some of the keys to being a good captain?
NR: Being able to relate to players, as well as always having an open ear, is important. People will say “it’s your team,” but I don’t look at it that way. It’s always a collective effort. I’m a very vocal person, and that’s helped me, too.
CR: Do you have a favorite memory in the game since California?
NR: I don’t know about a specific one, but when I look at all of the players who have come out of California and been successful, it’s pretty special. Thatcher Demko (of the Vancouver Canucks) is one, and a bunch of guys I played with the Jr. Kings have all gone on to special things.
CR: Do you have a go-to meal when you’re back in California?
NR: My first stop is In-N-Out. That’s my rock, being a California kid.
CR: Are you particular about any of your gear?
NR: I’m easy going about it. I used to wear CCM/Reebok gear. Our team is sponsored by Bauer, so I’ve switched to that and had no problem with it.
CR: You’re a pretty physical, hard-nosed player, so in a given season, how many sticks do you go through?
NR: I couldn’t tell you. I just grab one when I need it. It couldn’t be more than 15 a season.
CR: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
NR: Dustin Brown (of the L.A. Kings) was a pretty awesome guy to watch growing up. He plays a similar style. I love how he’s a hard-working guy.
CR: You had the opportunity to practice and play at the same facility where the Kings practice (El Segundo’s Toyota Sports Performance Center). How important was it as a young player to see the world’s best players up close so often?
NR: That’s your ultimate goal. As a kid, that’s your dream. It’s special to see how they go about their business. The facility is top notch. You have to thank the Kings for backing youth hockey. And now a lot of alums are back coaching, giving back, which is great to see. One of my favorite memories was having Anze Kopitar come out to some of our practices and just mess around with us. Not a lot of people have that opportunity. There are always opportunities there.
CR: You have a hugely athletic family (both older brothers played Division III hockey and his younger sister also is a standout athlete). If all four siblings were put together in a room, which one is going to make it out first?
NR: I don’t know. I would have to think Jake would. He has so much pride. I’ve been lifting a lot the past couple years, so I’m stronger, but his pain tolerance is through the roof.
CR: What’s one thing about college hockey people might not realize?
NR: How quickly it goes by. The first couple years, it seems like it’s forever, but I think it’s something that you don’t realize right away how quickly it can go.
Photo/Minnesota State Athletics
— Compiled by Chris Bayee
(May 26, 2020)