Taking Liberties With… Matt Tennyson
Position: Defenseman, Rochester Americans (American Hockey League)
Youth Team: San Jose Jr. Sharks
Last Amateur Team: Western Michigan University (NCAA D-I)
A veteran of 122 NHL games (as of Dec. 12), Matt Tennyson found himself playing youth hockey in California in his teens after his father’s job transfer to the Bay Area.
California Rubber: What are some of your favorite hockey memories?
Matt Tennyson: The obvious one is going to the Stanley Cup Final with San Jose (in 2016) with (fellow Californian) Matt Nieto. We didn’t win but that whole experience and being part of that team with all the guys I had played with for four years and gotten to know so well was a great experience. I’ll never forget it. Being able to say you went to the Stanley Cup Final – that was the most fun I’ve had playing pro hockey. Just the fact that I played for the Jr. Sharks – we practiced at the same rink and that I practiced at as a kid – that’s a great memory.
The other one was we had a great crew at Western Michigan (including seven Californians in 2011-12), and the fact that we were successful and won a CCHA championship in 2012 is special.
CR: Did you play other sports growing up?
MT: I played every sport growing up. My parents threw me into everything and let me decide what I liked. I gravitated toward hockey. I played golf and football in middle school. My freshman year of high school, I played hockey and golf, and I had to pick. I was on the JV golf team. Luckily, I think I made the right decision.
My mom plays tennis almost every day. We still play in the summer when I go home.
I watch everything as far as sports. Football is No. 1. I’m down to watch any good game that is on and all of the sports during the playoffs. I’ve even started watching soccer.
I think it’s important for kids to play all the different sports because it gives them a chance to figure out what they like. At a young age, you want to experience a ton of things. I didn’t have any serious thoughts about hockey until I was 14 or 15. I didn’t know what direction I would go. It’s important to let them evolve and figure out what they like.
CR: What are the essentials for an AHL bus trip?
MT: You have to have a pillow – that’s No. 1. Some of the trips are short and easy, so you travel an hour on game day and are back home at night. We have a couple that are 4-5 hours. Laval is five hours, Belleville is four, Hershey is 4-5 hours. For those, we leave the day before the game – get in for dinner and settle down and sleep. You also need a laptop because you never know if the rookies are going to bring good movies or not. Maybe take a couple of snacks if it’s a long trip, but we have meals before we get on the bus.
CR: Speaking of meals, when you’re back in California, do you have a go-to?
MT: In-N-Out is the obvious first choice after the season. My parents live in Palm Springs now, so I’ll see them for a few weeks, play golf, relax, see some friends and, of course, go to In-N-Out. I own a house in Orange County, and there is a Mexican place called Javier’s that Matt Nieto and I will go to.
CR: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
MT: Nick Lidstrom. When I lived in Michigan (as a grade schooler), that was when Detroit won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997-98. The first NHL game I ever went to live was a Red Wings game. It was pretty hard not to be a fan. Being a defenseman, Lidstrom was the guy. I always admired his efficiency. His ability to not skate, if that makes sense, because he was always in the right position. That’s why he could play so many minutes a night and be effective. That attribute is fading.
Are you particular about any of your gear?
Not necessarily. I’m particular that my skates and sticks are to the specifications I want, but I’ve had those nailed down for a while. There’s not too much now that I’m particular about as long as it stays the same as it has been.
Photo/Micheline Veluvolu/Rochester Americans
— Compiled by Chris Bayee
(Dec. 12, 2018)