Question: So it’s pretty cold in central Ohio recently, but what’s the weather report up in Saskatchewan these days?
Answer: I’ll just say at the start of the semester, when we had classes canceled for cold weather, back home it was upwards around minus-30 degrees Celsius and classes were still on.
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Q: Your hometown of Wadena, I’ve learned, is famous for its bird-watching. Any light can you shed there?
A: Yes, we have the Wadena Wetlands and the Quill Lakes close by. We get lots of Canada geese, ducks, cranes, you name it. We actually get a lot of Americans who come to our area once hunting season opens.
Q: The population in Saskatchewan is a little more than 1 million — or a touch more than are here in Columbus. Was that a big culture shock for you?
A: Oh, yeah. Coming from a small town of 1,400-1,500 people where you basically know everyone and their first cousins to a city like this, it was a bit of a culture shock for sure. Back home everyone waves and is so friendly. You definitely don’t get the same feel in a big city.
Q: Where has hockey taken you?
A: Hockey has been good to me. I was fortunate at a young age and in my teens to be a part of some great teams that won championships together. Many of those teammates continue to be my best friends today. Hockey also brought me here, and I can’t say enough good things about my experiences at Ohio State. The people you meet along the way leave a mark on you and become a big part of your life. I can’t thank the game enough, but I plan on giving back in the future for sure one day, through coaching or some other form.
Q: After three years of the CCHA and road games in places like Alaska and Sault Ste. Marie, what has it been like to play Big Ten teams this year?
A: It’s been unbelievable. I envy these younger guys because they have the opportunity to play more than one year in the Big Ten. Going to Alaska and places like that is awesome, too, because you get to see country that you may not see otherwise, but it doesn’t compare to the venues and atmospheres we get to be a part of now in the Big Ten.
Q: What was the atmosphere like for the outdoor game at Minnesota last weekend?
A: It was great. I mean, Minnesota is the hockey state of America, isn’t it? Wannabe Canadians is what we call them, ha ha, but they definitely know what they are doing with their cheers and ability to get the fans involved. When you add 45,000 people and just being outdoors, it was a big stage and great for the boys to be a part of such an event.
Q: Did you play a lot of outdoor hockey growing up, or is that old hat for Canadians?
A: Growing up I was always outside. Go to school, go to practice, come home and play hockey outside, eat dinner, then play hockey again until it was time to get ready for bed. We still make a rink every Christmas at our cabin and play pickup games. We used to actually have “The Crystal Lake Cup” out at the lake with the neighbors’ kids. We had lines painted and everything. It was like the Stanley Cup Final every game. We had big flood lights set up around the ice so we could play until 2 or 3 in the morning sometimes. Definitely those are some of the fondest memories of playing hockey that I will cherish forever.
Q: Speaking of Canada, the Winter Olympics are just around the corner; do you think Team Canada might be able to contend for a bronze medal this year?
A: Excuse me? Bronze? I thought we’re the favorite.
Q: Seriously, do you think they can stay within two or three goals of the Americans?
A: I’m not even going to answer this.
Q: OK, all kidding aside: What’s it going to take for Canada to repeat as gold medalists?
A: I honestly can’t wait. I think it will be a challenge for both the Canadians and Americans stepping on that Olympic ice against the European teams. They will have to adapt quickly if they want success. I like the guys we are sending over there with chemistry among many of the forwards, but you never know what happens in a tournament like this. Every game means something and every team is loaded with talent.
— Ray Stein