Every NHL fan has a different story about their favorite player. For some, it’s a matter of who you grew up with, who you remember liking as a kid, who scored at your very first NHL game. For others, it’s more about experiences, the players that were the nicest when you met them. Some fans are drawn to players that they have things in common with, like a home country or supporting a cause.
No matter how your favorite player climbed their way to the top of your list, they’re there for a reason. They’re the face you look for at warmups, the jersey you can’t wait to put on, the name your friends text you in all caps when you can’t pay attention to a game and they score. They can always make you smile, and, through it all, they will hold a special place in your heart, both on the ice and off. Here at Puck It Up, we all have our own favorite players for various reasons, and we decided to share our stories with you. So without further ado, here are the favorite NHL players of the “Puck It Up!” staff.
Jennifer Moglia: Ryan Strome (Edmonton Oilers)
“The story of how my favorite player earned that title is the worst nightmare of some hockey fans. He was on my favorite team’s most hated rival. In May of 2016, my stepdad was going to a New York Islanders playoff game and asked me if I wanted pictures of any players. As a Ranger fan, I didn’t know many members of the Islanders, so I picked a random name off the roster and sent it to him. I ended up watching that game since my Rangers had already been eliminated, and I paid special attention to Ryan Strome, the name that I had sent my stepdad earlier. I fell in love with his playing style, the way he used his speed and youthful energy. That night, I gave myself a crash course on him via his Tumblr tag, and I’ve been hooked since.
When I had decided that I wanted to see him play live, I had trouble figuring out what to wear. I ended up buying his Niagara Ice Dogs OHL jersey, and that was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a hockey fan. My first time seeing him, he saw my jersey (and an obnoxious sign I had made) and threw me a puck. Since then, he has always made sure to give me a wave or a stick tap at warmups. When I finally met him later that season, he told me that the jersey had stood out to him and other guys in the locker room all season. I feel so grateful to have a favorite player that cares so much about his fans. I also admire the way he consistently proves his doubters wrong, going out and putting up points even when his fanbase can’t stand him. He has never let anyone get to him, and that’s a quality I really try to emulate. I’m even more excited to support him now that he’s in Edmonton and not the enemy of my team!”
Vanessa Kuri: Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
“In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs picked Auston Matthews first overall, appointing him with a respectable and honorable title: the highest drafted Latinx in NHL history. This particular statistic resonated with me. As a Latinx hockey enthusiast myself, it was the concept of representation that stuck the most. In this modern NHL era, there is a lack of Latinx representation with only three active Latin American professional hockey players: Al Montoya, Max Pacioretty, and, Auston Matthews. Matthews’ path to the NHL was a hectic one and I loved reading everything about it when I first found out about him. Matthew’s missed the 2015 NHL entry draft cut off by two days due to his late birthday. By this point, Auston had already dominated in the USHL system and was looking for a new way to challenge himself. When he ultimately decided to play in the Swiss league his mom, Ema lived with him and brought all of her spices from their home in Arizona to make him enchiladas or her famous tortilla soup. Ema was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen in 2002.
Matthews’ Mexican heritage is prevalent in his everyday life, whether it’s his mom’s cooking or his nickname, “Papi”. His stellar 4-goal debut with the Maple Leafs definitely solidified him at the top of my list as my favorite player. Overall, I hope Auston will use his Latin American heritage to continue paving the way for the younger Latinx community the way Scott Gomez did in 1998. 10 years from now I want to see the number of active Latinx pro hockey players grow from 3 to 10, or 15, or even 20. So here’s to Auston Matthews, may he help in the journey to bring more Latin American representation to the league and make hockey a more common sport in those households.”
Alyssa O’Brenski: Brandon Saad (Chicago Blackhawks)
“It’s easy for me to say who my favorite player is – the hard part comes in explaining why. A lot of people can say their favorite player is someone they watched growing up, someone they emulate their own play on or someone they identify with in one way or another. But Brandon Saad has certainly not been playing since I started watching hockey, and I can’t quite handle a hockey stick on dry land, let alone on ice. But maybe I can date things back that far.
When I first learned to talk and would tell my family I was sah-dah yefski (an adolescent pronunciation of my own name), not knowing “saad” would be the nickname that stuck, maybe it was from hearing myself score for my own team where my affection first grew. Or it could be the way he propelled my fascination with two-way forwards. Or maybe it’s the way he plays alongside my captain and watching the way they make one another the best players they can be. But perhaps the biggest factor was seeing him hoist the Stanley Cup above his head (twice), and the role he played to bring my team to that sweet, sweet moment. Whichever combination of reasons it may be, it all boils down to the buzz that comes when your favorite player hits your home ice in October – be it after one summer or, in this case, two years – and the possibilities of the season. And the anticipation of his killer playoff beard.”
Elham Mohamud: P.K. Subban (Nashville Predators)
“I remember when I first started getting into hockey and a realized fairly quickly the league is very white. From coaching staff, to upper management, to reporters on the sidelines to the players on the ice. As a black woman, it was very hard to feel connected to a lot of those players because of the differences between us. That is, until P.K. Subban.
As a then, Montreal Canadien, Subban was a shining light on the ice, his vibrant style on and off the field was something I couldn’t get enough of. I finally felt like there was someone like me on the ice and even though he wasn’t on my favorite team it didn’t matter. P.K. is the type of player that is hard to dislike. Throughout his career he has been different, not only for being a black NHL athlete, but for his outspoken and vibrant personality. It’s hard for a league filled with a bunch of people that are just about the game and nothing more to be different in – not just your looks – but your outward personality, but that is why I love P.K. Subban and the fact that he’s not on my favorite team will not stop that.”
Ruchi Patel: Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
“My favorite hockey player is Patrick Kane. He’s actually the reason why I started watching hockey. My sister has always been a fan so I ended up watching the hockey tournament in the 2010 Winter Olympics. The commentators and broadcasters kept ranting and raving about Patrick Kane so I kept an eye on him throughout the tournament. Obviously, I don’t need to remind Americans how it ended, but I was amazed by Kane’s skills.
Afterwards, I started to follow the Chicago Blackhawks as best as I could as a New Jersey resident and at a time where streaming online wasn’t really a thing. I got really lucky liking Kane and the Blackhawks when I did because a few months later, they won their first modern-era Stanley Cup. Kane’s the most skilled player I’ve ever seen and maybe that’s biased, but it’s just my opinion. His puck handling is beautiful and combining that with his speed makes him an elite player. His love for stats and constant need to improve makes him more fun to watch too. Watching Patrick Kane with the puck is breathtaking whether it is an exhibition game or game six of the Stanley Cup Finals.”
Claire Brookbanks: Keith Yandle (Florida Panthers)
“My favorite NHL player is Keith Yandle and has been since I was about 12. I started to really love him after I saw the old locker room videos that the Coyotes used to do with him and Paul Bissonnette. They were so funny, and he just kind of stuck as my favorite even after Arizona traded him.”
Kayla Lupoli: Jaromir Jagr (Calgary Flames)
“Well, this is a surprise to absolutely no one. The first time I learned about him was way back in high school and, to be honest, I didn’t like him all that much because at the time he was on the Flyers. But after learning about his style of play, I started to appreciate him and his history as a player. He loves the game and you can tell that just from looking at him. Plus, who doesn’t love a guy as iconic as he is?”