Allow me to present a new LA Kings Insider recurring feature – one that has actually been in the planning stage for over a year. During the season, whether on social media or in LAKI commenting, I get asked questions about certain aspects of the team’s play, travel, logistics and organizational structure. I try to answer these questions the best I can, but thought, ‘why not get the answer from someone more learned and ask a player?” And thus introduces LAKI’s Teach Me series, which will regularly ask a player on the team about an aspect of their profession or role that may not immediately be known by the general, hockey-watching public. We’re planning on tackling a ton of topics that might not otherwise be germane to the daily question-and-answer scrums that take up so much of our time between 11 am and noon. What is getting traded like? How would you describe playing in Montreal? What kind of a teammate was Colin Fraser? How do you deal with reporters and the media? How are rookies treated? How do nicknames stick? All of these topics – and many more – will be covered in the Teach Me series.
Even as the NHL diversifies and grows into farther corners of North America and the globe than at any previous point, the league is still dominated by cold weather stars from North America, many of whom rode the buses between mid-size towns in Canadian provinces and northern border states.
Jake Muzzin is one of 13 active Kings to have played in the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization overseeing the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League; 52 of the 60 CHL teams play in Canadian cities. He’s also one of 10 active Kings to have played in the pressure cooker of the OHL before plying their trade south of the 49th parallel.
BREAKING: There are many similarities between living in Canada and the United States. But there are some cosmetic differences that, as Muzzin points out, take a little bit of time to get used to. And there’s also one profound difference: Hockey is part of national identity and figures prominently into culture, marketing and way of life in Canada, yet is more of a regional and niche sport in most American centers.
Jake Muzzin, on core differences between living in the United States and Canada:
Well, there was no Tim Horton’s. I had to learn to like Dunkin’ Donuts because we were up in Manchester. So, that was a big change. I couldn’t get my regular stuff. I had to adapt and you know I got through it, but it was tough. What else was new? Miles for kilometers. It’s totally different. [LAKI: Are you able to do that now?] Yeah, I’m pretty set now. The temperature is always — Fahrenheit to Celsius is pretty different. So, stuff like that you have to adapt to. I had to get a social security number. In Canada we have a different kind of number. I don’t know what it’s called, but we had a different number. I had to get a new cell phone plan. You don’t want those data roaming charges. They get pretty high, so I had to do all that stuff.
Muzzin, on the lack of an inescapable hockey culture in the United States:
Everything is football, basketball, baseball and we’re used to hockey, hockey, hockey up in Canada on television. So that was a big change. The only hockey we saw were Boston Bruins games because we lived up [in Manchester]. So, that was a change as well. Although the TV in the United States is way better than in Canada, that’s for sure. [LAKI: Any shows you don’t get now that you enjoyed in Canada? TSN?] Yeah TSN is a big one, but most of the stuff we get here. Maybe not Trailer Park Boys. If you guys don’t know what that is, great Canadian show.
Muzzin, on his first Thanksgiving in the United States:
Yeah, I was in Manch actually. One of the older guys on the team had put a spread together for everyone and it’s huge here compared to back home. I feel when it’s a celebration, Americans really go all out and they celebrate.
Muzzin, on fundamental differences between the United States and Canada:
I don’t know, I don’t want to start any fights. But there’s some things that you feel and see, but I’m not going to get into it because America is my home now while I’m working in hockey and it’s been great to me and my family, so I’m not starting any bad blood between the two.
Muzzin, on a core experience of living in Southern California:
When we live where we live, we’re so fortunate and lucky to be here. You wake up and you see the ocean and the beach and it’s a blessing. When you think times are tough and we’re struggling and what have you, I mean you take a second to drink it all in and you really feel fortunate and lucky to be here.
Willie Desjardins, on celebrating American Thanksgiving:
You can’t compare it. It’s totally different. Even what I knew before, when I was coaching in the Western League and we’d travel into the States on Thanksgiving and you couldn’t find any place to eat – the area was shut down. That wouldn’t happen in Canada. It’s different, but it’s great to see people celebrate that. … It’s certainly a big event and not quite that big in Canada.
–Lead photo via Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire