Editor’s Note: Larry Oakley recently had the chance to interview Sam Bennett a centre on the Kingston Frontenacs and one of the top-rated prospected for the 2014 NHL Draft. Bennett has put up 36 goals and 90 points in just 55 games for the Frontenacs so far this season. He was recently named the #1 prospect by NHL Central Scouting. LWOS’ own Ben Kerr ranked him as the number five prospect in his February rankings.
Sam Bennett Revealed
Born in Holland Landing, a small Ontario town of 8,500 with a river running through it, Sam Bennett is a 17 year old two-way centre for the Kingston Frontenac’s. He was recently projected as the No. 1 selection in the NHL June 2014 draft by central scouting mid-term rankings. Most hockey fans have watched his puck handling and play making skills on flat screen TVs at home or throughPlexiglass sheets at the rink. I sat down with Sam after a Frontenac practice in February 2014 to get insight into Sam Bennett, the player and the person.
1. Tell me something a coach showed you and said that had an impact on you as a player and a person? Who was the one coach who helped you the most?
Brian McDavid of the York Simcoe Express is the coach who helped me the most. He showed me how to stick handle which is a big part of my game today.
He was the guy at the rink who was always saying that you should have fun playing hockey. He also told me to play my game and stick to it.
2. Do you trash talk on the ice? What do opposing player’s trash talk you about? Anything in particular that annoys you?
I don’t trash talk.
But some players trash talk me. They mock the draft rankings and tell me their team has a lot of players better than me.
Trash talk doesn’t bother me. It’s just talk.
3. I recently watched the movie Moneyball about a five star can’t-miss baseball prospect named Billy Beane who the New York Mets signed for a lot of money. Billy became a dismal failure as a baseball player, but not in life. Do you have a plan B if you don’t make it in hockey or your career is cut short?
I saw that movie too.
If I don’t make it in hockey I’ll go to university for sure and take business administration.
I’m in grade 12 at Holy Cross High School in Kingston. I would say I’m an average student as far as marks go.
4. Have you ever had a job? If so what was it?
Yes I was a dishwasher at a golf course during the summer when I was 14. It was hard work.
5. As a kid did you play hockey and swim and boat and fish on the East Holland River which runs through Holland Landing?
I played shinny on that river. We brought our own nets out there.
My dad built a rink in our backyard and I helped him. We played a lot of backyard hockey for five years.
6. Do you still hang with your childhood friends? Do you have a best friend on the Frontenac’s?
My next door neighbour in Holland Landing, Jeremy Coates is my best friend. He’s a year older than me and travelling around Europe right now.
My best friend on the Frontenac’s is Roland McKeown. He’s from Listowel, Ontario. We played together for two years on the Toronto Marlboros minor midget team before coming to the Frontenac’s last year as rookies.
7. Was there specific moment in time or incident that made you realize you could play in the NHL?
Yes. That happened when I had a good rookie season with the Kingston Frontenacs and played for Canada on the under 18 team at the 2013 World Hockey Challenge. We won the gold medal.
8. Do you read books? Tell me about a book that you liked.
I liked the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
9. For the young women who will read this, can you tell me what you look for in the opposite sex? (This question made him blush and when I asked him he said it was ok if I told people.)
I look for a great smile. I like someone who is funny and smart.
I also have a girlfriend.
10. I read that your father had an influence on your hockey. I help coach a team in the Kingston Area Minor Hockey Association with Jason Sands who played for the Frontenac’s for 4 years in the mid 1990s. To their credit, I see a lot of mothers in the dressing room helping their kids get dressed and tying their skates. Did your mother help with your hockey?
For sure. She tied my skates too when I was young and my father couldn’t make it to the game.
She played hockey with us on the backyard rink. I accidently hit her in the face once with my stick and gave her a black eye.
I still speak to my parents after each game.
11. Who is your NHL idol and favourite NHL team, and why?
I like Steven Stamkos because of his goal scoring and stick handling.
I’m a Leaf fan, probably because my father has always liked the Leafs.
12. Take me through your day when you have a 7 pm Friday night home game in Kingston? How do you get around?
I have a black pickup truck.
After I eat breakfast I drive to school. I have two classes and then go for lunch at Subway with my friends at school and have a steak and cheese sub.
I have one class after lunch. I go home at 1:30 and sleep for 1.5 hours. I have a shower when I get up and eat pasta at 3:30.
I arrive at the rink at 4:50. Before the game I tape my sticks and play sewer ball with the boys to relax and get loose.
13. Worry seems like is a big part of every day life now. People worry about the market, job security, harmful germs, getting cancer, climate change, the school bully and crazy people with guns. Do you get stressed or feel anxiety about anything in your life?
Playing hockey and going to school is tough enough. But the media attention because of the central scouting mid-term rankings just made things crazy.
I’m not complaining because overall I don’t have any big worries.
14. Facebook turned ten years old yesterday. Your generation grew up using social media as a way of connecting with people. Do you tweet, and text and talk on your iphone all the time?
Yes but not all the time.
I have a Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account.
15. Tell me something you like about living in Kingston, Ontario?
I like walking, and shopping and eating at the restaurants in downtown Kingston. I like to go to Wooden Heads for pizza.
16. Where you named after anyone? What’s your nickname?
No I wasn’t named after anyone.
My nickname is Benny. I got it when I played for the Toronto Marlboros. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but it stuck.
17. If I could only ask you one question this would be it. I was poor as a kid and it used to bother me when I was young. But eventually I realized that it was an advantage to be poor. It gave me an edge and helped make me successful. Do you have an edge or a certain attitude that helps you be such a fierce competitor, because that’s what I see when I watch you play? Do you have a fire inside you?
I’ve always played aggressively even as a young kid. And I always liked to hit. My dad encouraged it. He told me to play like Doug Gilmour.
18. Do Frontenac teammates who aren’t going to make the NHL talk about that with you?
Funny you should ask that question. We were just talking about it. Some players joke about it mostly. They ask me if I’ll remember them if I make it to the NHL.
19. Is there something you want to say to all the young hockey players out there who wish they were you?
Never give up on your dream. No matter what people say or don’t say about your skills just keep working hard. That’s what I did. People never really noticed my as a hockey player when I was young.
20. Do you feel like people treat you like a celebrity? Do you feel like you’re being watched by people or followed on social media?
A bit, but it’s no big deal.
I like it when kids come up to me on the street and say ‘Hi Sam’ and high five me. It’s very cool.
21. What are your hobbies? Are you good at anything else besides hockey? How do you escape from hockey?
There’s no escape.
I like to water ski at our cottage on Haliburton Lake.
22. Hockey seems like a glamorous life but it’s not all glamour. The odds of making the NHL are way beyond 1,000 to 1. If you make it the minor leagues are full of guys who want your job. Everyone want s piece of you like me here today. And your career ends early in life. Do you have a sense of hockey as a business?
Yes. I have an agent. His name is Darren Ferris and he has 20 years of experience as an agent.
23. Do you have a lot of baseball-type caps? Do you wear them backwards?
I have a Toronto Blue Jays cap, a LA Dodgers cap and a St Louis Cardinals cap.
I wear the peak at the front, not backwards.
24. If people read this and ask me, “What was he like?” I will have failed in this interview. I don’t want that to happen. So I saved the toughest question for the last. Can you please tell everyone what Sam Bennett is like?
I’m easy going and I think I’m humble.
I do the dishes every night at my billets house – Michelle and Chris Willard.
I like to play pranks on my teammates, but not on game days. I’m serious on game days. Some teammates say I’m too serious.
When the interview ended I asked Sam if he would provide a follow up interview in a few years even if he does not become a star in the NHL. He said yes and we shook on it.
LW Oakley is a freelance writer living in Kingston. He is the author of a successful outdoors book, Inside The Wild, which is available at the publisher’s website, www.gsph.com.
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