For Episode 14 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we head to Traverse City, Michigan. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed rookie forward Curtis McKenzie, who is playing for the Dallas Stars in this weekend’s NHL Prospects Tournament. Below are just some of the highlights of our conversation with the Stars young left wing, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
You are up in Traverse City for the NHL Prospects Tournament. What is it like being on the road for the first time representing the Dallas Stars?
Oh it’s been a blast so far. It’s been good getting to know the younger guys. I already knew pretty much the majority of the group here from development camp and through my time with Texas. It’s been a good time up here in Michigan. It’s a lot warmer and nicer weather, definitely a nicer place to be than the few times I been here during the winter with university hockey.
Is it exciting to get on the ice and play games this weekend after spending the entire summer training for the season?
Yeah, it’s definitely nice. For me personally I’ve been, pretty much from when I left Austin at the end of last year, itching to get back and start my first full year of pro hockey. Summer went by really short and I’m glad it did, because I’m ready to get games going and get the season going here.
I know the entire Dallas hockey operations staff is planning on being in Travers City this weekend, but who is on the bench coaching the Stars squad?
We actually have Willie [Desjardins] and Doug [Lidster] who were up there in Texas. So it’s good for us, good for the guys who will be joining Texas this year as well, because you get familiar with them. They’re our coaches this weekend and we’re lucky to have them.
Do you feel pretty comfortable now because of the time you spent with the Stars last season and already knowing the Texas coaching staff?
Yeah I’d definitely say I’m a lot more confident now. Last year, with the whole experience, pretty much every aspect when I first came into Austin I was pretty bug-eyed and in shock that I was playing pro hockey now, kind of like a dream come true. It was a good opportunity getting that experience, to know what was going on, to get to know the guys and the coaches and the system. I think I’m a lot more prepared this year.
You completed your senior season at Miami University of the CCHA last year. Looking back, were your four years playing for the RedHawks everything you were hoping for in a college hockey experience?
Yeah, definitely. I had a great time at Miami for my four years there. I think one thing that they develop there is not just the hockey aspect, but the personal side of things as well and they do a great job at that. They have the whole brotherhood program, which really is you’re there to be a good person more than a hockey player almost. I enjoyed that and my time was great there. I made some great friends over my four years and I got to play with great teams. I think it was definitely a good four years and I’m really glad I went the college route.
You reached the 2010 Frozen Four as a freshman with Miami. What was it like playing on that stage and facing Boston College in your first year?
It was pretty cool. It was pretty surreal being there in the Frozen Four and getting to soak up the event. It was awesome until the game started. We got smoked that game 7-1. It was pretty heart-breaking for our team that year. We had a lot going on, I think we were [ranked] No. 1 [in the NCAA] the whole year, except for one weekend and kind of stormed over our league. Probably had a better fate for that year, but we didn’t pull it together in that semifinal game. You always kind of expect being Miami hockey that you’d get back there [to the Frozen Four]. It was kind of heart-breaking that we never got a national title, which is everyone’s ultimate goal going to college hockey. But it was a good four years.
You were college roommates with, now former, Texas and Dallas Stars forward Reilly Smith. How did you two end up sharing a room at Miami University when you both came in as freshmen?
Actually, we didn’t really know each other when we first came in, over Facebook a little bit. I guess we were the two Canadians on the team, or incoming freshmen who were Canadian, so they thought it was a good idea to put us together. It was, honestly, from the moment we met we just kind of took off from there and we were best buddies there, so it was a really fun three years. It was pretty crazy when I came up to Texas, Reilly got sent down from Dallas that day. So he was driving back from Dallas while I was flying out and he had an extra bedroom, so I got to move back in with him again. Who would have ever thought it would work like that? It was kind of tough to see him go to Boston, but that’s the business side of hockey and everything’s not always going to be sugar-coated for us. Best of luck to him with their organization.
You and Reilly would have to either both be in the NHL or Texas would have to face Providence in the Calder Cup Finals for you two to play against each other in pro hockey. Would you like to face him as an opponent?
Oh yeah, absolutely! I’d love to play against him. I think we had maybe one or two games against each other back before we went to Miami. I think the second one we were in a prospect game and I wasn’t too happy, he kept throwing his elbow up in my face, so I tried fighting him… but I think his gloves are glued on [laughs], so he didn’t have to deal with that. It was pretty funny how that worked out, but I’d like to play him again for sure.
You made quite an impression on the Texas Stars fans, in one of your first games you dropped the gloves and when you sat down in the penalty box, you had a huge smile on your face, which was being shown on the big jumbotron. Did you really enjoy it that much?
Uh, that was my second fight actually. My first fight I didn’t do so well. [Laughs] I guess four years was a long time without getting to drop the mitts in college. I enjoy the competitive nature and being able to be in those situations. I didn’t even realize I was on the jumbotron at first, I was just kind of laughing about the whole scenario of it. Then I looked up and there’s my mug up on the screen [laughs]. I heard all the fans cheering and it was pretty funny. It was definitely weird, so I think I just laughed even harder that I was up there. I have a good time with that stuff.
You didn’t have a long summer, with being with Texas for the Calder Cup Playoffs, attending Dallas’ development camp in early July and now going to Traverse City for the NHL Prospects Tournament. Other than training, did you have a chance to have some fun?
After the end of last season, after playoffs ended, I got to go back to Miami and kind of make a closure there. I didn’t get to do that when our season ended because I left two days after [for Texas]. So I had to go back and pack everything up and say goodbye to the boys. After that I headed home, back to Golden [British Columbia], where you don’t really have an ice, small little town. I got some time with my family and used that to relax and just kind of hang out for a week or so. Then I moved down to Vancouver and that’s when I really started to ramp things up. I had a good summer, feel really confident in it, and I think I’m ready to go.
-- Texas Stars --