Colorado Avalanche rookie defenseman Cale Makar gave two video interviews on Monday, talking about a budding rival, the season, and the Avs.
Colorado Avalanche stud rookie Cale Makar had a busy day for video calls on Monday. He sat down first on a Zoom call arranged by the NHL. He had a chat with fellow defenders Adam Fox of the New York Rangers and the ever-present Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks.
Before the NHL put its season on pause, the Avalanche rookie was in a fierce race for the Calder Trophy with Hughes. He was the heavy favorite for most of the season. To my mind, Makar is still the favorite, and many of the sports pundits who will vote on the trophy agree. However, some injury woes took a bit of the wind out of Cale’s sails, and Hughes drew ahead of him by three points.
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I’m going to save the Makar vs. Hughes for the Calder for a separate post. Instead, let’s look at some of what Cale had to say about his experiences in the NHL thus far — and we’ll hear what Quinn thinks of Nathan MacKinnon.
First off, he talked about entering the NHL right in the heat of a playoff race. He says he didn’t know anyone except “Josty.” It took me a minute to figure out why he’d know Tyson Jost before playing in his first game. I couldn’t get their international play to match up. But I finally figured it out — 2017 Prospect Development Camp. Even though Jost had played six NHL games, he decided to attend that camp. It was Makar’s first.
Cale also talked about his Welcome to the NHL Moment:
"“I was getting ready for warmups that first game. Obviously you’re pretty nervous, don’t know what to expect. And then we’re lined up in the hallway and Tyson Barrie comes up to me. He pats me on the shoulder and goes ‘It’s an easy league, kid’.”"
I can just picture the half-smile on Barrie’s face as he makes the joke. It worked, though. As we all know, 10 minutes into that game Makar was banging his stick on the ice to get superstar Nathan MacKinnon to pass him the puck on a breakaway. Imagine! The team superstar has the puck and is ahead of you, and you ask for the puck. Naturally, it resulted in his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot, so maybe he was playing the NHL on easy mode.
Speaking of our speedy superstar, when asked whom he’d prefer not to defend against, Makar said MacKinnon and proceeded to extol his virtues. When interviewer John Dellapina called him out for “doing the rookie hockey player thing” and “complimenting the veteran” on his team. Makar admitted it wasn’t much fun to defend against Conor McDavid.
Unfortunately for Quinn Hughes, he’s not MacKinnon’s teammate but he’d still prefer not to have to defend against him.
"“He’s got this thing now where he’s doing this spin-o-rama move. I’m sure Cale sees it all the time, but he does this spin-o-rama like right in front of the crease almost so he can take you wide. He’s got you beat wide and he still does the spin-o-rama and beats you that way.”"
Sounds like Hughes has been burned that way.
Indeed, he adds, “He did it to me a couple times when we played them two months ago.”
When he’s describing that MacKinnon play, Makar’s eyes got downright gleeful.
Here’s the video:
I think the backgrounds the three players chose to put themselves in front of is telling. Adam Fox is known as being a great defender, especially as a rookie. However, defense never gets the glory offense does, and there he is in front of a dim, crowded space. Quinn Hughes, who comes from a royal hockey family and boasts about his skills seems to be in front of some pictures of his royal hockey family.
Cale Makar goes for the simple but eloquent background — plain wall with a window. But he’s also in the power chair. Quite the statement.
Makar later that day joined Kyle Keefe and Conor McGahey for Sports Social. You’ll notice that he’s now in front of a more casual background. And the power chair is gone. You can see by how Makar interacts with Keefe and McGahey that he’s comfortable with his local sports announcers.
Earlier, I called Quinn Hughes “ever-present.” Some sports pundits predict that the two players’ careers, Makar’s and Hughes’, will always revolve around each other. There will be a constant comparison, perhaps in the Conor McDavid-Auston Matthews manner. I don’t know if it will always be that way, but it’s certainly like that now.
Makar isn’t afraid to praise his rival. To be fair, in the video above, Quinn said nice things about Makar, calling his play in his first NHL game “insane.”
Makar said something similar about watching Hughes for the first time, saying, “Damn, his skating’s pretty legit.”
He got more in-depth on the Altitude broadcast:
"“We both use our skating and we’re just versatile in that aspect of the game. We’re able to break pucks out and help our team’s D zone to a certain extent. He’s very effective on the power play. The way the game is moving, all D-men need to think the game, and move the game, very fast nowadays.”"
Makar’s mantra has always been team success comes before individual success. He’ll usually do the typical hockey player thing and downplay his goals — he even joked that he “whiffed it” on a big play in the IIHF outdoor game. He’s much more comfortable talking about how well the team is doing:
"“Honestly, this year, it felt like we were starting to roll, and we were going to start getting guys back soon into the lineup. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate end but hopefully we can get back to it. I think we all were in the same mindset that we felt we could have a run at it this year.”"
That fact that the Colorado Avalanche have such a good chance at a Stanley Cup run is what makes the hockey hiatus so frustrating. During his Instagram Live Happy Hour, Nikita Zadorov admitted that players are going crazy being unable to play right now.
Makar mentions that of course the players miss the game. “It’s probably the longest time most of us have been off the ice.” That’s true, too. Players don’t give themselves too long without incorporating skating into their training — which is why Makar has rollerblades on the way, according to the NHL video.
"“Everybody wants to come back and play. I think the main thing for everybody is, we all want it to be safe — not only safe for us but for the fans as well. If there are fans or if there’s not, it’s just going to depend on what everybody recommends.”"
There are not going to be fans in the buildings. But, we will absolutely be cheering from home.
Meanwhile, Makar is playing fan himself. He’s watching some “old-time hockey” (1980s and 1990s) when the style of play was a lot different. He laughs when he talks about defensemen “would chop guys’ legs down if they’re on breakaways and the ref just lets it go.”
I wasn’t watching hockey in the 80s, but I started in the 90s. In fact, you can watch the Colorado Avalanche’s 2001 Stanley Cup run, and when I do I just shake my head and mutter “He’d get a call from Player Safety for that.”
So, McGahey asks for Makar’s favorite movie of all time, and he admits he’s a “big Marvel guy — Spiderman.” When asked who his favorite superhero was during the IG Live with Jost, Spiderman was his answer. According to his #AskCale on Twitter, Back to the Future is his favorite “old” movie.
Here’s the video:
McGahey is right — here in Avs Nation, we’ll never get tired of watching Cale Makar’s first NHL goal.
Colorado Avalanche stud rookie Cale Makar has been so good to make himself accessible during the NHL pause. He gives such thoughtful answers with a touch of humor here and there. Not going to lie, though — I’d prefer to see him in some pre- and post-game pressers right about now.