Excellent Adventure: Pinizzotto
A chihuahua named Chino, nine-month-old twins, foosball, Greek food, frosted tips, Rick Nash and the vent covering the hole in the door.
A chihuahua named Chino, nine-month-old twins, foosball, Greek food, frosted tips, Rick Nash and the vent covering the hole in the door.
There’s a part of me, heck, there’s a part of anyone who knows or is a fan of Chris Tanev, that wants to see him fly off the handle.
He is, without a shout of a doubt, the most mild-mannered, even keeled, easy going, go with the flow, laid back person I’ve ever met.
Once, just once, I’d like him to do something out of character like not say “When” to the waitress at a nice restaurant who is grating fresh cheese on his salad. The room would fill with Parmesan; chaos would ensue.
The odds of that happening, I was told again and again Thursday during our Excellent Adventure visit with the Canucks defenceman, would be the same as getting a rise out of the 22-year-old.
“Come on Chris,” I said from the backseat of his car as we drove down the highway on our way to practice. “What really grinds your gears and gets your blood boiling?”
“Stupid things,” he said, “like people wearing running shoes with dress pants and stuff like that. Like white socks with dress pants and dress shoes. Just really stupid things like that irritate me. Other than that I’m pretty easy going.”
I was in tears laughing, as you likely are now.
Running shoes with dress pants? THAT’S WHAT ANGERS YOU THE MOST IN THIS WORLD?
“You asked, I answered,” he laughed.
“I don’t like cigarettes or smoke either, that bothers me. Some of my buddies smoke and that irritates me. I haven’t tried a cigarette in my life, not even a drag. I don’t plan on it.
“I’ll slam a golf club too if I’m frustrated when I’m golfing,” he added. “But I haven’t broken a club in a long time.”
Chris Tanev, you’re a wild man.
“She was always on my case,” laughed Chris Tanev, as we zoomed down the highway on our way to an early afternoon skate Thursday, “and rightfully so, I guess.”
The She Tanev was referring to is his mom, Sophie. She was on his case a lot when he was playing junior hockey because, as he put it, “I was just playing hockey and being a bum. I didn’t work much.”
When Tanev was a young, wondering teenager – you know, the good old days of three years ago – he didn’t take life too seriously in the summer, as a teenager shouldn’t. Sleep in. Open the fridge. Nap. Open the fridge. Play hockey. Nap. Open the fridge. Hang out with buddies. And repeat.
Sophie, who separated from Chris’ dad Mike when Chris started high school, would call up her ex-husband frequently with detailed stories of their son’s laziness.
“So I decided to get a job,” laughed Tanev. “Actually my first job was when I was really little, I worked as a camp counsellor at a sports camp from probably when I was 13 to 15. That was a lot of fun.”
Tanev was not serious, it was not fun.
And it got worse.
“Then I worked at a pizza place when I was 17 or 18. I wasn’t in a store, I was at Ontario Place and places like that, Air Canada Centre, doing events, making pizza. When it’s like 100 degrees out and there’s an oven going right beside you, it’s the best.”
Tanev was not serious, it was not the best.
“Then I was working at a meat counter at a grocery store. That was pretty bad, it was a lot of cleaning up, gross meat, old meat and definitely not fun.
“That’s what I’d do in the summer. I’d probably work for a month and a half, save up, and then quit because I was lazy. Then I’d just hang out and go back to school.”
From that, to playing in the NHL.
“Mom is off my case now,” he laughed.
If Tanev wasn’t playing hockey, however, he said his mom would still be off his case because he’d have a well paying job, likely something to do with numbers.
“I would probably be doing something in business, I was studying finance before I left school. I don’t know, maybe something in accounting or investment banking. I’d probably be a terrible salesman, so maybe not investment banking actually. I could sit there and crunch numbers, I’m good with numbers.”
Chris Tanev admitted part of the reason he doesn’t move out and get his own place is that his mom’s cooking is just too dang good.
“She makes good lasagna and ribs, the house usually smells great with whatever she’s cooking,” he said.
The aroma of potatoes cooking in the oven was in the air as we visited Tanev’s house Thursday and, starving at the time, Sophie asked if I wanted anything to eat. I declined, like a buffoon, opting instead for a recipe. I challenged Sophie to give me the recipe for something sweet that makes her son’s heart skip a beat and helped him grow into the man he is today.
“I know just the one,” she smiled, opening a classic mom recipe box filled with a scatter of coloured papers, big and small, new and old. “He still loves when I make these.”
Caramel Bars. OMG yes please.
Here’s the recipe. Let me know if you bake some and how they turn out. Better yet, provide me with your address so I can come over and eat some/all of them.
Now think ice.
Now think Bambi on ice.
Now you know how Chris Tanev looked the first time he laced up tiny cheese graters at four-years-old and stepped off the visitor’s bench for his first ever hockey shift.
“That door right there,” pointed his dad, Mike, Thursday at the Victoria Village Arena. “That’s where it happened.”
The story in question practically defines Tanev, who has metaphorically fallen down or been knocked down too many times to count throughout his hockey career.
“When he first stepped on the ice at four-years-old, I think the pants were bigger than his body,” Mike explained. “He could skate because he was in a learn to skate program, so he was okay without the equipment, unfortunately when he got the equipment on, it was a little bit more difficult for him. So he stepped on to the ice and went straight down and when he hit the ice, he was crying. His mother opened up the gate at the player’s bench and she went and picked him up and I went up to her and said that if she ever did that again, I was never coming to watch him again.
“From that point on he got better and better and better and better, and fortunately we never had to do that again.”
Mike described himself as “tough, but fair,” and his son agreed. Both said this was a learning moment, although Tanev doesn’t really remember it. This was the first of many lessons about not giving up and doing it yourself that Mike taught his son and it’s tough to argue the 22-year-old would be manning Vancouver’s blueline were it not for his drive and ability to overcome the odds.
“If you’re trying to learn to ride a bike, you’re going to fall, and hockey is the exact same thing, so it’s trial by error,” said Mike. “If you can overcome adversity, and this is one thing that I’ve always said about Christopher, he had to overcome adversity from a very young age. So when he finally grew to play junior, then to college and in the AHL and now the NHL, he’s had to overcome many, many, many things in life and he’s handled them quite well and I think a lot of that stuff is second nature to him now.
“I’ll never forget that story.”
Tests passed, lessons learned and friendships formed.
East York Collegiate Institute was where that all went down for Chris Tanev and his friends Steve and Lucas. During a lunch pit stop at Steve’s restaurant Off The Hook, a gourmet fish n’ chips joint in Toronto, Thursday afternoon, they spilled what beans they could about Tanev.
The trio met in Grade 11 or 12, they aren’t exactly sure, but the connection was there from the beginning. They’re as chill as Tanev, so just hanging out was the name of the game.
They’ve seen him change quite radically, both physically and mentally, in the last few years and like proud parents, they spoke of Tanev with the utmost pride – when they weren’t busting his chops.
“When we met, I was taller than him, his head was like at my shoulder,” laughed Steve, taking a break from behind the grill. “Then all of the sudden he filled in more.”
“He was a lot quieter back then too,” offered up Lucas, “now he’s opened up a lot more.”
“Okay, a little more, not a lot.”
Added Steve: “There’s no inside scoop on him. He’s funny in a way where if all the guys are chirping louder and louder, he’ll quietly sneak in comments. But he’s the same guy, he just has little bit more responsibility…and he’s taller.”
“He plays like he is, he just goes to work, calm guy, all the time,” said Lucas.
The three amigos are part of an eight-man crew, a tight crew, that gets together a few times a week. They never talk hockey unless Tanev brings it up; “we want to be a break from hockey…that’s his job,” said Steve.
Tanev has yet to make his NHL debut in his hometown, but when he does, Steve and Lucas will be there, as will the rest of the crew, in addition to countless family members.
Until then it’s more of the same, chillin’, lately at Off The Hook.
“We accommodate his special diet,” said Steve, “but he does have some cheat days – isn’t everyone allowed that?”
Yes, yes they are.
What a day. The quiet, calm, reserved Chris Tanev I once knew has been replaced with a funny, upbeat, optimistic 22-year-old who still can’t believe he’s playing in the NHL. He defied the odds, and the above sign around the corner from his house, and is now primed to make a real impact on Vancouver’ blueline.
We’ve got a ton of content to create based on our day touring Toronto with Tanev on Thursday and most of it won’t go up on Canucks.com until tomorrow, but here’s the photo gallery of our day to tie you over until then.
Some people notice eyes, others lips, while another big draw is teeth.
Cory Schneider has nice teeth, the two front ones just aren’t real.
I know what you’re thinking: hockey accident – maybe a puck to the face?
Freak accident during his junior year in high school.
Schneider still doesn’t know exactly what caused the falls, blood pressure issues perhaps, but if he got up too quickly, he’d get extremely lightheaded.
“So one day, it was a hot day, I got up too fast and I started to get that lightheaded feeling and it turned into a blackout faint and I fell forward onto the hardwood floor and knocked my two front teeth out,” said Schneider, checking out his pearly whites in the rear view mirror between a visit to his hometown of Marblehead and an on-ice session.
“They put them back in and we knew one would stay, but the other had the root crack in half and we knew it wouldn’t. Literally for two years I had a wire bonded to my teeth, which was all that was holding them in place.”
Schneider had one tooth removed and a fake inserted during his freshman year and a short while later the other tooth turned grey and died, so that one was replaced as well. It wasn’t a permanent fix and he wore a retainer off and on before getting them redone, for good, two years ago.
“Not many people know that story. People always just assume I was hit by a puck. I wasn’t.”
Cory Schneider can be described in many ways, but penny pincher isn’t one of them.
Penny eater definitely is.
“I was like six or seven years old, I was little,” Schneider laughed Tuesday as Joey, Jory & Rory’s Excellent Adventure rolled into Boston. “I was just sucking on a penny because I was bored, I don’t know, I guess I thought it was a good idea at the time, and I swallowed it.”
Pardon me? It sounded like you said you swallowed it.
“I did,” he confirmed. “For most kids it probably would have gone right through them, but for me, it got stuck in my esophagus. My 10-year-old neighbour was looking after me so he called his house and his parents called 911 and they came and took me to the hospital.”
Schneider was knocked out and the penny was removed using long tongs that reached down his throat and grabbed the circular copper currency. He stayed in hospital overnight and as angry at his brother the entire time.
“My brother swallowed a nickel and a dime at one point and he was fine, it went right through him. Not me though. I don’t remember it hurting to be honest, it wasn’t like blocking my airway, but it definitely felt like someone was blocking my chest, which wasn’t a good feeling.
“That was the last time I put change in my mouth.”
If you can put your resentment towards a certain hockey team, one rhyming with ruin (as in a Stanley Cup dream), it’s impossible to deny that Boston is an unbelievable sports city with an undeniably passionate fan base.
The recent success of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and that other team has raised all four franchises to new heights in Beantown, and that has inevitably attracted a few bandwagon fans here and there.
Cory Schneider isn’t one of them.
Tuesday he sported a Boson Red Sox hat and if you could wear four hats at once, he probably would have represented every Boston team – sorry, three of the four.
“I was a Bruins fan though,” Schneider admitted. “I was never a diehard fan, but we had season tickets growing up so I’d go to like five or ten games a year. I remember watching Ray Bourque and Neely and Adam Oates and those guys. My brother always loved Dave Reid, so I kind of did too because he did. Great penalty killer; longest stick in the league.”
If you want hardcore Schneider, bring up the Sox. You best pull up your sox as well because this man knows his stuff.
“I grew up more of a Red Sox fan than a Bruins fan. Even before I was in college and they finally won the World Series I was a diehard fan. I’m not anymore, I’m a fan, I just don’t live and die with every game. I mellowed out after a while. They are still my boys though. Go Sox.”
Rich Schneider, Cory’s father, was a big sports fan and if he and the boys weren’t at a game, they were watching it on TV. It didn’t matter who was playing, if a sporting event was on, dad and his two sons had their posteriors planted.
The New England Patrios were “terrible” when Schneider was young and yet he hung in with them as well and now has admiration for Tom Brady, both on the field and in Under Armour commercials.
Watching him live hasn’t happened yet, but it will someday.
“Foxborough (where the Patriots play) was about an hour and a half from our home, so it was just kind of a pain, so we never actually went to games, I might have gone once or twice, but we definitely watched them on TV a lot.”
The Celtics, oh those poor Celtics. Thanks to the actions of another Boston team they are at least third in Schneider’s heart and he admitted fandom, yet he simply doesn’t have much time for hoops.
“I don’t watch basketball, but when I do I drink Dos Equis,” he said, with a slam dunk of an answer. “That was a bad joke, don’t use that. Don’t put that one there. Sorry, where was I…oh, basketball. If I do watch basketball, I’ll watch the Celtics.”
Oddly enough Schneider didn’t wear the jersey of any Boston team on his back growing up, he supported the New York Rangers and specifically goaltender Mike Richter.
“He was my favourite goalie,” he said with pride. “My parents got me that jersey for Christmas; I liked him ever since the Cup Final in ’94 against Vancouver. He was one of the prominent American goalies at the time and an easy guy to like. I liked watching Richter play for Team USA as well.”
Wait a minute, slow down here.
Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, like Cory Schneider Cory Schneider, used to be a Bruins fan and he cheered for the Rangers and Richter in the ’94 Stanley Cup Final?
“Theoretically, I guess.”
Don’t expect this Boston sports fan to apologize.