This week’s interview is with Kansas City Smoke C Mike Rivera.
SHL Digest: This week, we’re talking to the captain of the Kansas City Smoke, Mike Rivera. Mike, thanks for speaking with us.
Mike Rivera: It’s cool. You asked me to do it, so I did.
SHLD: And we appreciate that. You have a reputation for being a pretty laid-back guy.
MR: That I do. My nickname’s “River,” and it fits, ‘cause I just go with the flow.
SHLD: And yet you’ve got the captain’s “C” on your sweater. How did that come about?
MR: [laughs] Well, you know, on an expansion team you got a lotta young guys, and you can’t give them the C. Originally, they were gonna give it to Hunter [D Tony Hunt], but he didn’t want it. We’d played together in New York, so he told them to give me the C instead. It might have been a joke. No big deal, though.
SHLD: As team captain, you have a leadership role on a team with a lot of young players. Do you see yourself as a mentor to those youngsters?
MR: I don’t know, dude. I mean, if they come and ask me something, like for tips on taking faceoffs or if they want to know the good restaurants in town – I’m happy to talk to ‘em. But I’m not, you know, their dad, so I let ‘em come to me. I don’t go to them. I figure the coaches do the teaching around here. I don’t want to get in the way of that.
SHLD: How do you feel about the young players on your team?
MR: They’re cool. And they’re good. I mean, Ruler [RW Zachary Merula], Cloudy [RW Tyler Cloude], Pic [C Darien Picard]… they’re a damn good bunch of dudes, and they all work way harder than I did at their age. They’re gonna crush it. And on the D side, we got Hermie [Gary Hermine] and the Bastard [Bastien Chouinard]. Tough dudes, for sure. I bet one of them is gonna get the C soon.
SHLD: You grew up in southern California, near Los Angeles.
MR: That’s right. La-La Land, that’s me!
SHLD: How did a SoCal kid wind up getting into hockey?
MR: Well, my mom’s family is from Canada, believe it or not. We’d go visit them, and they’d be talking about hockey, and it got me excited. So one day my dad took me to a Kings game, and it was like whoa! It was just magic for me. Gretzky was still with the Kings then, and he was awesome.
SHLD: Must have been hard to find friends to play hockey with in LA.
MR: Yeah, no kidding. Roller hockey sometimes, maybe. But ice hockey? No chance. Fortunately, there was a league in the area, and my folks made pretty good money, so they signed me up.
SHLD: Returning to the present, you’re having a strong year in Kansas City. What do you think are the keys to your success?
MR: Mostly, I’ve just been relaxing and doing my thing. We don’t have a lot of drama in the locker room like there was in New York. We don’t have a bunch of expectations on us like I had in Dakota. I can just… be, and do my thing, you know.
SHLD: The trade deadline is coming up next month, and your strong play might earn you the attention of contending clubs. Would you be excited to go to a contender, or would you prefer to stay put?
MR: Either way’s cool with me. Not like it’s my decision, though. It’s not like our GM’s gonna get an offer and go, “Wait, Mike Rivera? He said he wanted to stay here! Better not trade that dude.” In the end, we’re all pieces of meat in the supermarket window. If I stay, cool. If I go somewhere else, that’s cool too. You know, go with the flow.
SHLD: For a guy with such a laid-back attitude, it was a surprise to hear your quote from last week that going winless for a week was “reality… crashing down on us like a ton of cement dropped off the top of the Empire State Building.”
MR: (laughs) Well, come on, dude. I mean, winning’s better than losing, right? Losing sucks. But it comes with the territory so, you know.
SHLD: Well, that about wraps this one up, Mike. Thanks for an engaging interview!
MR: Sure thing. Peace out!