My name is Jody Nimetz and I am the author of the Hockey Fanatic. I am also a hockey dad and lifelong Edmonton Oilers fan and hockey fan in general.
Being an Oilers fan, I’ve experienced the highs, five Stanley Cup Championships with some of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen and I’ve experienced the lows with the team missing the playoffs for ten straight seasons. Truth be told a few years back I almost started to switch my allegiance to another team. I had had enough of the futility and losing that the Edmonton oilers franchise was bleeding. However, that chnaged on April 18, 2015.
For those not aware, this was the date of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. The Oilers had an 11.5% (third-best) chance to win the first pick in the draft.
To many hockey fans amazement, the Edmonton Oilers did just that they won the Draft Lottery and earned to number one pick.
Now this came as quite a shock to almost everyone as 2015 was expected to be an exceptional draft with the likes of Jack Eichel and a kid from Richmond Hill, Ontario by the name of Connor McDavid. Connor was touted as a “generational talent”, a player whom the likes we haven’t seen since Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux or even Wayne Gretzky. I must admit being from the west (West Kelowna), I knew of Connor McDavid but hadn’t see him play all that much. I had seen clips of him, but at the time the most memorable one was when he engaged in a fight and broke his hand. There was a lot of hype to his game and I wasn’t sure just what he was about or the type of player that he was… but that would be short lived.
I started watching some YouTube clips of the player looking to understand what the hype was about. I knew that he had been granted “exceptional status” by Hockey Canada so that he could play in the OHL a year early. I knew that he had played for the Erie Otters. He would spend three seasons with the Erie Otters where I learned that after the 2013-14 he had won Ontario Hockey League (OHL) awards for most sportsmanlike player and Scholastic player of the year and won Scholastic player of the year for the entire Canadian Hockey League. In later seasons he would go on to win both OHL and CHL player of the year honors. So it started to look like there was some substance to the all of the hype. I took note of the scholastic awards thinking that this was a highly intelligent kid with some above average hockey skills.
On that Spring day in April 2015 as the Oilers won the draft lottery, there was instant backlash and young McDavid even looked a little surprised with the thought of possibly being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. As a hockey fan I had a sheepish grin with thoughts that the Hockey Gods had finally lifted the “Chris Pronger Curse” from the Oilers. The Oilers were bound to be relevant again. Many have referred to Connor’s reaction as sheer disappointment hearing that the Oilers won the draft lottery. The may have been true but one thing about Connor McDavid is that he is highly competitive. Another thing is that he has a close relationship with his dad, Brian. Brian McDavid had always said that Connor was “a whirlwind beyond his years.” I quickly learned that there was something special about Connor McDavid and the McDavid family.
Fast forward to the fall of 2015. In September, the Vancouver Canucks were hosting their annual Young Guns tournament in Penticton, BC.. The tournament brought the younger players from the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks together for a few days of tournament action to see what their young talent looked liked. This was a must see event for hockey fans in the interior of BC. So we purchased our ticket packages knowing that this would be our first chance to see Connor McDavid live in action. By now the hype around Connor McDavid had spread like an Okanagan wildfire in the western provinces and throughout North America. It seemed like Connor McDavid was the real deal. As we took in the games in Penticton, it was evident that Connor would most likely only participate in one of them. On this particular day we were to attend the Flames/Oilers matchup, a game that Connor did not play in. However prior to the game we went for dinner in Pentiction and as my wife neared the restaurant, whom should she bump into? None other than Mitch Moroz (former Oilers prospect) and you guessed in Connor McDavid himself. She runs back to use, excitedly, knowing that we were already fans of young McDavid and whisks our six year old son Elias over to get a picture with Connor (and Moroz). It was totally one of those crazy fan moments. I could see Connor felt a little awkward, as did I, but he was nice enough to pose for a quick picture with Eli. Out of respect for Connor we didn’t ask for autographs or take up too much of his time, but this chance encounter was pretty cool for this hockey fan I must say.
It was a pretty great moment. Connor was great as my wife tried to position him and Eli for the photo. I thought to myself, how often this must happen to him, poor guy. He was gracious and did take the time to pose for the picture with Eli which earned even more respect for me as a fan of this player.
By now I was starting to get well versed into the type of player and person was. There was something definitely different about in (in a good way). In a way, he reminded me of how respectful Gordie Howe was and how special Wayne Gretzky was.
Since then we have followed Conner’s career closely. Like many hockey fans we are amazed at how he plays the game. I’ve always loved the speed and finesse of of the game and Connor Mc David epitomizes that. This kid does things on the ice with the puck at such high speeds that we have never seen before. He is awesome to watch.
Growing up as an Oilers fan my all-time favorite players were Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. Of course I admired Wayne Gretzky as a hockey player but he seemed like he was in a league of his own. As a hockey fan I’ve had other favorite players over the years: Trevor Linden, Kirk MacLean, Ryan Smyth, Doug Weight, Pavel Bure etc. I can honestly say that Connor McDavid has become my all-time favorite NHL player.
Why Connor McDavid is my favorite NHL Player
Quite honestly I feel that I could list 97 reasons why Connor McDavid has become my favorite player. Here are nine reasons why I’m a fan.
- Will and Determination – if you watched the documentary “Whatever It Takes: To be the Best – To Overcome” that debuted on SportsNet on Friday, January 24th, you know what I am talking about. Connor McDavid is an inspiration. In all of professional sports, there is no one, and I mean no one, who works harder to be the best that they can be than does Connor McDavid. What he overcame from that potential career threatening knee injury and in only five to six months is absolutely mind-blowing. The determination of Connor McDavid is yet another thing that sets him apart from his peers and from other professional athletes. To hear the stories of his work ethic from doctors, trainers and people like Gary Roberts just amazes me. In our house we always talk about “earn respect, give respect” and Connor McDavid has sure earned my respect as a player and as a person.
Even before he played in the OHL, Connor McDavid began working with ex-NHLer and now fitness guru Gary Roberts. Gary Roberts was a highly skilled and strong hockey player who once suffered what everyone thought was a career ending neck injury. After sitting out a full season, Roberts was able to rehab his injury and play near another dozen years in the NHL. He know a little something about how to train to be an elite athlete. He was someone who learned how to be mentally tough, something that Connor McDavid has acquired as well. It’s pretty easy to see the impact that Gary Roberts has had on Connor McDavid. Roberts has done wonders for many NHLers including Steven Stamkos, James Neal and Mark Scheifele.
- Skating and Speed – The greatest thing that I enjoy about hockey is the skating and speed of the game. It is another reason why Connor McDavid has become my favorite NHL player. For McDavid, when it comes to skating, it’s all about the power with this guy. We have all seen the highlight reel goals. I quickly developed an appreciation for how Connor uses his edges and skating abilities to turn plays from nothing to highlight reel clips. As mentioned Paul Coffey was one of my favorite players to watch with his smooth skating and puck movement. Bobby Orr was probably the best skater in the game until now. In January 2020 alone Connor has shown skating performances, the likes the NHL has never seen before. Just ask Morgan Rielly defensman for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Fact: Connor McDavid blows by NHL defensemen as if their skates are stuck in cement. He is THAT fast. While Matt Barzal may have recently topped Connor McDavid as the fastest skater in the 2020 NHL skills competition, it’s a one off. There is no one in the game today who is as fast carrying the puck as is Connor McDavid. He has been clocked stick-handling the puck at 48 kilometres an hour. When it comes to skating, you can again see the impact that people like Gary Roberts and figure skating legend Tracy Wilson have had on Connor McDavid. The fact is that Connor McDavis is probably the hardest working hockey player when it comes to skating… and he’s arguably the game’s best skater. Gary Roberts stated that “There is a lot more to it than being a hockey player, it has to do with the way you train off the ice, the way you rehydrate, the way you eat, the way you rest, the way you present yourself.” No one trains harder than Connor McDavid. To come back from the various issues that were documented around his knee injury in just five or six months had never been done before… period. Watching him post knee injury, I would suggest that his skating and speed is even better than it was than before this injury. McDavid fan or not, you cannot not be in awe of his skating ability with and without the puck.
- Hockey IQ – for me, hockey intelligence is the difference between someone who plays the game and someone who truly impacts the game. Connor’s hockey IQ is off-the-charts. This kid thinks the game entirely different than most. He slips checks and adjust/refines his game on the life. All a result of observing and adapting his play in real-time, Connor McDavid displays an elite type of athleticism like no one else. The ability to read plays, the ability to adjust his game, the ability to work through all of the clutching, grabbing and interference that he has to work though. He didn’t win two CHL Scholastic player of the year awards for no reason. Connor McDavid is a highly intelligent hockey player. As a hockey fan and hockey dad, I have mad respect for that. With true Hockey IQ, you either have it or you don’t. Yes technology can help impact a players hockey and yes developing your cognitive senses can go a long way, but for the elite hockey players, they just have a natural ability to see the ice better. I’m pretty sure that Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky weren’t working with sports psychologists back in their day. These guys had above average anticipation, the ability to make quick decisions and rapid thought processing that allowed them to be the great hockey players that they were. Connor McDavid also has these traits. Why did Wayne Gretzky rarely get hit? Well there is the Dave Semenko factor, but there was also the time and space that Gretzky made for himself through anticipation. I love watching my son play because I feel that he has strong hockey sense as well. He sees the ice differently than the other kids and can set up plays as a result. He realizes where to be and when to be there. He’s able to adapt his game as a result. Players with hockey sense have the ability to see multiple aspects at once. It’s not just get the puck and shoot. It’s about generating time and space for yourself and for your line mates. Connor McDavid does this very well. Leon Draisatil and others who have played with Connor have reaped the benefit of more time and space.
- Respect for the Game – Connor is an old sole for the game. He understands and respects the history of the Ted Lindseys and Wayne Gretzkys all while he carves out a new identity for today’s player. He’s respectful of his teammates, his coaches, his parents, his opposition, the media and the officials (although some may feel that his is too respectful of officiating at times). You can tell that is is what he wants to do. He wants to be a professional hockey player. He has worked hard to be where he is. At the time of this writing, we cannot forget that Connor McDavid only just turned 23 a couple of weeks ago.
- Silky Hands – not only does Connor McDavid skate better and faster than anybody (probably on the planet) but he has got some of the softest hands in the National Hockey League. Watch the clips for yourself. This kid is a human highlight reel. YouTube Connor McDavid highlights and you will find endless dangle, snipes and cellys.
- Family Values – one of the great things about Connor McDavid is his down to earth sense. This guy has every opportunity to be your everyday millennial, as a new generation with a huge sense of entitlement, but instead he seems just like a regular guy who is very mature. Credit to his parents Brian and Kelly. From what I’ve seen of his parents, they are really just typical parents. They support their children and have had a tremendously positive impact on the person that Connor McDavid has become. They have helped groom Connor into the outstanding person that he is. I often wonder how his older brother Cameron feels with all of the attention the family has received in recent years? Cameron McDavid has done pretty well for himself having graduated on the Dean’s Honor List from the Ivey Business School at Western University. Seems like a close knit family with strong parental support.
- Team Player – talk to anyone who has ever played with Connor McDavid and they have nothing bad to say about him. His teammates have great respect for him, his opponents have great respect for him as do many hockey fans. I will say that the League could show a little more respect for him at times, but then again the League has a number of issues to sort through. Regardless Connor McDavid is the type of person that we would all like to have on our team. He seems like a fun guy to be around but he is an intense guy no questions.
- Intensity – I like players that have a certain intensity around them. Connor McDavid is one of those players. He, like the Maurice Richards, the Gordie Howes or the Mark Messiers has a certain stare or glare that when you tick him off you will know it. We’ve seen clips of McDavid on the bench staring down a teammate, opponent or in some rare cases the officials. This guy hates to lose. For that reason you have to think that this his determination will at some point be enough to will the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup. The dude is intense.
- Entertainment Value – as fans who pay hard earned money to attend sports games, buy merchandise or feed the machine that is the NHL, we deserve to be treated to a strong entertainment product. When I attend an Oilers game, or purchase the NHL Center Ice Package, I expect to be entertained. I expect to see a fast paced game that is well officiated and is fun to watch. Watching Connor McDavid you always get your money’s worth. As a player he is just amazing to watch. He’s pretty consistent too so you don’t have to worry about seeing him go through the motions of the game. He loves the game of hockey and as such the NHL and Edmonton especially is lucky to have him. If the Oilers don’t win a Stanley Cup with Connor McDavid in his prime that will be one of the greatest injustices in the history of sports.
Connor McDavid is already the best player of his generation, which says a lot because there are a number of tremendous players in the game right now. For me, he has exceeded all of the hype that there was as entered the National Hockey League. No one can question his passion for the game or his work ethic and sublime hockey skills. He is a pure joy to watch and as he makes plays that few have seen before, he continues to amaze. His work ethic, intensity and desire to win is incredible. He’s only in his fifth year in the NHL and has has already become my favorite player of all time. I wish him a long and storied career and hope that one day he gets to raise the Holy Grail of hockey, the Stanley Cup. I will continue to enjoy watching his career unfold. Kelly and Brian McDavid have every right to be proud of their boys.