Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jordan Binnington chats with NHL Network's Kevin Weekes

Blues goalie laying low in St. Louis while NHL is shut down due to 
coronavirus outbreak talks about everything from rise to NHL to Curtis Joseph

ST. LOUIS -- Jordan Binnington is riding out the coronavirus in St. Louis.

The Blues goalie is bunkered down in his home here patiently waiting out the COVID-19 outbreak like the rest of his teammates, the NHL and the world population. And in a world where today's life has drastically changed and challenged people in ways nobody expected, Binnington took some time and talk to former NHL goalie and NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes in a Periscope hit on Wednesday evening.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington honors one of his idols, former Blues goalie
Curtis Joseph, with retro gear and mask vs. the Islanders on Feb. 27.

Binnington, who helped the Blues win their first Stanley Cup last season and had the Blues positioned well to defend it in first place in the Western Conference when the NHL temporarily shut down the regular season amid growing concerns of the coronavirus, talks about what he's been up to t his past week, his story from the bottom and reaching the pinnacle of every hockey player's goals and aspirations, his first NHL start in Philadelphia (a 3-0 shutout win Jan. 7, 2019), winning the Cup, off-season training and one of his idols: former Blues goalie Curtis Joseph:

How are you doing, what's the latest, how are you feeling, take us inside what your day-to-day routine's been; crazy for all of us across the world and not only here in the NHL family; how are you holding up, how's the family doing:
-- I've kind of just been hanging around. I got a nice setup here in St. Louis. I'm comfortable. We hit Whole Foods the other day, so I'm pretty stocked up. It's pretty crazy out there seeing how the world's reacting, but it's an interesting time for everyone. It's how you handle it, right? You've got to find the light in the darkness and I think hopefully coming out of this we'll be stronger as people. You can learn a lot through it also. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm just hanging out, listening to some music and my roommate got here a couple days ago. We've just kind of been hanging out and entertaining ourselves. 

How is the family? Everybody safe? Everybody good?
-- Yeah, I have some family in Florida and they're going to make their way back to Toronto. They're going to fly back. My dad is going to drive back. I think everyone's doing OK right now, which is very important and nice to hear and hopefully they just get home safe. Just take their down time and go from there.

Hockey fans that don't know your story, take us through playing in junior to pro and what that was like when you first started in junior and made it to the AHL and go from there:
-- It's interesting, and I've kind of been taking this time to do some self-reflecting and kind of looking back and writing down things I remember from those early years because it's kind of cloudy a little bit to think back on that. I spent some time in Owen Sound. It was incredible, a lot of experience, lots of life experience and growing as a teenager into my early 20s. We won a championship there and it was their first championship. It was just so cool to be a part of that and just being able to feel the energy of the city and the surrounding cities that supported the team for so long. Just growing with young guys was so fun in junior hockey. It was a blast. You don't really know what's going on. Just go to the rink and play hockey. Everything's taken care of for you. You go to school. The OHL has done a really good job of setting that up. They make you feel comfortable and then take that into pro, I just jumped right into it. I ended up in the first training camp and then going down to the East Coast League in Kalamazoo, Michigan. First time, I went by myself, no dishwasher, no laundry mat there. It was a pretty wild scene. I just kind of figured it out. My meals weren't too extravagant. Everyone's kind of in the same boat and I think the East Coast was such an important time for me because there's some talented players down there and it kind of made me wonder why and how people ended up there and towards the end of their career and still you're working towards your goal, which is awesome. Kalamazoo I think specifically was great for me. We had a good coaching staff and I had a good veteran goalie partner in Joel Martin. It was really cool to be playing with him and learning from him. I had a good time in the East Coast League and kind of worked my way up from there, right?

What was transition like from going from Kalamazoo to the American League?
-- It was different, right? The AHL is almost a little more selfish because you're almost there and you want to do what you have to do to make it to the next level and I was like the team, wherever you are, you kind of enjoy the environment with your team and you do what you can to win the games, but I think at that level, you've got to also look out for yourself and do what you need to do to get to that next level. It's almost being a little selfish. You hear pro athletes, and for a guy like Michael Jordan, he said, 'You have to be selfish to get to where you want to be and the people who matter will be there at the end, right?' You use philosophies like that and you learn. The first couple years, I was just competing and doing my best. We had some fun groups in Chicago, I'll tell you that. I was with the Chicago Wolves for three years and it's a well-run organization. They're very family-oriented with similar staff, so that was an experience too. You take the positives from every situation and find stuff that works for you. That's kind of where I lost myself a little bit, but we came out on top and we're stronger for it. I'm very thankful for every step of the way. That's kind of how Chicago went.

A lot of people don't realize you played for Berube before, right (in Chicago)?
-- Yeah, Chief was the one who kind of took me out of the net actually. 

Tell this story:
-- I was playing and I was told I was the guy and I felt some heat from the outside coming in and putting some pressure on me and I feel like I didn't prepare myself the best I can to be in that situation and to have that opportunity. It took its course and I really wasn't. I was healthy-scratched for about eight games in a row. I just decided I needed to blow things up and just start over and just get back to work and just to feel refreshed and rejuvenated mentally, so I took that trip to Vegas quick and I blew off a lot of steam and then came back and just got right to work. It was about three-quarters of the way through the season I would say, and they ended up trading one of the goalies and I ended up backing up for most of the rest of the season, but I think I didn't lose the final 12 (games) in regulation or something like that, so I was on a god path right off the bat, but I was still losing in extra time, which was frustrating for me too. I took that into consideration and got back into the gym that summer to continue working and building. I had some good care in Toronto with that obviously with a good goalie coach and good strength coach who just really taught me to believe in myself and do what's good for my body and what I need to do to feel good and really build my mental toughness. So from there, it kind of just snowball-effected and I kind of got into the feeling of just being accomplished and proving people wrong and just having that attitude to care. It was really fun for me. It was fun using that hate energy into positive energy for me and I just built off that. It was real fun for me and now I'm at a good point. I don't have to be so angry all the time. You channel it in certain ways and you find what's next. You want to keep building and you want to stay relentless. You want to be successful and you want to be there for your teammates and be a good man for your family. That's kind of where you're at. There's always things to work on and I just try to improve as much as I can as best I can in all categories.

Take us inside your mentality in that first NHL start in Philly; what are you saying to yourself, what are you affirming to yourself mentally prior to the game and during that game:
-- I felt good, man. I felt like I was prepared and I was just, you know, go for it and see what happens was kind of the philosophy. Nothing changed. It was the same game I built in the minors leading into that moment. Just do your best and play hard. You;ve done everything you could and feel good about that. I think if you do that in every aspect of life, you kind of feel prepared and it turns into confidence. I say it all the time, but I think it's real, I think it adds up. If you feel good with where you're at and you just get into kind of a mindset to be confident and just get yourself into that  world of you really don't know how to explain it, it's pretty special and that's kind of what I did. I got myself a nice Uber XL Black by myself. (Weekes interrupts with 'no way, are you serious')? ... Yeah, I balled out and I was like listening to the Rocky Balboa theme song on the way to the rink. I like doing stuff for the heck of it just to kind of laugh about it later and coming out on top was good. Obviously a smooth debut and it was a great feeling when the buzzer was going down and being a part of that team, you could feel everyone was genuinely excited. We had a very fun group last year and the boys were outstanding. We competed from half way through the season you could say probably til the end. Everyone worked together and picked each other up. All that work you put in is really worth it. I hope to carry that into all aspects of my life and I hope I can kind of influence people who are unsure with where they're at to just push and push themselves and you have more energy than you think. Just use your time wisely and find out what kind of matters to you, right?

Take us inside your mindset and wanting to be there for the boys. Why has team-first been so important to you on every team you've played on, especially the Blues and your run to winning the Cup:
-- When you ask that, my mind goes to I love people. People are interesting and everyone has their kind of different way of living, and especially hockey. People are from so many different areas. Tying all those things from what you're used to as one to becoming a team and working for one goal, I think it's important that the group really gets together and enjoys the company and is understanding and appreciative of each individual. For me, I think it's just so fun experiencing things in a group and also don't get me wrong, you have to look after yourself to put yourself in position to be able to compete within an environment like the Blues have. I don't know, it's the goalie's job. Goalie is kind of a crazy position. ... It's an interesting position and it's a simple job at the same time. All you've got to do is stop the puck. You have to put your mind in the right spot to be in the best position to do that, right? In turn, the boys will respect you and go off that. I enjoy meeting new people and working together.

Question from fan: what have you been doing since NHL has been shut down?
-- I think I looked at it as an opportunity to kind of rest the mind and the body a little bit. It's been a lot to our last year, few years actually. The first couple days, I just let my body do whatever it wanted and relaxed or sleep in, which I haven't been able to do in a long time. It was interesting to see how your body reacts to a situation like this when you're not every second day gearing up to the highest you can be. I've taken this time to reflect and see where I'm at, see where your head's at. At the same time, just hang out and be patient because you're not sure when it's going to come back. Hopefully it's soon because I realize you definitely miss it and you work so hard the whole season to build up for this time of year really. It's unfortunate. I bet you coaching staff's are really upset. They've put so much time and effort into it. It's tough, but in saying that, there's more to life and there's a worldwide thing going on. I think it's important that everyone kind of does their part and looks out for each other. You learn from the experience the best you can. It's kind of a nice little break in life if you look at it in a way, if you're stable and if you're in the right position to do that, but a lot of people are busy. It kind of gives you an opportunity to slow down and just reflect on where you're at, like clean out your basement or spend more time with your family, hang out with your girl or your wife or whatever. I've kind of been hanging out listening to music. I've been moving the body a little bit. I've been playing some video games, just testing out all the areas. It's given me some time to read some books a little bit. 

On reading the book Relentless by Tim Grover:
-- Yeah, I actually am reading it right now. I'm about half way through. A good mentor passed that on to me and said it kind of can hit you in a good spot and it's good timing, so I've really kind of taken that into consideration. That's my favorite thing about books. I never really buy them. It seems when I'm down with a book, someone will ship me a new book to read. It's cool to see what other people think I'd be interested in reading. I'm reading that book and the Jay Z book, this book about Jay Z's kind of come up right now, but that Relentless book, yeah, I've never talked to him, but it seems like a mentally strong person obviously training those guys too, right?

What were you thinking when you got all the way to the Stanley Cup Final? It comes down to Game 7. What are you affirming to yourself prior to Game 7; what were you saying to yourself:
-- Finish the job. We came this far. It's a great ending to the story. Just finish the job.

What did it feel like to finally exhale and have that party in the locker room, winning in Beantown:
-- It was a lot of fun. It was just madness. It's such a mental battle staying in tune for that long. It's a long time to stay on top of yourself and being able to just let it all go and seeing the people around you, how excited they are and what every individual put into it from staff to coaching staff, owners just put into it, it was a lot of fun to kind of do whatever we wanted. It was just kind of a free-for-all really. It's kind of what you dream for. 

Matt Nichol (strength and conditioning coach in Toronto) and Andy Chiodo (associate goalie coach for Penguins), part of your off-season team; what did they map out for you in terms of workouts in short off-season:
-- As much fun as it was to win and appreciate the moment, at the same time, you kind of move onto what's next. You want to keep building and using this energy while you can. Just planning and working, and I think it was important to take care of your body right after the season, so I got in there and saw some good people for recovery and we kind of sat down and planned out, and even with the Blues goalie coach (David Alexander) here too. He was aware of everything and just talking to (Chiodo) and Matty Nichol having a good plan for me and really taking the time with me. Every day at the beginning, he was like, 'If you wake up and some of these days and you are not feeling it, just text me.' Obviously you can't be doing that very much, but it's understandable for putting all that work in, and he's such an understandable guy and he really listens to you. I was in good hands. We really grew together. They've been a good part of my life for the last couple years and it's really been helpful for me. It's fun just kind of setting a plan and knowing what you're doing and continuing to grow in my eyes. It's kind of the outlook for me.

Another fan question: how does it feel to be the biggest beauty in the NHL:
-- I try to be myself and keep it real. At the same time, it's like our team, we know when it's time to get to work and play together. But I just like to be real, I guess. 

On wearing Curtis Joseph mask/gear setup when wearing retro unis; what Joseph means to you:
-- Being from Toronto, he was the Leafs goalie and I liked how he competed when he played. He was a presence out there. He wasn't crazy-technical. He kind of just battled and made some crazy saves. Being a young kid, young goaltender growing up, it was great for me to be able to watch him every time he played. I got the chance to meet him a couple times when i was younger. He was just a great guy and would take the time with fans. Everything you hear about the guy, he's just down to earth. He keeps it pretty cool. He's definitely an idol of mine and when we bring back the retros, you think about the old Blues goalies. He was a guy that kind of meant something to me a little bit. Throw some love his way. The setup turned out pretty nice. It worked out.

Most sage advice you'd like to pass along to those that want to play at a higher level or whatever else in life it may be:
-- Preparation is confidence. It all adds up and are two things I kind of stick with. It's the movie you create. Use those previous two statements to create your own story and do what you want to do and feel good along the way.


  1. Love your writings... been a fan for years.

    Since everything is on permanent hold pattern... any chance you could take a look at the Blues AHL team and do a run down of the players there... we know about some of the top kids, what about the rest of the players; anyone excite you as a potential call up

    1. Thanks for your reply. I can take a look and put something together. Check back often. I may not be able to do it right away, but will when I have the opportunity!