2008-09 NHL PREVIEW
In Shane O'Brien's wildest dream, he would morph into a professional golfer once his hockey career is over. The senior tour? "That'd be awesome," he said. The Lightning defenseman is a true golf aficionado. He even recorded the Ryder Cup so as not to miss a shot. But O'Brien, 25, of Port Hope, Ontario, is not Pollyanna. "Every time I try to play, I try to shoot better. But I don't really give any serious consideration because, obviously, my game's not good enough and the mental side of it, I don't know if I could handle it like those guys. So I guess down the road it would be a dream that could happen, but I have a lot of practice ahead of me." He'll probably be listening to Johnny Cash and dreaming of a big hunk of chocolate cake while he's at it.
When did you pick up golf?
I started playing when I was 7 or 8 and have just been playing since then. I just started getting better the last couple of years. Playing in the NHL, we're lucky enough to make a good enough living. … I bought a house on a golf course. I go play pretty much every day.
What's the best and worst part of your game?
I'd say driving the ball. Some days I can smash it, and some days I don't know where it's going to go. My wedge game isn't great. I'm more of a scrambler, but I can find a way to get it into the hole.
I've been close. I airmailed one off the stick, and it rolled 5 yards away, a 4-iron, 210 yards. I hit it perfect.
Do you know any pro golfers?
I played a round of golf with Gary Koch.
How's his game?
Just, wow. It was more his putting, his whole game. What (stinks) about golf is, like, if I do something wrong in hockey, I know what I did. In golf, I'm like, ''That felt exactly the same.'' But that's what makes it a challenge.
Did you watch the Ryder Cup?
Yeah, I hardly missed a shot. I TiVo'd it when I went to the rink. That was some of the best golf I've seen all year. The way that (U.S. captain Paul) Azinger got the whole town of Louisville behind them and all the players bought in. … They (went from) a bunch of individuals to a team in a week, and you have to give Azinger all the credit and the guys credit. They didn't have as much talent as Europe, but they were the better team. That's what it's all about.
As an athlete in a team sport, how much do you appreciate that?
Tremendously. That was unbelievable. That's what it's all about. Our team here, we have a whole lot of new guys, and I'd say we're a tighter-knit group than our team was three-quarters into last year. I think the organization did a great job of getting character people in here, and we've all bonded. And I think that's going to be huge. You've got to all buy in and do it for the guys sitting next to you, and that's what they did with the Ryder Cup, by the looks of it.
Tell me about your favorite desserts.
Ah, I can't eat desserts. I fight my weight. But if I was going to eat dessert, a nice piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on the side would be my go-to. If I had the metabolism of (teammate) Ryan Malone, I'd eat more dessert. I can put weight on pretty quick, but I do enjoy a good piece of chocolate cake … in the offseason.
What do you weigh?
What do you want to play at?
(230 is) good. Maybe getting down a little bit more. But I feel good just maintaining and keeping my strength. I'm just trying to find consistency with everything, the way you live life, play hockey, everything. The way people stay in this league a long time is consistency, so that's what I'm trying to find.
In other words, no binging on sweets in the offseason.
Exactly. I'm just trying to make it a lifestyle, so at the end of the year you don't eat bad because you don't want to do it anymore.
What about Johnny Cash's music speaks to you?
I saw the movie (Walk the Line), and … I just fell in love with him. I started listening to his music. It's easy listening and puts me in a good mood.
He deals with a lot of rough subjects, such as prison time. Not exactly feel-good stuff.
I just listen to the tune. If you ask the boys, I make up my own words to most songs. No, I know a lot of his songs and the message he sends.
What's the message?
I like him because he sings about what he wants to sing about and did what he wanted to do. You've got to respect a person who does that.