They call Lightning center Nate Thompson "Nate Boucher" for how he exemplifies the relentless and textbook way coach Guy Boucher wants his team to play. Off the ice, Thompson, 26, is a product of where he grew up — Anchorage, Alaska — and in a conversation with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Joe Smith he discussed his love of fly-fishing, his "close calls" with grizzly bears and one thing on his bucket list.
What kind of outdoor activities did you do growing up in Anchorage?
Everything. Fishing, hunting. Obviously during the winter you go snowmobiling, do ice fishing, ski, snowboard, you name it. Play hockey outside on the ponds, everything. When you're from Alaska, you have to do all that stuff or you're not taking advantage of living up there. … I'm really, really into fly-fishing, been doing that for a long time, for rainbow trout and salmon, that's my go-to.
Lot of local spots to catch them?
That's the great thing about Alaska, being from Anchorage, even if it is a city, you can drive an hour and a half and you're fishing by yourself with a brown bear, grizzly bear around you. You catch salmon and trout. It's pretty awesome.
You said you can see bears all over the place outside of town. Any close calls?
I've had a few close calls, where I've been fishing and one is walking right by me and you kind of stand still, don't move, hold your ground. When we would go fishing when I was younger with my dad, we'd have all the fish on the bank that we caught. We had them there in the water, (and) a bear would come by and steal a fish and eat it. And there's not much you can do about it except back up and let them do their thing. (Smiles) You don't want to mess with those ones.
What's your favorite place in Anchorage?
There's a place USA Today voted one of the best pizzerias. They brew their own beer. It's called Moose's Tooth. There's two of them; there's Bear Tooth and Moose's Tooth. They probably got some of the best pizza, and I'm talking about every type of pizza, you name it. That's definitely one of the places. It's kind of a landmark in Anchorage. It's packed. I've never seen it not busy all summer, from lunchtime to 10 at night. It's jammed. That's a pretty cool spot to go.
What's been your biggest catch hunting and fishing?
When you're hunting a moose, that's pretty big. Got one of those. My biggest fish there was a 110-pound halibut, pretty big. And (a) salmon, like, 40 pounds. Rainbow trout, that's probably my favorite to catch. You usually catch and release, but it's more of the sport, it's fly-fishing. I caught a 28-inch rainbow trout, which was pretty awesome. I'm still looking for the 30-incher. Everyone talks about if you catch a rainbow trout at 30-inch range, you're in the 30-inch club and you're allowed to stuff it if you want to do that. That's my goal. Still waiting for that one. Usually look to catch that one every summer.
I have a couple. A River Runs Through It, with Brad Pitt. It was a fly-fishing movie, one of my favorites. Braveheart, too.
Pearl Jam, no question.
Ever seen them in concert?
I have not even had a chance. When I played in Seattle in juniors — obviously, they're big in Seattle; that's where they're all from — Mike McCready, the guitarist, played the national anthem on his guitar … at one of our games. It was unbelievable. I've always been a fan, just never had a chance to see them in concert. That's still a bucket-list thing for me.
How proud are you to be one of just 11 Alaskans to play in NHL?
It's pretty cool to be in that talk. I got a text from (Anchorage native and Canadiens center Scott Gomez) after they lost to Boston. He said, "Keep it going and good luck and bring the Cup home." It's pretty neat coming from a guy like him, who has won two Stanley Cups. He brought the Cup home; it was a pretty big buzz back in Alaska. There's a pretty big buzz right now. I also got a text from my best buddy (Anchorage native and Flyers and former Lightning defenseman) Matt Carle. He lost, so now he says, "You're the only Alaskan left (in the playoffs). Do us proud."