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A day with Tanev

Friday, 27.07.2012 / 4:00 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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A day with Tanev

Joey, Jory & Rory’s Excellent Adventure continued Wednesday with a trip to Toronto for the third of four hometown player visits.

On Thursday Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev gave Canucks.com and CanucksTV an all-access pass to his life, both past and present, and we made the most of it; what we’ve unturned about the TanMan will knock your socks off, if you’re in flip-flops it will knock them off, if you’re barefoot, watch out for glass.

Here’s a timeline of our visit. By now you know to expect a long read and hopefully a few laughs along the way. Enjoy.

9:30 a.m. ESTForever young, I wanna be forever young Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever? Forever young, I wanna be forever young Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever? Very fitting song to wake up to, Young Forever, by Jay-Z. It seems like today’s subject, Christopher Tanev, will be forever young. The guy is only 22-years-old.

10:05 – “Welcome to no named Toronto coffee shop, how may I help you?” The coffee shop is open!!! Derek: Yesssss. Joey: Yesssss. Rory: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssss. Toronto 1 Boston 0

10:33 – We make our way to Tanev’s house. The neighborhood is adorable. Watch for playing kids, one sign says. Max 30, directs another. Ball and hockey playing prohibited, barks a third sign - good luck with that fun police.

10:35 – Tanev emerges from his home to greet us. Black v-neck, grey shorts, white Nike shoes, no socks. Hair disheveled, face unshaven, stomach growling. “What’s up guys,” he says with all the excitement of a commuter stuck in traffic. If I have one goal for the day, it’s to get a rise out of Tanev at some point…

10:47 – We walk into the house, put our shoes on the mat, turn right and hop up four stairs into the kitchen. Tanev is busy making breakfast. Three eggs, nothing mixed in. That’s so Tanev, as we’ll discover more and more throughout the day. What you see is what you get; like his breakfast, nothing flashy, it gets the job done. Things get wild when he scrambles the eggs, puts them on one slice of toast, puts ketchup on the other piece and puts them together to make a sandwich.

10:48 – He inhales the most important meal of the day. He’s still a growing boy, you know. Plus he worked up an appetite earlier in the morning with a gym workout and yoga session. “I’ve been doing yoga twice a week all summer and I’m still awful at it. I did it a bit last year, but I’m really trying more this year. I want to get more flexible and develop more range of motion. We’ll see this year if it helps.” Tanev does not wear impossibly tight yoga pants to workout. I am as relieved as you are.

10:55 – We tour the main level of the modest home and photos of the three Tanev boys, Chris, Brandon and Kyle, aged in that order, are everywhere. There’s an autographed Chris Tanev Canucks photo on the mantel above the fireplace. “Not too many people probably have a signed picture of themselves,” he laughs. “I gave that to my baba, she’s probably my biggest fan. She’s got a shrine of me.” Tanev’s grandma, Louba, lives with him, his youngest brother Kyle, his mom and his stepdad, they’ve lived in the house we’re invading since Tanev was in Grade 10. My math skills are too poor to inform you how many years they’ve lived there.

10:57 – “I was trying to live by myself this year, but I’m pretty lazy and didn’t want to find a place,” Tanev laughs. “Mom probably doesn’t want to hear that. Her cooking is great and she does laundry too, how could I leave?”

11:09 – A creaky door swings open and Tanev walks into a dark garage in his backyard. He piles his hockey equipment into a large blue Canucks bag and swings it over his shoulder grabbing two sticks before slamming the door.

11:11 – Tanev shoves the oversized bag into his trunk, his sticks will ride with Joey in the rental car. As we discuss directions standing on the sidewalk, a mom and two kids walk by, umbrellas in hand, oblivious to the fact that they are five feet from the future of the Canucks blueline. He doesn’t get recognized much, if ever, even in his own neighborhood. Enjoy that while it lasts, I say. “Whatever,” he responds.

11:30 – We’re roughly 20 minutes into a 45 drive to the rink. Tanev’s black two-door Audi A5 is fully equipped and it hums down the highway as he hums to a tune on Sirius 59: Highway Country. Humming turns to singing. Drunk On You, by Luke Bryan. Tanev knows all the words.

11:35 – Fail whale. We try to open up the floor to Twitter questions, but the site is down. I kick it old school and conjure up questions in my head. The findings: Tanev has Macedonian roots with his grandparents on both sides hailing from the country in southeastern Europe; he went to Las Vegas with buddies earlier this summer; he’s got a tee time lined up with Kevin Bieksa next week; he’s been to two concerts this summer seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in May and Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan two weeks ago; physics class gave him the most trouble in high school.

11:45The one about…what grinds his gears (A MUST READ)

11:50The one about…making minimum wage (EQUALLY AS HILARIOUS)

12:03 p.m. – We arrive at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville. As we’re walking in the doors, Canucks prospect Alex Friesen steps out of the passenger door of a blue sports car. “What are you guys doing here?” he asks. We explain.

12:04 – Canucks first rounder Nicklas Jensen passes us in the hallway as we follow Tanev towards the dressing room. “What are you guys doing here?” he asks. We explain.

12:05 – As we enter Rink 4, Canucks draftee Frankie Corrado skates over. “What are you guys doing here?” he asks. We explain. This happens another four times as Brendan Gaunce, Steve Pinizzotto, Jeremy Price and Darren Archibald, all players linked to the Canucks in one way or another, are part of an eight person optional skate run by Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner. It’s prospects camp without the grind, although as Tanev informs me afterwards, it was a rough skate.

12:10 – 1:30Skate, skate, skate, pass, pass, pass, shoot, shoot, shoot. Nothing newsworthy to report, so I head over to get some lunch. Vegetarian quesadilla and caesar salad, with a side of Inspector Gadget cartoon from around 1986 playing on the TV. Perfection.

1:12 – Penny: “Gosh, Scotland is beautiful Uncle Gadget.” Inspector Gadget: “It certainly is Penny. This is where they make Scotch Tape you know.”

1:12 – The loner seated at the bar, me, laughs to himself.

1:14 – Chief Quimby: “Congratulations, Gadget, I don't know how you did it.”Inspector Gadget: “Thanks, Chief. Uh, what did I do?”

1:15 – The loner seated at the bar, me, laughs a little louder. It’s time to get back to work.

1:43 – We’re back in the car, cruisin’. Tanev usually drives Nicklas Jensen home after practice, but with Rory and I in the car and it being a tight squeeze in the backseat, he rides with Joey in our rental. Joey has no idea where we’re headed and traffic is intense. It’s Toronto, after all. Tanev thinks it’s funny to change lanes and try to lose Joey. It’s not funny, it’s hysterical. But Joey, to his credit, is like T-1000 behind us and we can’t shake him.

1:56 – “It was a tough skate today,” reveals Tanev. “I stunk it up. Thank goodness it’s still July.” I quiz Tanev about his game and his goals for the summer, his biggest being weight and muscle gain. “I’ve been trying for a long time, it’s tough because you have to do it the right way because I want to stay decently quick. I don’t want to gain a lot of weight and then be really slow, that would make me pretty useless out there.” Tanev weighed 186 pounds last season, he’s 193 right now and wants to be 195 for the season. He eats every two hours, organic food only, and he’s noticed a boost in energy since focusing on his diet, which has led to better sessions in the gym and on the ice.

2:00 – Twitter is back up and running. Time for a Q&A: Tanev prefers snowboarding to skiing, the last movie he saw was The Dark Knight Rises (“I give it five stars”), he has a blue and white toothbrush and uses green mint toothpaste, he’d be a monkey and hang trees and eat bananas if he could be an animal, Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin are his favourite Disney movies and he likes Dr. Phil more than Oprah or Ellen.

2:16 – A Twitter question about a gift Tanev wanted, but maybe never received, pops up. Tanev laughs. “It wasn’t too long ago that a Playstation was the biggest deal. I really wanted one for Christmas and I opened all my presents and I didn’t get one. I was crushed. Then like 10 minutes later my parents gave it to me. They had been hiding it. You have to be pretty sick to do that to a 10-year-old.”

2:25 – A Twitter question about who, from the Canucks, Tanev would choose to have on his survival team if an apocalyptic zombie attack were to go down. Tanev puts his thinking cap on. “Ballard, because he’s shifty, he’d think of something sneaky to do...Bieksa, for some muscle, and...Hamhuis, to outsmart everyone. I’d just follow them around. Hopefully the zombie attack doesn’t happen, I hate that stuff, it scares the s*$% out of me.

2:53 – We pull up to Off The Hook, it’s a gourmet fish n’ chips restaurant that his high school buddy Steve (middle of the photo) opened 10 months ago. Tanev orders the grilled seabass with a mixed greens salad as we order Steve and Lucas, another high school friend who works at the restaurant, to give us the goods on the man of the day.

2:56The one about…Tanev in high school

3:25 – Food is served. The poutine is delicious. Everything is delicious.

3:47 – Bellies full. We waddle out.

4:09 – A quick stop at Victoria Village Arena, where Tanev first put on skates, is up next. His dad Mike meets us in the parking lot, we all shake hands before he leaves in a fluster. “I’ll be right back, I forgot something.”

4:15 – The ice is out of the rink and there are table and chairs set up for a summer camp run in the building. We stand at centre ice and Tanev reminisces. He played here first as a four-year-old and finally as an eight-year-old before another rink beckoned. “I played on the Mad Dogs with buddies that I’m still friends with now,” he says. “Not a lot has changed in this building, it’s pretty much the same. I don’t have too many memories, especially of scoring goals, probably because I didn’t score too many. I just liked pretending I was Steve Yzerman, he was my idol growing up.”

4:20Mike returns, this time carrying a stack of photos of his son throughout the years. He is one proud papa.

4:28 – Mike is mic’d up and under the microscope. He’s a talker. A short question gets you a biblically long answer. This is great.

4:33The one about…overcoming adversity

4:49 – Back in the car headed back to Tanev’s house where we started the day. He tries to shake Joey a few more times, to no avail. Still, he laughs an infectious laugh that makes us all laugh.

5:03 – Back in the house, we meet more family members, including Tanev’s younger brother Kyle and grandma Louba. Kyle is slouched on the couch, controller in hand, raising hell playing Call of Duty. Louba is watching, probably scared for her life, thinking something that begins with “Back in my day…”

5:04 – I ask Louba about her love for Chris. “He’s my favourite of all the boys,” she says in a sweet accented voice. “Sorry Kyle,” she adds. He shrugs. I ask her about how difficult it is watching the Canucks play because of the three-hour time difference; games begin at 10 p.m. in Toronto. “I watch them all the time,” she says prouder than proud. “No you don’t,” interjects Kyle, “you fall asleep on the couch.” He laughs. She gets her right index finger ready for a big point, aiming it right at Kyle. “Shut up you!” These two could have their own reality show: Keeping up with Kyle & Louba.

5:12 – In the final interview of the day, Sophie, his mom, is on the hot seat. “Listen guys, don’t worry about it, only my son is going to make it to the NHL.” That’s what Sophie used to jokingly tell other mom’s at the rink. “Never in a million years did I actually think it could happen. He’s a great player, the odds are just so slim.”

5:13 – “He’s a dream kid, and not just because he’s mine. It’s been 22 years of phoning to let me know where he is, always respectful with please and thank you, never swears or yells and lets me know when he’ll be home for dinner, when he won’t, when he’s going away for the weekend, just a kid that I never really worried about because he was such a good kid.”

5:20The one about…sneaking a treat

5:26 – Parting handshakes all around, this time a little tighter than before, and we’re out of Tanev’s hair just as a plane jets through the clouds overhead. Fitting, the sky is the limit for Tanev, in life and hockey, as well.