Mitchell Marner rocked the NHL in his rookie season, putting up 61 points in 77 games while forming a vaunted three-headed monster with Auston Matthews and William Nylander — one that looks like it’ll give other teams nightmares for years to come.
His second year didn’t begin as well as he’d hoped, with just five goals through his first 47 games, but lately, the kid’s been on a hot streak — did you see the clutch shootout winner he scored last night against the Dallas Stars?
From throwing out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game, to modelling for Bulova watches, to hobnobbing with Shawn Mendes, Marner’s kept busy over the past year off the ice as well. So with Mitch back to being Mitch on the ice, we thought it’d be an opportune time to catch up with him and talk about all the great things that came his way after that ridiculous rookie season.
What did you find to be the biggest adjustment in your second NHL season?
I think it was just settling back down and having confidence with the puck again — not just throwing it away and thinking that I couldn’t make a play out of it. So, it was just settling down and having more confidence.
Last season, the running joke was that Matt Martin became the dad of the team, but with Patrick Marleau in town this season, you and Auston seem to have become Patrick’s surrogate sons. Matt was joking with me a while ago that he feels like the younger, cooler stepdad now, like Mark Wahlberg in Daddy’s Home. Is that a fair comparison for him to make?
I don’t know. I’d still probably count Matt as my dad on the team. That’s a pretty funny thing that he’d say that, but Matt’s a pretty cool guy, so I’ll give him that comparison.
You recently did a photo shoot for Bulova. What’s easier? Being a model or racking up points on the ice?
I don’t like that modelling thing. It’s not my forte. I’m not a huge fan of acting like I’m gazing at something through a window or just doing something like that. I mean, I got a lot of nice compliments on it actually, so maybe it’s my better thing, but I’m not a huge fan of it at the moment.
How big of a Shawn Mendes fan are you?
Pretty big. I like a lot of his tunes. I went to his concert last summer and met him and he was a great guy. It’s great to see how much success he’s having. He’s become a big thing, so that’s huge. That’s awesome for him.
You’ve been a big supporter of the Toronto Argos. How did you get into following the team as a kid?
One of my good buddies, his sister is dating someone who works with the team and kind of hooked me up with them. They started inviting me out to the games. Around here, the closest football is the Buffalo Bills and that’s kind of far and usually happening when we’re playing. So it’s a nice little thing in the summer to go watch them and support them. Players just have to kind of support each other and help out.
Be a salesman here if you can. The Argos haven’t received as much support as they probably should. So why should people make sure they get to an Argos game next season?
It was really exciting! I didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it ended up being. It was a great atmosphere and a lot of fun to be a part of. The fans were awesome and it’s good football. It’s exciting to watch and it’s always cool to see another Toronto team win. Hopefully they do it again next year.
Did you play football as a kid?
If you played football, what position would you have most success at?
Probably the kicker. I’d like to say running back, but I see what those guys go through and I am not a fan of that.
Have you tried kicking a field goal?
It’s a lot of pressure, I could bet. I’d like to be a quarterback, but I’m not tall enough I don’t think. I’d probably just get blocked at the line every time I’d try and throw it. I don’t know if the arm strength is there either. So definitely a kicker, just stick to that. It’s probably safer.
You threw out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game last season. Little slow on the velocity so I guess the arm strength is indeed a concern, but a decent 12-6 curveball that you could say was a strike. How stressful was that, walking out to the mound knowing that if you bounced one in, you’d be getting torn to shreds on Twitter and everywhere else?
It was a strike. It was tough going out there; there were a lot of nerves. At first I thought I was going to stand in front of the mound and then Marcus Stroman came up and said, “Where you throwing from?” and I said I got told to stand before the mound. He said, “No, no you ain’t doing that, you’re getting up on the mound.” So I asked him to give me some tips. He said you’ve got to throw it higher, because people tend to throw down and that’s how it ends up in the dirt, so he said you have to release it higher up. So I did that — didn’t put a lot of strength on it, but hopefully I get to do it again. I’m just going to try to sling one in. I’ve got a little more practice now.
All things considered, it went as well as it could have gone, I think.
I mean, it probably would have been a home run against someone, but it got there, so.
Not if the guy was looking fastball — he’d have been way out in front of it.
I like that. We’ll go with that!
What did Stroman tell you when he met you on the mound after he caught your pitch?
He just said, “Great job and congrats on last year” and wished me luck for this year. He’s a great guy! I wish him the best this season with the Jays.