As luck would have it, Tyson Barrie was lunching with Paul Bissonnette at The Local in Victoria, British Columbia on Canada Day, when suddenly he received a vitally important phone call. It was one for which Barrie felt the need to excuse himself for a moment.
There had been some rumours Barrie, still a member of the Colorado Avalanche at the time, could be on the trade block. Wouldn’t you know it, the phone call he got was to let him know he’d been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I was with him when I found out I got traded,” says Barrie.
When Barrie returned to the table, Bissonnette, a former NHLer himself and now a media megastar with the “Spittin Chiclets” podcast, among other outlets, knew something was up. “Next thing you know he walked away from the table and came back and said, ‘I just got traded to Toronto,’” says Bissonnette. “At first I thought he was messing with me and then I could just tell right away after I said, ‘Seriously?’ that it was in fact the case.”
Bissonnette fired off a tweet to his 1.1 million followers that read, “Leafs just made a big move.” It set Twitter afire with speculation. The news had not broken yet. Ten minutes later, Bissonnette sent out another tweet, this time a video with Barrie in it, ending the guesswork. The video has been viewed nearly a half million times.
“I thought why not grab my phone and get a funny little video. If he had said, ‘Hey, don’t use that,’ I wouldn’t have, but it turned out good. Got to give a shout to Mike Commodore for that video, that’s his shtick.”
Barrie laughed when he thought back to how the news of his trade got out. “He asked me if he could put it out there and I said I’ve got so much going on, do what you’ve got to do. I don’t care,” Barrie said. “I didn’t care who came out with it. I guess it was Spittin’ Chicklets’ first time breaking a trade.”
Bissonnette doesn’t intend to make a career out of breaking trades but anytime there is news regarding the Leafs, it definitely catches attention. “I don’t usually do the insider thing but I was for that afternoon.”
We recently caught up with Barrie to discuss his trade to the Leafs, what he will miss about the Avalanche, growing up the son of an NHL player, and more.
What was the toughest part about getting traded from the Avalanche?
Just being with a team for so long, the team that drafted me when I was 17 years old, and then just having it abruptly end and realizing you don’t have any affiliation with them anymore. That was tough. The city of Denver was full of great people so just kind of realizing you won’t be seeing everybody day-to-day is tough to wrap your head around a little bit. There’s an emotional standpoint to it, we’re all humans; you certainly feel a lot of emotions when you get traded.
What’s been the biggest adjustment from Denver to Toronto?
I’m living right downtown so that’s definitely an adjustment. Going from the suburbs in Denver and kind of a slower pace of life to right into the mix here in the big city has been different. I think I’m more of a suburbs guy but it is cool to switch it up.
Apart from your parents, who is one person who has had the biggest impact on your career?
I’d have to say my grandpa. I went to his hockey schools growing up every year. He has an intense passion for hockey so that rubbed off a little bit. My dad’s dad. The Len Barrie Sr. Hockey College. Twenty-eight years running now, I think. Maybe longer, actually. He’s still doing it!
When Cale Makar came up last season, you told me you said to him, “Don’t worry, the league isn’t as good as it looks.” What made you go over to him with that advice? To me, that says a lot about what you’re all about as a teammate.
I talked to him a little bit before that game, I knew he was pretty nervous. We were sitting on the bench getting ready for his first shift and I’d just come off. I just remember what it was like for my first game. I was nervous and it didn’t settle down for me at all in my first game, I was shaking the whole time. I just tried to make him feel a little more comfortable maybe. Whether it works or not, you just try to help your teammates out.
Does Nate MacKinnon get enough credit for the calibre of player he has become?
I think he’s starting to now. You look around the league and you ask guys, most guys are putting him in their top three, top five players. I think on any given night, he’s the best player in the world. What’s most impressive about him is his consistency. It’s not just every game, it’s every shift he’s bringing it. He was really the driving force of that team. He demands a lot of himself and the people around him. He’s a special player.
Where would you rank his speed among players in the NHL?
With him, it’s different. It’s powerful speed. He’s not super light on his feet, he’ll skate right through you. You can grab on to him and he’s still going.
He acted in a few Tim Horton’s ads with Sid. How would you rate Nate’s acting ability?
He’s got a pretty storied acting career actually. His Mr. D appearance too! I mean he’s got a face for radio for sure but he’s doing his best. He’s a good sport about it so I always get a kick out of his stuff.
How much did you know about the Leafs when you heard you got traded to them?
It’s like the Yankees of hockey so there’s no better place to play and be on a good team and I think that’s exactly what we’re going to be this year. When you get traded, there’s a lot of emotions you go through but to get traded to a team like the Leafs, coming from a good team in Colorado, to go to another good team, it definitely softens the blow.
What’s your favourite memory of being around your dad Len as a kid when he was in the NHL?
I was able to remember going into the locker room and going out with him after practice shooting on Trevor Kidd. I remember big Pete Worrell would always toss me into the laundry machine. The guys were always great with me so that was the best part of it.
Did you go to Frankfurt when your dad played there for two seasons?
It was great! It was an experience. I remember we took the train everywhere. I went to a Montessori school. I skated all the time there but I hadn’t played organized hockey yet. I was at the rink with my dad all the time and when they would win, I’d go on his shoulders and we’d skate around the rink and high-five the fans. They made the playoffs and they all dyed their hair red so I did it too at like 7 or 8 years old. I was into it!
So your tea party picture with the dogs. What’s the story behind it? Because the dogs where like the firth thing I noticed in that picture.
That’s at my house in Victoria. It’s a nice garden in the backyard so we thought for my birthday, we’d do an English garden party theme. Everyone wore hats and dressed up a bit. Had a couple of very good boys there in the picture. One was mine and the other was my buddy Boyd Gordon’s. It was one take, that picture, if you can believe it. Someone just held a bag of treats over the camera, simple as that.
Who’s one player who you admired growing up?
I was a huge Rob Blake fan. My dad played with him in Los Angeles and they were buddies. He was always really good to me and he wore number 4 when he was with the Avalanche, so that’s why I wore number 4. I thought when I was a kid I was going to be 6’4 but I ended up 5’10. I couldn’t model my game after him; he hits too hard. I had to pay attention to Scott Niedermayer a little bit more.
Who’s one player currently in the league who you love watching, someone who blows you away every time you see them?
Playing with Nate MacKinnon, I got to see it day in, day out and he would do some crazy stuff. I love Brent Burns; he’s the best there is right now in terms of offensive defensemen and then obviously what Nikita Kucherov is doing these days is pretty special too.
What’s your favourite thing to do away from the rink?
I love getting to live shows, going to concerts. It’s a good way to forget about hockey a little bit. Pearl Jam is my favourite band!